The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Dark ages here again, courtesy bandhs Trinamul leaders also in agony

Calcutta, Dec. 18: Six years of image-building to dispel nearly four decades of darkness lies almost in ruins with four bandhs in four disastrous weeks of December.

By announcing a 48-hour bandh over December 21-22, Mamata Banerjee drove Bengal to the brink of the dark ages in a month that is otherwise a time of joy.

Never in the history of Bengal have there been four bandhs, over five days.

When Mamata called the 48-hour bandh today — in protest against the tragic murder of a young girl in Singur — she sounded a shade apologetic but blamed the government.

“We do not believe in calling bandhs frequently. But today’s ghastly incident in Singur forced us to call a 48-hour Bangla bandh. Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has compelled us to call the bandh. I’m offering my apology to the people for the inconvenience.”

She spared IT, as is the fashion now.

Mamata demanded a CBI inquiry into the death of Tapasi Malik.

She said: “CPM cadre, masquerading as guards, and the police are involved in the brutal torture and murder of Tapasi. She was gagged, raped and then burnt alive for being an activist of the Krishi Jomi Banchao Committee.”

Even some Trinamul leaders were furious over her decision. “We lost the opportunity to evoke public sympathy and outrage over the girl’s murder. The prolonged bandh, however effective, will further alienate us from the people,” fumed a senior Trinamul MLA who said party veterans were not consulted.

“Our movement has almost been hijacked by the Naxalites who now surround her,” said another leader.

Even the SUCI, which had called a bandh earlier this month, fought shy of supporting Mamata. “We condemn the barbaric gangrape and murder of the young girl. But another bandh would not be acceptable to the people,” said state secretary Prabhash Ghosh.

Some Trinamul leaders said Mamata was running out of options as her agitation against land acquisition in Singur “does not seem to be going anywhere”.

“After a fortnight of fasting, she has failed to extract any concession from the government,” a Trinamul MP said.

Now, by citing the murder to call a bandh, she has precipitated another crisis that will come and go, with the government trying to make sure there’s as little disruption as possible, without her getting anywhere.

Observers are baffled by Mamata’s moves, wondering what she’s achieving other than causing a lot of trouble to the administration and the people.

Where she may be achieving success, however, is in giving Bengal a bad name all over, undoing the work Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s government has been doing to revive industrial interest in the state.

Although the Tatas have so far been steadfast in their determination to set up the car factory in Bengal, each time there’s trouble, they’ll have doubts. That may be a bigger worry for the chief minister rather than what to do with Mamata.

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