Mafia dons, criminal gangs carried out post-poll violence in Bengal: Panel

New Delhi, June 29 (IANS): Hardened criminals, mafia dons and criminal gangs led and carried out the deadly attacks in West Bengal after the declaration of Assembly election results on May 2, as per the report of a fact-finding committee comprising the civil society group ‘Call for Justice, which was submitted to Union Minister of State for Home, G. Kishan Reddy, on Tuesday.
The report said that these elements were unhindered, which reveals that there was clear political patronage even before the elections and the same was used to silence the political rivals.
Recognising the spectrum of the incidents of post-poll violence in West Bengal, Call for Justice had constituted a fact-finding committee led by Justice Permod Kohli, former Chief Justice of Sikkim High Court, and comprising Anand Bose, IAS (retired), former Chief Secretary, Kerala; Nirmal Kaur, IPS (retired), former DGP, Jharkhand; Nisar Ahmed, ex-President, ICSI; and M. Madan Gopal, IAS (retired), former Additional Chief Secretary, Karnataka.
The magnitude and reach of the post-poll violence touched many villages and towns all across the state simultaneously, beginning from the night of May 2. This is a clear indication that most of the incidents were not sporadic but premeditated, organised and conspiratorial, the committee found.
In most of the cases, the victims were afraid to lodge a complaint with the police either due to fear of reprisal or due to the lack of faith in the police, it said.
The victims who gathered courage to go to the police were either turned away to settle the matter with the culprits or faced flat refusal to register the case. Many people left their homes and villages for safer destinations, to shelter camps within and outside the state, the report said.
Forcibly taking away Aadhaar cards, ration cards, demanding written undertaking on not to support a particular political party, demanding ransom and protection money (called ‘tolabazi’) to return to workplaces or for reclaiming lands or for rebuilding the houses, removal from contractual employment and all such incidents were basically meant to instill a lasting political impact and fear psychosis at large, the report said.
Although the figures of the exact number of casualties, grievous injuries, extent of damage to property are yet to be known fully, the lumpenisation of public life nurtured and protected through powerful lobbies at every level is very clear, it said.
“The intensity and spread of post-poll violence could have been halted or controlled if the administration and the police had acted in time. An assessment of the ground situation reveals that no adequate or reasonable measures were taken, knowingly or unknowingly,” the report said.
The fact-finding team has recommended that the government should initiate disciplinary proceedings against the delinquent officers, including the All-India Service Officers, who failed to discharge their duties in protecting the lives of people and destruction of properties.
The services of retired judges of high courts or the Supreme Court should be sought to head these inquiry proceedings, it said.
All the reports prepared by the MHA, NCSC, NCW, NHRC, NCPCR along with the report of the fact-finding committee must be placed before the Supreme Court, it said.
In the light of the overwhelming, ample, substantial and convincing evidence, the Supreme Court may consider constituting a Special Investigation Team (SIT) immediately, it added.
The progress of the work of the SIT should be monitored by Supreme Court to ensure impartial and professional manner, either through a sitting judge or a retired judge of the top court for fair investigation and early justice, the committee has recommended.
As an alternative, the government of India may constitute a judicial commission headed by a sitting or a retired Chief Justice or a judge of the Supreme Court or high court.

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