Barely 20 days after India's top human rights body recommended a central probe into post-poll violence in the eastern state of West Bengal, the federal government on Tuesday expressed its willingness to take over the investigation.
"A federal agency like the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) or the National Investigation Agency (NIA) is ready to probe the allegations of post-poll violence in West Bengal," India's additional solicitor general YJ Dastoor told the High Court in state capital Kolkata.
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) last month made the recommendation for a federal probe in its report to a five-judge High Court bench. It was asked to investigate the allegations of post-poll violence by the same court only.
In its report, the Commission clearly accused the Bengal government of turning a blind eye to "grievous offences like murder and rape" allegedly perpetrated by members of Mamata's ruling Trinamool Congress on supporters of the state's opposition BJP.
"To compound the problem, violence and intimidation has continued. There is palpable fear among victims against police and goons of the ruling party. Many displaced persons haven't yet been able to return to their homes. There have been several sexual offences," it said.
Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had, however, slammed the NHRC for "leaking the report" at the behest of India's ruling BJP. "The BJP is now using impartial agencies to settle political scores and malign our state," she told the media last month.
It may be mentioned here that the High Court, on July 2, came down heavily on the Bengal government for the post-poll violence in the state that claimed a number of lives. "The state is in denial mode. The administration has been caught on the wrong foot," it had said.
UNB had earlier reported about as many as 16 deaths in post-poll violence in Bengal, which prompted the Indian Home Ministry to seek a report from the state administration.
In fact, on May 6, a day after she was sworn in as the chief minister of Bengal for the third time, Mamata announced a compensation of Rs 200,000 each for the families of 16 people killed in post-poll violence in the state.
"At least 16 people -- mostly from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Trinamool -- died in post-poll violence. We will pay a compensation of Rs two lakh to their family members," she had said.
Appealing for calm, Mamata had also asked her supporters not to indulge in any violence. "Bengal is a peace-loving place. During the elections, there has been some heat and dust and calm. The BJP did a lot of torture. But I appeal to all for calm."
Bucking anti-incumbency, Mamata scripted history on May 2 by single-handedly pulling off an astounding victory in the assembly election, staving off a massive challenge from Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ruling BJP but also decimated the Left Front.
Bengal had witnessed the most high-profile contest in India's recently held state elections. While Mamata harped on being Bengal's daughter, the BJP asked people to vote for "change and socio-economic development" after 50 years of Communist and Trinamool rule.