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Monday, April 16, 2012

The Cartoon Conspiracy And Merciless Mamata!

Article first published as The Cartoon Conspiracy And Merciless Mamata! on Technorati.


Mamata Bannerji threw the Left government in West Bengal—an eastern state of India—out of power in 2011 after its marathon rule of 34 years. She got an overwhelming majority for her party Trinamool Congress (TMC). Trinamool means grass-root and Mamata Bannerji—the Chief Minister of West Bengal—has been firing all guns to uproot what she calls Leftist ‘conspiracies’.

First, the new Chief Minister got unnerved by an unceasing stream of baby deaths in many hospitals across the state. Instead of going into the root of the problem she conveniently decided to identify the Left as the root-cause. Not only that, she dismissed cases of dastardly crimes against women in her capital Kolkata as made-up ones thanks again to some leftist roots of the victims.

Second, Mamata wanted to initiate an era of change in the state by dictating to public libraries to stop subscribing to newspapers linked to political parties other than hers. Disturbed by the specter of deep-rooted communism in the state she also decided to erase Marx and Engels from all school textbooks. ‘This is arrogance…intolerance…suppression of freedom of speech…dictatorship! Democratic traditions are being rooted out!’ cried the citizens and intellectuals of West Bengal who were the first in India to bask in the renaissance.

Third, so rooted to reality the new Chief Minister was she objected to everything done by India’s coalition government at the centre of which TMC is a dictating partner, be it in the social or economic or internal security or technology and science sector. She even sacked her own party’s Railway Minister at the centre for the crime of presenting a good and sensible railway budget.

And the latest, Mamata Bannerji got one professor of a reputed university of Kolkata beaten and arrested for taking part in presenting and forwarding a cartoon in the internet. The cartoon depicted a narrative regarding her sacking of the Railway Minister and putting in one of her faithful party men as a replacement.

Cartoons are very common in the lives of Indian politicians. They may hate to see themselves in those satirical cartoons on a daily basis, but they also realize the publicity generated by such works. They also believe candidly that in a democracy you must learn to laugh at yourself. So practical indeed!

But Mamata Bannerji only saw a ‘conspiracy’ in the act and a supposed attack on the modesty of a woman. A cyber crime against women! In fact, the cartoon was a creative work based on famous characters of a Satyajit Ray film which could hardly even be understood by the so-called ‘conspirators’. Public outrage broke out across the country with huge cries of protest by the netizens in particular, but Mamata continued to defy. As public opinion in her own state became too strong for her to ignore she tried some damage control by allowing four of the gang who assaulted the professor to be arrested. But they were released on bail immediately while the professor was kept in lockup for a full night. And, the professor feared for his life with an incredibly large number of charges lodged that could put him in jail for at least one year. Mamata’s antics have attracted international reactions too. Not only this professor, but Mamata Bannerji also arrested an eminent molecular biologist Partho Sarothy Ray and kept him in custody for over two weeks now for a protest rally he did not attend. Apart from scientists all over even ‘arguably the most controversial intellectual alive’, Noam Chomsky had written to the Prime Minister of India to intervene in this growing intolerance against academicians in West Bengal. 

Mamata in many Indian languages means ‘love or kindness’. Driven, of course, by the urge to ‘change’, if Mamata becomes merciless our democratic roots will definitely get jolted at the very grass roots, you wonder! And, this ‘change’ has been attempted by someone who claims to belong to the ‘grass-root’. Such a confounded confusion of roots!

Even if you admit Left conspiracies are there, the very thought about the possibility of  ‘right’ conspiracies taking  deep roots would send shivers down your spine.

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