Tuesday July 16, 2019
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Kolkata: A forlorned treasure trove



By Sreyashi Mazumdar

“While crooning away to Anjan Dutta’s ‘Ranjana aami ashbona‘ and paging through the crumpled pages of an old newspaper, I ran into the scribbler’s corner. Since I was 4, I used to see my Dadu scribbling some odd graphics and letters on the extreme right-hand side corner- or the scribbler’s corner as I used to denote it- of the newspaper…I was too young and naive to look over those amorphous paragraphs which failed to unveil any hidden meaning before me. It was after his death that I started fidgeting with the scribbler’s corner.

Dadu Bhai will become a doctor one day…Dadu Bhai will become a journalist one day…(the grey-haired used to address me as Dadu Bhai)…I really don’t know whether he used to ever lament the deplorable condition Kolkata might get into after like 20 years….I am neither a doctor nor a journalist…I think, I am a bemused fellow nibbling on a mirage, a mirage that mirrors Kolkata’s lost vigor–once a plush place with opportunities thronging it and culture touching new heights with stalwarts like Tagore, Michael Madhushudon Dutta, Mrinal Sen, Satyajit Ray, Ritvik Dutta creating history. May, be my future has donned the history and has got reduced to a withered leaf with no air to breath in or develop”, laments  Kritika Sarkar, a third year Calcutta University student.

Kolkata or the city of Joy once emanated vivacity, with the city’s young minds shouting their lungs out, essaying their ideas through words, films, movements, with vigor etched in their minds to bring a change. A change that would meliorate the city and flesh out the potential the city once bore– the high-spiritedness rendered by its citizenry and the vitality that it’s economy took to.
“Who doesn’t want to stay rooted? I have been born and brought up in Kolkata. The city makes me ponder upon my evolution as a person. Every nook and corner of this city unleashes its magic, leaving me awestruck. But, unluckily the city hasn’t much to give. I have left no stone unturned to get a job but like the majority of the ignited minds of this city I, too, find it difficult to find my own feet,” mused 20-year-old Tulika Mukherjee, a Jadavpur University graduate.
Despite the teeming crowd of intellectuals herding the posh hubs and confabulating over post-modern ideologies flavored with their personal experiences, with prolonged drags of cigarettes satiating their unrequited want to fill the void, the lacklustre city stands still at the honking horns while passers-by stare at the city with sullen eyes, hoping to reap the yield of their hard work.
“I just fail to connect with this city. Everything in this city is imbued with an ideological color. At times, I feel like being infixed in a constant ideological tussle–a tussle between the vying political factions. There is an incessant urge to take over the coveted end, nevertheless, the coveted end remains unresolved, with nobody really being aware of that end.
I want this city to be free from the constant ideological warfare that in a way impinges on ones personal space and intellectual capabilities. I want this city to get rid of the ideological clutter,” said Ritika Chatterjee, a Jadavpur University student who seems to be quite perturbed at the banality pervading the city.
While sharing a series of distressful experiences, 24-year-old Abir, an ex-Kolkatan, sounds out his take on the deplorable condition of the city, “Every alley in this city has its own share of stories, but then again the resources to bring those stories into existence seem to have taken a back seat. I am a budding journalist. I want to talk of every nook and corner of this city, ranging from politics to economy, but the media industry in itself is on the brink of a major wipeout. It’s just the old stalwarts ruling this city”.
“Despite being an intellectual hotspot the city hasn’t seen any new publishing house trying to create its own space in this city. I mean new age schisms like new media seems to be rocket science for the grey-haired gentry of this city who still think newspapers are the only valid form of journalism,” he adds.
“Rebellion sounded like a lot of fun, but in Calcutta there was nothing to rebel against. Where would it get you?”, questions Bharati Mukherjee from Desirable Daughters.
Bharati Mukherjee’s sentiments seem to tune into the feelings borne by a large number of young Kolkatans who aspire to do something big and better. Despite the relentless voices’ attempt at cracking down upon the status quo, to start anew, with a fresh vigor and vim, there is an inherent monotony seeping in, glutting the possibility of a probable change.
” What do we even rebel for in Kolkata? There has to be a conclusion to every rebellion. But, in a city like Kolkata rebellion doesn’t fetch the requisite results. So, everything goes in vain,” quetches Sumana Nandi, an independent scholar, hailing from Chandanagar.
“Ranjana Aami Ashbo Na…” (Ranjana I wouldn’t come back)
As a last nail on the coffin, one would surely end up finding a stark connectedness between Ranjana and Kolkata. Ranjana, despite being the beloved, breathes in a sense of  forlornness owing to her admirer’s lack of faith in her; similarly, Kolkata despite being the sought after treasure trove for many is gradually being abandoned by her lovers for the lost charm and dynamism she once bore.

