Thursday, November 15, 2007

People’s protest against CM’s ‘pretence’

Statesman News Service
KOLKATA, Nov. 14: What seemed like an unending stream of people marched from College Square to Metro Channel in Esplanade, from 1 p.m. today with the end of the People’s March coming in front of Elite cinema hall by around 3.45 p.m. Unofficial estimates put the strength of the rally at more than 50,000. Participants in the silent rally were registering their protest against “state-sponsored terror” in Nandigram.
Banners they held aloft screamed “Bullets to ensure your ballot, Mr CM?”; “Post-modern fascism: Tiananmen Square-Afghanistan-Iraq-Myanmar-Pakistan-Nandigram”; “We are carrying the dead body of democracy”; another showed a picture of a woman screaming and bore the message: “Where is the West Bengal Women’s Commission?” Many wore black badges that said “dhikkar” or “fie”.
People from all walks of life participated in the rally. The last time Mrs Swagata Basu (63), former lecturer of Scottish Church College, participated in a rally was when Mr Siddhartha Shankar Ray was chief minister. “I had to raise my voice against gross injustice in Nandigram. The way the chief minister yesterday justified violence there is most objectionable,” Mrs Basu said.
Ms Jayanti Sen (68) leant on a stick as she marched along with the rally. “We have lost all faith in the chief minister. The way he is talking about ‘them’ and ‘us’ is unbecoming of a head of state. The government has become a mere puppet in the hands of goons.”
Moon Moon Sen and fellow students from St Xavier’s College felt that what the ruling party was supporting was people in Nandigram being killed and raped.
Bystanders lent their support to the people's march ~ some of them had rushed from their homes or offices nearby to watch the rally go by. “What happened in Nandigram didn't even happen during Hindu-Muslim riots before the formation of Pakistan. The people who were killed were simply trying to protect their own homes,” said Mrs Nupur Pal, housewife.
Mrs Padma Majhi, domestic help, said: “The state government had something to gain; that’s why they killed all those people. I fully support the rally and would have taken part had it not been for work.”
As buses and cars waited at a crossing, CTC and CSTC bus conductors discussed among themselves the situation in Nandigram. “This rally was necessary. We don't care that the rally is holding up traffic; in fact we support the cause fully,” said a CTC bus conductor.
Md Umar, fruit seller, said: “People are dying in Nandigram every day. I support this rally fully. The strength of this rally sends one message: we will not vote for a government that does not look after the interest of the people.”
Almost the entire coterie of intellectuals, litterateurs and artistes took part in the rally; with the notable exception of Soumitra Chattopadhyay. Even Mrinal Sen, noted filmmaker and a Leftist intellectual very close to the chief minister, was at the rally. Sandip Ray was unable to participate in the rally because of work.
He said: “It is unfortunate that I was not able to participate in the rally. I very much wanted to and I will be very happy if the result of this rally is positive.”
Mamata Shankar, Joy Goswami, Kaushik Sen (who was compeer of the programme held at Metro Channel where a massive crowd congregated after the march), Anjan Dutt, Bibhas Chakraborty, Shaoli Mitra and many others took part in the rally.
“We never expected such a large turnout. In fact, we were very tense when some intellectuals announced that they would not participate in the rally if certain political parties took part in it. I must thank the parties, especially the Trinamul Congress and Congress, for being sporting and staying away from the rally,” Kaushik Sen said.
Sen added that Mrinal Sen’s presence in the rally was most encouraging. “He called me around 11.45 a.m. today to say that he felt our cause was justified. Although he said he did not agree with us on all points, he said he wanted to join us.”