Massive violence has erupted in Bengal ever since the declaration of the election results to the 294-seat state Assembly on Sunday.
Reports coming from Kolkata quoting official and unofficial sources state that at least 14 people have lost their lives in the last 36 hours, with hundreds injured and thousands forced to flee their homes, with those living in areas bordering other states fleeing to Assam, Jharkhand and Odisha to save themselves. However, the number of dead is likely to go up as many of the injured are in serious condition, while many more are missing.
Women too have not been spared and several cases of molestation have been alleged.
Sources say, what started as political violence, allegedly initiated by TMC workers primarily against the BJP cadre and sympathisers, is acquiring a “religious colour” and is likely to singe people in general, whatever their political leanings might be.
In the wake of the unabated violence, Prime Minister Narendra Modi rang up West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankar on Tuesday to express his serious anguish and concern at the alarming law and order situation in the state. Officials monitoring the situation from Delhi said that the step was taken by the Prime Minister to give the message to the concerned authorities in Bengal to intervene before the Centre is “forced to look at other options” to contain the violence.
Intelligence agencies have warned that if the violence is not contained in the next 24 to 36 hours, it could blow up into a major communal conflagration, further deteriorating the law-and-order situation in Bengal and engulfing neighbouring states.
It is pertinent to mention here that very senior TMC leaders had “warned” BJP leaders and cadre of “repercussions” once the election results came out on 2 May. Mamata Banerjee will take oath as Chief Minister on Wednesday, 5 May.
Meanwhile, BJP president J.P. Nadda reached Kolkata on Tuesday to meet the family members of BJP workers who have been killed.
BJP workers, who are bearing the brunt of the violence at the hands of “hoodlums and criminals” allegedly belonging to the state’s ruling Trinamool Congress, say that in the last two days more than 270 incidents of violence against their karyakartas have been reported from various parts of Bengal. Nine BJP workers have already died in these incidents. The nine BJP workers who have been killed allegedly by TMC goons include Shova Rani Mondal from Jagaddal, Uttam Ghosh from Ranaghat, Abhijit Sarkar from Beleghata in Kolkata, Horom Adhikari from Sonarpur Dakshin, Momik Moitra and Mintu Barman from Sitalkuchi, Gourab Sarkar from Bolpur, Haradhan Roy and Chandan Roy from Dinhata.
In fact, BJP leaders told this newspaper that several party candidates who contested the elections have been threatened, attacked and their houses torched, allegedly by TMC goons. Gobardhan Das, eminent scientist at Jawaharlal Nehru University and BJP’s candidate from Purbasthali Uttar, was trapped in his house with his elderly parents for hours as his house came under attack allegedly by TMC goons, who hurled country-made bombs at his house. Senior leaders from the state BJP started sending out SOS messages to the central leaders following the incident.
Even BJP’s “heavyweight” leaders such as Kalyan Chaubey, Suvendu Adhikari, Umesh Rai, Rajib Banerjee amongst many others were attacked allegedly by TMC goons.
The BJP also claims that hundreds of their party offices across the state have been set on fire. Photos and videos of which have been shared with the media.
The party claims that soon after the results were declared on Sunday, violence erupted in different parts of Bengal and soon spread to almost all the districts.
One of the first instances of violence on Sunday was when a BJP office was set on fire allegedly by TMC goons in Kolkata. Soon after this, hundreds of such reports started pouring in.
The Sunday Guardian spoke to several people from different districts to find that they have been facing severe violence since the poll results have been declared.
Haradhan Mondal, a resident of Swarupnagar Assembly constituency in North 24 Parganas district said that two of his toes would have to be removed since he was brutally attacked by “TMC goons”. “My brother and I were attacked on Sunday late night when around 100 people from the TMC surrounded our house and attacked us. They torched our house, looted our belongings and beat us up brutally. Two toes on my left foot are so badly injured that the doctor says that they will have to be amputated. My brother lost one of his eyes,” Haradhan Mondal told this newspaper.
