New Delhi [India], May 29 (ANI): Women have been singled out "for most horrific terror and intimidation" in the post-poll violence in Bengal with victims primarily belonging to very marginal sections of Hindu society that are BJP supporters, says a report by Group of Intellectuals. It has recommended SIT probe under a retired Supreme Court judge and NIA investigation "as the gruesome violence may have cross border terror angle".
The report 'Khela in Bengal 2021: Shocking Ground Stories' said that treating the violence in Bengal merely as "political violence is to trivialise the horrors faced primarily by marginal sections of Hindu society who supported or voted the BJP".
It said that "TMC model of violence to win elections and retain power" was at play in state assembly elections. The report also said that "state machinery was used for violence against the political opponent thus this bears the marks of a pogrom".
It said that women have "been raped, stripped beaten and violated in the most horrific ways," crude bombs have been used, men murdered and shops and ration cards looted".
"Victims primarily belong to very marginal sections of Hindu society that are BJP supporters or voters," it said.
The Group of Intellectuals and Academicians (GIA), a civil society group in New Delhi, said they interviewed 20 victims of the post poll violence in West Bengal and these were conducted online on platforms like Zoom and Goggle meet as well as on phone due to reports of total lawlessness in the state. The report has been given to Minister of State for Home G Kishan Reddy.
"We have to recognise this violence as an outcome of the inter-sectional gender, caste religious, and economic identity of the victims. We contend that this violence was in the nature of a pogrom against political opponents. All present mechanisms of law be it the Supreme Court or various National Commissions must discharge their statutory duty to protect women and children of Bengal," the report said.
It said that since 2011 when it came to power in Bengal, the TMC "has mirrored the Left formula of not allowing an alternate political voice to emerge in the state". "This has been done through intimidation at local level elections as well as regular intimidation targeted at political rivals."
The report said there is a presence of an "extortion racket run by the TMC" in West Bengal.
"The main modus operandi of the TMC is to debilitate political opponents by targeting their bodies, economic resources and their psychological wellbeing. Almost all our respondents mentioned having to pay up large amounts of extortion money to TMC after the election results came out," it said.
"Women have been singled out for most horrific terror and intimidation. Our data reveals many incidents of rape, grievous bodily harm, the threat of rape, stripping and sexual violence. The streets were sites of dehumanization of women of all ages. While the TMC party high command and leaders belong to privileged backgrounds and did not face the violence overtly and covertly supported by them, the most marginal communities suffered," it stated.
The report said that violence against men also ultimately affects women. "In many of the cases, we studied the menfolk have been beaten and intimidated to run away. This has left the women extremely vulnerable and open to violence at all levels," it stated, adding that in "many places children have also witnessed extreme horrific violence".
It said there is "identity loot and starvation due to forfeiting ration cards till they are forced into joining TMC".
"Most of the persons we spoke to said that their Ration and Aadhar cards have been stolen by the TMC rendering them identity-less. This is leading to starvation with families unable to procure food," it said.
"Though election rhetoric is an accepted fact in India however when an incumbent Chief Minister of West Bengal makes statement threatening post poll violence, it becomes a matter of severe concern.
This indicates pre-planning and severe compromise of state institutions that have a constitutional obligation to protect all citizens, even political opponents. One such statement was made by Mamata Banerjee on March 29, 2021 in Nandigram," the report said.
The report has recommended fast track courts for speedy justice, compensation and rehabilitation of victims and action against officers in police and administration "who failed to discharge their duty in accordance with the law".
It there should be proper registration of complaints under relevant sections of law.
"An SIT under a retired Supreme Court judge may be appointed for a free and fair investigation. NIA investigation is sought in these matters as the gruesome violence may have cross border terror angle.. All steps should be ensured to see that government in the state is carried on in accordance with the Constitution and steps should be taken to protect the state against any internal disturbance," the report said.
It said that National Human Rights Commission, The National Commission for Women, Nation Commission for Scheduled Castes, National Commission for Scheduled Tribes and National Commission for Protection of Child Rights should take cognizance of the cases. "A larger ground study of victims and data collection should be undertaken by the commissions," the report said. (ANI)