Call it Machiavellian or a masterstroke or what you will, but the Mamata Banerjee government has zeroed in on Indira Bhavan in Salt Lake, where former chief minister Jyoti Basu lived for more than two decades, to set up the offices of four judicial enquiry commissions.
Three of them have the mandate to probe “mass murders” and “human rights violations” during the Left regime.
“We did not have any idea that something like this was being planned…. The building was named in a particular historical context and the state’s longest serving chief minister stayed there till his death. Is it really necessary to tamper with the Bhavan?” asked leader of the Opposition Surya Kanta Mishra.
“The decision to use the urban development department’s guest house for the commissions to probe misdeeds by the Left is a masterstroke to embarrass the CPM,” crowed an official in the state secretariat.
Mamata has announced 11 enquiry commissions since she took charge in May 2011. While six of them have started work in offices provided by the government, four others — Cossipore, Hool, Bijan Setu and Hidco — could not start operating for want of space.
Till some officials of the urban development department stumbled upon the suitability of the Block DE address in Sector I of Salt Lake.
[The 11th, a commission on firing in Tehatta, was announced on Thursday. ]
Mamata had announced the setting up of these four commissions several months ago and even the gazette notifications were done by July. The decision to house them at the most important address in Bengal till Basu passed away on January 17, 2010, was announced only after a clearance from the CM, sources said.
Two of the commissions — Hool and Bijan Setu — are probing “mass murders” and “human rights violations” committed during Basu’s tenure as chief minister.
Though the Hidco commission will probe into allotment of plots and flats at Rajarhat-New Town during the tenure of Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, the Basu connection cannot be overlooked as Goutam Deb, a loyalist, helmed the process as housing minister. Besides, the Rajarhat township was one of Basu’s dream projects.
Though officials refer to the Salt Lake address as Indira Bhavan, government documents call it a guesthouse under the urban development department, which will be used from mid-December as the courtrooms of four commissions.
“The renovation work, necessary for that purpose, is on,” said urban development secretary Debashis Sen.
The bungalow was named after Indira Gandhi after she stayed in the house during her visit to attend an All India Congress Committee session in 1972. Jyoti Basu moved into the address in 1987. Left Front had wanted to set up a museum there after Basu’s death, but Mamata, this January, decided to rename the building Nazrul Tirtha and set up a museum and academy on the poet.
After facing sharp resistance from Congress leaders — who wanted a museum in the name of Indira Gandhi at the address — Mamata dropped the idea and the building was turned into a guest house.
“We want it to retain the name of Indira Bhavan and be a museum-cum-research centre. We will continue our protests,” said Anupam Ghosh from the Congress’s North 24-Parganas committee.