In the 1980s and 1990s, at the height of its grip over West Bengal, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) ruled with an iron fist, its workers enforcing strikes, closures, and any number of party dictums with the looming threat of violent action.

According to leaders from the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress, under Mamata Banerjee’s rule, workers of her Trinamool Congress workers and its affiliate Trinamool Congress Chhatra Parishad student organisation have taken on much the same role, with its cadre acting with impunity on the streets of Kolkata and beyond.

“The faces have changed but the ruling style remains the same,” Rahul Sinha, the president of Bharatiya Janata Party’s unit in West Bengal said. He said 17 incidents of violence have taken place at colleges in urban West Bengal over the last three months. “The Trinamool Congress Chhatra Parishad on multiple occasions have threatened college professors and beaten them up for being strict with certain students who were members of the TMCP."

According to data released by the National Crime Records Bureau, annual crime under the TMC regime has surpassed levels during the CPI(M) regime.

Mission to subjugate

“The TMC has used intimidation and violence to derail the idea of democracy in West Bengal,” Professor Sabyasachi Basu Ray Choudhury, department of political science at Rabindra Bharati University said. “Under the Jyoti Basu-led CPI(M) government, violence was limited to election times and mostly to some rural and Naxal areas. But TMC has taken it to another level. Ever since her appointment as CM, Mamata Banerjee is on a mission to subjugate anyone and everyone residing in West Bengal.”

Sinha, of the BJP, also alleged that the state’s bureaucracy, school principals and university vice chancellors are all bullied by the TMC government, much like the CPI(M) did once.

Litany of woes

The attacks on students protestors at Jadavpur University last fortnight by the police and members of the TMC were widely reported. But other incidents have gone unnoticed in the national media. Last year, for instance, TMC activists beat up a professor in Rajganj College in Uttar Dinajpur district, while in Majdia Sudhir Ranjan Lahiri College they allegedly beat up the principal.

In December 2013, two TMC councillors led a mob to a prominent south Kolkata school and beat up the principal.

“I can recall many more cases with similar instances, but what is the point?” said Professor Om Prakash Mishra, a member of the department of international relations at Jadavpur University and the general secretary of West Bengal Pradesh Congress Committee. “In Bengal, if an official tries to defy the government, they meet the same fate. There is not a single case registered against these TMC members despite their open hooliganism.”

Mishra said that the comments of rape and murder against the people of the Nadia district by senior TMC leader Tapas Pal in June would have been swept under the rug if the Calcutta High Court had not ordered the Kolkata Police to file a first information report.

Sagar Ghosh from Birbhum, a former TMC leader, was shot after he won the Panchayat poll in 2013 as an independent candidate, after TMC denied him a ticket. Birbhum district TMC president Anubrata Mondal has been accused of his murder, and Calcutta High Court has ordered a CID investigation against him.