By Roshni Chakrabarty and Arnab Mitra
Kolkata: Twenty three organisations of the West Bengal cultural forum took part in the first protest on intolerance organized in Kolkata, on November 7, in front of the Academy of Fine Arts, also called the Ranu Chhaya Mancha.
Organisations such as the West Bengal Ganatantric Lekhak Shilpi Shongo, Bharatiya Gonoshonskriti Shongo, and eminent personalities including advocate Bharati Mutsuddi, artist Samir Aich, former Lok Sabha speaker Somnath Chatterjee, Prabir Roy, and noted poet Mandakranta Sen took part in the protest rally.
NewsGram asked Samir Aich on his opinion regarding Shah Rukh Khan being termed a national threat. He said that those calling the Bollywood star a terrorist were themselves so. He commended the move undertaken by so many writers and scholars all over India in returning their awards as a protest against the rising intolerance in the country.
“A person is entitled to his own language and form for the protest. If one believes that returning his or her award is the way to protest, then the person has every right to do so! Why is this being questioned in the first place? India is walking towards a grave direction. This is nothing less than what the country saw in 1984,” said Aich.
Prabir Roy, Bengali professor from Jadavpur University, said that the issue was being taken in to a different direction by citing ‘international conspiracy’ and ‘foreign hands’. “This slant that is being given to the intolerant situation is diverting the common people and distracting us from the real issue. Certain groups, certain sections of the society are endorsing an autocratic regime. The way religion is being promoted right now has to stop. Otherwise, the demise of this nation is imminent.”
“I have never seen such a thing in my entire political career,” said former Lok Sabha speaker Somnath Chatterjee. “I am afraid Kolkata might go back to the dark times of the 1945-46 riots.”
“India is a secular country and people of different communities have lived together here for years, even long before the British came to India,” said advocate Bharati Mutsuddi to NewsGram. “In this aspect, India is different from most other countries in the world. The Hindutva ideals being promoted by BJP and RSS which project the country as a Hindu nation, where people are being killed for eating beef, is dangerous to India’s basic essence and might even lead us to civil war.”
On being asked why no such initiative was taken during the dire situation of the 1984 Sikh riots or the Babri Masjid issue, she said that several protests were carried out during the time as well. “A bandh was even called by the then ruling Left front government in Bengal as a protest against the riots embroiling the nation. But the times have changed now, and so has the form of protest,” said the advocate citing the growing awareness of the population due to the advent of social media.
Mutsuddi also spoke out against the political colour given to these protests by the media. “Every protestor is not affiliated to a political party just because they are speaking against an issue and carrying out a protest. The media has taken it on themselves to label protests as a Congress Movement or a BJP one. This is what they have always done!”
She further elaborated that individuals such as historian Irfan Habib and writer Arundhati Roy were not involved in any party activities, but the fact that they were returning their awards to protest against the intolerance issue should show what condition our country was in.
“People need to realise that everyone is entitled to a political thought process, even though they are not necessarily affiliated to any political party,” added Mudshuddi.