West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar on Tuesday tweeted a letter that he wrote to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, in which he accused her of being silent about the violence after Assembly elections in the state. The state government heavily criticised Dhankhar for making the letter public, and claimed that its content was fabricated.
Dhankhar wrote that the “post-poll retributive bloodshed, violation of human rights, outrageous assault on dignity of women, wanton destruction of property, perpetuation of untold miseries on political opponents” in West Bengal was the worst since Independence.
“There has only been stunning silence on your end and you did not deem it necessary to even deliberate this grave human tragedy in any of the Cabinet meetings so far,” the governor alleged. “Your studied silence, coupled with absence of any steps to engage in rehabilitation and compensation to alleviate the unimaginable suffering of people, force an inevitable conclusion that all this is state driven. Such punitive decimation of human rights and dignity shames democracy.”
Dhankhar also accused the state police of not taking stern action to stop the violence. He alleged that the police’s involvement “suffers from partisan stance” and that the force had abandoned “lawful obligations”.
The governor claimed he heard accounts of “arson, loots, rapes and killings” during his visit to violence-affected areas last month.
“A worrisome premise of this carnage is to punish, discipline and instill fear of life in those who dared to vote against the ruling party,” Dhankhar alleged. “Madam chief minister, you will agree that such a scenario sounds death knell for democracy. How can people be made to suffer for exercising right to vote in democracy?”
The West Bengal government said it was shocked that Dhankhar went public with his letter.
“The communication format is violative of all established norms,” the state’s Home Department tweeted. “The letter has been written to Hon’ble chief minister and released to public media through tweets simultaneously, which disrupts sanctity of such communications.”
The state government claimed that violence in the state was “somewhat unabated” when the Election Commission of India was in-charge of the law and order situation during the polls. “After the swearing in, the State Cabinet has reigned in the situation, restored normalcy and established full command over anti-law elements,” it added.
The West Bengal government said it had directed the police to take firm action against anti-social elements. “The government remains committed to maintain the basic fabric of society and to uphold law and order,” it said.
Trinamool Congress leader Sukhendu Sekhar Roy said Dhankhar was trying to make the situation in West Bengal seem like the Israel-Palestine conflict, PTI reported. “The governor is making venomous and baseless comments against the state government like a spokesperson of the BJP,” he said.
West Bengal had witnessed a spell of incidents of violence following election results on May 2. The Bharatiya Janata Party and the ruling Trinamool Congress blamed each other for the deaths of multiple party workers. Various news reports put the toll between 11 and 14, but the police did not confirm the numbers.
Petitions have been filed in courts for an independent inquiry into the violence. The petitioners have alleged that 18 political activists died, sexual violence was committed against women, and acts of loot, arson and destruction took place owing to the indifference of the state government. They sought the deployment of central forces to restore law and order in the state and setting up of a fast-track court.
On Monday, the state government told the Supreme Court that the petitions were misleading and politically motivated. It also refuted accusations of inaction and complicity in the violence.