The Telegraph
Thursday , November 27 , 2014
 
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For thieves, steal a march

1950s: Ensure food security.

1960s: Express solidarity with Vietnam.

1970s: Release political prisoners.

2014: Denounce police atrocity on students.

November 28, 2014: Save the Saradha thieves.

Calcutta, Nov. 27: Just when Calcutta, the capital of street protests, thought that it had been there, seen that and done that, comes an unparalleled event: a protest to champion the cause of thieves.

On Friday, the city will witness a march against what chief minister Mamata Banerjee has described as “the Centre’s conspiracy to malign the party and the government in the name of the CBI probe”.

The CBI is probing the Saradha scam in which thousands of poor depositors have lost their savings. The inquiry has been ordered by the Supreme Court, the highest court of the land.

What is also indisputable is that several thousand crores of rupees are still missing.

But the march by a section of the so-called culture clan will wind its way from Nandan to the Academy of Fine Arts to protest against the probe.

“This is the first time that our city will see a rally in defence of thieves…. It is going to be a sad day as Calcutta has seen rallies for so many noble causes,” said BJP president Rahul Sinha.

Academician Sunanda Sanyal, 83, who had once associated with Trinamul and walked with Mamata in several rallies before the change of guard in the state, said he was surprised to learn about the rally.

“I have never heard in my life that political leaders are calling apolitical people from the world of art and culture to bring out rallies and safeguard thieves. Such a protest would bring shame to all of us,” said Sanyal.

The involvement of the “culture clan” has also prompted some to wonder whether the rally is being organised also in defence of the right to say “s***” in the name of freedom of expression. The reference was to the swear word Mamata had uttered — and hastily withdrawn — on Saturday.

Singer Indranil Sen, filmmaker Srikant Mohta, Trinamul MP and actor Dev, actor-turned-president of the state’s vocational education council Rudranil Ghosh — all known for their proximity to Mamata — are said to be working the phones to make the rally a success. But a section of Trinamul is learnt to be against the charade.

“There will be no banners of political parties…. There will not be any political slogans. It would be a silent march to protest the manner in which the Centre is trying to malign the Bengal government in the name of a CBI probe,” said Sen, who had unsuccessfully contested the Behrampore seat on a Trinamul ticket.

While addressing a rally near Esplanade on Monday, Mamata had given the clarion call: “I am asking the members of my culture clan to come forward to protest the Centre’s heinous design to malign us in the name of a CBI probe.”

Mamata is not expected to power the rally in person as she is scheduled to be in Asansol on Friday.

“Whenever Didi is in trouble, she prefers hitting the streets to send out a message that people are with her… This is a crisis period and she is using the same strategy,” said a Trinamul insider.

Not just the Opposition parties, even some Trinamul leaders ridiculed the plan. “At this stage, a street protest against the CBI probe would be seen as an attempt to protect those who are being questioned by the central agency. Will it not send a wrong message?” asked the senior Trinamul minister.

A professor of sociology said that for any political party or for a civil liberty group, holding a rally means addressing its core constituency. Besides, rallies are often held by an organiser to measure his or her support base.

“I am not sure what factors would prompt people to take part in this rally,” said the sociologist.

“One reason for their attendance could be they want the probe to be stopped, which would mean they do not have any problems with the Saradha scam. While those benefiting from the fraud may think so, it is difficult to believe that ordinary people can think that way,” said the sociologist.