(With additional inputs and combining stories) Kolkata, Oct 18 (PTI) West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee were on Sunday embroiled in a war of words with the former accusing the state police of being 'highly politicised', drawing a sharp retort from the latter who accused some people of 'maligning the police for vested political interests'.
Flagging the 'custodial death' of BJP worker Madan Ghorai, Governor Dhankhar alleged that the state's 'politicised' police has 'finger in every pie' of the governance.
In a letter to Banerjee, Dhankhar said the demise of Ghorai is yet another instance of 'dehumanising torture, assault and death' in custody and asserted that such incidents, dotting the state, have assumed 'horrendous proportions, impeaching the credibility of the rule of law'.
Later in the evening, Dhankar met family members of Ghorai and warned police officials that they 'are playing with the fire.' Urging the chief minister to work in accordance with law and the Constitution, he said 'you will find your governor working with your government shoulder to shoulder in the service of people.' Banerjee later in the evening, without naming anyone, said, 'Some people only believe in blaming and maligning the police force and the state for political gains'.
Dhankhar also expressed concern over the law and order situation, citing incidents of murder, abduction, rape and the recent 'custodial death' of a man, who, the BJP said, was a worker of its party.
'It is an open secret that politicised police has 'finger in every pie' of the governance, a facet of a police state,' Dhankhar said in his letter.
Ghorai was arrested in Patashpur in East Medinipur district on September 26 in connection with a kidnapping case.
He was sent to judicial custody the next day. He was later shifted to Kolkata in the first week of October after he fell ill.
On October 13, he died at a city hospital.
The police had said he was in judicial custody and not in its custody as claimed by the saffron party.
'High time you redeem your constitutional oath and enforce the rule of law, ensure 'democratic governance' in the state, make police and administration 'politically neutral' and accountable,' Dhankhar wrote to the chief minister.
The governor, who has been at odds with the government since assuming charge in the state, requested the chief minister to conform to constitutional prescriptions to ensure the rule of law in the state.
'...we are at the penultimate stage of governance not being 'carried on in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution' and 'internal disturbance' in parts of the state,' Dhankhar said in his letter.
In the evening, while inaugurating various Durga Pujas, Banerjee, without taking names, said that the state police and the administration -- despite toiling hard day in and day out to overcome crises -- were being maligned by some people for political gains.
'Some people only believe in blaming and tarnishing the police force and the state. 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 coin.' She said.
The CM also said if someone died of tuberculosis, 'these people will point fingers towards the law and order situation of West Bengal. They will say the death was caused by (political) violence.' She said such campaigns were being made to earn political brownies.
The faceoff between the governor and the chief minister triggered a war of words between the ruling TMC and the opposition BJP, with the latter accusing the state government of insulting the constitutional head of the state.
'In no other state, you will see the state government is busy insulting the governor, except West Bengal. Instead of addressing the issues of killing of the BJP workers, the state government and the police is busy protecting the culprits,' state BJP general secretary Sayantan Basu said.
Senior TMC leader and spokesperson Saugato Roy, said, governor is not acting in a 'way he should keeping in mind the high office he holds'.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah said in an interview to a news channel on Saturday that 'law and order have gone for a toss' in West Bengal. The TMC has refuted the allegations as 'baseless and politically motivated'. PTI SUS/AMR PNT SNS SNS