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Sitalkuchi killings: This blood won’t wash easy…

SabrangIndia Editorial: Five lives extinguished… Who should be held accountable?

Sabrangindia 12 Apr 2021

Image Courtesy:freepressjournal.in

The regime has blood on its hands. Indeed, it was those invisible and powerful men who actually ordered the police firing at Sitalkuchi on April 10, on peaceful citizens and voters, who have blood on their hands. The Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) were their pawns on a political chessboard that isn’t just black and white anymore, but has hues of saffron and is now also stained blood red.

There seems a pronounced sub-text in this macabre script and it seems transparent. Clearly, in the political subconscious of Bengal, and, perhaps, of India, this blood won’t wash too easily. This blood won’t wash easy.

Ominous on all counts, especially in election season.

 

Three poor migrant workers and one first-time voter who ran an internet café were killed in this unprovoked firing.  crime? They wanted to participate in free and fair elections! The migrant voters had actually returned from North India to vote, and there was a joyous atmosphere among families in the village on polling day.

The killings, thereby, turned more macabre and sinister.

All the victims shared the same identity – they were Muslims. In contemporary India, this is no mere coincidence.

If there is a pattern in this predictable panning of events, to a conspiracy theorist, it all might seem predetermined, almost pre-meditated. One only hopes that it was not so. One only hopes that it was not a nightmare which was waiting to happen as Bengal enters the crucial last phase of the polls, with Trinamool Congress strongholds now going to vote.

Surely, the entire country knows, including the honourable Election Commissioner and the rest of his esteemed colleagues, who are these powerful forces with deep pockets and formidable State power, and what has been their time-tested dominant narrative in recent times, including in these assembly elections, especially in Assam and Bengal. Will the last phase in Bengal, therefore, see an escalation of this hate rhetoric and diabolical mind games targeted to polarise voters and divide peaceful social communities? And will the Election Commission (EC) please step in with full impartiality and a secular vision, take note, and act decisively to stop it?

In the first instance, the EC should quickly show impartial and deliberate intent and take strong and immediate action against BJP state chief Dilip Ghosh, who is reported to have said: “Aar jodi barabari korey, Sitalkuchitey dekhechhen ki hoyechhe. Jaygaye jaygaye Sitalkuchi hobey (If they cross the limits, you have seen what has happened in Sitalkuchi. There will be a Sitalkuchi everywhere).” Surely, the EC cannot overlook this brazen statement of sheer declaration of war against one community?

Earlier he had apparently said that if artists dare to do politics, he will crush them. Rogre debo, he said. Surely, his party seems totally comfortable with this kind of crass totalitarian discourse, because he has yet again chosen to unleash himself in full public glare, yet again! He has done it umpteen times. His party loves him and his discourse, no doubt.

But, what about the EC?

However, first, the black holes.

Unprovoked firing?

Yes, the firing seems totally unprovoked. There is not an iota of evidence, not even one video, or any other substantial proof, which proves the official version as even remotely correct. There was no violent crowd out to attack the CISF. Period. Hence, this clichéd theory of firing in self-defense on defenseless and unarmed citizens, in a booth with very few voters, and in a Muslim majority area, in a district bordering the historically mixed twilight zones of Bangladesh, seems totally manufactured. In contrast, there seems to be a sinister idea behind it.

One video shows women running in an empty expanse, screaming.  Pray, is that what our central forces are meant to do during the poll process – make ordinary rural women run helter-skelter, screaming in stark terror, as bullet shots are heard in the background? Do they want to make Bengal an occupied territory?

More evidence. There was no tear gas, rubber bullets, lathi-charge or other ways to stop or scatter the people, if the official version is correct. Were there loudspeaker announcements? If there was public or individual persuasion, show it please? In contrast, as in Myanmar under the military junta, the CISF allegedly shot to kill. Was this, then, anything short of murder?

Interestingly, Director General of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) Kuldiep Singh told media persons, “I’ll not comment on what is being said by political parties. I can guarantee that all paramilitary forces and people of their state, who are under EC;s responsibility, are working as per EC’s directions.”

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has said, “This was genocide. It’s unprecedented. The central force just sprayed them with bullets... They should have fired below the waist, but the bullets were fired at the neck and the chest.”  She claimed that she has seen images of the bodies.

The official version is indeed full of black holes. According to Telegraph, Special police observer Vivek Dubey, deputed to Bengal by the Election Commission, claimed that the boy (Mrinal Haque) had fallen sick near a polling booth in his official report. “When a group of CISF personnel approached them to ask whether they wanted to send him to hospital in a vehicle parked nearby, some onlookers mistakenly thought the jawans had beaten the boy and raised an outcry, the report says. This prompted 300 to 350 villagers to gather near the booth. The situation escalated thereafter, culminating in the fatal shootings.” It should be remembered that Mamata Banerjee had earlier strongly opposed the appointment of Vivek Dubey as police observer by the EC.

