As Ruchir Joshi says, thirty four weeks was all it took. The arrest of Ambikesh Mohapatra, Professor of Chemistry at Jadavpur University, allegedly for distributing this cartoon, is the latest piece of absurdity by the Trinamool government. Before you think that Mamata showed astute acumen and figured out she was being mocked, see this. As a long time resident in a cooperative housing project, I can vouch for the fact that society politics makes US presidential elections look like teddy bears’ tea parties. I am not surprised that the ‘aggrieved’ parties (read cheaters, embezzlers and petty crooks) decided to ‘take action’ against Mohapatra and his neighbour Subrata Sengupta. Recently an almost identical case happened at my complex and the whistleblowers were victimised in exactly the same way, minus the arrests. The only difference in our case was the absence of Mamata’s involvement.
Clearly the corrupt contractors who tried to remove the ‘thorn’ that Prof. Mohapatra had become, figured that Didi was their trump card, and that she could be appealed to to grant their wishes like her neighbour and role model, Ma Kali of Kalighat. Like a jagroto debota, she obliged. The students and faculty of Jadavpur University were understandably angry, and demonstrated through Friday, with scenes of celebration greeting the news that Prof. Mohapatra was out on bail on Friday afternoon. However, so were his assailants.
If that were not creepy and disturbing enough, the next morning I receive an SMS on both my cell numbers from LM-WBGOVT saying in all caps, ‘SHUBHO NABABARSHE APNADER SAKALKE JANAI AAMAR ANTARIK PRITI-O-SUBHECCHA. SABAI BHALO THAKUN, SUSHTHA THAKUN. ASUN SABAI MILE NATUN BANGLA GORE TULI -MAMATAA’. This translates roughly as ‘On the auspicious occasion of the Bengali New Year I send you my heartfelt love and best wishes. May you all remain happy and healthy. Come, let us build a new Bengal together. Mamata.’
Several questions arise. One, how did Mamata get my number, including the one I never use? Two, does ‘may you all remain happy and healthy’ mean ‘if necessary, the opposite can be arranged.’ I always get nervous when governments sidle up and say, ‘Everything okay? Kids, car, house, job, all fine? No worries? Taxes? Nightmares? Loose talk? Road dividers? Street lighting? Competitors of the wrong colour? Late nights on Park Street? Auditors?’ Why should they care, and what would it cost if they ‘did something’ about it?
So what is this new Bengal Didi wants to build? Does it involve cartoons, or creepy text messages? Transferred police officers or five streetlights per square foot? The other political parties have kept a low profile so far, waiting for Didi to implode under the weight of her own ego. I don’t think they’ll have to wait long.
Isn’t it odd how tyrants always start out being funny? All bullies do, I guess. Then they want to wipe the grins off people’s faces. Thus the pogroms begin. But on a more serious note, perhaps this is indicative of hte fact that DID doesn’t really care about the press, the intelligentsia or the ‘sushil samaj’ (civil society) that helped bring her to power. Like the Left before her, she wants to create exclusive rural pockets of power which she will protect as rotten boroughs. Kolkata is just a showpiece to her. So she will spend money on prettying it up, but not on making Park Street safe for women, because the women who go to Park Street don’t belong in her universe. At the most, they impinge on her consciousness as ‘tools’ in the hands of her enemies to make her look bad. Because that is what Tapashi Mallick was to her: a tool. When the rape cases started pouring out, she seemed unsurprised. Her response was throwaway and rehearsed: got up cases! Of course, why else would a woman be raped in NATUN BANGLA?