(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
Millions of Indians today would term West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee is arrogant. Or why she wouldn’t pick up the phone calls from Prime Minister Narendra Modi or returns call to state governor Keshari Nath Tripathi when crisis is as grave as Cyclone Fani or the state is sitting on a time-bomb on doctors’ agitation?
Tens and thousands of us would also call “Didi” a fascist. Or why she would jump out of her caravan and confront people who are merely chanting “Jai Shri Ram”, a matter of greeting among India’s masses? Or why she would tell the agitating doctors to return to work within four hours or face the consequences?
Lakhs of Indians won’t deny either that she is communal in her approach, favouring Muslims and running down Hindus. Or why she would change “ramdhenu” with “rangdhenu” in textbooks? Pass the stricture that idol immersion in Durga Puja must be postponed on Muharram day?
An overwhelming numbers of us would also term Mamata Banerjee as an autocrat. Or why she would deny prominent opposition leaders, from Amit Shah to Yogi Adityanath, from landing on her turf for election rallies? Tear up the posters of BJP’s rallies? Pull up custom officials who have the temerity to stop her relatives at the airport?
A still bigger number of us would’ve no doubt that the only news emerging from West Bengal for so many days is violence. Mamata Banerjee and her TMC must take the blame for violent politics. So rampant is the politics of blood that 34% of seats in Panchayat elections go uncontested. Or the lynchings which takes place regularly on Bengal’s streets.
None of us would also deny that Mamata Banerjee is undemocractic and unconstitutional. People (Priyanka Sharma) are jailed for posting memes on whatsapp; professors (Rakesh Sinha) is booked for inciting violence when all he has done is to visit a temple with his mother.
Millions would nod in affirmative that Mamata Banerjee resembles a dictator in Bengal. The bureaucracy is under her thumbs; police is an extension for her coercive politics and is shielded from investigations by Central agencies. She even resists interventions of Supreme Court.
Millions would’ve also heard about the ongoing Saradha, Narada and Rose Valley scams and the charges that Mamata Banerjee is corrupt. The corruption charges have engulfed her TMC party.
All too often we hear that terror network and jihadi forces are rampant in West Bengal. That terror-network Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen has taken roots in the state. The news that radicalization has taken place in madarsas in districts such as Bardhaman. That the dreaded Islamic State (IS) has named a new “emir” in West Bengal. How would Mamata Banerjee deny the allegation that she is a “secessionist” and one of India’s “tukde-tukde”gang?
Now please put all these adjectives together: arrogant, fascist, communal, autocrat, violent, undemocratic, unconstitutional, dictator, corrupt etc together. Name one person who has been called all this by India’s ecosystem in the last five years: Yes, you are right—Narendra Modi. And I challenge you to show one instance in our mainstream English media—Lutyens Media—who has ever accused Mamata Banerjee of such traits.
What is an ecosystem? Ecosystem isn’t the government in power. Ecoystem is a network of politicians, media, academicians, lawyers, bureaucrats, institutional heads, cultural czars etc who work in unison to push a particular agenda.
So think about the politicians (such as Rahul Gandhi, Mehbooba Mufti, Omar Abdullah, Akhilesh Yadav, Mayawati etc), journalists (Shekhar Gupta, Rajdeep Sardesai, Sagarika Ghose, Barkha Dutt etc), laywers (Prashant Bhushan etc), academicians (Prof. Ram Chandra Guha, Faizan Mustafa, Rajmohan Gandhi etc) institutional heads (former Election Commissioners, Police Commissioners, Ex Chief Justices of India who occupy the edit pages), cultural czars (Javed Akhtar, Kamal Haasan etc) etc. Look at their twitter timelines to show me if they’ve ever accused Mamata Banerjee of being communal, autocrat, corrupt or instigating lynchings etc. How is that when rest of India has almost a similar opinion on Mamata Banerjee, these biggies who occupy our ears, eyes and minds have a completely different opinion?
It is easy for India’s ecosystem to do whataboutery. So when violence happens in Bengal, it’s both TMC and BJP who are guilty. If provocation happens, both TMC and BJP are at fault. If communal issues are flaring up, both TMC and BJP must take the blame.
But now the eco-system is in a bind. The doctors’ agitation can’t be blamed on BJP. It’s people who are rising up against Mamata Banerjee’s TMC in the state of Bengal. You can resort to propaganda against RSS and BJP, weave themes on lynchings and communalism but how do you face up to the wrath of millions. It’s the people of India who stood up to the ecosystem and showed it the mirror in the 2019 General Polls. It’s the people who are again exposing this network in rapidly deteriorating West Bengal.
