Sir — Unable to answer pointed questions about her autocratic and undemocratic style of functioning, the chief minister, Mamata Banerjee, stormed out of the sets of an interactive television show that had students of the city’s universities as participants (“Sorry Ma’am, but I am not a Maoist”, May 20). This has demonstrated her arrogance, immaturity, her lack of sobriety and, above all, her intolerance towards any form of dissent. All these attributes are the hallmarks of a paranoid leader. Does she believe that Maoists and the cadre of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) — even if we were to assume that her allegation against the students was true — have forfeited their rights as citizens to hold the chief minister accountable? Some of Banerjee’s actions have been undemocratic and objectionable. She alleged that the Park Street rape case had been fabricated even before the conclusion of the investigation. She was proved wrong by a senior woman police officer who was promptly removed from her post. It is time people voiced their criticisms of her misrule more stringently.
S.K. Choudhury, Bangalore
Sir — Mamata Banerjee lost her cool and stormed out of a television show when a student asked her about the arrest of a professor for forwarding a cartoon. This incident reminded me of the Gujarat chief minister, Narendra Modi, walking out of CNN-IBN’s “Devil’s Advocate” in 2007 on being questioned by Karan Thapar about the post-Godhra carnage. Like Modi, Didi has a problem — she is not ready to answer controversial questions and does not think that she is answerable to anyone. Is it not Didi’s duty as the chief minister to give answers politely? Or can she not handle the truth? Moreover, if an individual belongs to any political party other than the Trinamul Congress, does he or she not have the right to raise questions about governance? Is this enough to label him or her a Maoist? Banerjee projects the image of a dynamic leader, who is sympathetic to the common man. But that does not mean that people must accept her comments about the Park Street rape episode or her behaviour during the cartoon row. She is likely to face more such questions. If she is unwilling to comment on a matter, she is free to avoid it, but with dignity.
Bidyut Kumar Chatterjee, Faridabad
Sir — The ailing Julie Bibi, a resident of a Malda village on the Bangladesh side of the border but on Indian territory, died after Border Security Force personnel allegedly refused to open the gate at night (“BSF denies entry, lady dies”, May 15). The BSF will obviously declare that it was not at fault. A thorough investigation is needed to find out the truth. If the personnel at the border are found guilty, they should be given exemplary punishment. If it is discovered that the opening of the gate was delayed due to cumbersome formalities, then steps should be taken to simplify and quicken the process.
It is high time the plight of our fellow-citizens beyond the border fence was brought to an end. They are denied free movement, with the border gates remaining closed for a major part of the day. Consequently, school-going children studying on the ‘mainland’ have to wait without food till evening so that they can return home. Many villagers have lost their lives or have been deprived of urgent medical attention because of the same reason. If a homebound person cannot reach the gate before 6pm, he or she must spend the whole night outside the gate. Hardly any developmental work gets done in these ‘locked-up’ areas. Parents do not allow children to get married to the residents of these areas. Even if a poor farmer wants to sell land that lies outside the fence, no ‘mainlander’ will be willing to purchase his plots. Moreover, since these areas lie unprotected, miscreants take advantage of the villagers’ helplessness and steal their paddy and cattle.
When will Indians learn that neither symbols — the national anthem or multiplexes — nor achievements — Pokhran or the world cup win — represent the whole of India? It is the common man who represents the real India. Without achieving welfare for the masses, the country can never morally afford to call itself ‘modern’ or ‘civilized’.
It is a matter of shame that at a time when scores of Indians continue to live as aliens on their own land, the urban elite and the political fraternity continue to blow the trumpet of ‘progress’.
Kajal Chatterjee, Sodepur