April 04, 2020
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Calcutta Corner

Irrational incidents of violence and counter-violence have reduced Bengal to a banana republic.

Calcutta Corner
File - PTI Photo
Calcutta Corner

The nationwide sympathy that the Student Federation of India had earned after its leader 22-year-old Sudipta Gupta was killed while in police custody turned to widespread condemnation after its dastardly attack on Bengal finance minister Amit Mitra. It was not a pretty sight watching an elderly man being roughed up and thrown around by an unruly mob. Such behaviour is not the sign of a civilised society and it is not expected from members of a student body like the SFI. 

The Fruit of Action-Reaction
Left leaders, former Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya and Left Front chairman Biman Bose condemned the attack on Amit Mitra. But that didn’t stop student groups who owe allegiance to the ruling Trinamool Congress from unleashing what has been called ‘reactionary’ violence throughout Bengal in which members of the Left including have been beaten up and sent to hospital with injuries, Left offices ransacked and vandalized. Equally irrational and condemnable, these incidents of violence and counter-violence have reduced Bengal to a banana republic.

The violence in Bengal reached boiling point when students of Presidency University, which is historically a hotbed of student politics since the time of the Naxal movement of the 1960s was attacked, by alleged TMC activists. Students were beaten up and molested. While the attack was going on outside, some students locked themselves in a room, turned out the lights and hid under benches. Bengal governor M K Narayanan has visited the Presidency University and personally apologized for the attack.

Governor of West Bengal M K Narayanan at Presidency University.                                        PTI Photo/Ashok Bhaumik

Look ( Not) Back In Anger
So where was Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee in all this? Absolutely at the centre of things and at long last she behaved impeccably, even getting our collective sympathy for a change as we saw her standing helplessly outside the locked gates of Delhi’s Yojna Bhavan, waiting to get in for her meeting with the planning commission chief. She was looking lost and harassed in the midst of a mob of protestors standing so close to her that she looked like a part of the crowd. It was so unfair to treat her in that manner – was it UPA 2 government’s vengeance? One wonders – that anyone could have felt sorry for her. Only when you remembered that the mob consisted of protestors who were angry because she had called the death of their leader Sudipta Gupta in police custody an “accident” and a “petty matter”, it somehow mitigated the sympathy you felt for her at that moment. 

At any rate, she was shoved and pushed around and her finance minister manhandled and it was only when she got inside that she shouted down the house for the humiliation and ill-treatment that had been meted out to her. And for once, no one thought that her shouting was out of place. No one thought that it was wrong of her to call off her meeting with the prime minister and the finance minister and return to Calcutta. She has been admitted to a hospital with breathing trouble and low pressure and the doctors have advised her rest. 

How has she behaved impeccably? Well, even in her distress, she has called out to her party not to indulge in retaliatory violence (the fact that they have hardly paid heed to her is another matter) and she has expressed deep anguish over the attack on the students of Presidency University and has instructed the police to make arrests and not spare her own party members. 

Rhetoric? Well, for Mamata Banerjee, who blurts out the first thing that comes to her mind, this is an indication of clear thinking.

Response To A Reader:

To Satyabrata Chakraborty of Calcutta who expressed his views on Sudipto’s sister’s interview on Star Ananda. I disagree that she was incoherent. In fact, her arguments were cogent and she was very calm and composed as she spoke level-headedly about the perils of students getting involved in politics, urging them to concentrate on studying rather than pursuing paths of violence. In fact, her analysis of partisan politics and how the youth were engulfed by it without pinpointing any particular political party was an extremely mature stance which I felt our political leaders ought to take cognisance of. Her words were the genuine feelings, the outpouring of genuine grief, of someone who has just lost her brother. In fact, what seemed concocted to me is her subsequent “withdrawal” the next day of what she had said. As she withdrew her comments she appeared to be unconvincing as though she was being prompted. After all, her father and her brother did belong to the Left so how can she do the politically incorrect thing of speaking her mind and expressing her real thoughts? So she had to retract. When a person says two diametrically opposite things, I think it is wise for us to analyse the conviction with which a speaker says something.

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