There are reports of major violence taking place in South 24 Parganas district as well, where fish ponds have been poisoned, fruit orchards vandalised, houses destroyed of those perceived to be supporting the BJP.
A resident from Howrah district, who did not wish to be named, said that around 200 to 300 people attacked his house on Monday night because of which he and his family members were forced to flee and are currently hiding in an undisclosed location. “I was a booth agent of the BJP. The TMC has been constantly threatening us that they will ‘see us’ after the elections. Now that the election is over and they have won they are leaving no stones unturned to eliminate all opposition from Bengal. They are attacking everyone they know who was part of the BJP or any other opposition party,” the man said.
In South 24 Parganas district, BJP workers are sending out SOS messages about how they are being identified and beaten for supporting the BJP in the elections. Even from parts of Medinipur district where Suvendu Adhikari has defeated Mamata Banerjee, the Chief Minister of Bengal, reports of violence and arson are coming in. In fact, senior BJP leader and Bengal in-charge, Kailash Vijayvargiya shared a video on Twitter saying, TMC “Goons are beating BJP Women Workers in Kendamari village, Nandigram”, from where Adhikari defeated Mamata Banerjee.
Hundreds of videos of violence, loot and arson are being shared by BJP workers and common people alike, all of which are pointing a finger of accusation towards the ruling TMC. Videos are also being shared where alleged TMC workers are openly roaming the streets with pistols, sharp weapons and bombs. “Many TMC workers and including many belonging to a particular section of Bengal’s society are roaming the streets with rods, sticks, pistols and bombs and this in the garb of their victory procession. They are entering the houses of BJP workers, beating them up, vandalising the houses and asking them to leave their village. We are really scared and don’t know what to do. The BJP leadership should protect us,” a BJP worker from Nadia district told this correspondent.
In districts like Howrah and Hooghly shops have been looted and houses set on fire. Multiple videos floating on social media show how shops are being vandalised, houses burnt and stoned while the Bengal police stand by. However, it also must be mentioned that not all the videos can be authenticated and claims and counter-claims are being made about the videos.
The BJP has launched several helplines where party workers can call up and report incidents of violence to their state leadership. The party also says that since BJP supporters and BJP workers are being forced to leave their villages by TMC, the party has set up safe houses in all the district headquarters in the state to provide safety and security to their workers.
On Tuesday evening, BJP state vice president Jayprakash Mazumdar told The Sunday Guardian that violence was still continuing against BJP workers and supporters, with the Chief Minister-elect not taking any action to prevent it. “Bengal has been turned into a zone of violence by TMC workers who are on a mission to beat, kill and maim BJP workers. They are identifying booths where the BJP has taken a lead in the election, going to those villages, pulling out people from their homes and beating them. In places like Burdwan and Birbhum villagers are being ordered to vacate their villages. The situation in Bengal is very tense and all our workers are very sacred. Nowhere else in this country have we ever witnessed such level of post poll violence in independent India like what we are witnessing in Bengal. TMC workers are out of control and Mamata Banerjee is taking any responsibility. The situation here in Bengal is going to get more tense in the coming days if not controlled.” Jayprakash Mazumdar said.
The BJP filed a petition in the Supreme Court on Tuesday seeking the court’s intervention in the matter to save lives and property of the citizens of Bengal and that of BJP workers.
Meanwhile, Assam BJP leader Himanta Biswa Sarma tweeted on Tuesday that “In a sad development 300-400 @BJP4Bengal karyakartas and family members have crossed over to Dhubri in Assam after confronted with brazen persecution & violence. We’re giving shelter & food. @MamataOfficial Didi must stop this ugly dance of demonocracy! Bengal deserves better.”
Even Congress’ Jitin Prasada tweeted, “The post poll violence that has been unleashed by the TMC on the Congress workers is unacceptable. Even women and children are not spared. I’m sure the people of West Bengal did not vote for this lawlessness. @INCWestBengal @INCIndia”.
