The National Human Rights Commission on Monday formed a seven-member committee to examine complaints related to the violence that took place in West Bengal after the Assembly elections in May. The committee was set up in accordance with the orders of the Calcutta High Court on June 18.
The human rights body said the panel will be headed by its member Rajiv Jain. It will also include National Commission for Minorities Vice President Atif Rasheed, National Commission for Women member Rajulben L Desai, NHRC Director General of Investigations Santosh Mehra and its Deputy Inspector General Manzil Saini, West Bengal State Human Rights Commission Registrar Pradip Kumar Panja and West Bengal State Legal Services Authority Member Secretary Raju Mukherjee.
The human rights body said that it will examine all post-poll violence cases, including those submitted earlier as well as the ones that may be received. “The cases shall be examined, including by visiting the affected areas and shall submit a comprehensive report to the High Court of Calcutta about the present situation and also steps to be taken to ensure the confidence of the people that they can peacefully live in their houses and also carry on their occupation or business to earn their livelihood,” the commission said.
The statement added that the commission will also point out the residents prima facie responsible for crimes and officers who remained silent on the incidence of violence.
This came hours after the Calcutta High Court refused the West Bengal government’s request to recall or modify the order to form the panel. The state government argued that it was not given a copy of the report based on which the court had passed the order.
During the hearing, the judges said they did not have faith in the West Bengal government. It noted that the National Human Rights Commission had received more than 500 complaints related to the violence, while the state government said it had not received any.
“How is it possible?” the court asked Advocate General Kishore Datta, representing the West Bengal government. “This is lethargy on part of the state.”
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.
The Supreme Court is also hearing petitions for an independent inquiry into the violence. The petitioners alleged that 18 political activists died, women were sexually assaulted and there were incidents of loot, arson and destruction 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.
The petitioners also accused the West Bengal government and the police of inaction and even complicity in the violence. They sought rehabilitation and compensation for those displaced by the violence.
On June 14, the state government had told the Supreme Court that the petitions were misleading and politically motivated. It also refuted accusations of inaction.