Guest Post by Benjamin Zachariah
It was not so long ago that Sugata Bose, now Lok Sabha Member for Jadavpur, made his way back from Harvard to serve his people. West Bengal had voted for ‘poriborton’, ‘change’, and as everybody assumed that Bengalis loved their fellow-men who had been anointed abroad, Sugata Bose returned to conquer the heights of Bengali higher education. The plan was to use a brand name within a brand name to shore up another brand name : Harvard, Netaji, Presidency. The Trinamul Congress, Bose was confident, would not interfere with his plans. Or so he said in public; his mother, Krishna Bose, had been the Trinamul Congress’s Presidential candidate, and long regarded as the force behind the attempted bhadramahilafication of Didi, apparently a prerequisite for political acceptability in West Bengal (otherwise known as Waste Bengal or Poschimbongobongo). It was therefore no surprise that his plans did not diverge from the plans of the TMC, although ‘internal differences’ were often heard of. It was also no surprise that, as the attempts to turn Presidency ‘University’ into the font of moral and intellectual legitimation for the TMC faltered, Bose took the mantle of his great-uncle upon himself and stood as a candidate for the TMC in the Lok Sabha elections, from the Jadavpur constituency. There was not even the pretence that Sugata Bose stood on his own credentials: his campaign marches were led by a child in Netaji uniform and Netaji glasses, prompting a complaint to the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights.
Now, in the Jadavpur constituency, duly won by Netaji’s heir, and not by a hair’s breadth, developments at Jadavpur University are cause for concern.
A woman was molested by self-proclaimed moral police during a ‘cultural’ event, her male companion beaten up. Some of the concerned molesters were quite open about admitting their actions, claiming in true Bengali heroic fashion ‘besh korechi’ (‘we did good’ is a near translation). The Vice-Chancellor, a Trinamul plant, has not been forthcoming about providing any sort of redress, preferring to see everything, as his Didi might have done, as a giant conspiracy against him. Meanwhile, two members of a three-person ‘enquiry committee’ turned up unannounced and without identifying themselves at the woman’s house and made the standard remarks about her moral character, clothes and consumption of alcohol. Matters escalated a few days later when a student demonstration was broken up by a combination of TMC goondas and policemen, including, rather dramatically, the Rapid Action Force usually called upon for more serious matters than students armed with mobile phones and mouth organs (and in one notable incident, a violin held with deadly intent). The assault squad of combined policemen and TMC hoodlums managed, under cover of darkness (someone turned off the lights), to grope as many women as possible, tearing off their clothes, and kicking, beating and trampling students. Hospitalisations and arrests followed.
Where is the Honourable Member for Jadavpur, Sugata ‘Netaji III’ Bose, MP, now? Is he busy playing with his Netaji? Or does everyone accept that he is ‘dudubhatu’ and so no one wants to ask him any questions? (‘Dudubhatu’ is a situation in a children’s game when a child who is too young to understand is allowed to play, and his presence is tolerated but not taken seriously because he knows not what he is doing.)
Is this man a player or a puppet? We can only guess: because Netaji’s heir is about as visible in his own constituency as the hairs on his head. A serious MP would have had something to say about or to his constituents at this moment of crisis and escalation of conflict. But a man whose campaign was led by a notorious criminal, standing for a party with a proven record of extreme violence (student leaders from opposition parties are routinely murdered, women raped, their bodies dismembered and strewn on railway tracks) cannot seriously claim at the same time to be a respectable intellectual. It is to be seen what Harvard University has to say about its dishonourable professor; but his constituency might have something to say already.
The TMC’s goals allegedly include “the eradication of Marxist and Maoist elements from the Jadavpur University campus”. Eradication? Can we not recognise the language of fascism here? What sort of Thought Police can establish the political orientation of an individual during a melee and in the absence of lights? How does the groping of women and the tearing of their clothes contribute to this goal?
A statement by the murkhyamantri‘s English-language goon, followed by Rabindrasangeet sung by Netaji III, should surely be the minimum one can expect in this situation.
Benjamin ‘Ben’ Zachariah is not now, nor has he ever been, a member of the Communist Party, Marxist, Leninist or Maoist; having once taught at Presidency University, Kolkata, Zachariah is now, honorably ‘bohiragoto’, an outsider.