West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar on Friday said that political violence is stigmatising the state and asked the police and bureaucrats to work as "public servants, not political servants". He maintained that his recent Twitter post saying more than one rape or kidnapping took place in West Bengal every hour in August was based on official data, though the state Home Department, which is under Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, termed it as "baseless".
"West Bengal is the cultural epicentre of the world. Political violence is stigmatising the state," Dhankhar said while addressing a press conference here in North Bengal.
His statement came days after Manish Shukla, a BJP leader of Titagarh in North 24 Parganas district, was shot dead, with the saffron party claiming that the TMC was behind it. The ruling party has denied the charge.
"We have an unrivalled heritage. Why should our face be blackened by such kind of political violence, political vendetta, targeted killings with no space for the opposition? This is not democracy," he said.
The governor, who has been at loggerheads with the state government over a range of issues, asserted that he means it if he says that the state will have free and fair polls. Assembly elections in West Bengal are likely to be held in April or May next year.
Holding that more than one rape or kidnapping took place in West Bengal every hour in August as per data provided to him officially, Dhankhar said that by bringing the information in public knowledge, he sensitised people on crime against women. He said that reports containing data on crime for August were sent to him by divisional commissioners, which they had simultaneously sent to the chief secretary of the state.
"In the month of August, in the state of West Bengal there were 223 rapes, there were 639 kidnappings; if we go by the hour, there were more than one rape or kidnapping during each hour of August, 2020," he said.
It was authentic official information with the signature of district magistrates and divisional commissioners, but the state Home department termed the data as incorrect, the governor said.
"I have put both the chief secretary and the home secretary on caution. I am yet to get their response," he said.
The Raj Bhavan and the Trinamool Congress government had on October 6 crossed swords over statistics of rapes and kidnappings with the state Home Department questioning the authenticity of the figures quoted by Dhankhar.
After the department tweeted that the "Allegations are baseless, ill-founded, and misguiding", the governor asked the chief secretary and additional chief secretary in-charge of Home Department to withdraw it." "All bureaucrats, in administration and police, must never forget that they have to be politically neutral. They are public servants, they are not political servants," Dhankhar said in the press conference.
Describing the situation as grim and alarming, he said, "The long arm of the law will catch up with them. We cannot have bureaucracy and police that is politicised."
Posters and festoons decrying the governor and alleging that he is acting on behalf of a particular political party appeared at various places on the roads through which he travelled to Alipurduar on Friday morning to pay homage to Galwan martyr Havildar Bipul Roy.
In his Twitter handle, however, Dhankhar shared a video clip of a group of people who were standing by a village road, waving at his convoy. Several of them were holding printed message welcoming the governor. The governor said that he will spend the month of November at the Raj Bhavan in Darjeeling and will visit various districts of North Bengal.
He said that the region has great potential for tourism and the tea industry, Dhankhar said that rail tracks between Haldibari in North Bengal's Jalpaiguri district and Chilahati in neighbouring Bangladesh will be functional from March next year after 56 years.
According to a North East Frontier Railway spokesman, work on relaying of tracks on the route is almost complete and other construction work will also be completed by December. He said that the Asian Highway connecting several countries in South East Asia will have a significant impact on the development of the North Bengal region of the state along with the north-eastern states.
(With inputs from PTI)