To be a quintessential Bengali, one must love food — from the purchase of ingredients to the consumption of the finished item. The ability to rustle up a plateful is an art that the Bengali matron imbibes from infancy and Mamata Banerjee is no exception. Her exoneration of the indefensible is proof of her ingenuity in cooking up a feast.
“Party rule” was what turned the population against the Communist Party of India (Marxist). It was fed up for living under the thumb of a ruling class that demanded absolute obedience. The old party has been replaced by the new one and the rule is still the same: obey or be damned.
Citing the past is the fig leaf that she offers the public to protect itself from the trauma of everyday abuse. The message is clear: see what I see and nothing more. Therefore, remember the sins of the CPM and the Congress and now the Bharatiya Janata Party, not excluding the Maoists, combine it by questioning the credibility of the media, and produce a dish to serve for ruling class of West Bengal to consume. The ingredients are handy, available on every domestic kitchen shelf and these are being used by the Trinamul Congress to justify lawlessness.
The band of outlaws, including the recent discovery of the hidden talents of actor Tapas Pal as instigator of intimidation bordering of terror, Arabul Islam, Manirul Islam, Anubrata Mandal, Arup Chakravarty, Dipali Saha, Madan Mitra, Firhad Hakim and many more, could have had no doubts that the newest outrage would receive exoneration.
Those who have been captured on camera crossing the line — that separates rule of law from the rules as rewritten by the Trinamul “be with us or else” — Ms Banerjee has given protection and pardon.
Realistically, even if that is cynical, there is not much else that Ms Banerjee can do. The new crop of Trinamul Congress star leaders have been shaped by her world view; to be against the party or any self proclaimed leader is to become the enemy. If Mr Pal had not been exonerated after tendering an apology to his party, even though what he said is a criminal offence and was committed against the people of Choumaha in Nadia district, then Ms Banerjee as the chief minister and the home minister would be compelled to take action against all of the above and the many more who have slipped under the radar of media attention.
To do so is politically impossible and Ms Banerjee knows it. The organisation of the Trinamool Congress is based on a network of allegiance and there is nothing institutionalised about the way in which power is the glue that holds together all the different elements. Each leader exerts power and all of it is linked to lawlessness. Reports of internal clashes, even killings, within the Trinamool point to the fragility of control. If even one of the outlaws were to be held to lawful account, there would be war and the leadership would lose control.
Legitimising violence, intimidation, rape, murder, bombings, bullying, defamation and more to enforce the Trinamul Congress rule of “be with us or else” is all that Ms Banerjee can do. The price of going against the party is death as former Trinamul Congress supporter Sagar Ghosh of Birbhum discovered.
His hapless family has gone up to the Supreme Court and even joined the BJP to try and move the state establishment to properly investigate the killing.
The family of Kazi Nasiruddin of Dhaniakhali in Hooghly district had to move the high court which ordered a Central Bureau of Investigation probe because the state Criminal Investigation Department’s work was unsatisfactory.
The list is long and almost impossible to compile without being dismayed by the horror of the present state of affairs in West Bengal. The Trinamul is using the CPM’s 34 years in government to bleach itself white, to soothe the misgivings of any one squeamish about the violence and lawlessness in West Bengal.
Within the charmed existence led by the protection force organised by political parties in West Bengal, violence is a way of life.
Intimidation and violence have been forces that have worked to derail the idea of democracy in West Bengal. It is ironic that Mukul Roy, Trinamul general secretary last week warned the BJP against one Dablu Ansari of Mangalkot in Burdwan district, describing him as a former CPM goon, looking for political shelter.
He did so from a platform shared with the infamous Mr Mandal, whom the police dare not touch. Dislodging the Anubrata Mandals from their positions of power is to bring into being a creature even more volatile. The problem of internecine conflict fed by rivalry for turf and gain is now endemic and to end the cycle is not in Ms Banerjee’s interest. Her party, at the grassroots, seems to have been captured by protectors who use violence to solve every issue.
As a whipping post, the CPM and its self flagellations, bolstered by confessions of guilt from leaders like Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee have been invaluable for the Trinamool to defend the indefensible and borderline criminal actions of the many party stalwarts, whose only justification is vengeance in the name of the CPM. Even though no one, not even the CPM, has any doubts whatsoever that it is today a mere shadow of its former fabled self, the Trinamool Congress seems to invoke the memory of its power, now faded, shrunk and eroded, if not almost fatally damaged.
The invocation is like a chant, to justify the evil that is necessary for the present politics of the state.
Three years ago, Ms Banerjee would repeat that the CPI(M) should keep quiet for the next 30 years, that it should crawl into a corner and let the Trinamool retrieve and revive West Bengal from the destruction of 34 years of Left Front rule. Now that the CPM seems to have done just that, the
Trinamool Congress seems to be haunted by its dysfunctional presence. The process of appropriating the moral high ground initiated by Ms Banerjee ever since she embarked on her militant anti-CPM political career back in the 1980s continues even now. The names associated with the murderous attacks on the political opposition in Parui, in Labhpur, in villages across West Bengal reveal the same underlying justification: to oppose is to become the enemy. Like a magic trick, defence or retaliation by the Opposition, be it the CPM, the Congress or the BJP is turned into an act of aggression that the Trinamool Congress must thwart, squash or annihilate, to protect the people. Therefore in the name of the people, whatever the Trinamool Congress does is fulfilment of its promise of paribartan or change.
The writer is a senior journalist in Kolkata