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Protest Street reads pulse and adds Hirak Raja to ‘gali, gali...’ arsenal

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By Staff Reporter
  • Published 12.09.14

Calcutta, Sept. 11: Uncommon sounds and sights unfolded in the heart of Calcutta today as around 10,000 people drew a parallel between “Saradha-moni” and the despot in Satyajit Ray’s film Hirak Rajar Deshe.

Dori dhorey maro taan, Saradha-moni hobey khaan khaan (Tug at the rope hard, the Saradha lady will fall apart),” shouted a 10,000-strong crowd as a rally of “chit-fund sufferers” wound its way to Esplanade this afternoon.

The protesters, grouped under the umbrella of the Chit Fund Sufferers’ Unity Forum, were playing on the unforgettable lines from Ray’s movie: “Dori dhorey maro taan, Raja hobey khaan khaan (Tug at the rope hard, the king will fall apart).”

The lines are uttered towards the end of the 1980 film featuring Hirak Raja, portrayed by Utpal Dutt, who had been brainwashed by a machine he had commissioned to ensure the obedience of dissidents. In the end, the king himself joins the masses in tearing down his colossal statue at the centre of the capital, telling them how to bring it down.

On Sunday, BJP supporters had dusted off a slogan from the 1980s and tweaked it to shout: “Gali, gali mein shor hai, Mamata Banerjee chor hai (The chorus on street after street is that Mamata Banerjee is a thief).”

The BJP supporters had safety in numbers — 50,000 people who had turned up to hear the party’s national president, Amit Shah.

The “chit fund sufferers” had no such obvious shield —they claimed to be apolitical, although some Opposition faces were seen expressing solidarity with them.

But Left support in contemporary Bengal is more of a liability than an asset, especially when it comes to street savvy, as several CPM supporters are said to be switching sides just to ensure their physical safety.

Against this backdrop, the sole factor that would have emboldened the rallyists today to raise such a slogan in the heart of Calcutta could be a reading of the public pulse.

The stinging slogan came at a time chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s integrity has been put to question by the revelations of the ongoing CBI investigation into the Saradha scandal.

The rally today wrapped up by consigning to flames an effigy representing the Trinamul government.

Slogan-shouting and effigy-burning are the staple of Bengal politics but few have dared to target Mamata the way it was done today. Although her party, the government and her own statements on some sensitive issues had drawn ridicule, questions about her personal probity were never aired in such a stark manner.

A prolonged silence on the chief minister’s part has only added to the sense of siege that has gripped the ruling party and the administration.

At today’s rally, there were leaders from the Left, including Shyamal Chakraborty, Rabin Deb, Sujan Chakraborty and Asim Chatterjee, and the Congress’s Nirbed Roy and Shikha Mitra.

At a CPM state secretariat meeting in Alimuddin Street yesterday, the party had decided to take forward the agitation on the Saradha scandal through a series of programmes and the forum rally today provided a platform.

Although the BJP’s prominent leaders were missing in action today, party sources said leaders like former state president Tathagata Ray had been actively backing the forum for months.

However, the majority of those who attended the rally were apolitical, including many depositors and agents of Saradha, some of whom were once pro-Trinamul.

The turnout, which choked traffic, surprised the police, onlookers and even some of the organisers.

“Frankly, we did not expect such a response to our call. This is only because popular rage surpasses political allegiances when lives have been toyed with,” said Chatterjee, a former Naxalite leader.

Why had so many from remote belts in Howrah, North 24-Parganas, South 24-Parganas, Hooghly, East Midnapore and Nadia taken the trouble of participating in the rally?

Niranjan Banik, a 52-year-old grocer from Contai who lost Rs 40,000 in a Saradha scheme, said: “We have been betrayed by Didi and her party…. Most of us have lost everything. This would not have been possible without the government’s active backing of Saradha.”

Trinamul secretary-general Partha Chatterjee dismissed the gathering as “a group of political leaders rejected by the people… shedding crocodile tears”.