Governor writes to Mamata over law and order in Bengal

Just before his visit to Delhi to meet Union Home Minister Amit Shah, West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar wrote a strongly-worded letter to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, criticising her silence over the “post-poll retributive bloodshed, violation of human rights, outrageous assault on dignity of women and wanton destruction of property” in the state.

Dhankhar, who is also likely to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi, would brief both of them regarding the ‘deteriorating’ law and order situation in West Bengal.

In a two-page letter addressed to the Chief Minister, Dhankhar wrote, “With heavy heart, I am constrained to observe your continued silence and inaction over the post-poll retributive bloodshed, violation of human rights, outrageous assault on dignity of women, wanton destruction of property, perpetuation of untold miseries on political opponents – worst since Independence and it ill augurs for democracy.”

“Suffering people are in fear of police, and the administration in turn is at the beck and call of ruling party harmads who like loose cannons are on rampage with no fear of law – ‘law unto themselves’. Constitutional essence and spirit are being outraged. I beseech you to reflect and ponder over the premise of ongoing violence, i.e., punishing and disciplining those who ‘dared’ to vote out of volition and for the opposition,” he added.

Criticising the Chief Minister for maintaining a stony silence on the issue and not even discussing it in the cabinet meetings, the Governor wrote, “Your studied silence, coupled with absence of any steps to engage in rehabilitation and compensation to alleviate the unimaginable suffering of people, force an inevitable conclusion that all this is state driven. Your stance is plunging vast suffering populace in a state of hopelessness and helplessness. Such ‘punitive’ decimation of human rights and dignity shames democracy.”

“In spite of your attention having been drawn to the enormity of situation, huge exodus of people in search of cover for life and destruction of property worth crores, there has only been stunning silence at your end and you did not deem it necessary to even deliberate this grave human tragedy in any of the cabinet meetings so far,” he added.

Alleging that the police and the administration have also taken a partisan attitude, the Governor wrote, “The administration and police in such alarmingly grim situation were expected to act in stern manner and according to law. However, nothing of this kind has happened. Their role suffers from partisan stance as also abandonment of lawful obligations.”

“In this situation, I urge you to deliberate the issue of post-poll retributive violence in the cabinet, take all steps to restore law and order, provide much-needed succour to the suffering people by engaging in compensation and rehabilitation and hold police and administration duly accountable in exemplary manner for their partisan stance and failure in containing violence,” he wrote.

“It will be greatly appreciated that keeping in view our respective constitutional positions, an interaction fructifies on these issues at the earliest. I am sure you will accord priority to this,” he concluded.

Reacting strongly to the Governor’s letter, the state home department said in a series of tweets, “The government of West Bengal has observed with dismay and distress that the Governor has suddenly made public a letter of his to the Chief Minister, with contents that are not consistent with real facts. The communication format is violative of all established norms.”

“The letter has been written to the Chief Minister and released to the public through tweets simultaneously, which disrupts sanctity of such communications. The unusual step of going public in this manner has abruptly and unilaterally shocked the government of West Bengal, all the more because the contents are fabricated,” it said.

“While the post-poll violence in the state was somewhat unabated when the Election Commission of India was in charge of the law and order machinery, after the swearing-in, the state cabinet has reigned in the situation, restored normalcy and established full command over anti-law elements. The state police has been firmly directed to bring to book all anti-social elements and the government remains committed to maintain the basic fabric of society and uphold law and order,” it said.

State BJP President Dilip Ghosh said, “The Governor has been reaching out to the people where the administration and the police should have gone. He is listening to them and reacting according to the purview of law and that is why the Trinamool Congress is so critical about him.”