ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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West Bengal: Rise in Street Violence

Mass lynching, political violence, organised crime or police 'excess' - whatever the cause, faceless street violence seems to be on the rise in the state. If the rule of law is to be reinstated, there has to be timely resistance from civil society.

When the Left Front came to power    in West Bengal 23 years ago, one of its main planks was the restoration of order out of a state of lawlessness. In all the elections so far, it has reminded people of the ‘dark days of the 1970s’. The campaign has indeed had some impact among the electorate, who legitimately want at least the safety and security of their lives. Recent events have put a question mark on precisely this aspect. The state is none too gradually sliding back into mob rule. A faceless, volatile violence has spread almost imperceptibly within the society, making it flare up at the flimsiest of instigation. It has cut across all dividers: between the capital city, the small towns and the rural areas, between the genders, and worse still, between the organs of the state and the civil society. Let us try to comprehend the extent of the problem by taking some random instances.

On February 1, a macabre drama was enacted in daylight at Serampore, a town with rich cultural and educational heritage. Rina Adhikary, a girl barely out of her teens, was attacked by a group of men and women at her home. They ransacked the house, assaulted her and her mother, tore all her clothes, and dragged her by her hair to the main street. Suddenly a ray of hope struck her as she saw the ‘party’ office open. She tried to run into it, crying for help. Somebody from inside sternly pushed her back into the street, saying, “not here, not here”. Her tormentors, who had backed out a little in front of the CPI(M) office, were perversely jubilant. They tied her to a lamp post, and brutalised her. Two policemen tried to intervene but were shooed away. Later, they brought reinforcements and rescued the victim.

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