The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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The uncivil cussedness over rallies continues in Calcutta. But quite apart from the nuisance factor, the situation has larger and disconcerting implications. Saturdayís procession through the city led by prominent Left Front members marked another important stage in the peculiar politics of defiance unfolding in the state following Mr Amitava Lalaís court order. The chief ministerís non-committal silence through the first stage of the partyís reaction was replaced by a more definite indication of his position on the matter. He chose to attend the meeting to which his comrades had processed illegally, and in the absence of any clear statement from him, this can only be interpreted as tacit support. This is certainly how the court and legal experts interpret his presence. Together with the chief ministerís endorsement, the partyís systematic subversion of the law also seems to have been carried out under police escort. The chairman of the Front claims that there was no disruption of traffic. This was hardly the case. From Dilkhusa Street to AJC Bose Road hardly any place was left for the traffic, and the police pleaded helplessness in the face of orders from high places. On two consecutive days, therefore, different organizations within the Left Front have flouted the court order.

What this means is a matter of very serious concern. First, the chief ministerís ability to keep party allegiances distinct from law-abiding governance is becoming increasingly suspect. Second, the police seem to be singularly unable to aid the implementation of the law. What this might amount to is not just the continuing harassment of the people who use the streets, but also a larger crisis in the entire relationship between law and politics in the state. Such a complete subordination of the law and order machinery to party political rule, endorsed by the head of the state and of its police, can be nothing less than the undermining of the basic principles of governance. This overturns the entire civic order and renders the judicial system quite farcically redundant. West Bengalís prospects could only look irredeemable in such a situation.

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