ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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'Hoodlum Years': A Rerun on the Anvil?

In the event of a change of guard in West Bengal, its "hoodlum years" may not be far behind.

With the sharp decline in electoral support for the Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPI(M)]-led Left Front (LF) in West Bengal in the panchayat polls in 2008, the general elections in 2009, and the municipal elections in May last year, there is a consensus of sorts regarding the fate of the coalition in the coming state assembly elections in April-May. No one, it seems, is willing to bet on an electoral revival of the LF. It might then be worth taking a look back in time in order to begin thinking of what may be in store ahead.

That takes us back to the “hoodlum years” from March 1970 to January 1977 when the Congress and its bloodhounds, including the police, went on a savage hunt after the leaders of the CPI (Marxist-Leninist), wiping out political opponents in cold blood, torturing political prisoners, even butchering persons who had nothing to do with the political feuds of those times. Besides the Naxalites, the CPI(M) too faced the political terror. But the LF that came to power in 1977, though it supported the release of political prisoners, did not bother much about the prosecution and conviction of the police higher-ups responsible for the brutality, the illegal detentions, the torture and the killings. Indeed, early on, with the police action in 1979 at Marichjhanpi, related to the evictions of Bengali refugees who came from their Dandakaranya settlement and wanted to reside there, a framework within which the police began to do what the party required of it began to be put in place. The killing of 14 supporters of the Bhumi Uchhed Pratirodh Committee at Nandigram in the 14 March 2007 incident or the more recent 7 January 2011 killings at Netai are part of a series of commissions suggesting police support of the cadres and local leaders of the CPI(M) in the latter’s operations. But the tables are now turning; in the event of the Trinamool Congress (TMC)-Congress bloc assuming the reins of power, will the “hoodlum years” brand of the politics of violence witness a comeback?

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