According to the Telegraph, “Records at the hospital, 10km from Mrinal’s home in Jorpatki, show that the boy had arrived with severe body ache and blunt injury marks on his buttocks, back and shoulder… Mrinal said in a weak voice on Sunday: “I was in the local market (in Jorpatki on Saturday morning) when a central force jawan grabbed me by the neck and hit me several times with his stick. I pleaded with him but he kept beating me. After some time, he stopped and I fell to the ground.”

Besides, the CISF is deputed at airports and industrial areas. It directly operates under the Union Home Ministry. So how come it was asked to operate in a polling booth with no prior experience on the ground, and who gave these orders, and how was such a major murderous lapse allowed? Surely, firing is the last resort and jawans don’t fire due to some personal whims.

They are ordered to fire.

The SabrangIndia team has travelled in the interiors of Bengal reporting the polls. Everywhere they found peaceful villages and towns with peaceful citizens, and no apparent tension on the ground. With an unprecedented deployment of central forces with little knowledge on the ground or familiarity with the local language, while pushing the West Bengal police into in the sidelines, the Election Commission seemed to have missed the wood for the trees. The long phase of the polls, even while it ended quickly in three other states, has led to uncanny questions of fair play and bias. Even while the Trinamool Congress and civil society groups organised peaceful protests in every block of West Bengal and Kolkata, it is hoped that the Election Commission will move quickly, judiciously and without any partisan motive. That strong action will be taken against those who ordered the firing. And that such brazen brutality will just not be allowed to disrupt free and fair polling till the end of April in West Bengal.

Indeed, the Election Commission should not only act with fairness and firmness, it should be seen to be impartial and unprejudiced in both text and action.

Surely, there will be other times to read political texts. This is no time to read and reread the text of Niccolo Machiavelli. Not even the gospel of Joseph Goebbels.

It’s time that sanity is restored. Because, not only Bengal, Indian democracy itself is at stake! Let not some obsessed, fanatic men, flush with power and money and muscle unleashed, take it over.

Sitalkuchi killings: This blood won’t wash easy…

SabrangIndia Editorial: Five lives extinguished… Who should be held accountable?

Image Courtesy:freepressjournal.in

The regime has blood on its hands. Indeed, it was those invisible and powerful men who actually ordered the police firing at Sitalkuchi on April 10, on peaceful citizens and voters, who have blood on their hands. The Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) were their pawns on a political chessboard that isn’t just black and white anymore, but has hues of saffron and is now also stained blood red.

There seems a pronounced sub-text in this macabre script and it seems transparent. Clearly, in the political subconscious of Bengal, and, perhaps, of India, this blood won’t wash too easily. This blood won’t wash easy.

Ominous on all counts, especially in election season.

 

Three poor migrant workers and one first-time voter who ran an internet café were killed in this unprovoked firing.  crime? They wanted to participate in free and fair elections! The migrant voters had actually returned from North India to vote, and there was a joyous atmosphere among families in the village on polling day.

The killings, thereby, turned more macabre and sinister.

All the victims shared the same identity – they were Muslims. In contemporary India, this is no mere coincidence.

If there is a pattern in this predictable panning of events, to a conspiracy theorist, it all might seem predetermined, almost pre-meditated. One only hopes that it was not so. One only hopes that it was not a nightmare which was waiting to happen as Bengal enters the crucial last phase of the polls, with Trinamool Congress strongholds now going to vote.

Surely, the entire country knows, including the honourable Election Commissioner and the rest of his esteemed colleagues, who are these powerful forces with deep pockets and formidable State power, and what has been their time-tested dominant narrative in recent times, including in these assembly elections, especially in Assam and Bengal. Will the last phase in Bengal, therefore, see an escalation of this hate rhetoric and diabolical mind games targeted to polarise voters and divide peaceful social communities? And will the Election Commission (EC) please step in with full impartiality and a secular vision, take note, and act decisively to stop it?

In the first instance, the EC should quickly show impartial and deliberate intent and take strong and immediate action against BJP state chief Dilip Ghosh, who is reported to have said: “Aar jodi barabari korey, Sitalkuchitey dekhechhen ki hoyechhe. Jaygaye jaygaye Sitalkuchi hobey (If they cross the limits, you have seen what has happened in Sitalkuchi. There will be a Sitalkuchi everywhere).” Surely, the EC cannot overlook this brazen statement of sheer declaration of war against one community?