As they say, you can fool some of the people all the time. But you can’t fool all the people all the time.
(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
Mamata Banerjee has an interview in Indian Express today. I left everything and went for it. I mean there is such a dire need for the rest of the country to know about the intimidating TMC leader. I often think if I could write as freely if I was in Bengal of today. She has disdain for Centre; resistance to Supreme Court or Election Commission; contempt for institutions such as CBI; indifference to blood on the streets and incarceration for any individual who goes public with anything not to her liking. I mean do you remember how she stopped her vehicle, got out and confronted the crowd who were chanting “Jai Shri Ram”? We have not even come to Priyanka Sharma put in 14-day custody for sharing a photo-shopped image.
Frankly, I was extremely disturbed when CBI officials were held “hostage” in a police station for descending on Kolkata police commissioner Rajiv Kumar’s residence. That central forces were brought out to ensure the families of CBI officials were not put to harm. That Mamata Banerjee was physically present as the sordid drama rolled out. She then sitting on a dharna, serving bureaucrats and police officials taking their seats alongside her, in complete violation of service rules. Supreme Court later finding the allegations against Kolkata police chief as “very, very serious.”
There was dismay when Durga idols were vandalized in Hooghly; that despite High Court ruling, she restricted Durga visarjan on Muharram day; that threat of Islamic jihadists is so real that Islamic State (IS) has announced it has an “emir” in West Bengal. And should we also talk about the alleged scams which probably is genesis for her angst against Modi and BJP?
When the issue of India’s unity is at stake; whether Bengal could break away one day, whether it could harbour terrorists who would unleash their fury on the rest of the mainland – aren’t these grave enough questions on Indians’ mind? That EC was compelled to spread elections in Bengal to all seven phases; remove a few police officers from election duties; send an observer and finally asked central armed forces to be present in almost the entire Bengal which still hasn’t been able to stop violence and killings, doesn’t it tell you of a state sitting on a time-bomb? That even media is facing the brunt of violence?
But what do we get in the Indian Express interview? How you walk so much? How you eat so little? How she would take up the role of a Prime Minister after the elections (not once but thrice in the interview)? The interview began promisingly enough with questions on Muslim appeasement. But Mamata never replied to it and the question was never pressed again. When political violence is mentioned, Mamata says scattered incidents and the interviewer lets it pass. All we get is how Hindu she is in her beliefs (sic). None of the questions I have mentioned above were even remotely thrown at her. Is this how you define “Journalism of Courage?”
Only if our media wasn’t pliant enough, if it had trained its lens on Mamata Banerjee and the complete anarchy in the state of West Bengal, things wouldn’t have come to this pass. Even as I write this piece, the news has come that BJP president Amit Shah has been denied permission to hold his rally in Jadavpur. State administration has also denied Shah from landing his helicopter in the constituency. Nine remaining constituencies go to poll on Sunday. How do you think Supreme Court or Election Commission is reacting to this “murder of democracy?”
Why do you think our media and edit-writers are not even pointing fingers at Mamata Banerjee on all the issues they profess to champion about? What do we make out of Shekhar Gupta (“She is meeting fire with fire”) and Rajdeep Sardesai (“What’s the secret of your energy?”), the chasm between their stature and their ethics? Is the media afraid of “Didi” (the very word which affection and respect now has acquired a completely sinister meaning)? And if yes, why? What do we attribute this to? Fear, greed, hatred for Modi or all of it? And who speaks for an individual who dissents?
(It’s a reprint from NewsBred).
This is a poser for you, readers. Please tell us what’s common amongst Rahul Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi-Vadra, Mayawati, Akhilesh Yadav, Chandrababu Naidu, Lalu Yadav, Rabri Devi, Tejaswi Yadav, Arvind Kejriwal, Ashutosh, Rajdeep Sardesai, Sagarika Ghose, Barkha Dutt, Shekhar Gupta, Naseeruddin Shah, Aamir Khan, Javed Akhtar, Shabana Azmi, Swara Bhaskar, Pritish Nandy, Vir Sanghvi, Karan Thapar, Prashant Bhushan, Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie, Omar Abdullah, Farooq Abdullah, Mehbooba Mufti, Raveesh Kumar, Rana Ayoob, Saba Naqvi, Ramachandra Guha, Harsh Mander, Apoorvanand, Faizan Mustafa, Siddharth Vardharajan, Sadanand Dhume, Christophe Jaffrelot etc. Stumped?