Left leaders too took to social media platforms to allege that their cadre were being attacked by TMC goons.
Slamming the incumbent Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee over the post-poll violence, BJP national president J.P. Nadda on Tuesday said this much intolerance was unprecedented in India.
Nadda also met the family of party worker Abhijeet Sarkar who was killed in post-poll violence in Beleghata, Kolkata. Union Minister V. Muraleedharan, West Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh and state general secretary Locket Chatterjee accompanied Nadda. “Abhijeet Sarkar’s mother was weeping for him. Only those who cannot hear her screams can call such serious issues a stunt, a drama. BJP will not tolerate such bloodied politics—done just for power. BJP will not tolerate political oppression being done on the people of Bengal. I had said it earlier too, Mamataji does not represent Bengali culture. Intolerance, thy name is Mamataji,” Nadda said.
The BJP president took to Twitter to express his displeasure over violence in Bengal. “Met victim families of our Karyakartas (workers) who were targeted by the TMC post-election in Gopalpur, West Bengal. In independent India, this much intolerance is unprecedented till date. I want to assure our Karyakartas of West Bengal that crores of BJP workers are with them,” he tweeted.
“Our Karyakartas have suffered tremendous violence perpetrated by TMC in Pratapnagar and Sonarpur in West Bengal. Intolerance thy name is Mamata. We will put all these things in front of the people and provide justice to every Karyakarta in a fair manner,” he said.
State Governor Jagdeep Dankar went on Twitter to share that Bengal was witnessing a killing spree and that he had called upon Mamata Banerjee to restore law and order.
The TMC however rubbished all reports of their workers unleashing terror across the state. TMC senior leader and spokesperson Derek O’Brien said, “BJP is disseminating fake news and there is nothing like this happening in Bengal. The violence that is being witnessed is due to intra party rivalry of the BJP.”
The National Human Rights Commission has taken suo-moto cognizance of the violence based on media reports and has ordered an inquiry into the situation.
(WITH ANI INPUTS)
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Punjab CM declares Malerkotla state’s 23rd district, announces development projects
Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Friday declared Malerkotla as the 23rd district of the state, while also announcing a slew of projects for the development of the historic city.
The Chief Minister made these announcements during the state-level celebration of Eid-ul-Fitr, held virtually in view of the pandemic. On the occasion, the Chief Minister underscored India’s secular character, which he said was manifested in the defeat of communal forces in the recent Assembly elections in Tamil Nadu and West Bengal.
Recalling the rich history of Malerkotla, the CM said its conversion into a district, which had been a long-standing demand of the local people, would ease their hardships and enable them to resolve administrative problems more seamlessly.
Initially, said the Chief Minister, the sub-divisions of Malerkotla and Ahmedgarh, as well as the sub-tehsil of Amargarh, would be included in the newly created district. The process of bringing villages under the jurisdiction of Malerkotla district would begin later, after the conclusion of the census operations, he added. The Chief Minister directed the Deputy Commissioner Sangrur to find a suitable building to immediately start the functioning of the District Administration office. The Deputy Commissioner for the newly carved out district would be appointed soon, he said.
Announcing various development projects for Malerkotla, Capt Amarinder Singh also announced the establishment of a government college for girls and a government medical college. The medical college, in the name of Nawab Sher Mohammed Khan, would be set up soon at a cost of Rs. 500 crore, and the state has allotted 25 acres of land on Raikot Road and the first instalment of Rs. 50 crore has already been sanctioned, he added. A new bus stand will also be constructed at a cost of Rs. 10 crore, he said, adding that Malerkotla will also get a ‘Mahila Thana’ which would be exclusively managed by women.
To ensure holistic urban development, the Chief Minister also announced a sum of Rs. 6 crore for the Urban Environment Improvement Program (UEIP).
