Human rights biggest casualty in West Bengal electoral battle

Central, State police forces accused of threatening political activists; EC takes note

Human rights violation by both Central and State forces continues unabated in Bengal in this election season.

Both sides have randomly picked up and intimidated people who belong to particular political parties or subscribe to specific ideologies. The Hindu has accessed some evidence, though the actual size of rights violations by the central forces, local police and political parties during the elections is allegedly very high.

Among the evidence is a video clip from Sunday where a group men sitting on the ground in an enclosed area is seen being threatened by another group of men in uniform, carrying INSAS, an assault rifle used by the armed forces.

‘Encounter’ threat

The members of the forces are seen hitting the men on head with sticks and even slapping them. A commander in a blue T-shirt is heard saying that he will “encounter” them. “I have killed many here,” he is heard saying in the video clip.

The unarmed men on the ground are asked to raise their hand and are hit repeatedly. The content of the video could not be independently verified but has been shared with the representatives of the Election Commission.

The incident took place in Parbatipur Patit Pabani High School in Haldia under Tamluk constituency, according to sources who shared the video. BJP workers in Haldia said that the men “on the ground are Trinamool Congress supporters with bombs and guns”. Human rights activists, however, said no one “in custody of security forces can be tortured or made a witness against himself or herself”.

“What the police officers are seen to be doing [in the video] to the boys in custody is a serious violation of basic dignity of human beings and not permitted by law or the Act that governs the force,” said Dhiraj Sengupta, general secretary of a civil rights group, Association for Protection of Democratic Rights.

Probe ordered

The Special Police Observer of the EC, Vivek Dubey, said he has ordered a probe into the incident. “The point is well taken. I have requested for an enquiry and report. I would not be able to comment till I receive the report,” Mr. Dubey told The Hindu.

Similar allegations of human rights violations have been levelled by both sides. The State police have been accused of continuing with their “brand of intimidation”. Sachindranath Sinha (64), an organising secretary of the Vishva Hindu Parishad, is one of the victims of such alleged “harassment”. Mr. Sinha’s house in Purba Medinipur’s Mobarakpur village was allegedly surrounded by more than two dozen policemen on Saturday night. The VHP leader was escorted to the local Bhagawanpore police station and interrogated throughout the night. He was not tortured or slapped with any charges.

“They did not furnish any papers or warrant and released me the next day around 8 a.m. on a personal bond,” Mr. Sinha said.

Superintendent of Police, Purba Medinipur, V. Solomon Neshakumar denied that Mr. Sinha was picked up from his residence.

“Many people were found in the area after midnight and there was commotion. Several people were detained on suspicion and he [Mr. Sinha] was moving with them. They were taken to the police station, [their] antecedents were verified and they were released,” Mr. Solomon said.

Mr. Sengupta said that culture of “tolerance is missing in the country”.

“The BJP-RSS men are being threatened and detained as a result of this situation. Such detestable things are common to all who browbeat the [State] government. BJP-RSS is no exception. However, BJP-RSS do similar things in the States ruled by them,” he said.

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