Earlier he had apparently said that if artists dare to do politics, he will crush them. Rogre debo, he said. Surely, his party seems totally comfortable with this kind of crass totalitarian discourse, because he has yet again chosen to unleash himself in full public glare, yet again! He has done it umpteen times. His party loves him and his discourse, no doubt.

But, what about the EC?

However, first, the black holes.

Unprovoked firing?

Yes, the firing seems totally unprovoked. There is not an iota of evidence, not even one video, or any other substantial proof, which proves the official version as even remotely correct. There was no violent crowd out to attack the CISF. Period. Hence, this clichéd theory of firing in self-defense on defenseless and unarmed citizens, in a booth with very few voters, and in a Muslim majority area, in a district bordering the historically mixed twilight zones of Bangladesh, seems totally manufactured. In contrast, there seems to be a sinister idea behind it.

One video shows women running in an empty expanse, screaming.  Pray, is that what our central forces are meant to do during the poll process – make ordinary rural women run helter-skelter, screaming in stark terror, as bullet shots are heard in the background? Do they want to make Bengal an occupied territory?

More evidence. There was no tear gas, rubber bullets, lathi-charge or other ways to stop or scatter the people, if the official version is correct. Were there loudspeaker announcements? If there was public or individual persuasion, show it please? In contrast, as in Myanmar under the military junta, the CISF allegedly shot to kill. Was this, then, anything short of murder?

Interestingly, Director General of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) Kuldiep Singh told media persons, “I’ll not comment on what is being said by political parties. I can guarantee that all paramilitary forces and people of their state, who are under EC;s responsibility, are working as per EC’s directions.”

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has said, “This was genocide. It’s unprecedented. The central force just sprayed them with bullets... They should have fired below the waist, but the bullets were fired at the neck and the chest.”  She claimed that she has seen images of the bodies.

The official version is indeed full of black holes. According to Telegraph, Special police observer Vivek Dubey, deputed to Bengal by the Election Commission, claimed that the boy (Mrinal Haque) had fallen sick near a polling booth in his official report. “When a group of CISF personnel approached them to ask whether they wanted to send him to hospital in a vehicle parked nearby, some onlookers mistakenly thought the jawans had beaten the boy and raised an outcry, the report says. This prompted 300 to 350 villagers to gather near the booth. The situation escalated thereafter, culminating in the fatal shootings.” It should be remembered that Mamata Banerjee had earlier strongly opposed the appointment of Vivek Dubey as police observer by the EC.

According to the Telegraph, “Records at the hospital, 10km from Mrinal’s home in Jorpatki, show that the boy had arrived with severe body ache and blunt injury marks on his buttocks, back and shoulder… Mrinal said in a weak voice on Sunday: “I was in the local market (in Jorpatki on Saturday morning) when a central force jawan grabbed me by the neck and hit me several times with his stick. I pleaded with him but he kept beating me. After some time, he stopped and I fell to the ground.”

Besides, the CISF is deputed at airports and industrial areas. It directly operates under the Union Home Ministry. So how come it was asked to operate in a polling booth with no prior experience on the ground, and who gave these orders, and how was such a major murderous lapse allowed? Surely, firing is the last resort and jawans don’t fire due to some personal whims.

They are ordered to fire.

The SabrangIndia team has travelled in the interiors of Bengal reporting the polls. Everywhere they found peaceful villages and towns with peaceful citizens, and no apparent tension on the ground. With an unprecedented deployment of central forces with little knowledge on the ground or familiarity with the local language, while pushing the West Bengal police into in the sidelines, the Election Commission seemed to have missed the wood for the trees. The long phase of the polls, even while it ended quickly in three other states, has led to uncanny questions of fair play and bias. Even while the Trinamool Congress and civil society groups organised peaceful protests in every block of West Bengal and Kolkata, it is hoped that the Election Commission will move quickly, judiciously and without any partisan motive. That strong action will be taken against those who ordered the firing. And that such brazen brutality will just not be allowed to disrupt free and fair polling till the end of April in West Bengal.

Indeed, the Election Commission should not only act with fairness and firmness, it should be seen to be impartial and unprejudiced in both text and action.

Surely, there will be other times to read political texts. This is no time to read and reread the text of Niccolo Machiavelli. Not even the gospel of Joseph Goebbels.

It’s time that sanity is restored. Because, not only Bengal, Indian democracy itself is at stake! Let not some obsessed, fanatic men, flush with power and money and muscle unleashed, take it over.

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Milestones 2020

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