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Contemporary Bengal, Mamata and the Calcutta Diaspora

Author: Kanchan Gupta
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: October 12, 2014
URL: http://www.dailypioneer.com/columnists/coffee-break/contemporary-bengal-mamata-and-the-calcutta-diaspora.html

Trinamool Congress wants the Calcutta Diaspora, especially writers, to desist from writing on contemporary realities of West Bengal. Well, tough luck to Mamata Banerjee and her flatterers

 In a blog that followed anguished and angry commentary on the rapidly deteriorating law and order situation in West Bengal where every day brings forth startling disclosures about the Saradha chit fund scam and scary details of the deep penetration by jihadis who are now found to be using the State’s ruling party’s offices to manufacture bombs and store Al Qaeda’s hate literature, the vice president and chief spokesperson of the Trinamool Congress, whose exalted task it is to defend the thuggery of hoodlums and goons, has viciously attacked the Calcutta Diaspora, especially writers who can articulate their views in a cogent manner.

 Shorn of hyperbole and fluff characteristic of a high school essay and reminiscent of brash point-scoring by a smart Alec thrilled at making it to the annual inter-school debate, the Trinamool Congress worthy has poured scorn and ridicule on those members of the Calcutta Diaspora, or Probashi Bangalis as they are known, who make bold to comment on the current state of affairs that prevails in the city and the State they have left behind. Offence has been taken to their commentary for three reasons: First, being at best itinerant visitors to Calcutta they have no clue to what he calls “contemporary realities”; second, their views are inevitably critical of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee who, her flatterers have convinced her into believing, is above criticism; and, third, if those who have to suffer the Trinamool Congress’s lumpenisation of society and politics do so silently, non-resident Bengalis have no business to jump in with words of protest.

 Admittedly the author of this undiluted, unadulterated bilge could have been ruder and cruder in his mocking admonition and thinly veiled warning (had you dared criticise us while visiting Calcutta or West Bengal we would have...) but has been remarkably restrained, especially when compared to his more loquacious colleagues like Tapas Pal and, indeed, the Supreme Leader herself. That he does not descend to their depraved depths of verbal abuse and assault amounts to failing the Trinamool Congress’s loyalty test. But that’s for him and his party to deal with; outsiders, least of all the Calcutta Diaspora, need not get distracted.

 It could be argued that a blog penned by a party spokesperson and office-bearer does not necessarily reflect the official view of the party. In other words, we must not take it for granted that the Trinamool Congress endorses its spokesperson’s contemptuous belittling of Probashi Bangalis and their views. But such deliberation, at best, is facetious. Mamata Banerjee is not exactly a living example of a person who believes in letting a thousand flowers bloom – neither within nor outside her party. Amateur cartoonists have been frog-marched to the nearest police station for daring to caricature her on social media sites; people constantly look over their shoulders for eavesdroppers who could turn out to be party hoods, police informers or CID chaps in mufti. In today’s West Bengal, free speech comes attached with a daunting price tag.

 So, we must presume, unless it is stoutly contradicted, that the Trinamool Congress not only endorses its spokesperson’s (rather pathetic) attempt to browbeat Probashi Bangalis, more so writers, but in all possibility the blog articulates the profound thoughts of the Supreme Leader who needs to constantly blame someone else for her spectacular failure in restoring a modicum of governance in West Bengal. Having exhausted a long list of manufactured conspiracies which were to blame for her, and her party’s misdeeds, she has now decided to turn on the softest of targets — the Probashi Bangalis, well-meaning men and women who work for a living in another city or country because their State did not offer them the opportunity to excel, but whose hearts beat for Calcutta and West Bengal.

 The spokesperson berates Probashi Bangalis for pining for what Calcutta (or West Bengal) used to be, for a landscape that may have existed once upon a time or is most likely imagined. That is stupid. There, I said it. Such absurd assertions are based on the premise that Probashi Bangalis or the Calcutta Diaspora are blind to today’s realities as they were blind to yesterday’s realities. They are not. The Calcutta Diaspora has family and friends back home, they have roots that go far deeper than Johnny-Come-Latelies who foolishly think clichés like ‘maa-maati-maanush’ are three strands of the DNA of poriborton politics. The Internet links the Calcutta Diaspora to contemporary West Bengal in more ways than Mamata Banerjee and her flatterers could ever imagine. Social media tools ensure real time dissemination of information — propaganda based on disinformation can neither be disseminated in real time nor be imparted with credibility.

 Here’s what I recall of Calcutta and Bengal: The immediate aftermath of the hoodlum years when Siddhartha Shankar Ray, with storm troopers like Mamata Banerjee — that’s when she launched her political career — ruled West Bengal through unspeakable terror. Yes, those were turbulent years and the transition from rule of the lawless to the rule of law was difficult. I recall the terrible incident at Rabindra Sarobar whose graphic details need not be repeated. I recall the bombing of a bus during a bandh called by the Congress, of which Mamata Banerjee was then a rising star, in which a pregnant woman died. I recall how our college session began way behind schedule because that was then the norm. I recall the decay that had begun to set in, a decay that was destined to turn into death.

 No, as a Probashi Bangali, as a member of the Calcutta Diaspora, I don’t need to be reminded about the wasted decades of Left Front rule. Just as I don’t need to be told that three-and-a-half decades of lost opportunities have not come to an end with the ascendance of the neo-far Left, also known as Trinamool Congress. Yes, I am aware of the poriborton on Trinamool Congress’s watch — the rise of Islamism, the radicalisation of the Muslim underclass, the naked pandering to the lowest common denominator of Bengal’s electorate by a Chief Minister posing as a namazi, encouraging Jamaatis led by her party MP to organise a pro-1971 War Criminals rally, turning a blind eye as Trinamool Congress offices are converted into deadly arsenals for jihad, and subverting the Hindu majority in district after district by allowing Bangladeshi Muslims to settle there. That is the contemporary reality of Kolkata and West Bengal.

 And, guess what? The Probashi Bangali, the Calcutta Diaspora, will continue to talk and write about this hideous contemporary reality. They have an umbilical link with Calcutta and Bengal. Unlike West Bengal’s tormentors, they do not subscribe to bogus slogans like ‘maa-maati-maanush’ and they are genuinely stupefied to see their land and its people forcibly pushed back to the past – the hoodlum years when Siddhartha Shankar Ray was in power. Last, though not least, the Calcutta Diaspora believes this too shall pass.

(The writer is a Delhi-based senior journalist)
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