2011 had heralded a new chapter in the political space of West Bengal. Locals and Bengalis in the diaspora had looked up with fervent hope to the new “firebrand Chief Minister” for bringing about a revival of the once golden land of West Bengal; a renaissance of sorts. The glimmer of a steadfast future that had died with the mislaid policies of the Left and its ideology of “class struggles”, shone anew with a change in guard. I remember the zeal among the locals at that time during my University days in Kolkata. Everyone, overwhelmingly, including me, wanted to give ‘Didi’ a chance. However, like every depreciable produce, it was destined to lose its sheen, albeit not as rapidly as much as we witnessed Didi’s Bengal turn into a state of accelerated pandemonium.
Rampant appeasement giving extremists a free run, supplanting Bengali words with Urdu in primary school textbooks, obstructing conduct of Saraswati Pujo in schools, hindering immersion of Ma Durga, poll violence, rigging, booth capturing, instilling fear among voters, riots, misusing law enforcement agencies, chit fund scams, washing off crime scenes to wipe out evidence, bombs’ found in legislators’ home, fires in tinderboxes, facing repeated censures from the Hon’ble High Court, falling flyovers have stood out infamously in her eight years of misrule. The influx of illegal immigrants with blessings of the State Government has not only compromised national security, but attempted to uproot Bengal’s cultural pedigree and inheritance. The true father of West Bengal, although rarely acknowledged, Dr. Shyama Prasad Mookherjee’s colossal contribution to save Kolkata from getting sucked into East Pakistan must be preserved, protected. We all know the plight, of what has come of the minorities living in Bangladesh today.
Bike riders wearing white skull caps instead of helmets, thereby turning traffic cops blind is a known reality in downtown Kolkata, talked about commonly among locals. ‘Bandh culture’ which was a veritable fixture during Left rule has been replaced by appeasement culture however which is a bigger evil of the two is for us voters to decide. What about choosing to do away with both these evils; would we then reclaim Bengal’s glory?
But there is much more to present day West Bengal than just ‘bandhs’ and appeasement. There are riots i.e. Kaliachak, Malda, Dhulagarh, Basirhat. There are vexed attempts to wash off a crime scene even before forensics reach, as it happened on 2nd October at Nagerbazar. People died in that bomb blast, yet the scene was sanitized to destroy evidence, which is tantamount to offence under Section 201 of the Indian Penal Code. Mamata’s rhetorical response to all of the aforesaid incidents is to say either “kuchh toh nahi huya”, “chhoto ghotona” (small incident) or blame it on the opposition as a conspiracy (“chokranto”). Political murders are ubiquitous in the present government’s rule. If you don’t agree with her, you better perish. Such is the superfluous democratic principle. In May, an 18 year old student of History (Hons) Trilochan Mahato was found hanging from a tree in Balrampur, Purulia with a chilling note inscribed on his t-shirt that read “This is for doing BJP politics from age 18. Been trying to kill you since the vote. Failed. Today your life ends”. Despite the complaint having carried 6 specific names of accused, yet the FIR that was registered was against “unknown miscreants”. Despite the initial denial from the State Government, in September, a Trinamool Congress worker’s son was arrested by the CID.
Love for ‘Utsabs’: We Bengalis love “Utsabs”. We love celebrations. We wouldn’t miss the smallest opportunity to rejoice, which is all fine, but when it comes at the cost of neglecting and turning a blind eye at the sinister developments around us, it is endangering. It pricks me to witness that we find a flowery excuse to abstain from office work even on a weekday, yet turn up as a full house at Eden Gardens, or pack the Salt Lake Stadium during a Mohun Bagan – East Bengal derby. I remember, during my visits to the Municipal Councilor’s office, I would often be asked to wait till the government representative finished watching a live Calcutta Football League match, or at best, asked me to come back later. Durga Puja in Kolkata is a time when the city is at his brightest and liveliest. Even at 3AM, hordes of devotees are out on the streets visiting pandals. Kolkata is unidentifiable during those days and nights. Every pandal, from the grandest to the smallest is a work of art. The pandal making gets underway two months’ in advance. The bars of creative excellence are raised higher every year. My takeaway is that there is such latent energy in every Bengali, channeling that energy into sectors that help deliver economic fruits can lead to revival of the indolent workforce. Painting every public space blue and white, keeping the masses engaged in a celebratory mood finding the smallest occasions like “Rosogolla Day”, “Durga Puja Idol Carnival” is to muzzle any space for questions on performance. The blue-white painting spree, pasting the Chief Minister’s smiling face across billboards, these multifarious utsabs are nothing but propaganda thrusts. We recently saw a noted filmmaker calling out the delusion at this year’s Kolkata Film Festival when he stated “When I walked in through the gates, I saw the Nandan logo designed by Satyajit Ray hemmed in by big flexes with someone’s face – a political leader not related to films”.
In our pursuit of a change in guard after the Left rules, did we allow a deeper malaise to germinate in its place? Is President’s Rule warranted? Come, join in on the 24th November at the Constitution Club, New Delhi and let us #SaveBengal together.