By Sumanta Ray Chaudhuri
Kolkata, May 15 (SocialNews.XYZ) It was sometime in the middle of 2007 that the movement against land acquisition for industry started gaining momentum. Since that time the culture of "politics over dead bodies" became a part of the political landscape of West Bengal.
At that time, the current ruling party in the state, the Trinamool Congress, as the then principal opposition party in West Bengal, nurtured the strategy against the then chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee-led Left Front government. In the initial years as the principal opposition party in West Bengal after 2011, the CPI(M) too made some attempts to nurture this same practice. And now the BJP as the principal opposition party in the state is depending on the same old practice as seen in the case of the mysterious death of BJP youth leader, Arjun Chaurasia.
However, in this case the "politics over bodies" has backfired. The BJP tried hard to establish the death as murder and even Union Home Minister Amit Shah, on April 6, 2022 made a public statement declaring the death as a murder and demanding a Central Bureau of Investigation probe in the matter. However, the BJP had gone slightly on the backfoot on the issue after the report of the post-mortem conducted by defence doctors at the Kolkata Command Hospital declared the reason of death as ante-mortem in nature which strengthened the Trinamool Congress's suicide theory.
IANS talked to a section of legal brains, retired police officers, psychologists and political observers on the pros and cons of "politics over bodies". All of them had only the negative points to highlight in this long-nurtured political strategy in West Bengal.
According to retired Indian Police Service officer and former additional director general of the West Bengal police, Nazrul Islam, how fruitful will be the "politics over bodies," for a particular party depends on the existing mass base of the party.
"From 2007 till 2011 the politics over bodies helped the Trinamool Congress gain political mileage because at that point of time there was a pro-Trinamool sympathy wave and a parallel anti-Left anger wave in the state. But look at the current situation in West Bengal. Parallel court cases are going on in two incidents of mysterious death in West Bengal. The first is that of Anis Khan and the second is that of Arjun Chaurasia. But Anis was first with the CPI(M) and then with the Indian Secular Front, both lacking enough ground-level mass base in the state. So, politics over his death has not gained that momentum which the death of Arjun Chaurasia has, even though in the case of Khan's death the murder charge allegations are directly against police personnel," Islam said.
Calcutta High Court criminal lawyer Kaushik Gupta told IANS that just as the political parties should behave responsibly in avoiding politics over bodies as far as possible, similarly the state administration or rather the police administration should also work within the legal periphery to foil any attempt on these lines.
"What have we seen on May 6, 2022. The police personnel had a tough time in recovering Arjun Chaurasia's body as the BJP supporters constantly created obstacles. The police were successful in the third attempt to recover the body but after facing a lot of obstructions and even scuffles with the agitators. The Indian Penal Code prescribes severe penalties for those obstructing a government servant in performing his or her duty. I am sure that the police on that day were aware of that. But they did not apply that," Gupta said.
Psychologists feel that this politics over bodies is an expression of the ideological bankruptcy and mediocrity in the political leadership. Speaking to IANS, Tirthankar Guha Thakurata, a faculty in Kolkata-based KPC Medical College & Hospital and a visiting faculty with Calcutta University's Department of Psychology, said that politics over bodies is an extremely easy path to get media coverage and instant popularity. "This happens when the political leadership suffers from mediocrity and lacks constructive and innovative ways of registering protest. It is not that the political leaders are not aware of the risks of this politics becoming counter-productive. Still, they resort to the same cliched strategy out of greed for quick media footage," Guha Thakurata said.
Political observer Dr Rajagopal Dhar Chakraborty said that in a state like West Bengal, which is known for political violence, it is normal for 'politics over bodies'. "Incidents of caste violence or religious violence in West Bengal had been traditionally much lower compared to the cow-belt states. But the incidents of political violence compensate for that. So, the root of politics over bodies is in the long tradition of political violence. Until there is a marked improvement in the political atmosphere in the state, there will be no respite from this politics over bodies," he said.