Wednesday, 12 March 2014


Mamata Banerjee’s Bengal looks dark and scary



There is a joke in Kolkata about a builder who refused to yield to CPM goons hell bent on grabbing their commission before granting him permission for his project. This was just before the West Bengal assembly elections that Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress swept in 2011, ending 34 years of Left Front's rule with the promise of change or 'poriborton'. Confident of Didi's victory, the businessman, having got his swagger back, told the CPM men that he would rather stall his project than give them protection money.

As the builder expected, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee lost. After a few days the same men who were hounding him for money came knocking. This time, though, they had changed sides and were members of the Trinamool Congress.

Madhav N, a software engineer working in Kolkata for eight years who recently bought a flat in Salt Lake for Rs 50 lakh, doesn't find the joke funny. A day after he took possession of his house, three young men claiming to be Trinamool supporters dropped in and asked him to pay Rs 50,000 towards party fund. They said 1% wasn't too bad a deal. When Nair asked why he had to pay them of all the people, the men pointed to the road outside his house and said, "You have to use that road, don't you? So it is road tax." The matter was settled for Rs 5,000.
People's ears being cut off, eyes being gouged out, rape victims being called prostitutes and honest police officers being transferred for nailing lumpens affiliated to the party. The Bengal of Mamata Banerjee looks dark and scary. And she runs it like an autocrat with clear distaste for dissent. Movies are being banned, cartoons blocked and their creators jailed. Anyone who even whispers 'justice' is labeled Maoist. Lyrics, too, are being rewritten to suit the CM's sensibilities. Kangal Malsat, Suman Mukhopadhyay's film, was banned by the Censor Board of Bengal not just because it was vaguely critical of Mamata, but apparently also because it showed Stalin in bad light!

But now the very people - Mahasweta Devi and Kabir Suman among many others - who hoisted her up to fight a CPM that left the state in financial and social ruin are ganging up against Mamata. A second wave of opposition seems to be building up among the people, and it's visible everywhere. They are protesting against the terrorism of the cadre and sharp deterioration in law and order, governance and policy. Intellectuals who rallied around her earlier have begun mounting attacks, unable to decide which was a more thuggish government - the Trinamool's or the CPM's.

Then there are bizarre statements - "Can I go to Delhi and beat up Manmohan Singh?" or "All deaths are unfortunate. Sudipto's death is also unfortunate. But hundreds of our people have died with the heads out (of train windows)" - and eccentric diktats, like ordering Rabindra Sangeet from loudspeakers at traffic junctions to make Kolkata a 'London-type city'.

As Kolkata once again took to the streets, outraged at the gang rape and murder of a 12-year-old girl in Madhyamgram, the state women's commission chairperson, Sunanda Mukherjee, said Bengal now needs a "social revolution" to stop the spate of crimes. Bharati Mutsuddi, an ex-member of the commission, went a step further saying, "Rapists know they can get away with it if they join the ruling party."

Echoing a sentiment heard often in Kolkata homes - that TMC has inherited the same culture and recruited perhaps the same criminals - Mutsuddi added, "Far too many criminals have been sheltered by the ruling party. I don't see things improving soon. We are condemned to live with fear." It's suddenly a nightmare all over again for Bengalis who were hoping for a respite after three decades of communist misrule.







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