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Group Claims 15,000 Cases of Post-poll Violence in Bengal, 7,000 Women Molested; Govt Promises Action

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According to the report, some of the hardened criminals, mafia dons and criminal gangs who were already in police records allegedly "led and carried the deadly attacks unhindered.

The Centre on Tuesday promised to take action on the report of a fact-finding team which claimed that there were 15,000 incidents of post-poll violence in West Bengal in which 25 people were killed and 7,000 women were molested. According to Union Minister of State for Home G Kishan Reddy, the report of the civil society group — Call for Justice — headed by former Chief Justice of Sikkim High Court Justice (Retd) Permod Kohli stated that the magnitude and reach of the post-poll violence touched many villages and towns all across West Bengal simultaneously beginning the night of May 2 when the results of the assembly elections were declared.

"This is a clear indication that most of the incidents are not sporadic but premeditated, organised and conspiratorial," the report stated. The five-member team included two retired IAS and one IPS officers.

"The Home Ministry will study the report and will try to implement its recommendations," Reddy told reporters after the group submitted it to him. The report was prepared after the five-member team visited West Bengal and met a cross section of people there.

Citing the report, Reddy said 16 districts of the state were affected by the post-poll violence. "The report said that due to the post-poll violence, many people have left their homes in West Bengal and had taken shelter in Assam, Jharkhand and Odisha," he said.

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According to the report, some of the hardened criminals, mafia dons and criminal gangs who were already in police records allegedly "led and carried the deadly attacks unhindered, (which) reveals that there is clear political patronage even before the elections and same being used to silence the political rivals". The report claimed the incidents of targeted destruction and vandalisation of properties, residential and commercial, have the sole purpose to deprive people of their livelihood and choke them economically.

The worst-affected people are those who depend on day-to-day work or business who are pushed into financial degradation and unmitigated misery, it claimed. "In most of the cases, 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.

"Those victims who gathered courage and went to report, police either turned (them) away to settle the matter with the culprits or flatly refused to register the case. Many people left their homes and villages to safer destinations and took shelter in camps within and outside the state," the report said. The fact-finding team suggested that the report should be placed before the Supreme Court.

In the light of overwhelming, ample, substantial and convincing evidence, the Supreme Court may consider constituting a special investigation team (SIT) immediately and monitor its work either through a sitting judge or a retired judge of the Supreme Court for fair investigation and early justice, the team said. They also suggested that the central government should initiate disciplinary proceedings on those delinquent officers, including all-India service officers, who failed to discharge their duties in protecting lives and destruction of properties.

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first published:June 29, 2021, 19:09 IST