Further, to promote the cultural heritage of Malerkotla, the Chief Minister said the Punjab Government has acquired the Mubarak Manzil Palace and that he has written to His Highness the Aga Khan Foundation UK to undertake its conservation and restoration. He also recounted his memories with the then Nawab of Malerkotla and spoke about the city’s significance in Sikh history.
CHHATTISGARH TO PAY FOR EDUCATION OF CHILDREN WHO LOST PARENTS TO COVID
Raipur : The Chhattisgarh government has decided to pay for the education of children who have lost their parents/guardians to Covid and children from families where the earning member has died of Covid.
CMO Chhattisgarh tweeted, “Chhattisgarh government will pay for the education of children who lost their parents due to #COVID19, scholarship also to be provided under state’s Mahtari Dular Scheme. State govt will also take care of the education of children whose earning member of the family has died of Covid”.
Children orphaned due to Covid will also be provided with scholarships under the state’s Mahtari Dular Scheme.
The CMO also tweeted that such children will be given preference for admission in Swami Atmanand English Medium Schools. No fee will be charged.
As per the Health and Family Welfare Ministry of Chhattisgarh, 9,121 Covid cases were recorded on Friday out of 67,738 tests conducted. With this, the total number of cases in the state are reached 8,92,331. The state also recorded 195 deaths on Friday, wherein 92 were from Covid, while 103 patients died of co-morbidities. The Ministry also reported 12,274 total recoveries, including those discharged from home quarantine, bringing the total number recoveries to 7,61,592.
The social messaging app also said that it is not under any legal obligation to provide such opt-outs to its users and added that the law permits companies to not provide their services to users who do not consent to their terms.
The company also said that such practices are commonly practiced by online platforms across the industry whenever they update their terms. The company also said that online platforms are often less transparent by simply implying consent through continued use of their service after a certain date, rather than prominently and clearly giving users control and choice, as WhatsApp did.
The company also submitted that such interference in the privacy update policy would “cripple” the internet-based applications and websites industry.
The messaging app also said that the petitioners’ allegations regarding the alleged disparity with European users are meritless. The company maintained that the 2021 update, which applies to users in India, also applies to most of WhatsApp’s users around the world, including in the US. On the different policy for WhatsApp’s users in the “European Region”, the social messaging app submitted that it is due to different rules and obligations in the European Regio
SPECIAL PAROLE FOR CONVICTS SERVING MORE THAN 7 YEARS IMPRISONMENT IN HARYANA
Given the Covid crisis, Haryana has announced to give parole to convicted persons who were sentenced for more than 7 years imprisonment. It was decided at a meeting of the High Powered Committee held under the Chairmanship of Justice Rajan Gupta, Judge, Punjab and Haryana High Court and Executive Chairman, Haryana State Legal Services Authority.
As informed by the Prisons Department, Haryana, a total of 21,804 (108%) prisoners are presently lodged in 19 jails of Haryana against the authorized capacity of 20,041 (100%). Since the first meeting of the High Powered Committee, held on 24 March 2020, 2,580 convicts sentenced for more than 7 years imprisonment were released on special parole. Similarly, 2,094 (656+1438) convicts/undertrials sentenced up to 7 years or facing trial for offences which stipulate maximum imprisonment up to 7 years were released on special parole/interim bail under the orders of HPC.
Subsequently, with a decrease in Covid cases, the High Powered Committee had directed the return of the convicts released on parole in cases where they were undergoing imprisonment for more than 7 years in 9 phases. Till date 2,170 convicts have surrendered in jails under 8 phases and the 9th phase consisting of 280 convicts started from 14 May, 2021.
In pursuance of directions issued by Hon’ble Supreme Court of India on 7 May 2021 in Suo Motu Writ Petition (Civil) No.1 / 2020 – In RE: Contagion of Covid-19 in Prisons, and considering the emergent situation in and around due to sudden spike in Covid, the Committee has decided to release all convicts sentenced to imprisonment for more than 7 years who were released earlier on special parole under the categories prescribed by the Committee on special parole till 31 August 2021. Special parole granted to convicts who were to surrender in the 9th phase has also been extended till 3 August 2021.
