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Mainstream, Vol XLVIII, No 42, October 9, 2010

Musings of a Pensionjivi on Sumanta Banerjee’s Letter

Thursday 14 October 2010, by D. Bandyopadhyay

I am touched by Sumanta Banerjee’s ‘Open Letter’ (Mainstream, September 11, 2010) where he described me as an intellectual by putting my name along with that of Mahashweta Devi. There is a boy in every old man. And that boy in me felt highly elated by this description. But the old man in me was not amused because that appellation was not quite correct. In Bengali an intellectual is called buddhijivi (one who lives by his intellect). But I do not live by my intellect. I live on pension. Hence in Bengali it would be pensionjivi—one who lives by his pension. But let me now move from sophistry to the substance.

Sumanta Banerjee’s angry vituperation against Mamata Banerjee reflects the typical reaction of an upper-caste bhadralok (elite). To them, anyone whose father was not a member of the Indian Civil Services, or was not an FRCS or MRCP from the UK, or who was not called to the bar in any one of the six Inns in London, or who did not hold directorship of some blue-chip company, or who did not hold a degree from Oxbridge or even the LSE, is a non-person. Hence, his progenies by birth would be non-persons. That is what the time-honoured Hindu caste system is all about. What Sumanta Banerjee has written is nothing other than what one hears about her in the Calcutta or Bengal or Tolly Club over glasses of blended Scotch whisky.

One problem of Sumanta Banerjee is that he does not live in West Bengal. One does not know what an agony it is to live in a State ruled by a fascist mafia group called the CPI-M. This group committed 55,408 political murders between 1977 and 2009. That means one political murder in every four hours and 50 minutes every day. No one is safe if one holds a view other than that of the ruling mafia group. Their collective leadership is nothing other than a collage of ruthless, avaricious and pitiless dons.

One of their major sources of income, other than extortion, illegal levy and bribes, is trafficking in women. According to the Crime Bureau of India, 60,000 women and growing teenage girls were peddled for profit between 2002 and 2006. This was the highest figure among all the States of India. It was estimated—and this was published in one of the Bengali dailies of Kolkata—that profit on this account was a whopping sum of Rs 1360 crores. The chairperson of the CPI-M’s women’s organisation initiated this business in the early nineties through a Calcutta satta don. It would have never come out but for an explosion in the godown of the don soon after the Bombay explosion. That led to skeletons tumbling out of the cupboard.

Way back in the early eighties, the CPI-M added rape as a political weapon. In the mid-eighties Ms Anita Dewan, an officer of the UNICEF, detected a huge fraud involving UNICEF funds in some CPI-M-controlled panchayats in South 24-Parganas. When she was returning with some seized incriminating documents, her vehicle was waylaid at Bantala. It was set on fire. The driver was killed. And Ms Dewan was raped and murdered. Her naked body was thrown into a paddy field. When the incident was reported to Jyoti Basu, who was then the Chief Minister of the State, his cryptic and cynical remark was: “Such incidents do happen, don’t they?” Thus he gave sanction to rape as a political weapon of the CPI-M. Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, his successor in office, used it on a massive scale in Singur and Nandigram. In reply to an Assembly question he replied on July 15, 2010 that 2516 incidents of rape had taken place in West Bengal in 2009. One year’s figure does not give any trend. But it could give us a basis of the inferential trend figure. Assuming that on an average 2400 incidents of rape took place per annum, the total number of rapes committed between 2006 and 2009 would be 9600. It means a monthly average of 200 cases of rape. This gives a daily average of 6.6. That means one rape is committed every four hours. No independent-minded woman is safe in West Bengal.

ONE good point about Sumanta Banerjee is that he also wants the CPI-M to go out of power in the State. But if he does not like Mamata Banerjee as the Chief Minister, would he like Maoist leader Kishenji to take over? That would be totally unacceptable even as a thought.

Mamata survived six major attempts on her life. These were organised directly or indirectly by the CPI-M. The latest attempt was on August 9, 2010 at 7 pm near Sher-e-Punjab Dhaba at Kolaghat. A lot has been written about it in the local press. I need not repeat the reports in this regard.

On July 21, 2010, on the Trinamul Congress’ Martyrs’ Day, there was a sea of humanity in Kolkata. A Left newspaper gave an estimate of 28 lakhs. It really does not matter whether the figure was two million or 2.5 million or three million because no one measures the quantity of water in the Bay of Bengal in terms of cubic metres. It is the overall magnitude and not the number in units that matters. On August 9, 2010 at Lalgarh, in spite of hindrances created by the police, around two lakh adivasis and Dalits gathered to listen to Mamata. Even after she ended the meeting at 2.15 pm sharp, one could hear drum-beats of dhamsa (Santhal war-drum) from far distance, indicating that people were still coming to the meeting.

By her dress, demeanour, deportment and conduct Mamata Banerjee represents the authentic underclass of West Bengal. She is their only hope. She is their only icon.

Sumanta Banerjee would do well not to prejudge Mamata’s performance as the future Chief Minister with his elitist mindset. The social, political and economic forces which are propelling her to power would determine her future policies. The people of West Bengal are tired and exasperated by the utter evil that is the CPI-M. They want a change. And Mamata is the only alternative, notwithstanding what the pure Brahmins of Marxism might think about her.

The author, who has now retired from service, is a former Secretary, Revenue, and the erstwhile Secretary, Rural Development, Government of India. He was also the architect of ‘Operation Barga’ that left an indelible impress on the West Bengal countryside in the 1978-82 period. Currently he is the chairperson of the Santrash Birodhi Manch (Front Against Terror).

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