Ok, let me try to suggest a few alternatives to you: (a) They all are anti-Modi; (b) They all stand for “freedom of speech”; (c) They all are for democratic, secular values; (d) they all are against totalitarianism; (e) They all are for feminism and stand for equality and dignity of women; (f) for freedom of press; (g) they are all of the above.
One option which you all must have missed and I would name now is that they all are SILENT on arrest of BJP’s young leader Priyanka Sharma by the totalitarian government of Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal. Like they were silent when CBI officers were held as hostages; police officers under probe being shielded; violence in elections; opposition candidates unable to file their nomination papers; TMC goons forcing voters favourably in polling booths; arrests on mere chants of “Jai Shri Ram”; scuttling of Ayushman Bharat only because it’s BJP’s scheme; Refusing to pick up Modi’s phone on Fani cyclone because she doesn’t consider PM a PM; refusing to let BJP land helicopters for scheduled rally; preferring Ramzan over Durga Puja; custom officials harassed only because they found 2kg gold in the bags of wife of Mamata’s nephew; number of alleged scams etc.
I cite these instances to show how fake are these forces and the ethical and moral cloak they use to hide their agenda. But at a more urgent level, this has probably encouraged Mamata Banerjee to go berserk. Look at the issue of Priyanka Sharma. She circulates a photo-shopped image of Mamata Banerjee, imposed over a latest picture of actress Priyanka Chopra. A complaint is filed and she is sent to 14-day judicial remedy. Mind you, Priyanka Sharma hasn’t created the image, only shared it. Yet amongst thousands of such shares, she alone has been made to bear the brunt of suppression. The clear corollary is that she is made to suffer because of her political affiliation which Mamata can’t stand.
Yet these forces are silent. Even as the hashtag #ISupportPriyankaSharma on twitter is building up a considerable steam. Twitteratis are so upset that they are changing profile picture with the one which has landed Priyanka Sharma in trouble. “Arrest me, if you must,” is an assertion by many twitter-users under the above hashtag. Yet none of these forces are taking note. A BJP worker is jailed for sharing photo yet it’s Modi who’s a “Hitler.”
Newspapers are wrongly defined as a bridge between people and the government. In Lutyens Media, people don’t matter. Or only a certain kind matter. A Modi is hauled for uttering “Bhrashtachari No.1” while a Mamata Banerjee can get away literally with murder. Remember, she recently said she would put pebbles in soil and present it as rasogoolas so it breaks Modi’s teeth? How did these forces react? Silence.
I remember an instance when RSS ideologue Prof. Rakesh Sinha had a non-bailable warrant issued against him by West Bengal police for posting a picture of his with his mother in Mahakal temple in Ujjain. The West Bengal police acted on the complaint of an individual who felt Sinha’s “provocative” picture spoilt the communal harmony in the state! An aghast Sinha didn’t know what hit him. “I haven’t even visited West Bengal in the last two years,” a baffled Prof. Sinha had said. Where was the outrage from these soldiers of “democracy”?
The sixth phase of 2019 General Elections would be over on Sunday. Election Commission, worried over history of violence in West Bengal during elections, spread the one in the state to all seven phases. Yet, even the cover of central armed forces haven’t been much of a help. In each of the six phases so far, violence has happened; cases of rigging have been reported. Yet the names mentioned above haven’t bat even an eyelid. Shekhar Gupta, head of Editors’ Guild, instead is drooling over Mamata “fighting fire with fire, venom with venom.” A Rajdeep Sardesai is gushing and asking Mamata Banerjee the secret of her energy. (Boost, of course, you terrible).
A real Mamata Banerjee is very different from the Mother Teresa-like sari she wears. Her autobiography conveys the image of a woman who likes to play the victim card. She is deeply insecure about losing control. She is also extremely star-struck. Just look at the number of MPs, MLAs and ministers who are stars and starlets in West Bengal. A whole lot of them were recruited in 2014 General Elections. Many more have been made candidates for the 2019 General Polls. Why, she even got a few from across the border to do her bidding.
This piece is just not about naming game. The most troubling is the intimidation which any Indian citizen in any state could be subjected to by the longest arm of law in West Bengal. Judiciary hasn’t been much of a help. Nor the Centre who many believe should’ve imposed President’s Rule in West Bengal seasons ago. Even Islamic State declaring they have an emir in West Bengal hasn’t brought home the horrible truth that West Bengal could be a beehive of Islamic/Jihadists designs today.
West Bengal is slipping out of Union. All the ideals enshrined in our holy book, the Constitution, are being butchered today. The worry is, we are all being reduced to spectators. Some by design, some by helplessness. Time for a saviour. Maybe, May 23 could throw up light.