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Mainstream, VOL LII, No 32, August 2, 2014

India Still Develops Cold Feet when the Matter concerns Britain

Saturday 2 August 2014, by Basubrata Roy

Munkurai was on his way to a northern district town of Tripura, bordering on Bangla-desh, to attend a press programme more than one-and-a-half decade back.

While on his journey through the highway as part of a convoy, escorted by the para-military, he could hardly have anything, not even a glass of water. So, when the escort dropped the convoy at Monu station, crossing through all the hill ranges, the crowd got joyous to have something from the roadside food joints as they had overcome the strain to pass through the terrorist-ridden hilly ranges for hours.

Knowing well that most of the food joints across the highways keep beer, Munkurai had ordered a bottle after entering a shop. To his surprise he came to know that beer was ‘prepaid’ by the shop rule. So, after paying a couple of hundred rupee notes, he had set at rest. In the meantime, two persons from the nearby table were watching him. After sometime the two persons from the nearby table came to Munkurai and asked with a smiling face: ‘So, your hundred rupee notes are accepted by the shop?’ ‘Why? What’s the problem?’ asked Munkurai.

‘Unfortunately the money we have is termed fake. So, the shop hasn’t accepted, though we are police personnel,’ replied one. Having a glance at a hundred rupee fake note made Munkurai spellbound. Hardly any fault can be found unless not known. Hurriedly he exchanged a hundred rupee note with two fake ones, since the bus he was to board for the rest of the journey was blowing its horn.

On reaching the northern district head-quarters town, after the press meet was over, Munkurai had eagerly shown interest on the fake currency note issue, to be cold-shouldered by his elderly dadas that the issue won’t die down, since Pakistan would remain ever-active to avenge the 1971 defeat.

The fall-out of the endeavour to avange the defeat is however a bloody bitter mamory in the 1980 calender year of Tripura, when the tribals and Bengalis fell apart on account of communal riots. It so happened that the hill Muslims, sensing earlier the possibility of riots, thronged the hill Bengali mahajan’s shops to purchase kerosene and salt to survive in isolation.

The shopkeepers too could sense something. So, thereafter when the tribals approached the shopkeepers with fake notes the shopkeepers refused to accept them. That had been the genesis of trouble.

Knowing well that fake notes have a link with terrorism, Munkurai had headed for Delhi, where he used to be a journalist in a paper run by legendary freedom fighters. In fact the paper being run by a sick trust was about to be closed.

On reaching the Delhi office, Munkurai had shown the two fake notes to two of his company foremen who had gone to cross-check with a local bank branch to bring ten times more to have a booze party. In the meantime Munkurai, sensing trouble, had spoken to one of the Assistant Editors only to be rebuked that a State having only two MPs doesn’t become an issue of concern.

Munkurai, however, was adamant to return to his home State to face the odds of mounting tribal-Bengali tension. Sitting in a tea shop among the local poets and writers in the G.B. Medical College Hospital area, way back in the late nineties of the last century, Munkurai used to discuss with his new friends about the major non-political movements taking shape in the country. However, his friends were not happy with his sympathetic stand in support of the tribals. It was difficult to make the local writers and poets feel that the tribals too were victims of a wounded psyche. The unrest meanwhile was in the process of assuming a larger dimension.

It was a winter morning in 1998. The leading morninger of the State had published a story on the front page regarding a major fake currency note scandal: in the Kamalpur sub-division of the northern district, the Mahabir tea garden workers got their wages in fake currency, that the local shopkeepers refused to accept. While the tea garden workers had claimed that it was given by the management, the management in turn had claimed that the rupees were disbursed by a local bank branch. Couriously the bank officials preferred to keep mum over the whole affair, according to the news.

The report jolted Munkurai. It came like a morning deluge. Within no time the company letter-head page that his company worker friends of Delhi had given him to carry on the workers’ struggle got photocopied followed by a full report on the state of affairs. Every part of the fake currency note issue was reported in the company latter head under the banner ‘Motherland News Service’ and with a story headlined ‘Amartya Sen’s Nightmare’.

Thereafter, Munkurai had faxed the story to his journalist friend Prakash Chandra Jha, who in those days used to be in the Observer of Business and Politics in Delhi. The development had coincided with the Ambani brothers openly coming to loggerheads with each other and the outbreak of the Kargil War where India went to fight after sacking its own Naval Chief, Admiral Vishnu Bhagat. Munkurai meanwhile was examined by a local doctor who gave him sedatives to soothe his nerves.

Munkurai thereafter had joined a Government H.S. School in a trouble-torn foothill area near Agartala to make football as part of culture and peace. Amid anti-Bengali tirade, a school in a jungle area became the State champion twice to play in the Subrata Mukharjee Cup in Delhi. This was not a matter of joke. Girls excelled more and the early batches of the football teams got a chance in the Tripura Police team. Apart from that, the security forces’ recruitment drives kept up the students’ hopes high.

One evening, sitting in the State Public Library and going through The Telegraph file, Munkurai’s eyes got stuck on a story done by his friend Jayanta Roy Choudhury from the Delhi Bureau that the manipulation regarding the fake currency notes got detected at the mint in England, which prints Pak currency too. India thereafter filed a démarche. But what next? The manipulaters got hold of the currency paper supply to equate the standard genuine notes! In vain Munkurai watched the nation avoiding the issue, probably the most burning problem of the day. No doubt, India still develops cold feet as soon as the matter concerns Britain.