The History of Political Violence in West Bengal

Narrated by Priyam Marik 
Shot by Ritagnik
Edited by Manasi Nene

The highly anticipated Legislative Assembly elections in West Bengal culminated with the incumbent Trinamool Congress (TMC) returning to power in resounding fashion on May 2, 2021. Mamata Banerjee took oath as chief minister for her third term, successfully seeing off the challenge posed by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Unfortunately, as has become the norm in the state, the aftermath of the TMC’s victory saw another outbreak of political violence in Bengal, resulting in more than 20 lives being lost across party lines. We hit the ground in Kolkata to find out what happened following the TMC’s win in 2021 and why political violence has become an inseparable part of Bengal. Ever since India became independent, Bengal has endured a toxic relationship with political violence.

Ranging from murders of political leaders, innocent families, and landless labourers to the violence during the Naxalite movement and post-poll killings, Bengal’s soil has been tainted with blood for decades. Our report analyses the history of violence in Bengal and finds that political violence in the state is mostly cadre-based, driven by a revenge motive among cadres whose politics are driven by opportunism and not by party loyalty. Though the culpability is shared by all the major political players operating in Bengal, each of them invariably gets away with their crimes in the absence of structural accountability.

We look at two incidents in particular from 2021, both in the Beleghata area of Kolkata, where local party worker Abhijit Sarkar was murdered and local leader Kashinath Biswas’s house was set ablaze. Both incidents, punctuated with observations from the locals, explain how political violence has become cyclical in Bengal, an inevitable component of the state’s politics irrespective of whichever party wields power.


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