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Post-Poll Bengal: Selective silence, gendered violence and political alienation

The post-poll violence is a passive reflection of the reality principle in Bengal giving credence to the fact that political valence or competence voting is a utopian myth in the state

A cluster of people who decided to comply with the wave of parivartan under the aegis of one political party by chanting ‘Jai Shri Ram’ ignites a firestorm and when the fumes of chaos finally settle, it exposes not only the despotic regime in the state but also the intolerant mindset of the authoritarian that promises nothing but the disintegration of socio-political system and highlights distorted political culture. The destroyed idea of democratic spaces for the people and the press is ideated through series of draconian acts: from public and private mutation to molestation and rapes as a way to commemorate the victory; murders, clobbering, and terrorization as a right to take away the lives of people who were promised protection by the state; and burning the private properties of people ratifying personal is political. And yet, the irony is the selective silence of the officialdom despite the perceptibility of the turbulence. Precisely, this pictures the melancholic and despairing landscape of post-poll Bengal. To mark the landslide victory, Bengal was flooded not with enthuse but gory and a macabre series of murders and sexual assault.

Epistemic violence and ideological separation are foundational and systematically accepted features of the post-poll Bengal election under the All India Trinamool Congress regime. If one were to map the post-poll condition in Bengal, the current politics of the state would begin to look frail and flimsy. The clouded narratives of people being uprooted, loss of dignity and honor, and flickering sadness provide considerable empirical evidence of a deceitful obsession with power and hegemony. This serves as a paradigmatic moment to comprehend the unconstructive politics of contemporary Bengal and understand that there is very little space for chicanery for a leader or a political party in any democratic establishment. The perpetual post-poll rampage and concurrently the preposterous response from the All India Trinamool Congress-led State government is pernicious for ‘people’ and demography both. 

The situation in Bengal was becoming volatile amidst the unprecedented political contestation but the turmoil in the state politics doubled after the results of the election and at the centre was violence against women. The promise of protection by the women Chief Minister of the state seems futile amidst the political turmoil enforcing barbaric murders and rapes as if rape is a legitimized weapon instead of a crime. Violence against women, consciously or unconsciously, is a self-taken affirmation of women as objects who can be defiled and tortured to take revenge from the opposition. Politically, rape and sexual assault have been considered a systematic tool to silence the voices of retaliation and resistance. Subsequently the All India Trinamool Congress has institutionalised violence to shun the opposition and used it as a tool to silence the voice that dares to decide and speaks for oneself. The peculiarity of the situation compels us to question the entire process of governance that is constructed over the narratives of gruesome acts of violence and assault.

The anger is reduplicated: firstly as the marginalization of selected people and the extent to which the gender-based violence persist; secondly the unbearable gaze by the people and society over the body, particularly the body of the women.

West Bengal’s politics has for long been uniformly proscriptive as well as prescriptive over domination, control, and exclusion of political rivals through violence, erroneous tactics, and dictatorship. The Trinamool Congress has tactically closed all spaces for true spirit of democracy and has made the state a violent area of domination through abuse of power and misuse of institutions.  

There has been considerable instances and legitimate assertion by the workers of Bhartiya Janata Party workers across the state that the ruling dispensation is leaving no stone unturned to scarify them and also penalise them. Violence is not new to the state, but what is astonishing is that it has been deeply embedded now with institutional shielding. This is alarming and therefore calls out for ‘Constitutional Interference’ by competent authorities and the very immediate being, the Governor of the state.

The defilement of communal honor and violation of women in Bengal impinged a deep scar on the mind and bodies of people. The nature and extremity of violence challenge the binary distinctions between one’s ‘own’ people and the ‘other.’ The significant other faces the brunt of approving an ideology, believing, and consciously voting for Bharatiya Janata Party in the state of West Bengal.

As a consequence, people are subjected to physical and psychological assault, brutality, eviction, dispossession, sexual violence, and agony. The petrified spaces full of murdered bodies in a pool of blood, battered faces, panting screams and traumatized minds are what one perceives out of post-poll violence in Bengal. The visuals of hanged bodies on trees just to quench one’s thirst of power and not let people hold the flag of BJP exhibits the vindictive and malevolent streak.

The Election results were declared on second of May, and since evening reports of violence, sexual abuse, physical assault and exodus is unceasingly coming from across the state especially the rural part of the state. There has been a constant fear amongst the people and subsequently women and children face the double trauma of post poll violence and assault. All those seeking shelter in various camps in Assam or temporary arrangements done by the State unit of BJP are praying to go back to their ‘baari’ (home) every single second. All this during a pandemic, where is the ‘Rule of Law’? , where is justice for thousands who fled to save their lives.

In the disguise of establishing law and order, the gruesome act of sexual harassment, assault, and abuse resulting in physical, sexual, and psychological acts of control and dominance stick to one’s gun. Rape is a social evil, the most vulnerable and treacherous form of evil that cannot be justified on any grounds be it moral, political, social, or cultural. Justifying rape as a ‘legitimate political weapon’ has been an old yet problematic expression of imposing power and legitimacy over the body of a woman.

Politically motivated sexual harassment is an issue that has seldom been highlighted by popular media yet it is profoundly disturbing. What is deeply agitating and distressing is the deliberate silence on the part of the intelligentsia, all being parasitic signifiers of blind irrationalism and systematically chosen oppression due to the fear of social castigation. Defending the act as the “culture of Bengal politics” is being doltish and also being mute spectators of rape is nothing but holding no accountability to people and state.  

The post-poll violence is a passive reflection of the reality principle in Bengal giving credence to the fact that political valence or competence voting is a utopian myth in the state. The repercussion of speaking out and dreaming for change is met with mortification, opprobrium, and loss of dignity. People who dared to unmask their voice met with unimaginable humiliation and at the forefront were the women who faced double marginalization. One cannot even dare to imagine the physical and mental trauma of a woman whose body becomes enrapture for an ignoramus fool. She is physically assaulted for believing in an ideology, for being an active political participant; and for being an agent of change.

What is gut-wrenching is the consolidation of other women giving consent to assault women to seek revenge just because she is from another political party.  Normalising rape for personal glory is a serious issue as it perpetuates rape and toxic behaviours. The legitimization of suffering is what is to be questioned as what is at stake is not only the women of one state but women of the nation as a whole. The policy of appeasement of one particular community by the State government has a cost, which the masses are paying by losing their homes, livelihood and right to life with dignity. It is important to underscore here that it is an ‘organised crime’ and all perpetrators of crime must be dealt with high handedness. The ‘Rule of law’ and the constitutional safeguards to people must prevail.

The inquiry committee set up by the National Commission for Women visited the victims of violence that confirmed the gruesome act of rape. The initial visit palpably confirms the negligence of the state authorities. The committee has also asked the Director General of Police, West Bengal to intimate them about the measures taken for women safety in the state.

Let us hope for a new dawn of constructive politics in the state where justice shall prevail, despite all odds, and perpetrators of the crime will be brought to law. The democratic values and constitutional principles should conquer and the people must not lose faith in the law of land.

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Digvijay
PhD Research Scholar, DU Worked as Assistant professor University of Delhi 2015-19 Worker With UGC, MHRD Government of India. 2019-21 Ex-National Incharge Study circle and NEC memeber BJYM under Poonam Mahajan Ji 2017-20 State Vice President BJYM West Bengal, Currently.

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