The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Whether it is Nadia, Midnapore or, terrifyingly, North Dinajpur, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) can have little to say for itself. With the organized looting of wedding-parties on the road, the rape of minor girls specially selected from among the group ó although the Dhantola rapists were not so choosy, the killing of opposition party supporters and the burning of villages, the CPI(M)ís record of violence and terror can rival the best achievements in that sphere. The events in Chopra have put to rest any doubts people may have had about the oppositionís accusations that the CPI(M) had unleashed a reign of terror in the districts before the panchayat elections. It may be true that the number of uncontested seats in itself is not a just index of this terror, because opposition to the Left Front in West Bengal has for a long time been uncertain and inadequate. The Trinamool Congress, after its sudden upsurge and subsequent jubilation, has been waning in influence, and the Congress has been an unequal contender. That is what makes the kind of violence witnessed in Chopra, where the elderly were murdered because they could not run away, almost inexplicable. The CPI(M) need not bother.

Perhaps criminality is a habit, and undisputed power allows full play to the propensity to violence and cruelty. Dhantola, Ghoksadanga, Goaltore are all examples of pure criminal activity, and all have thrown up evidence of the involvement of local party leaders or cadre. From this point of view, Chopra can come as no surprise. The organization and planning, although on different scales, show the same confident enjoyment of lawlessness. This encouragement to criminality has not gone in vain. The state is now a haven for robbers, molesters, rapists, thieves and murderers. Crimes against women have grown, and people in the city are being robbed and murdered in their homes. The CPI(M) has managed to make West Bengal a truly unsafe place. With a compliant police force on one side and criminals on the other, the party has not found too many difficulties in its way. The politicization of the police has been one of the greatest evils done to the state. If rural and suburban areas suffer, at least partly, from the simple fact of inadequate policing, Bapi Senís death is enough to demonstrate what an excess of policing may bring about. The rot in the system has been nurtured by the exigencies of power, and the closeness to criminals is just the flip side of the same coin. After Chopra, it will be even more difficult to distinguish criminals from party cadre.

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