Following a huge outroar over the assault on senior photojournalist Bipal Mondal by TMC workers, the Kolkata High Court has stayed the election procedure for the Panchayat election in West Bengal till further order. The court has directed the State Election Commission to submit a status report on the process and other facts related to the election before April 16 on which the court will take its final call.
Mass violence by TMC cadre to prevent opposition party candidates from filing nominations has been reported across Bengal in recent weeks. One tribal BJP candidate, Ajit Mumuru, was hacked to death outside a Government office and one candidate from the CPI(M) fell victim to bomb injuries, while several senior opposition leaders and even women workers have been assaulted.
But it was the assault on veteran Times Of India lensman Bipal Mondal, near Bhawani Bhawan barely a km away from Banerjee’s official residence in Kolkata, as he was clicking photographs of how TMC cadre had literally taken control of the Government facility earmarked for filing of electoral nominations, that shook up civil society in Bengal.
Biplab Mondal narrated his ordeal to the media –
“I was clicking some snaps at the gates of administrative building. I felt secured as the area is heavily policed. Suddenly some people charged at me and asked me to delete the photographs I had taken. When I asked them about the reason they simply dragged me out from the midst of policemen who simply looked the other way. They beat me with punches and sticks, kicked me, snatched my camera. First they took me to the adjacent Government building. From there they dragged me inside a small hutment; all this while raining blows on me from all sides. I was feeling like I will fall unconscious.
Suddenly then a man directed me to take out my shirt. I complied the orders like a robot does. Then they asked me to take off my vest which I could not help doing. Then someone asked me to remove my trouser. I was aghast! (the veteran pressman’s voice trembled). When I pleaded with them to let me off at that and not play with my modesty.
Someone from the crowd said ‘if you don’t follow our orders then we will take pleasure in doing the same with our own hand and then post your pics on the net. Then only you will understand the consequence of raising your head against us. After today no one in Bengal will dare raise one’s head against us.’ I was at a loss to understand who was meant by the term ‘US’. I had bruises all over my person but they gave me less pain than what was being done to me. Then I was almost on the verge being denuded when some fellow journalists rushed in and yanked me out of the turmoil…”
Shocked by these developments, many prominent faces from Bengal’s civil society who had once backed Mamata Banerjee against the Marxists have now turned against her. They recently gathered in large numbers and told the media at the Kolkata Press Club that the lust for “absolute power” had literally corrupted the present dispensation absolutely.
In a hard-hitting statement theatre personality Bibhash Chakrabarty said, “We had wanted a political change in the State. But that change doesn’t seem to have materialized. The electoral violence we have been witnessing for the last a few elections crossed all limits this time round. This is not the change that the people of the State had desired.”
Educationist Miratun Nahar wondered “is the victory that they (ruling party) are bragging about is the real victory. Is democracy in Bengal has not been thoroughly crippled.”
“The development Mamata Banerjee is talking about seems to be coming down on the opposition in the shape of batons. It is development beating down and causing bloodshed at will,” said singer Pallav Kirtaniya.
Incidentally, senior State Minister and Mamata Banerjee’s Nanidgram spearhead Subhendu Adhikary recently announced Rs 5-crore reward for any person who would ensure an opposition-free Panchayat board.
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