However, convicts who have failed to surrender on the date fixed or are absconding or against whom new cases were registered while on special parole are not entitled to special parole. No special parole shall be applicable to those who are not covered by the categories approved by the High Powered Committee in its previous meetings.
Competent authorities have been directed to consider the concern of inmates who may not wish for release in view of their social background and the fear of becoming Covid victims and may allow them to stay in jail after taking a written declaration from them.
The Committee has also extended the parole/interim bail of 2017 convicts/undertrials who are sentenced up to 7 years/facing trial for offences which stipulate maximum imprisonment up to 7 years till 31 August 2021. State and jail authorities have been asked to consider the cases of all such convicts/undertrials for parole/interim bail as well as any other convict/undertrial covered by the categories prescribed by the High Powered Committee.
MAHARASHTRA GOVT TAKES U-TURN ON PR AGENCY ALLOTMENT FOR AJIT PAWAR
After facing backlash for the Maharashtra government’s allotment of Rs 6 crore to a private PR agency for handling Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar’s social media accounts, Pawar has cancelled the notification of the appointment. He clarified that he does not need any outside PR firm and the government department will do its work.
An order issued on Wednesday by RN Musale, under-secretary at the General Administration Department for the year 2021-22, stated that an external agency was to be appointed, with a budget of Rs 5.98 crore, for handling the social media accounts of NCP leader Ajit Pawar. As per the order, this was because the Directorate General of Information and Public Relations (DGIPR) lacks the professional and technical competence to deal with social media. The PR agency which was to be appointed in consultation with the Deputy Chief Minister, Secretariat and DGIPR was also tasked to see how messages and decisions by Ajit Pawar reaches the common man.
However after severe backlash, including from the Opposition, that crores of rupees were being spent merely for advertisements amid the Covid crisis, the Deputy CM – who also holds the finance and planning portfolio – cancelled the decision.
“There is no need to appoint an external agency to handle the social media of the Deputy Chief Minister’s Office. The order in this regard should be cancelled immediately,” read his press statement with an add-on clarification that communication with citizens and the media would be maintained only through the existing public relations system.
Meanwhile, BJP MLA Ram Kadam attacked Pawar, raising the question that if this was the amount to be spent for one minister, what it would be for the others. “People have died in the pandemic due to the negligence of the Maharashtra government. On one hand, the government is saying that they don’t have enough money to purchase vaccines and on the other hand, to pat their backs on social media a team is hired for the Deputy Chief Minister at a budget of Rs 6 crore. If this budget is for one minister, what is the budget for all the ministers?” he asked.
PLEA TO CANCEL CBSE, ICSE CLASS XII EXAMS FILED IN SUPREME COURT
New Delhi : A plea has been filed in the Supreme Court seeking directions to the Centre, Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) and the Council for the Indian School Certificate Examination (CISCE) to cancel the CBSE and ICSE Class XII examinations.
CBSE, through its letter dated 14 April, had cancelled the examination for class X and postponed the examination for Class XII. CISCE, through its circulars dated 16 and 19 April, had cancelled the examination for Class X and postponed the examination for Class XII for an unspecified period. The plea asked the court to set aside these notifications issued only in respect of clauses dealing with the postponement of the Class XII examination.
The petition filed by advocate Mamta Sharma asked the court to devise an objective methodology to declare the result of Class XII within a specific time frame. The plea stated that for the innocent students of Class XII, “step-motherly, arbitrary, inhuman directions” have been issued to postpone their final examination for an unspecified duration.
“In view of the unprecedented health emergency and rising numbers of the Covid-19 cases in the country, the conduct of examination, either offline or online or blended in upcoming weeks is not possible and delay in the examination will cause irreparable loss to the students as time is the essence in taking admission in higher education courses in foreign universities,” the plea said.
It added that delay in declaration of results will ultimately hamper one semester of the aspiring students as admission cannot be confirmed until the Class XII result is declared.
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