Panchayat Election in West Bengal 2023: Bloodshed from the Day of Filing Nominations

Around one hundred years ago, Gopal Krishna Gokhale ji, a renowned patriot of India said “What Bengal thinks today, India thinks tomorrow.” The reason is that United Bengal produces/produced great personalities and stalwarts in all fields – games and sports, film, music, literature, politics, spirituality, etc. But the past glory in the present days has been fading. Whenever I visited across the State for academic activities in my service life, I was told “The people are Bhadralooks meaning gentleman to the core”. But in the last Assembly election in the State and this June 2023 during the filing of the nomination of the Panchayat election unprecedented violence took place in West Bengal and bloodshed and deaths which are very unfortunate also happened. As per India Today, New Delhi, June 19, 2023 “Ahead of the next month’s Panchayat polls in West Bengal, a cycle of violence has begun across the state, resulting in death and destruction, quite expectedly. Six people, including a ruling TMC worker, have been killed since the nominations began on June 9. Reports of violence have come from Cooch Behar, North and South 24 Parganas, Murshidabad, Birbhum, East Midnapore, and East Burdwan, among other places. Perhaps in no other Indian states, so much violence took place”. I feel this is a shame to “Bhadralooks”. Against this backdrop elections in Uttar Pradesh (UP) and Karnataka may be cited where there was no death or serious injury in recently completed elections. In UP, “In the Assembly elections of 2022, a total of 33 incidents of electoral violence took place. Of these 28 incidents happened before polling days and five happened on polling days in which no person was seriously injured or died,” Deccan Herald (March 9, 2022). In the recently held Assembly election in Karnataka, some minor incidents of violence took place but not a single case of death or serious injury was reported.
Anyway, observing huge violence during the filing of nomination in the Panchayat election in West Bengal, the election issue was State police or deployment of Central force, and finally, “The Supreme Court on Tuesday (20/6/23) refused to interfere with an order of the Calcutta High Court directing the State Election Commission (SEC) to requisition and deploy central forces across West Bengal for the July 8 Panchayat polls. The pleas were filed by the West Bengal Government and the State Election Commission. Holding an election cannot be a license for violence,” a vacation bench of Justice B V Nagarathna and Justice Manoj Misra observed during the hearing (Mid-day, 21/6/23). It is observed from India Today (21/6/23) that “the Supreme Court, on June 20, rejected the Mamata Banerjee government’s challenge to deploying of central forces for the election. The Mamata government and the State Election Commission had opposed the Calcutta High Court’s directive that security during Panchayat polls be handled by central forces”. In another development, the Panchayat polls in Bengal should be stopped if the bloodbath continues, the Calcutta High Court observed on June 21, 2023. The court was hearing a case in connection with the disappearance of names of candidates contesting the election. According to Justice Amrita Sinha “So much violence in panchayat polls. The poll should be stopped if the bloodbath continues.”
So, I suggest the Bhadralooks of West Bengal should take lessons from other states as killing, arson, injury, destruction of properties, etc., are highly deplorable in an election. Moreover, this is a state of “Bhadralooks”.

Prof Shankar Chatterjee, Hyderabad

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