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Rising Communalism, Strained Socio-Political Conditions and Lackadaisical Administration Leading to Hike in Hooliganism in Kolkata

According to retired IPS officer Md Nizam Shamim, hooliganism is rising as the criminals are getting adequate backing from political outfits

kolkata, hooliganism
Policeman facing women in a protest march, Calcutta Kolkata India. Wikimedia Commons

Kolkata has witnessed a string of hooliganism related incidents in recent months, with its long time denizens putting the blame on rising communalism, strained socio-political conditions and a lackadaisical attitude of the administration in catching or punishing the ruffians.

While many of the violent incidents in Kolkata can be attributed to the political tension between Bengal’s ruling Trinamool Congress and its main challenger the BJP, a few occurrences like lynching of a suspected thief or attack on the junior doctors of a renowned state-run hospital in the heart of the city have shaken the city’s collective consciousness.

On June 5, a mob allegedly beat a man to death inside a club in central Kolkata’s Maniktala after they suspected him as a thief. In March, a 70-year-old man was allegedly beaten to death by a mob on a similar suspicion.

On June 10, two truckloads of people attacked Kolkata’s state-run NRS Medical College and Hospital and brutally beat up the intern doctors, thereafter an altercation broke out between the doctors and the patient party over a man’s death.

Two junior doctors sustained serious injuries, while several others were hurt as the mob pelted stones. The junior doctors alleged that the police personnel stood as mute witness as the attackers went on the rampage. This incident led to a week-long strike by junior medicos across the state and triggered protests by doctors all over the country.

The plight of the doctors moved the city’s eminent people, with the likes of acclaimed director Aparna Sen, painter Samir Aich, musicians Debojyoti Mishra and Anupam Roy walking alongside the medics in a protest rally.

hooliganism, kolkata
According to the media reports it is evident that communal tension, which was never an issue in West Bengal, has now become almost a day to day affair. Wikimedia Commons

The attack on former Miss India Universe Ushoshi Sengupta by a group of youths in their early 20s, who tried to vandalise her cab and beat up the driver earlier this week, has highlighted the underlying unrest within the society and the vulnerability of the citizens on the roads.

What was more disturbing, the cops – instead of helping out a woman in distress around midnight – made Sengupta run from one police station to another citing the issue of jurisdiction. Describing the incident as “scary and heartbreaking”, Sengupta said it would have been better had the police taken action before her social media post went viral.

“The boys followed us till my colleague’s house and right when we were dropping him near Lake Gardens Government housing, six of the boys in three bikes came and stopped my car, threw stones and broke the car. They dragged me out and tried to break my phone to delete the video,” the model-actress said.

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“The experience with the police on the night of the incident was a little heartbreaking. After my Facebook post went viral, top police officers got in touch with me and took prompt action against the offenders. Had they shown this promptness during the incident, it would have been better,” she said.

Within a week of the incident, another young woman travelling in an app based cab was chased by a middle aged person in his car. This time, the accused was promptly arrested by the police. However, in stark contrast, the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) statistics for 2016 (the latest report available) had portrayed Kolkata as one of the safest cities for women in the country, even as Bengal recorded the highest number of cases of domestic violence.

