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Since 1st March, 1999
 
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LIVING IN FEAR

To live without hope has become normal for most people in West Bengal. They now seem to be condemned to something worse — to live in constant fear. The killing of a sub- inspector of the Calcutta police at Garden Reach will only confirm this fear. If an armed policeman on duty is not safe, the common people have practically no defence against criminals and their political masters. Policemen on duty have been killed in Calcutta before — by criminals or political activists, especially the Naxalites in the 1970s. The fact that many of today’s political leaders have criminal backgrounds and thrive on their links with the underworld is an open secret. But what happened at Garden Reach on Tuesday has a very different political context. Here is yet another evidence of lawlessness abetted by the government and the ruling party. True, ruling parties are known to use criminals in their bid to expand their spheres of influence. The students’ union elections at colleges, which triggered the violence at Garden Reach and have become routine at other places, are dress rehearsals for such political battles. But they also show how helpless and defenceless the common people are against the criminals or politicians protecting them.

The worst worry is the attitude of the chief minister, of course. Mamata Banerjee holds the home portfolio and is directly responsible for maintaining law and order. Unfortunately, her responses to all recent crimes — from the rape of a woman in Park Street to the beating up of a college principal by student leaders of her party — have been utterly irresponsible. There are only two possible explanations for this and for her actions: either she is incapable of understanding the gravity of the situation and thereby of taking corrective action, or she is so dependent on criminal elements in her party that she cannot do anything to stem the rot. While the state plunges into greater depths of lawlessness, the chief minister makes merry at endless state-sponsored festivities every other month. It may even be said that she has abdicated her responsibilities before she realized what exactly they are. The most disastrous effects of the chief executive’s cavalier attitude have been on some of the most important institutions of the State. But the chief minister sees and hears no evil about her rule. She obviously has strange ideas about governance.