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The attack on Presidency is like violating a shrine: Sagarika Ghose

Updated: April 15, 2013, 7:55 PM IST
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The attack on Presidency is like violating a shrine: Sagarika Ghose
Vandalism in Presidency University: violence touches a new low in Bengal

The culture of political violence in Bengal is not even sparing holy grounds such as Presidency College (now University) which were till now protected from acts of violence and hooliganism. Trinamool workers vandalised the Baker Laboratory which has seen doyens such as Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose, Satyen Bose (of Boson fame), Prof Meghnad Saha, PC Mahalanobis at work (their equipment is still preserved there, Baker Lab just completed 100 years and the Indian Statistical Institute was born in that lab). Girl students were allegedly molested and even threatened with rape. The registrar, professors and students were beaten up while the police stood there. CNN-IBN's deputy editor Sagarika Ghose joined IBNLive readers for an interaction on the issue.

Q. Madam, There is no low in Bengal already at its lowest? CPIM was the breeder of violoncello Now taken over by TMC because most of the TMC cadres are from CPIM Asked by: prathap

A. Yes, the phrase, "the more things change, the more they remain the same" seems to apply. It's sad how Bengal has returned to the cycle of violence, politics of the dead body is back..very very sad, a tragedy.

Q. Recently someone summarized more than 3 decades of Bengal rule as follows: From the Left that ruled for over 30 years, anyone could learn how to harass industry into oblivion. and could also learn how to politicise - and destroy - a university system that was once the finest, east of the Suez. Also, the politics of grievance: blaming every self-created ill on the Centre, or imperialism, or some ghostly foreign hand. What do you say? Asked by: prathap

A. The malaise is very deep and Mamata has certainly inherited a lot of problematic baggage. A totally polarised society of "aamra" "ora" (us and them), politicised institutions, a police force which is not a neutral law enforcer and entrenched interests that are not allowing change. Mamata herself seems at the moment completely unable to control her party cadres, many of them are the Harmad Bahini who simply switched sides when they saw the Left losing. Industrialisation and jobs will be a distant dream unless there is law and order and normalcy.

Q. What is happening in West Bengal. Why is the BJP silent about all this,something like this happening in a state like UP or a congress ruled state they would have asked for the Govt Resignation. Are they expecting support from TMC for next elections? Asked by: Narayan

A. That's a good ques. Don't think this govt is strong enough to impose president's rule and don't think the governor will recommend it..plus yes, Congress relying on Mamata's support to hopefully stand by the UPA should Mulayam/Mayawati suddenly withdraw support. Congress can't hope to win in Bengal without the TMC and is hoping Mamata will stay with the UPA after 2014..

Q. Hello Mam,...Your write-up "Day dreamer Vs Mr Fixit" was thought provoking and insightful... Congrats.. Asked by: Maha, Calgery

A. Thanks a lot--glad you liked it.

Q. Why National media is trying to play with the common mans sentiment and emotion.enough is enough. If the floodgate opens than no one can stop the disaster? Why media is forgot to highlight about the minimum security/laps of security of a CM, FM & other important W. B. state ministers? If 200 so called CPM supported student/goons can vandalize four important state ministers including CM than why you are so worried about Presidency University? Have police arrested any of SFI student goons at Delhi after 03 days of the incidents? Asked by: Hajra

A. What happened with Amit Mitra was terrible, but the Delhi Police says they did try to warn Mamata and ask her to enter through the back door. But to target such a prestigious academic institution and such a historic lab with so much expensive equipment is really really shocking. Education is the one thing Bengal has traditionally been proud of, Bengal has produced the best minds. The attack on Presidency is like violating a shrine, like destroying a holy place almost! Political battles should not jeopardise students and their future.

Q. The violence in Bengal is nothing new. Even premiere IIT Kharagpur had been affected earlier. Is it because Bengalis get emotionally charged easily than others. Asked by: sundar1950in

A. Bengalis are a volatile and argumentative people I guess, but society too has been unfortunately polarised and politics has become too violent. Not sure how much of this "anger" is genuine sentiment or how much of it is being whipped up by the goons or the Harmad bahini..its sad because one of Mamata's campaign promises had been " Bodla nahi, Bodol chai" Don't wan't revenge, wan't change. But it seems that revenge and vendetta is once again setting the agenda.