The city is ranked 17th in terms of crime (the top place going to the state with the worst record) against women among the 19 megacities in the country, and recorded only 4 per cent of the cases but West Bengal recorded the highest numbers of domestic violence cases against women in 2016.

According to retired IPS officer Md Nizam Shamim, hooliganism is rising as the criminals are getting adequate backing from political outfits. “It is true that the hooliganism in Kolkata and Bengal is rising. According to the media reports it is evident that communal tension, which was never an issue in West Bengal, has now become almost a day to day affair. Naturally, such issues happening around Kolkata, has its effects on the city,” Shamim told IANS.

kolkata, hooliganism
What was more disturbing, the cops – instead of helping out a woman in distress around midnight – made Sengupta run from one police station to another citing the issue of jurisdiction. Wikimedia Commons

“When I was working here as a police officer, we acted against the criminals in general but no distinction was made between Hindu criminals and Muslim criminals. But now certain political powers are highlighting this divide. As a result, it becomes increasingly difficult for the lawmakers to take action as criminals get political backing,” he said.

He said the administration needs to be more active in tracking the hooligans, take action against them while sensitising the youths about the impact of breaking law.

“Also a list of the local criminals and hoodlums were kept at the police stations and they were kept under strict police vigil. I do not know whether today’s officers are doing that. Unless you can cut the source of bombs and arms, such incidents of violence will continue to happen.”

“A section of youths are becoming increasingly reckless due to lack of education and jobs. I see so many of them roaming around in two wheelers without helmets every day. Many indulge in anti-social activities. The police needs to watch them and discourage them from breaking laws,” he added.

Theatre personality Chandan Sen said hooliganism has been on the rise due to the lack of a proper machinery to control the situation.

“Hooliganism is rampant since the last few years. It is increasing fast as there is no machinery in place to stop it. The saddest part is that the political forces are either blind to such incidents or they are catering to the offenders. As a result, it is on the rise,” Sen told IANS.

He said Kolkata had a heritage of togetherness, where people of a certain locality used to be together putting aside caste or communal differences which has now disappeared.

“Also, there are forces giving hooliganism a communal tone and people are falling prey to it. Hooligans do not have a religion. They are criminals. Violence was there in Kolkata even during the Naxalite movement. But at that time it was based on ideological battles between political parties but now it has become a fight to capture power. That’s why people have lost faith in political parties and this helplessness is giving birth to the unrest,” Sen added.

For box –

Recents incidents reported in Kolkata

*February 21: Woman attacked and severely beaten up by locals in Howrah’s Tikiapara near Kolkata on suspicion of child lifting. Locals clashed with police when they tried to rescue her and vandalised police vehicles.

*February 23: A man was beaten up by a mob in North Kolkata’s Phoolbagan on suspicion of him being a child-lifter. Police rescued the victim. 17 persons arrested.

*March (date not confirmed): A 70-year-old man beaten to death in central Kolkata on suspicion of theft.

*March 21: Homeless man killed by a miscreant inside a godown in Charu Market police station area for trying to stop him from stealing cell phones from two young kids.

*April 30: Man beaten to death by construction site staffers for allegedly stealing cell phone in Pragati Maidan police station area. Six arrested.

*June 5: A mob allegedly beat a 36-year-old man to death inside a club in central Kolkata’s Maniktala after they suspected him of theft. Three arrested.

*June10: Two truckloads of people attacked Kolkata’s state-run NRS Medical College and Hospital and brutally beat up the intern doctors there after an old patient’s death. One doctor sustained serious skull injury. Five arrested.

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*June 17: Ushoshi Sengupta and a friend attacked by 15 hoodlums on motorcycles near Exide crossing. Uber driver beaten up. Seven arrested.

*June 19: A 23-year-old woman travelling in an app based cab chased by a middle aged person in his car. The man tried to block her cab near south Kolkata’s Alipore. Accused arrested. (IANS)