West Bengal in turmoil – end of an era?

The gruesome Nandigram murders, the death of Rizwanul who married an upper caste Muslim girl and Taslima Nasreen’s expulsion from West Bengal are all three interlinked events. Had it happened anywhere else, it might have been easy to understand. That it happened in West Bengal ruled by an ostensible progressive party with an ‘ideology’ of sorts was most depressing. Is it the case that finally we are witnessing the end of the secular, progressive politics of West Bengal that we all had envied for so long..

A young Muslim computer graphics teacher, Rizwanur Rahman, was found dead in highly suspicious circumstances on September 21, one month after marrying his sweetheart Priyanka Todi. It quickly emerged that the police, including senior police officials, had harassed and threatened Rahman at the urging of Todi’s father, Arun Kumar Todi, a rich and well-connected Hindu industrialist, who was bent on breaking up the marriage.

The couple was repeatedly summoned to appear before the police after they started living together in Rahman’s modest dwelling and Rahman was repeatedly threatened with arrest if Priyanka did not “voluntarily” return to her parents for a week. Twelve days after Prikanya went back to her parent’s house, Rizwanur’s body was found beside a railway track.

This shocking episode caused widespread demands for an independent enquiry, but for weeks the Left Front government failed to take any serious action against the police involved in the Rahman case and lent credence to police claims that Rizwanur had committed suicide. On October 11 Chief Minister Bhattacharjee ruled out both a CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) probe into Rahman’s death and the removal of three senior police officers, including Kolkata Police Commissioner Prasun Mukherjee, who were allegedly involved in the harassment campaign against Rahman.

The government indifference to police corruption and the blatant class and communal character of Arun Kumar Todi’s opposition to his daughter’s marriage caused a public outcry. “This incident has inflamed the people,” explained sociologist Bula Bhadra, “because they have realized that if the police can meddle in a marriage between two consenting adults, our very civil liberty is at risk—and at risk from those who are supposed to uphold it.”

Read more here on the related issues and the sad decline of an era.

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