(ML Update, CPI (ML) Weekly, 16–22 APRIL 2013


The custodial killing of student activist Sudipto Gupta in West Bengal sparked off protests all over West Bengal and beyond. Since then, a veritable reign of terror of the ruling TMC has been unleashed in West Bengal. Offices of Left parties, including several CPI(M) offices and at least one CPI(ML) office, have been torched and vandalised in the State. And the attack by TMC cadres on Presidency University (presumably because of the fact that many Presidency students have been vocal and active against several acts of high-handedness by the TMC Government) has underscored that the TMC Government is at war with dissent and democracy.


At Presidency, TMC cadre armed with weapons not only ransacked the college and beat up students and teachers, they also threatened women students with rape. Mamata Banerjee is yet to take responsibility for the violence by her party’s cadre. Instead, a TMC student wing leader has registered a case against one student and one former student of Presidency.


The West Bengal Governor too has displayed blatantly partisan behaviour. He failed to chide the State Government either for the custodial killing of Sudipto Gupta or for the attack on Presidency University. While personally apologising for the Presidency violence, he took it upon himself to assure students of the CM’s anguish. However, the Governor expressed disproportionate condemnation at a protest by CPI(M) cadre in Delhi during Mamata Banerjee’s visit to the Planning Commission, in which the West Bengal Finance Minister was heckled and manhandled by some of the protestors who were demanding justice for Sudipto and were angry at the CM’s remark dismissing the custodial killing as a ‘petty matter’.


The Governor chose to declare this incident to be an ‘unprecedented’ and ‘premeditated’ attack on elected representatives, and a ‘blot on India’s democratic values’. There is no evidence that the incident was premeditated. On the contrary, it seems that the CM and her Ministers chose to defy the advice of the police to enter the Planning Commission by car through an alternative gate; and instead alighted from the car to deliberately confront the protestors. While the incident involving Finance Minister Amit Mitra was avoidable and unfortunate, the footage shows that it is mainly unarmed women workers who confronted Mitra. The Governor’s claim that the protestors were armed does not appear to be borne out by facts.


The question then arises: why does the Governor see a threat to democracy in the anger of grieving protestors, but fail to see custodial killings of student activists and assaults on educational institutions and offices of rival parties as a ‘blot on democratic values’?


The entire spectrum of democratic and Left voices is now at the receiving end of all-out attacks by the ruling TMC in West Bengal. However, West Bengal cannot forget that the CPI (M) too is complicit in the political culture of eliminating rival activists. Abdul Halim, a young activist and former SFI leader who had left the CPI (M) in Burdwan district to join CPI(ML), was brutally attacked and eventually killed by CPI(M) cadre in the 1990s. During the Singur agitation a young woman activist Tapasi Malik was raped and killed, again by CPI (M) cadre. Violence on campuses by SFI against rival student groups was rampant during CP I(M) rule.


The struggle in WB now, therefore, is not a struggle for restoration of a past order of things, but a struggle to get rid of the entrenched culture of political violence and assaults on democracy. CPI (ML) and its mass organisations have arisen in defence of democracy in West Bengal, and are at the forefront of the protests, alongside progressive intellectuals, students, and activists.

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