India’s only female state leader ‘beaten up by group of men’ on campaign trail

‘This is not the first time an attempt has been made to silence’ Mamata Banerjee, wrote her party’s official handle

Stuti Mishra
in Delhi
@StutiNMishra
Thursday 11 March 2021 17:34
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Mamata Banerjee in a video message asks her supporters to ‘maintain calm’

The Chief Minister of India’s eastern state of West Bengal has sustained severe injuries after she was allegedly attacked and pushed while campaigning in her constituency.

Mamata Banerjeee, India’s only sitting female chief minister, and a staunch critic of the country’s prime minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), was campaigning in the city of Nandigram when she said she was pushed by up to five people.

She has sustained bone injuries in her left ankle and foot, as well as mild injuries in her shoulder, forearm and neck, Indian media reports stated, quoting the doctors treating her.

A nine-member committee has been formed to treat Ms Banerjee, as she undergoes various tests. However, doctors have said her condition remains stable. 

Ms Banerjee is fighting the upcoming election to save her seat of chief minister, that she has held for two terms from 2011, amid the growing challenge the BJP is posing in West Bengal, the politically critical state which borders Bangladesh.

Ms Banerjee, who is also the founder of the All India Trinamool Congress (TMC) has suspended her campaign in the wake of her injuries, which were originally supposed to go on till 11 March. The elections being held in eight phases will begin from 27 March.

Her party, without naming anyone, has alleged that this is an attempt to silence the state leader as polls approach.

“This is not the first time an attempt has been made to silence @MamataOfficial,” wrote the official handle of (TMC) on Twitter. “Earlier too, she was attacked on this very historic turf for standing by farmers. But nothing will break her will. She was, she is and she will continue to be your strongest voice.”

Another senior politician of the TMC, Partha Chatterjee, said:“Cowards have been trying to stop Mamata Banerjee but no one has been able to.” 

“Firstly state ADG [Additional Director General] Law and Order was removed then DG [Director General] and now with this. I’m surprised to see how EC, who made all changes, is silent. They must take responsibility,” Mr Chatterjee was quoted by India’s news agency ANI as saying, referring to earlier feuds between the state government with the national ruling party BJP.

However, the incident, which is also a security breach as the CM gets high level security, has been labelled a sympathy gaining “tactic” by a BJP leader, while the Indian National Congress has also raised doubts over her claim.

“Such tactics to gain sympathy are unacceptable. I think the matter should be handed over to the CBI for an investigation," BJP’s national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya was quoted by Indian media outlets as saying.

The BJP, however, has also demanded an inquiry into the alleged attack on their opponent, as they expressed their concern over the security breach, in a complaint to India’s election commission.

The West Bengal elections are increasingly important in India as it would determine whether the state would go to its conventional pattern of voting local and centre to left governments in power, or join the rising list of BJP ruled states.

India’s ruling party BJP rules 17 states directly or in coalition with other parties out of 31 total states. While 14 states are ruled by other regional parties along with several coalition governments. The national opposition party the Indian National Congress, that had historically been governing India for several terms, has its presence left in just five states with only two governed only by INC.

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