It has been seven years since I first visited Bengal. I took the subjects of Bengal with utmost vigor and decided to travel—even undermining my end semester examinations that were around the corner. Halfway through my itinerary, the feeling of Bengal stormed my very self, be it for their rustic boulevards, anachronistic buildings, the inimitable cabin culture that offers a web of culinary findings, and the bucolic brace that many other metropolitan cities had no claim to.
Years after my visit, it came back to me—the longing to visit Bengal again. After careful deliberation, we zeroed the date to April 2020, only to be shattered by the pandemic that put the globe on a standstill.
Assessing the present scenario, though I find many abhorrent cases happening around the world amid the pandemic. Bengal has had its share too, but for odd reasons. Even if complying with the rhetoric of Trump that “One day the virus will disappear completely”, I would seriously go for a second thought about visiting Bengal, or probably will think about how did I get here.
Violence is no newfound fame for Bengal. Even going by the standards of its violent political melee throughout the years, the current spree of affairs goes unprecedented.
Debendra Nath Roy, aged 59, was an elected representative from the Uttar Dinajpur Assembly Constituency. His body was found hanging in front of a closed tea shop with his hands tied. For many who understand Bengal’s politics, his ultimate fate was predestined. Cops found out a suspicious suicide note mentioning two people. As per his family, a group of young men had come to escort Roy on their motorcycles on the night before to an unknown location. The opposition is too dangerous a position to own in Bengal.
Anirban Chattopadhyay, a highly revered editor of a 98-year-old daily ABP, resigned post a bitter feud with the CM of West Bengal. For an organization that practiced radical transparency, Anirban accused the Mamata Banerjee government of threatening the media freedom in West Bengal. The government’s checkmate marshaled against the media powerhouse was for their negative coverage of the government’s efforts to handle both the coronavirus and cyclone Amphan.
Sheikh Safiqul Islam, a journalist in West Bengal who runs a web news channel named Arambagh TV, was arrested along with his wife and another journalist by the West Bengal police on June 29, after his web channel exposed the scorned connect of the clubs that received grants from the government. It also invited a set of menacing legal threats. It was a warning.
Moreover, the West Bengal CM tweeted: “voices are being muzzled’ and ‘people unable to speak due to reign of fear. Media is not spared.” It was in the backdrop of the murder of a Ghaziabad-based journalist in UP. Karmic Irony!
For all this while, the national media houses which fancies themselves as truth-tellers, who relish flouting the conventions of good taste and privilege, feigned obliviousness. A lack of humdrum. The drag on the reputable work that the media covets should be connected to the assembly elections of 2021. It reveals the reality beneath.
The latest into the list, a tribal woman from Basirhat subdivision of West Bengal was dragged from her house and physically assaulted, then abandoned beside a pond. The incident was put into light by a BJP observer from the state through his social media account.
The BJP leader who brought up the issue weighed sarcasm by tweeting ‘These crimes against the woman in this State goes to show that the Mamata government has no ‘Mamta”.
The celebutante politicians within the Bengal circle took no notice of the macabre happening within their footholds. Basirhat MP from the state also an ‘entertainer’ preoccupied with her social media status gave no concern even after receiving flak from the public for not responding to people from her consistency who were protesting against the paucity of food and supplies amidst pandemic. She found time to wage war against the central government for banning the social media platform Tik Tok, as she remarked it as an ‘eyewash’ similar to demonetization. Misplaced priorities!
The political wrongdoings in the state purported to the unprecedented ascension of saffron politics within the terrain of Bengal. Initially, the TMC chided away when commenting about the rise of Hindutva politics as a mere political repartee and framed it as outlandishly spurious. It took them 2019 to witness the massive change that happened within the demographics of Bengal bastion. BJPs’ performance in 2019 should not be termed as a victory. It is a statement. Much to TMCs discomfiture.
One does not need any morse code to decipher the intentions of the current Bengal regime. You pour scorn against the luminaries; you scurry under shelter. This modus operandi in Bengal is not showing any sign of dissipating anytime soon. A penchant for radical contrarianism is what a democracy accords for. The only trace of democracy in Bengal lies with the resolute minds of people showing the confidence that they can transform and disrupt anything. Carte Blanche!
As what reverberated from the high altitudes of Galwan weeks before, ‘the age of expansionism is over’ is not just reserved for our cantankerous neighbors, even a ‘City of joy’ can pay heed to it.