West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar on Monday accused the Mamata Banerjee-led government of turning it into a police state, The Indian Express reported.
“Police state and democracy cannot go hand in hand,” he said at a press conference in Raj Bhavan. “Law and order has collapsed in the state. Maoist insurgency is raising its head.” The governor also claimed that terror modules were running in the state and the government was conducting electronic surveillance.
“Due to this surveillance, political, administrative business, police are all obliged to use WhatsApp and Facetime as modes of voice communication,” Dhankhar alleged. “This electronic surveillance has converted our state into a facetime state.”
Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Sujan Chakraborty supported Dhankhar’s statement on electronic surveillance.
The Chief Minister does not even trust her own shadow. In Bengal, everyone is under surveillance. Phone tapping is being done even on her party leaders and close aides. The democratic space in Bengal has been systematically destroyed. There is no space for the Opposition here.— Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Sujan Chakraborty
Dhankhar also targeted West Bengal’s Director General of Police Virendra, to whom he had written a letter on the law and order situation in the state. Dhankhar had last week rebuked the police chief over sending a mere “two-line” reply on the matter. The governor had summoned Virendra but he failed to turn up. “How could the DGP [Director General of Police] be so arrogant, so dismissive and so callous?” Dhankhar asked on Monday. “How could such a dismissive statement be given to the constitutional head?”
The summoning of the police chief started another row between the governor and chief minister, who have argued over various topics, including law and order and the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
On Saturday, Banerjee wrote a nine-page reply to the governor, criticising him for questioning the police about the law and order situation in the state. The chief minister asked Dhankhar to act according to the Constitution and refrain from surpassing her.
During Monday’s press conference, Dhankhar said that he needed an explanation from the police chief “in the wake of orchestrated political killings, fake cases, political vendetta, ruthless quelling of Opposition.”
Trinamool Congress leader Saugata Roy hit back at Dhankhar, accusing the governor of making the statements in order to “strengthen the hands” of the Centre in the state. “I do not accept such statements from the governor,” he said. “We have never seen this kind of talkative and cheap governor in Bengal. I am ashamed of his statements and behaviour.”
He also spoke about the governor’s letter to the police chief and said that Dhankhar has not read the Constitution. “Is there a provision in the Constitution that says that a Governor can write letters to officers?” he asked. He cited Article 167 of the Constitution to say that the governor can only seek information from the chief minister of the state and not to any other ministers or government officials.
Roy also refuted the allegations related to electronic surveillance, and called them unfounded. He also demanded proof and data for these claims.
He [Governor Dhankhar] is denigrating his constitutional post. The BJP on the other hand is indulging in cheap politics. Assembly polls are just around the corner and there is some political agenda behind these allegations and statements.— West Bengal Panchayat Minister Subrata Mukherjee
Dhankhar’s comments were backed by Bharatiya Janata Part chief Dilip Ghosh, who claimed that the government was using the police against Opposition leaders. “At a time when terrorist activities have ended across the country, it is still thriving in Bengal,” he claimed. “The governor has rightly pointed out the faults of the state government. Now it is up to the administration to rectify its faults.”