Unprecedented violence swept the state of West Bengal as TMC workers and supporters ran riot, targeting their BJP counterparts in the wake of assembly elections that resulted in a thumping victory for Mamata Banerjee. Following the violence, NHRC visited the state to assess the extent of human rights violations. A part of NHRC, the National Commission for SC/ST also visited the state in July and submitted its report on the findings.
As per reports, the NCST found evidence of rampant violence and targeted attack on Hindu homes by TMC cadres. The Commission found that tribal communities are living under perpetual fear of persecution after the post-poll elections. They were unable to lodge complaints with the police or revenue officials because of fear of retribution.
Widespread violence, several incidents of arson, vandalism, caste-based discrimination witnessed in West Bengal : NCST
In the Midnapur district, the commission found that tribal families belonging to Munda Tribe were subjected to attack by violent mobs, were forced to confine themselves to their homes and were even restricted from visiting markets or selling their agricultural produce.
There were acts of physical assault and caste discrimination as well. Many tribals stated that vehicles operated by them were not allowed to ply on roads by the local police. The SC women faced boycotts from some sections of society, thereby exacerbating their financial woes that were already compounded by the second wave of the coronavirus outbreak.
Similarly in other areas that the team visited, it found that local tribal people were attacked and persecuted in the aftermath of the TMC victory in West Bengal. Political murders went unreported as local police refrained from taking action against the culprit. A man belonging to Santal Tribe in the Jhargham district was found dead under mysterious circumstances. His family had claimed that he was a victim of political murder but the police treated the incident as a road accident.
The Commission accessed the postmortem report of the deceased that revealed that he was clobbered by stones and other blunt materials on both sides of his head.
Even in the Hooghly district, members of the Santal Tribes were subjected to unspeakable atrocities. At least 25 Santal Tribal families were attacked physically. The Commission found that they were forced to confine themselves in their homes and even their women were mercilessly attacked.
During their visit to the East Bardhaman district, the team of NCST interacted with the local people, some of whom confided in them that their houses were burnt to ashes during the post-poll violence. They also added that attacks on their tribesmen, molestation and rapes of women took place in the region. They lamented that the police had not taken any action against the culprits even though some of them were identified
Several districts in 24 North Parganas are among affected by the violence that erupted in the wake of the assembly election results in West Bengal. People from Mahato, Munda, Bedia, and Oraon communities are affected by violence in these districts. It is learnt that incidents such as looting valuables, ransacking of houses and shops, theft of gold chains, cycles, destruction of kitchen and damaging of asbestos sheets have taken place in the region. The team also found that local police in these regions had refused to file complaints and had threatened the locals with arrests for lodging any complaint.
The Commission also found that tribals were threatened and browbeaten against narrating their ordeal with the team officials who visited different parts of the state to assess the damage caused by post-poll violence. In some of the affected areas, victims are allegedly asked to not meet with the NCST team and their mobile phones are forcibly taken away and switched off.
NSCT recommends fixing accountability for police inaction, demands SIT to probe the incidents of post-poll violence
With the utter collapse of law and order and widespread reports of police inaction against the rioters and hooligans, OpIndia has learnt that the NCST Commission has recommended fixing of accountability to individual officers who were either on duty at the relevant time or the Station in-charge officer of the concerned police station for not initiating preventive measures in stopping the violence. It has also suggested the transfer of complaints to independent agencies to inspire confidence among tribals.
In a bid to provide an additional safety net to the tribal people, the panel of NCST has recommended the deployment of paramilitary forces in affected areas owing to the trust deficit against the local police.
The Commission is also believed to have recommended immediate steps to be taken to augment infrastructural facilities to prove basic amenities to tribal people so that they can lead dignified lives.
In addition to this, the Commission has also suggested setting up a Special Investigation Team of the concerned police station of members outside the control of the West Bengal administration to probe the atrocities committed against the tribal people during the post-poll violence in the state.
Appropriate compensation to be provided by the State directly to the beneficiary’s account and rehabilitation of the tribal people who lost their homes due to arson and vandalism were also suggested by the Commission.
NHRC makes damning disclosures on post-poll violence in West Bengal
The admonition from the NCST comes in the wake of a damning report submitted by the National Human Rights Commission to the Calcutta High Court on July 14 regarding the post-poll violence in West Bengal.
The statutory public body said in its report that, after visiting 311 spots in 20 days and carrying out an extensive inquiry in the matter, the seven-member committee constituted to probe the post-poll violence in West Bengal concluded that the current situation of the state is a manifestation of ‘Law of Ruler’, instead of ‘Rule of Law’. It added that the loss of faith in state administration among victims is very evident.
Attaching details of the same, the NHRC report stated that it collected a whopping 1979 number of complaints from 23 districts where incidents of violence had taken place post-Mamata Banerjee’s May 2 win.
Most complaints are from Cooch Behar, Birbhum, Bardhaman, North 24 Parganas and Kolkata, said that NHRC reports adding that most of the complaints related to rape, molestation, and vandalism and were received through local sources in West Bengal while the team was camping there. The statutory body added that a list of 57 complaints related to women was received from the National Women Commission.