With a small piece of white cotton cloth draped around him and a little haystack in his hands, Meghu Das says the ghost of the fiercely fought Bengal elections has been haunting him since the results came out on May 2. Presently, the 40-year-old is lodged at a refugee shelter in Assam’s Dhubri district. Das, who hails from Jhaukuti village under Tufanganj constituency in West Bengal’s Cooch Behar district, has been observing Hindu death rituals after his mother passed away six days ago due to Covid.
“On Tuesday morning, some people came searching for me. They tried to kill me, saying I voted for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and hence it’s time for revenge. It’s an ‘eye for an eye’ for them. I somehow managed to save myself and cross over to Assam. At present, I am along with 250 people like me at a clubhouse at Rangpagli village of Dhubri. I am really scared and I don’t know where and how I will perform the death rituals of my mother,” said a visibly petrified Meghu Das.
BJP leaders and supporters in Bengal have been alleging that many party workers have been killed, raped, assaulted brutally and their houses set on fire across the state in post-poll violence. They have accused TMC cadres of carrying out the attacks and alleged that police were not doing anything to provide them protection. Other opposition parties like the Left and Congress too have made similar allegations. After taking oath as chief minister for a third term on Wednesday following a sweeping election victory for her party, Trinamool Congress chairperson Mamata Banerjee promised to monitor the law and order situation in the state. But she later accused the BJP of trying to create communal tension, especially in areas where it has won.
In a tweet on May 4, Assam health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said that 300-400 workers of Bengal BJP had crossed over to Dhubri in Assam after being confronted with brazen persecution and violence. He said that Assam was giving shelter and food to the victims. He urged Mamata Banerjee to stop the “ugly dance of democracy". The BJP has won a second consecutive term in Assam with the assembly poll results also declared on May 2.
“I went to the market yesterday morning where two of us were at a nearby tea stall. The Trinamool procession which came from the opposite side started pelting us with stones all of a sudden. I am the booth president of my area, and they shouted ‘he is the booth president, catch him’. Sensing the gravity of the situation, I started running. There were around 50 people after me. I jumped into the nearby river and crossed over to Assam. I am relieved now. Had I been caught yesterday, I would have been in the hospital now. In the mob, most of the people were Muslims, except a few Hindus," said another occupant of the refugee shelter, who wished to remain anonymous.
Assam BJP president Ranjeet Kumar Dass visited the shelter at Dhubri on Wednesday and listened to the harrowing experiences of the people.
“Today Didi (Mamata) is taking her oath of office. For us today is a Black Day. The election commission urged the voters to exercise their franchise in a free and fair way to establish democracy. However, after voting in a free manner the responsibility of the security of the voters is of the administration. In West Bengal the administration is a total failure. People are being beaten up, houses torched and in these trying times of Covid, thousands of people have been displaced. They are not even listening to the MLA. We need to support these people and provide security to them. The Assam government is providing food and shelter to these people. Our karyakartas (workers) will take responsibility to keep each victim at their places,” said Dass on Wednesday.
In more tweets on May 5, Biswa Sarma highlighted the plight of the refugees.
BURNING BENGAL - THREADAs if to reassert might of an abhorring demonocracy led by @MamataOfficial, persecution of innocent by @AITCofficial continue. 21 people including an injured Dhiren Saha (45), facing threats of lives, arrived in Srirampur from Cooch Behar around 5 pm. pic.twitter.com/2iogef75N4
— Himanta Biswa Sarma (@himantabiswa) May 5, 2021
The traumatized and hapless people from Falimari & Rampur villages in Bengal are accommodated temporarily at Assam’s Srirampur MGR ME School, after COVID test. All necessary help being given.Such shame that Bengal makes such a brazen mockery of law, as disorder prevails! ENDS pic.twitter.com/z7Opk7ZZcl
— Himanta Biswa Sarma (@himantabiswa) May 5, 2021
“My crime is that I supported the BJP. They attacked us, looted our property, cattle and mistreated our women. Our own known people. We are fortunate that we saved ourselves,” lamented one among the crowd at the refugee shelter in Golakganj, Dhubri district.
According to the district authorities, more than 2,000 victims of the political violence in Bengal have entered Assam and many have taken shelter in people’s houses or with relatives. The administration says it will ensure the security of the refugees till the tense times tide over on the other side of the interstate border.