Under Mamata Banerjee as CM and Home Minister, the police force in Bengal works as a mere extension of TMC, alleges the Opposition in the state.
Three days after the early morning murder of ruling Trinamool Congress panchayat member Saifuddin Laskar in Joynagar in South 24-Parganas district of West Bengal on Monday, a gram pradhan of the ruling party was killed at Amdanga in adjoining North 24-Parganas district. Saifuddin Laskar’s murder triggered violence in the area and a mob lynched a man, identified as Sahabuddin Laskar, who they suspected of having committed the crime before setting fire to 20-25 houses belonging to CPM workers and supporters at Bamangachi, five kilometres away.
CPM supporters at Bamangachi allege that the police remained mute spectators as Trinamool supporters ransacked, looted and set afire their houses. “Trinamool workers even prevented the fire brigade from reaching our houses,” said a woman victim whose husband, along with all the males in the village, fled fearing assault. “Our houses have been burnt because we are CPM supporters. There is no rice, there is nothing to eat,” she added.
Killings of Trinamool Congress leaders and the police’s delayed or lack of response in tackling law and order problems have laid bare the shortcomings of the police force in West Bengal.
Opposition leaders blame Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who is also the Home Minister overseeing the police force, for the state of affairs.
“Twelve years under Mamata Banerjee as CM and Home Minister have seen the police force in Bengal work as mere extensions of the Trinamool,” says Bharati Ghosh, a former IPS officer who resigned to join the BJP. “The police force has forgotten its basic purpose,” she told The Sunday Guardian.
“Since the very beginning, Mamata has been using the police to help her party and cow down opponents and even people in her own party. In turn, her trusted leaders have also done the same. For example, in Birbhum, her trusted lieutenant Anubrata Mandal, used to control the district police. He used to direct the Superintendent of Police to file ‘ganja cases’ against those who opposed him both within and outside his own party,” alleged Anupam Hazra, former Trinamool MP from Bolpur who is currently the BJP’s National Secretary. “Ganja” cases are the colloquial name for cases filed under the stringent Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act which have been used liberally against Opposition workers in the state.
Trinamool Congress leader and Canning Purba MLA Saukat Mollah disagreed and said that the murders were a conspiracy hatched by the leadership of the CPM and the BJP. CPM central committee member Sujan Chakraborty drew parallels between the violence at Joynagar and the Bogtui massacre in Birbhum district in March 2022, where 10 people were burnt to death in violence after the murder of a local TMC leader.
Sujan Chakraborty said that violence was the result of factionalism. “Everyone is aware that in Trinamool, there is a fight for the share of the spoils of corruption. The party won all the 23 seats at the local panchayat polls and yet they are using the incident as an opportunity to target CPM supporters. The police are part of the entire game plan, which is why they stopped us from visiting our supporters with relief materials,” Chakraborty said.
BJP leader Dilip Ghosh, who is also a former state chief of the party, told The Sunday Guardian: “West Bengal’s situation is moving closer to that of Pakistan and Afghanistan, Nobody is safe, be it commoners or political leaders, and anyone opposing is not being spared, either.”
MLA and ISF leader Naushad Siddiqui said: “In the Narada sting video, you can see an IPS officer accepting bribes on behalf of Mukul Roy, who was then the Number Two in the Trinamool. Nowadays you will see many such officers. From IPS officers to officers at the police stations, everyone is doing the bidding of their political masters and that is why the police are losing people’s trust.”
Even Trinamool leaders say that the police can and should concentrate on policing. Arjun Singh, the TMC MP from Barrackpore, one of the most volatile regions in the state, said: “Bomb making and firearms manufacture have become a ‘shilpo’ (industry) in the state and the police should take action before the situation goes totally out of hand.”
Retired Director-General of Police Pankaj Dutta told The Sunday Guardian: “The kind of politicization of the police that we are seeing today is frightening. In my four-decade experience in the force, I have never seen this kind of open pandering of the ruling party members. Policing has lost prestige in the eyes of the common man.”
“The police today are not investigating any case in which ruling party members are involved. How can it? At Bogtui, the DG and the SP were being lectured about how to frame the case by Anubrata Mandal in the presence of the Chief Minister in full view of TV cameras,” alleged Nazrul Islam, another retired IPS officer who was known for his probity.
“All the scams like the education scam, the ration scam, the municipal appointments scam that have taken place in the state could not have taken place if the police had been doing its duty. If minister after minister, leader after leader was making money all over the state, it is the police which should have informed the Chief Minister about the state of affairs. Not doing so means that police officers were either completely complicit or else they knew that these actions had the sanction from the top,” he alleged.