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Mamata’s Eccentricities Personified

Thursday August 16, 2012 06:39:39 PM, Syed Ali Mujtaba,

The mercurial West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is once again in spotlight for her eccentricities, when she ordered the arrest of a man who asked her a question of farmer’s welfare in her public meeting.

Ms Banerjee addressed a public meeting at Belpahari in the once Maoist-dominated district of West Midnapore. After her speech, she asked the public, as she often does, if they had any questions for her.

That's when Shiladitya Chowdhury, a farmer in his 40s, said, "What are you doing for farmers? Farmers are dying because they have no money. Empty promises are not enough."

Surprised by the farmer's question, Ms Banerjee reacted angrily and said the man must be a Maoist. The police immediately nabbed Chowdhry who was let off after initial questioning. Later Chowdhry was arrested again from his home on charges of trying to disrupt the Chief Minister's meeting.

Mamata Banerjee’s dictatorial rule has attracted ire from several quarters. The Press Council of India chief Markendey Katju has described West Bengal Chief Minister as intolerant and whimsical.

Katju said the arrest of Siladitya Chowdhury, amounted to "blatant misuse" of state machinery and "flagrant violation" of constitutional and human rights.

Justice Katju criticized Mamata Banerjee’s action saying, “it was most undemocratic to say the least." He went on to add that the Trinamool Congress chief is totally undeserving to be a political leader in a democratic country like India since she has no respect for constitutional and civil rights of citizens and is totally dictatorial, intolerant, and whimsical in her behavior."

The former Supreme Court judge cautioned the administrative and police authorities against taking "illegal orders", warning that they could suffer the same fate as Nazi criminals did for acting on Hitler's directions.

"At the Nuremburg Trials the Nazi war criminals took the plea that orders were orders and they were only carrying out the orders of Hitler, their superior, but this plea was rejected and they were hanged. The West Bengal officials should take a lesson from the Nuremburg verdict if they do not wish to suffer a similar fate," he said.

Jistice Katju said the Chief Minister has behaved in a high handed and dictatorial manner earlier too. “On May 19, she had branded a college student Taniya Bharadwaj during a TV programme as a Maoist, merely because she questioned about what she was doing about the security of women after the Park Street rape of an Anglo-Indian woman. She had also got one Jadavpur University Professor arrested for drawing a cartoon of her”, Katju said.

Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Nilotpal Basu took potshots at the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) over the farmer's arrest. “There is very little difference today between intolerance and authoritarianism,” said Nilotpal Basu who described the step as reflective of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's dictatorial attitude.

The BJP also slammed Ms Banerjee for her action. The party said politicians should learn to answer such questions at public meetings.

The farmers in West Bengal like elsewhere in the country are a pathetic lot. They at the receiving end especially the marginal farmers because input costs have gone up for agricultural production and they do not get the price of the agricultural products, which they produce. The draught situation in the country has further aggravated their problems.

In such backdrop the farmer’s questions to its elected representative about solving their problem was not undemocratic. On the contrary his arrest doing so was an undemocratic act.

Is Mamata Banerjee driving the peasants of West Bengal to situation in late sixties, when the serious agrarian crisis was silenced by the then Congress regime, through the barrel of the gun? It was that fodder that gave gist to the CPI (M) to rule West Bengal for 35 years.

The arbitrary arrest of the farmer is preparing similar situation. The euphoria on which Mamata Banrjee rode to power is fast getting eroded. People are coming to terms with Trinamool Chief’s eccentricities. If similar highhandedness continues to rule the roost, it’s almost certain that West Bengal is again going into the laps of the opposition for an uncertain period of time.


Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at





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