Irony is the chosen mode of history, even when it decides to move in cycles. It is possible, again, to reiterate the old saying, what Bengal thinks today, India thinks tomorrow — but not without irony. Bandhs and rallies now appear to be the most popular forms of political protest — euphemism for disruption — all over India. Condemning Ms Mamata Banerjee and her Trinamool Congress for repeatedly throwing Calcutta into disorder or bringing parts of West Bengal to a standstill has begun to look patently unfair. The charges against Ms Uma Bharti and her dramatically voluble surrender have activated the same bandh bug in the Bharatiya Janata Party. The party leadership called for bandhs in Madhya Pradesh and Congress-ruled Karnataka on August 26, and an extended programme of massive rallies and dharnas has been planned as protest against what is being seen as political one-upmanship by the United Progressive Alliance headed by the Congress.
In this context, the anti-war rally scheduled for September 1 in Calcutta by the Left Front becomes part of an accepted mode of making a statement. It is a pity that the rally will inevitably violate two conditions laid down by the state government. Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s government had said that rallies should not be held on weekdays, and that processions should move only on one side of the road, leaving the other open for traffic, so as to minimize disruption. The chairman of the Left Front, Mr Biman Bose, has expressed helplessness. September 1 is traditionally the day of the anti-war rally — that is quite unchangeable. And since at least one lakh people are expected to join the rally, the roads will be chock-full. Open passage is not an option. Ms Banerjee, who had scheduled her law-violation protest for that day, has courteously withdrawn, deciding to wait to put her show on the road on September 6. For once, there will be no one to object to another day of frustrated movement in the city.
That is, no one of note. For people who want to lead normal, productive lives, here or in Karnataka or Madhya Pradesh, are of no consequence to politicians and their followers. The entire debate over the violation of rights caused by bandhs and obstructive rallies, in which the courts took a very clear and stern stand, has come to nothing. There is no question of citizens’ rights in this country, those are fancy ideas that look nice in decorative discussions. Nor is there any question of responsibility among political leaders, whether in government or outside it. How the people feel, what they need or want, what happens to the economy in the one day of disruption, are not their headache. Rather, they are perfectly happy throwing civic life into total disorder to win battles and make points that cannot be made within the parliament.