Disaster Strikes Kolkata.
I had arrived only a day earlier in Kolkata…January 6, 2011. The next day my friend Arijit Dutta, a film exhibitor invited me to a premiere of a Bengali film “Bedeni”. I arrived a little early to catch up with my friend. As we started chatting, we were interrupted by one of his employees who shouted “Gooli Choleche” (there was firing). My friend immediately switched on the TV and there it was….The all too familiar caption “Breaking News.”
Eight people had been shot dead in Lalgarh in cold blood. Lalgarh literally mean the “Red Bastion” which infers to the bastion of Marxists. In this case as we came to know later, that CPI (M) cadres had opened fire on a crowd who had assembled outside the local leader’s house protesting against demands made by Marxist armed cadre that they volunteer for night patrols and arms training, The fallout was a complete massacre as the cadres allegedly fired indiscriminately into the crowd killing eight villagers including one woman.
The Left front coalition which has ruled West Bengal for more than 4 decades was pushed to the corner. It is no secret that this coalition’s days are numbered. The Left front’s arch rival and challenger Mamta Banerjee of the Trinamool Congress and the present Railways Minister is rapidly gaining ground and in all probability will be the next Chief Minister of West Bengal. It is not that she is any better. Some are skeptical of her administrative capabilities and are afraid that more violence will follow if she is elected. Let us just say she is the “best of the worst.”
In this case, Banerjee showed immense political maturity in not calling a “bandh”. Instead she decided to go straight to Lalgarh to comfort the bereaved families and then led a silent March.
If Banerjee showed maturity, the media did not. Impromptu panel discussions were arranged which saw one political leader shouting at another, while the moderator superbly played “Narad” (mischief maker.
There is a sense of uneasy calm in Kolkata now..the question is how long will it last and at what cost to my fellow Kolkattans.
Next: Is Kolkata progressing