It was Woodstock without music. And the sound of silence was deafening enough to shake the foundations of Writers’ Buildings and Alimuddin Street.
As the river of humanity flowed through the city from College Square, thousands joined spontaneously on the way to Esplanade. On Wednesday, Kolkata came to a standstill.
People in large numbers overshadowed the Who’s Who of the Bengali intelligentsia with their spontaneity. Students, lawyers, corporate executives, teachers and others joined hands with actors, television stars, filmmakers, authors, poets and intellectuals in condemning the forcible recapture and the killings at Nandigram by CPM cadres.
At the head of the mammoth procession was filmmaker Mrinal Sen, flanked by filmmakers Gautam Ghosh and Kaushik Ganguly, along with singer-filmmaker-actor Anjan Datta. Although Sen joined in the last leg of the procession, filmmakers Aparna Sen and Rituparno Ghosh, artists Jogen Chowdhury, Suvaprasanna and Sanatan Dinda, theatre personalities Bibhas Chakraborty, Saonli Mitra and Kaushik Sen, poet Joy Goswami, author Sirshendu Mukherjee, singer Purnadas Baul, actors Parambrata, Bidipta Chakraborty and Debolina Dutt, among many others, walked all the way.
And at every step, hundreds of people joined in to match pace, adding steam to the anger, anguish and despair that have accumulated with news of the killings trickling in from Nandigram.
Although activists of various political parties opposed to the CPM were also present at the march, none of them brandished party standards or screamed slogans, in keeping with the spirit of silence.
Most wore black badges that simply said dhikkar or shame, in an attempt to embarrass Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee. If one poster had a picture of Karl Marx and carried the caption “Not In My Name”, another quoted ‘Raja Dhik’ from Satyajit Ray’s Hirak Rajar Deshey, in reference to Bhattacharjee.
Till 5pm, the gathering was estimated to be around 60,000 people, while the tail of the procession still remained around 3km away.
An octogenarian was heard saying, “I have never seen such a rally, where nobody has been forced to come. Yet millions gathered to register their protest.”