West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar on Sunday alleged that the police in the state have been “politicised” to the extent that the force now interferes with every aspect of governance. Dhankhar made the allegations in reference to the alleged custodial death of a man from East Midnapore district.

In a letter to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, Dhankhar said the death of Madan Ghorai was another instance of “dehumanising torture, assault and death”, reported PTI. He added that such incidents have assumed “horrendous proportions, impeaching the credibility of rule of law”. “It is an open secret that politicised police has ‘finger in every pie’ of governance, a facet of police state.”

Madan Ghorai was arrested on September 26 in connection with a criminal case. The Bharatiya Janata Party claimed Ghorai was a party worker. He died at SSKM hospital in Kolkata on October 13. Ghorai’s family as well as the BJP have alleged that he was tortured. The police had said that Ghorai was in judicial custody when he fell ill.

“High time you redeem your constitutional oath and enforce rule of law, ensure ‘democratic governance’ in the state, make police and administration ‘politically neutral’ and accountable,” Dhankhar said in his letter.

The governor said he was giving the “last warning” to the government. “I want to tell the chief minister to follow the Constitution,” he added, according to Hindustan Times. “I am here to protect it. They are playing with fire.”

They [bureaucrats and police] cannot be political workers and shall not be allowed to be political workers. Those who are sleeping like Kumbhakarna have no idea that there is something called destiny. This is my last warning.”

— West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar

Dhankhar made the statement after meeting Ghorai’s family. Lok Sabha MP Locket Chatterjee took Ghorai’s relatives to the Raj Bhawan around 7 pm on Sunday. “Do not think that you can stop the governor by trolling him,” said Dhankhar. “If rule of law is not established be ready to face the music.”

Court orders

On Friday, the single-judge bench of Rajasekhar Mantha ordered a second postmortem examination. The bench was hearing a plea moved by Ghorai’s brother demanding investigation into the custodial death. The state government told the court that the body was handed over to the family on Friday morning after postmortem examination.

Later that day, the state government moved the divisional bench of Justices Sanjib Banerjee and Arijit Banerjee challenging the single-bench ruling. The division bench ordered a stay on the second postmortem till Monday and referred the case back to the single bench. The divisional bench said the state government should be given time to prepare its reply and till then the body must be preserved.

TMC’s rebuttal

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee alleged that “some people” were maligning the state police for political gains, reported PTI. “They forget the work done by the police during crisis situations, amid the Covid-19 pandemic, and even at other times... If you show disrespect to someone, you will be paid back in your own coin,” Banerjee said while inaugurating several Durga puja pandals in Kolkata.

TMC Lok Sabha member and party spokesperson Saugata Roy said the governor was rude. “He is acting like a BJP spokesperson,” he told Hindustan Times. “He is clearly crossing his limits. If someone has died in custody, then the court and the administration is there to look into it and take steps.”

Roy claimed the governor was selecting “isolated incidents” to show the state in poor light.

“That [law and order is collapsing] can only be said when there are mass killings and upheavals,” he added. “Nothing of that nature is happening in Bengal.”

He urged Union Home Minister Amit Shah to warn Dhankhar like he did with the Maharashtra governor. On Saturday, Shah said Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari could have chosen his words better in his letter to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on reopening places of worship amid the coronavirus pandemic. “He [governor] has made a passing reference, but I also believe that he [governor] could have avoided the selection of those particular words,” the Union home minister had told News18 in an interview.