West Bengal is in “denial mode” about the violence that erupted in May following the assembly election, the Calcutta High Court said on Friday, rebuking the Mamata Banerjee government.
The HC said there was enough evidence to establish post-election violence, adding the state had been caught “on the wrong foot”.
“The state is in denial mode,” the judges said.
The court acknowledged incidents of sexual violence against women and minors, and sent a show-cause notice to a senior police officer for failing to assist a National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) team that came to investigate the allegations.
“The state must respond to queries by NHRC. Chief secretary must preserve all sensitive documents on post-poll violence,” the court ordered.
It also ordered a second autopsy at the army hospital in Kolkata of one of the men who was allegedly killed in the violence.
Leader of the Opposition Suvendu Adhikari said he “welcomed” the ruling but called for an “independent” investigation.
“[Investigation] charge should be given to independent agency. FIR must be filed outside Bengal and probe should continue. Things will be clear then. The interim report proves the affidavit [post-poll violence] filed by Bengal Chief Minister is false,” news agency quoted him as saying.
The BJP has alleged that the government did not take steps to curb violence targeting its supporters and leaders following the party’s defeat in the election.
The government has said the reports have been exaggerated, with fake videos and images, and most of the incidents that took place around May 2 (counting day) happened when the state police was under the control of the Election Commission.
Meanwhile, the first session of the newly constituted assembly began on a stormy note Friday as Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar was forced to cut short his speech amid ruckus by the BJP over the violence.
Dhankhar, who arrived in the afternoon to deliver the inaugural address, could speak only for three or four minutes as BJP MLAs carrying posters and pictures of alleged victims of the violence came to the well to stage protest.
As he was unable to speak, Dhankhar tabled his speech in the House and left, news agency PTI reported quoting sources. The Governor was escorted by Speaker Biman Banerjee and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee as he left the assembly premises.
The business of the House will continue till July 8 and the state budget for 2021-22 will be placed on July 7.