Trinamool Congress MP Tapas Pal’s threat to have his followers beat CPI-M members and rape women supporters should not just be condemned as outrageous and then forgotten.
It should be recognised for what it is – a call to lynch and rape political opponents with complete impunity. It should be recognised as an act similar to those of the Ku Klux Klan as they led their followers, drunk on the heady brew of racial hatred and their own sense of justification and complete immunity to the laws of the land, to perpetrate unspeakable acts of brutality as they lynched hapless and defenceless blacks.
For too long now, events in West Bengal are being viewed through the lens of political bias and justified as a form of tit for tat. The reality could not be more different.
In the last few years, more than 300 CPI-M supporters and members have been brutally murdered by Trinamool cadres. Many of those killed were women and children. Thousands have been forced out of their homes. The numbers of those who have been forced out of their jobs and denied access to livelihood, of those not allowed to work on their fields or harvest their crop, are growing every day.
On February 6, TMC cadres entered a village in Howrah district, which was a CPI-M stronghold, cut power supply, attacked people and raped a young woman and her husband’s aunt. Later, the villagers told the media that the women looked as if they had been attacked by dogs.
In the recent Lok Sabha elections, violence and attacks were the norm. Three women lost their lives. One woman was slashed with a sword across her chest. Many were beaten and injured.
So what Tapas Pal is holding out is no idle threat and should not be dismissed as such. It is part of an unrelenting spiral of violence inflicted first on political opponents and then extended to all sections of society.
Within a few years, West Bengal has gone from a relatively safe state for women to one of the most unsafe in the country. Rapes and repeat gang-rapes have become commonplace. Extortion, murders, gang wars, turf battles are turning the state into a landscape of despair. Fear is such a palpable reality that more and more of those who were vocal in their opposition to violence and violation of rights are growing silent.
Will the latest outrage spur rights activists and democratic organisations in West Bengal and the rest of the country into effective opposition or will it be greeted with cynicism and fear? Can we continue to be selective about what inspires horror and protest and what is dismissed as tit for tat? The response to the image of two young girls dangling from the branches of a tree in a UP village after they were brutally raped and killed ensured the arrest of the perpetrators and an inquiry by the CBI. What Tapas Pal is threatening to do, is making every village in West Bengal home to such unspeakable crimes. Will we do what is needed to prevent this?