As the final phase of polling approaches, West Bengal is proving to be a state where instances of violence have leapt to the forefront rather than the issues facing voters. On Wednesday, the Election Commission (EC) put an end to campaigning a day early. Under Article 324 of the constitution, the EC made the decision after violent clashes broke out between cadres of the BJP and the Trinamool Congress (TMC).The decision made by the EC has come under widespread criticism from many opposition parties including the Congress and DMK. The Election Commission has come under scrutiny and criticism in this election regarding allegations of bias for the ruling government at the centre. Last month, the EC told the Supreme Court that it had limited powers to discipline politicians who sought votes using caste or religion.
Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar was a reformer, scholar and exemplar of the Bengal renaissance. Vandalising his statue is an affront to every Bengali, and shows that whoever did it is ignorant of or does not care about Bengal and its spirit— Sagarika Ghose (@sagarikaghose) May 14, 2019
Chandra Vidyasagar is a significant person in the state. An iconic social reformer and scholar who died more than a century ago, he has become a point of violent contention in the West Bengal elections. He was seen as an important figure in the Bengal renaissance who established schools and colleges and voiced his support for widow remarriage which made the then British government pass the Widow Remarriage Act in 1856. His textbook of Bengali alphabets titled ‘Borno Porichoy’ (Introduction to Alphabet) made him intrinsic part of Bengali students’ childhoods. Biplab Lohochoudhury, professor at Visva-Bharati University, Santiniketan, in a column for the Indian Express, writes on the importance of Vidyasagar in Bengal – “Vandalising Vidyasagar’s statue goes against Bengal’s intellectual legacy. Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar was the foremost figure against whom the Naxals had a huge grudge. Vidyasagar has gradually been sidelined during the last few years in Bengal through the erasure of the Bengali language training’s cultural context — for instance, by selectively changing some text, at the primary level.” Violence in West Bengal politics sadly isn’t new. The 1990’s and 2000 saw the CPI (M) led Left Front crack down on detractors and Mamata Banerjee herself hasn’t been innocent in this regard. As part of the EC’s call on ending campaigning early, it had removed two top officials of the state with immediate effect - Principal Secretary (Home) Atri Bhattacharya and IPS officer Rajeev Kumar from his post of ADG CID. The nine constituencies going to polls on Sunday including North and South Kolkata which are urban areas, the remaining seven are mainly rural and rural-urban. The incident took place in North Kolkata where the college is located and as tensions remain high, an outsider political narrative may or may not work for those who are non-Bengali. With the Left barely present in the state anymore, the battle between the TMC and BJP has reached the boiling point. More columns by Varun Sukumar
Bringing down a bust of the great Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar in a college! Surely this is not Bengali culture. Whoever did it should be held responsible and punished. Lumpens disguised as political workers on Kolkata roads? Troubling times ahead.. #BengalViolencr— Citizen/नागरिक/Dost Rajdeep (@sardesairajdeep) May 14, 2019