A COVID-19 induced lockdown and the conclusion of a long-fought poll battle has failed to halt political upheaval and violence in West Bengal. While Sunday saw the Trinamool Congress emerge victorious for a third time (213 seats), the reports that followed have been rather problematic. On Monday, the Home Ministry called for a report from the Bengal government on the "post election violence targeting opposition political workers in the state", even as the BJP indicated that it would hold a nationwide dharna on May 5 against the same.
Visuals shared on social media show people being attacked as well as incidents of vandalism, with many BJP and Left leaders holding the TMC responsible. These visuals are not being included directly in the article for their somewhat disturbing and gory nature. Allegations and counter-allegations continue to fly, with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee urging all individuals to maintain peace.
"Police @WBPolice @CPKolkata must end senseless political violence, vandalism, arson, killings and intimidation that shames democracy. Bengali diaspora world over has expressed concern over alarming lawlessness. Why post poll violence only WB ? Why this assault on democracy?" tweeted Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar.
"Reports indicate horrendous state of affairs. Horrified people are fleeing to save themselves. Flooded with SOS appeals," he added in a follow-up post, calling for the Chief Minister to restore order. Mamata Banerjee incidentally is slated to be sworn in for the third time on Wednesday.
Over the last day or so, several BJP and Left leaders have taken to Twitter to highlight the situation. "I want to tell Mamata Banerjee to stop this violence in West Bengal. How would TMC leaders feel if they are treated similarly when they go to UP, Bihar? I want to tell TMC MLAs and MPs to stay within their limits," tweeted BJP MP Parvesh Singh.
Former MP Swapan Dasgupta who contested the polls from Tarakeshwar has put out a series of tweets calling for an end to the violence and seeking the intervention of the Calcutta High Court. Dubbing it an "assault on Indian democracy" he demanded administrative action to stop the violence.
"There is a feeling of helplessness when you receive desperate calls from BJP supporters in Tarakeshwar whose houses are being smashed by goons as political retribution. The police have retreated into the thanas and it is free for all. Is there any rule of law and democracy in Bengal?" he tweeted on Tuesday morning.
"Around 15-20 TMC goons of Mamata Banerjee attacked and vandalised ABVP West Bengal's Kolkata office, engaged in altercation with activists and assaulted them. After assaulting ABVP activists, TMC goons deliberately vandalised idols of Hanuman Ji and Maa Kali," alleged the student party on Monday night.
"Heart-rending scenes in Kendamari Village in my constituency Nandigram AC earlier today," tweeted Suvendu Adhikari sharing a video where two women can be seen being attacked.
The situation has also made those beyond Bengal take heed and call for a resolution. And while some laid the blame squarely with the TMC, others called for more clarity on the developing situation.
"Are these reports of gruesome violence in Bengal TMC’s ‘victory celebrations’?Condemnable. Will be resisted & rebuffed. Instead of focusing on combating the pandemic TMC unleashes such mayhem. CPI(M), as always, will be with the people to protect, assist, providing relief," tweeted CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury.
"After a fiercely fought campaign, reading on social media instances of violence in West Bengal. Request you Derek O'Brien to bring some clarity and also ensure strict rule of law prevails," tweeted Shiv Sena MP Priyanka Chaturvedi.
O'Brien insist that that the visuals that have overtaken Twitter are "intra-party" fights. "Bengal wants peace and harmony. BJP wants divisiveness," he countered. Fellow party MP Mahua Moitra also cautioned the BJP against holding their planned pan-India dharna.
In the meantime, Twitter is now flooded with gory visuals and vitriolic posts, with hashtags pertaining to Bengal and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee becoming top trends on Twitter. While some were content to share videos of the violence, others took this as an opportunity to criticise Banerjee.