Multiple instances of violence, loot and plunder have been reported across West Bengal since 2 May, after the results for the Legislative Assembly elections were declared and the Trinamool Congress (TMC) came back to power with a massive majority.
These reports, with gruesome accompanying visuals, have been condemned across the country, with many calling upon the TMC to curtail what is being called "victory violence". As per reports, 14 people lost their lives in the violence across the state – nine of whom were claimed as workers of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and five of the TMC.
Amid this, fake news found a new ground for propagation over WhatsApp and social media. Old and unrelated videos are being passed off as visuals of the recent political violence. In this report, we try to put together, the reported, verified, unverified incidents, and also the political narratives peddled thereof since the results.
Political Violence Reported Across the State
Several established news organisations have reported instances of political violence, as a fallout of the election results in West Bengal.
Some of the instances are as follows:
- At least three persons were killed and around five were injured in a clash between BJP and TMC workers in East Burdwan, reported The Hindustan Times, on 4 May.
- The Times Of India also reported clashes in East Burdwan's Nabagram, in which a BJP worker named Kakoli Khetrapal lost her life.
- The same The Times Of India article also reported violence in Hooghly's Khanakul where TMC worker Debu Pramanik was hacked to death.
- There have also been verified reports of a CPM office being burnt in Uttar Dinajpur's Chopra.
- Some journalists on Twitter have also reported incidents from Asansol, other parts of Burdwan and North 24 Parganas, in which BJP offices and supporters have been attacked.
- Police on Tuesday said that a 54-year-old TMC worker had been stabbed to death in West Bengal's Purba Bardhaman district.
The Ministry of Home Affairs has sought from the West Bengal government a report on "the instances of post-election violence targeting Opposition political workers in the state".
West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar tweeted that he had asked the Home Department of West Bengal to submit a report on the violence and vandalism in state and the steps taken to control the situation.
It is, however, important to note that the developments came at a time when the new government is yet to be sworn in and the state is technically under the Governor's rule. The new government will be formed on 5 May.
Political Violence Claimed By BJP & TMC's Counter
The BJP has claimed multiple instances of violence across the state, ranging from arson, loot, murder, and even sexual crimes.
In one video, claimed from to be from Howrah's Shibpur, circulated by the party showed a shop named ‘Hong Kong Fashion’ being looted by young men, smeared in green colours. Some of them can be heard saying that they were "waiting to do this".
A separate video of the same incident shows burqa-clad women accusing Mamata Banerjee and TMC of the violence. One of the women says that the shop belongs to her brother, a TMC worker.
The BJP also said that one of their workers was killed in Kolkata’s Beliaghata. The worker, BJP claimed, came live on his Facebook to claim that TMC supporters had killed his pets and was not sparing humans or animals.
Further, BJP said a woman was killed in Jagaddal when she tried to save her son, a BJP worker, from TMC goons. Two other party workers were also allegedly killed in Ranaghat and Sonarpur.
However, certain BJP leaders introduced a communal angle to the violence, claiming that there were targeted attacks against Hindus. BJP’s Swapan Dasgupta, who contested from Tarakeswar in the elections and lost, took to Twitter to claim that an “alarming situation had unfolded in Nanoor”.
The BJP's West Bengal General Secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya, on the other hand, shared a video on Twitter, specifically mentioning that "Muslim" goons of the TMC were beating up BJP workers in Nandigram.
Since then, the West Bengal Police has issued a tweet calling the claims of violence in Birbhum as "fake news".
Local sources in Nandigram that The Quint spoke to said that the video shared by Vijayvargiya was that of a personal dispute and had nothing to do with politics.
The Trinamool, on the other hand, has denied all instance of violence, claiming that this was an “intra-BJP” fight.
Other party leaders have called news of violence in the state a "massive disinformation campaign" by the BJP to divert attention from their loss.
The Trinamool has also claimed the death of five party workers, even as Chief Minister-designate Mamata Banerjee appealed for calm and peace.
Meanwhile, the BJP called for a "nationwide dharna" on 5 May against the killing of its workers, the same day as Banerjee's swearing-in.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar regarding the violence and expressing anguish, the latter tweeted.
Civil Society Condemns Political Killings
Many from the civil society, in Bengal, and otherwise, took to Twitter to condemn the killings in the name of politics.
Others, including leaders of the Left that has also been on the receiving end of political violence, urged people share verified information only.
The Trinamool Congress won 213 seats of the 294 assembly. The BJP won 77 seats.