ONE family is planning to leave West Bengal, another is in debt, many have not been able to shrug off a boycott despite leaving politics, while others have not been able to return to the homes they left in fear.
A year after the state was swept by violence following the Assembly election results of May 2, 2021, the victims, many of them BJP supporters, continue to live under its shadow. An NHRC probe, ordered by the Calcutta High Court, had found the Trinamool Congress government guilty of letting the violence continue. The court had also ordered a CBI probe, which is still on.
On Thursday, to mark a year after the elections and to express solidarity with the BJP victims of violence, Union Home Minister Amit Shah will be visiting the state for the first time since the results. Around the same time, TMC chief and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee will be addressing a party meeting where she is likely to emphasize that the coming panchayat polls and the Lok Sabha elections of 2024 should not be marked by violence.
A look back at four cases of violence following the results:
* Joy Prakash Yadav, 28, killed in North 24 Parganas
A known BJP supporter, Yadav was hit by a crude bomb in front of his house in Bhatpara, Barrackpore, in North 24 Parganas district, on June 6 last year. Mother Rajmati Devi, 59, who was with Yadav when he was attacked and as he died, says she is hoping for a job for Yadav’s wife Sangeeta, who has two young children to support. Sangeeta recently traveled with a group to Delhi to meet Shah; she returned hopeful that a job might finally materialise.
Once it does, says Devi, they will leave Bengal. “We will stay wherever she is posted.”
The family received Rs 5 lakh aid from the BJP, but Sangeeta says what they need is a job. “My husband was the only earning member (he worked with a real estate company), I am surviving on the mercy of others.” Devi named Tuntun Choudhury, Animesh Pal, Chandan Singh and Lallan Singh in her complaint. Choudhury and Pal were arrested, of whom only Pal remains in custody. The FIR was filed on charges of murder.
TMC Jagdal Town president Jitu Shaw says the BJP used the incident for its benefit. “The case had nothing to do with political rivalry.”
* Rape of a 60-year-old
On the night of May 4-5, 2021, alleged TMC men attacked the woman at her home and one of them raped her, as her five-year-old grandson hid under a cot. Also forced to ingest some poison, the victim spent more than a month in hospital. The family was believed to have been attacked for supporting the BJP. The son-in-law says while the BJP took care of the hospital costs, they did not get the relief promised by it. “I had to take care of a lot of the expenses and have a debt of Rs 2.5 lakh.”
BJP MLA Santanu Pramanik, whom the son-in-law claims to have met, told The Indian Express: “Several victims have not got compensation due to errors in bank account numbers or other issues. We intend to help all.” The family says it also lives on the edge as two of the accused remain absconding. Police arrested Muhammed Usman and Subrata Kumar Das, but never caught Gautam Das and Sukanta Das.
Local TMC leader Partha Pratim Das says he does not want to speak on the issue as it is sub-judice. “We maintain that the case is false.”
* Social boycott of Opp workers in Paschim Medinipur
After the polls, leaflets surfaced in Mahisda village of Paschim Medinipur naming 18 Opposition workers and ordering a social boycott, allegedly distributed by TMC workers. A year later, most of those named have distanced themselves from political activities, but say they are still kept out of government schemes.
Primary teacher Dibyendu Mondol, a CPM worker whose name was on the list, says he decided to avoid politics for mental peace. “But former Opposition workers like us can’t avail of schemes like the NREGA or ‘Banglar Bari’ (PMAY),” he says. Mondol and Panchu Maal were the only two CPM supporters on that list, the rest being BJP workers.
Around a year back, one of the BJP workers, Haradhaan Maal, wrote a letter to the TMC accepting his “mistake” and “seeking pardon”. However, says Maal, apart from him, his wife Bandana no longer gets any MNREGA work.
Among those determined to not “give in” are Harishadhan Dolui, 50, and son Gurupada, 24. While Harishadahan is in the CPM, Gurupada is with the BJP. “I told TMC leaders that you may kill me but I cannot quit the CPM. For almost 15 days, I was locked inside,” Harishadahan says.
While news of the social boycott led to the arrest of four TMC workers — Sujash Pramanik, Pintu Chakraborty, Rabin Das and Manas Bhuiyan — all are out on bail. Sujash says the claims are false. “We never threaten anyone. It was a CPM conspiracy.”
TMC Keshpur block president Uttamananda Tripathi says: “I have not received any complaint that Opposition workers and their family members are not benefiting from government schemes. If I do, I will take action.”
* Properties damaged at Jadavpur, South Kolkata
Their houses on KPC Medical College grounds in Jadavpur ransacked, around 35 families fled the area, and are yet to return home. An NHRC team that visited the area on June 29 was also chased out, allegedly by TMC supporters. “We cannot even think of returning,” says Raja Das (35), a former Group D employee at KPC Medical College, now living in a rented home. This is his 12th rented house since he left on May 3, 2021, hopping from place to place.
The KPC Medical College colony housed either employees of the college or their family members. Amit Dey, his wife Mega and their four-year-old son were among those who fled. Amit works as an assistant with a private doctor. Megha says she does not want to talk to the media. “Everyone forgot us, even the party for whom we fought and lost everything. We are on our own.”
Their advocate Sanjay Das, a member of the BJP’s legal cell, says he still has faith in the judiciary. Swapan Naiya, an active BJP worker of the area, admits the help provided by the BJP is not enough.
Local TMC leader Alok Dev says those who fled were afraid of the public. “Before the elections, they are harassed common people. They realised that if they return, they would not be spared… Our party never disturbed them.”