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A CHRISTENING IN BLOOD 

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BY VICTOR BANERJEE   |   Published 01.01.01, 12:00 AM

Seldom am I at a loss for words. The reaction of our chief minister and the order to kill that he has given to the police are the most despicable examples of state-sponsored barbarism that I have ever heard of. The public's support as reported in the press is even more devastating. Mulayam Singh Yadav's order to kill the young fools who had climbed the Babri Masjid was shown on Newstrack and horrified everyone. This was several weeks before the demolition. Watching unarmed teenagers waving saffron flags euphorically from the top of the masjid being shot like sitting ducks and their lifeless bodies tumbling to the ground, said nothing for a civilization that I am tired of being called ancient and invulnerable. The degeneration and politically motivated breakdown of our cultural heritage of peace, understanding and philosophical liberality stares us in the face every day of our lives. Today, most sadly, in Bengal. Did no one see the mangled and bloodied bodies and corpses of young boys being dragged off the street while bleeding to death from police firings in Delhi during the Mandal commission riots? Raja V.P. Singh was fiddling, as Nero never did in Rome, from his calloused and cold chair in the prime minister's residence. My dear Mr Bhattacharjee, with all undue respect, being elected to office means you have been selected by us, as one of us, to govern. It gives you no right to take our children's lives. Just because you were embarrassed by a few murders in your own backyard, you chose to criticize and tear apart the very machinery, our police force, of which you were the head for almost a decade on your gaddi in the Writers' Buildings. But then your eyes were focussed on grabbing a seat you had coveted for years and which at times seemed to be slipping out of your grasp. Now, finally ensconced as chief minister, is this how the nephew of Sukanta wishes to be remembered? As a killer of misdirected youth who wander aimlessly and indulge in crime because of the stupid ideologies you have brainwashed them with and because they, after a quarter of a century of sloganeering and destroying our socio-economic fabric, haven't the means to get a job or look after their families? A shame on you, sir. You boast of a state, where you are the long seated home minister, where the law and order is better than anywhere else in India. Can you name a state, my dear sir, where more young children are mutilated, killed or hacked to death because of simple political differences that your chaps have turned into a form of religious blasphemy and a jehad against detractors? It is you, sir, and your party, along with the youth Congress of yesteryear who began an era of political hooliganism and mindless violence. I am ashamed to admit that even Miss Mamata Banerjee, the new hope for a revival in Bengal, has resorted to fighting violence with violence. It might have taken her another term before she garnered the following she has if she had reintroduced the intellectualism and non-violence that we bheto-bangalis prefer; but she has succumbed to the temptation of fighting back at the cost of innocent lives: young dreamers of a better tomorrow who have died for stupid partisan politics. Lastly, Mr Dinesh Vajpai has done more than any other commissioner to bring the police force closer to the community. His blood donation programme organized by several thanas in the city and his enormously successful education programme, 'Disha', for street children, are things that make him deserving of the highest national civil commendations that the state can recommend. He has set an example that officers throughout the country will one day emulate. You are now asking this outstanding officer to ask his people to turn their guns on civilians with total disregard to the rules of law and the fundamental rights guaranteed in our Constitution. Do you now want him to run orphanages and old-age homes as well? No one is above the law, Mr Chief Mi- nister, sir, and we depend upon our leaders to uphold it no matter what the odds. We expend tons of energy demonstrating in the streets demanding the resignation of ministers when we know that such attempts are nothing but political exercises that display an opposition's muscle and hired crowds come to the ci- ty in pirated buses to visit the jadu ghar, bhiktoria and joo and then get run over by a minibus operated by party sympathizers. Today, sir, I can demand your resignation as someone unfit to rule a civilized society that does not condone killing as a means of achieving any end. Two wrongs will never make a right. It is time we woke up and made amends for the past in a civilized democratic and humane way. We must usher in non-violence by re-educating our youth and instilling the right social values that are not based on political beliefs or leanings and nothing else. You want to get constructive, Mr Chief Minister? Here are a few suggestions. One. Catch the hoodlums in your party and in other parties. Lock them up and do not bail them out through the back door. You have an election coming up. For the first time, let us see a party win a majority without resorting to threats and violence. It will do us all proud. Two. Get political parties out of colleges and universities. Let college unions be non-partisan and let students simply strive to improve their institutions, be proud of them and learn to live in fun and harmony with their peers. Three. Bring back the respect our children had for teachers by employing good people and stop hiring or firing teachers on the basis of their political persuasion. Four. Teach children right from school level to have respect for public property and public officials. Let us stop burning buses, trams and destroying everything around us every time we have a grievance to air. Let us stop hurling stones at the police and intimidating district officials with political backing. Five. Enliven our sports fields with the noble spirit of sportsmanship and encourage our children to return to athletics, swimming, playing football and hockey instead of merely pursuing a glamorous future in cricket. Bengal was famous for its Maidan clubs until violence spread into the playing fields as well. Let us see more ministers come out in support of their clubs, like ordinary citizens. Six. Communism does not mean taking to the streets. It means getting out of your ivory towers at the Writers' Buildings and mingling with the people you represent, without police protection and a convoy of useless lackeys. You all must come across as ordinary as all of us: supporters of Mohun Bagan, East Bengal, Mohammedan Sporting or Bhratri Sangha. Seven. Create opportunities for our senior citizens so they can have easier and cheaper access to health plans and medical facilities. Give them half-priced entry to Nandan and state-sponsored shows. Don't be put off by the misuse of such facilities. Once you bestow trust on the people, they will quickly learn not to betray it. Eight. Attach an ambulance car to every suburban and local train (at state cost) so the sick can be transported quickly from the districts. Arrange for an infrastructure to deal with such emergencies at the railway stations. Too many die on grid-locked roads, trying to get to Calcutta hospitals, because the state has not created adequate medical facilities anywhere else. Nine. Give senior citizens a free ride on the metro during off-peak hours. They helped us build this city, state and country and deserve a tangible demonstration of our respect, love and affection. Ten. Aid the police to become part of the community so we can learn to trust them and respect them. If political parties hurl insults at the police and transfer them whenever it suits their political needs, what do you expect ordinary citizens to think? What is more, what good is it for a police officer to be upright and honest if politicians call the shots and defy the rules? Mr Chief Minister, I have no axe to grind except that I am a proud Bengali whose pride has taken more bashing than it can any longer stomach. We are living in an IT age when you can neither curb intellectual enterprise nor declare strikes and go-slows on Pentium processors. No one, and no political party, shall be able to retard the inevitable progress that I see in Bengal's near future. Let us work to make our citizens proud children of Tagore, Vivekananda, Ramkrishna, Teresa and that great revolutionary, Aurobindo. It was we who created the slogan 'Bande Mataram' - anything else aar cholbe na! Let the lines from Sukanta that are plastered in hoardings around the city be remembered and practised so we can leave our children a legacy and a country that they too can be proud of. Let not the re-christening of Calcutta into Kolkata, that your party pioneered, be done with the blood of our youth.    


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