Q. The SFI students death has been the start of the present fiasco. Was that blown out of proportion by the Left? Asked by: sundar1950in

A. It was a tragic death. He was a very young man and simply exercising his democratic right of protest. Whether he was hit by a lathi or whether it was an accident, fact remains that he died while in police custody, when the police had taken charge of that demonstration. As such it was the police's responsibility to protect him. I don't think it has been blown out of proportion but yes, the Left has found a political opportunity. More shocking was Mamata's statement that it was a small incident or a petty incident. That statement showed a serious lack of political instinct and was very unlike her who prides herself on being by the side of the suffering.

Q. One of the curious character of TMC is they do not apologise for anything and instead term everything as 'Shajano Ghatona ' - student killing is a petty matter but heckling is a conspiracy to kill - how did they adopt this unreal method? Asked by: Ritaja BasuMullick

A. These conspiracy theories are the downfall of this govt. professors trying to kill the CM, the Park Street rape being a "shajano ghotona", the other rapes being "shajano ghotona", now this incident also a "shajano ghotona" has given the impression that the TMC govt does not take law and order seriously. Mamata Banerjee recently said Delhi is not safe, maybe it isn't, but is Kolkata? The incident in which Mamata herself stormed into the Bhowanipur police station to intercede on behalf of two youths, the transferring of Damayanti Sen--these have sent very wrong signals.

Q. One of country's most vaunted institutions have been violated. Apart from being the oldest college, it Presidency has an alumni list that has Satyen Bose of Bose-Einstein quantum fame to Sir JC Bose, Amartya Sen, Satyajit Ray, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, Rajendra Prasad to uncountable academics who have held the highest chairs at Harvard, Oxford, Cambridge, Chicago etc. I think the Centre should intervene and the President himself should step in. It is our Oxford. Asked by: Professor SK Jha

A. Absolutely--as I said, its like violating a shrine. There have been peaceful protests in Kolkata today..at this rate there will be nothing left in that city. Every monument, institution will be vandalised and degraded..how very tragic!

Q. Sadly West Bengal has reached a nadir as far as politics is concerned and it is impacting everything in the state. Is you see any hope for the state in the near future? How can it get out of this vicious political cycle of vengeance and redeem itself? Or......is it a gone case forever? Asked by: c4conscience

A. The first thing Mamata needs to do before the painting the city blue or playing rabindra sangeet etc, is to empower the police. She has to learn this from Nitish Kumar. Cut all party control from the police, make sure party cadres do not overwhelm the police and make sure the police is left free to autonomously investigate and prosecute. This is the first urgent task. Unless the police is empowered, there is little hope..

Q. I think the literary and intellectual part of Bengal has got dissociated with the other part of it which has poverty, backwardness, crime..... I think due to this reason this part of Bengal become dominantly visible to the society. Asked by: Y. Ashok Babu

A. Yes Bengal is seeing a post-Bhadralok phase in its politics and culture. The educated genteel folk--or the bhadralok as they are called--have completely distanced themselves from politics and the hooligans and rabble rousers are calling the shots. Unless the educated class joins politics and joins the mainstream again, politics will not throw up leaders like Bidhan Roy or even a Buddhadev Bhattacharyya

Q. Sagrikaji,I am a fan of yours.Do you think it's all over for Bengal or is there some hope.people here believe Mamata has messed up worse than left Asked by: rituparno

A. The sad thing about Mamata's govt is how quickly the positive momentum of her massive mandate has disappeared. All that hope and optimism seems to have vanished into thin air! Mamata is just not being able to get a handle on administration, she does not know to get the administration to respond like Mayawati and Jayalalithaa have learnt to do. You can't alienate the bureaucracy--you have to work with them. You can't take all the decisions, you have to empower your ministers. You can't let party cadres enjoy immunity from the law.And you have to stop seeing enemies everywhere. Its difficult for Mamata because she has had such a difficult political career--she has literally had to fight on the streets day after day for decades. And there is no doubt that the Left is doing everything it can to sabotage her, but so far there has not been a single administrative initiative that has worked.

Q. Hi Sagarika, I really feel sorry for all the people who voted for Mamta and the TMC thinking that they represented change..It can be really very frustrating when you realize that the leader you chose turns out to be the other side of the same coin..Can the West Bengali's be any ideologically different irrespective of the part they belong to? Is violence now a part of their DNA? Asked by: Jai

A. You know the difference between a Mayawati and a Mamata is that Mamata didn't work to create a political movement the way Mayawati and kanshi Ram built the bahujan samaj movement. For Mamata, the mandate of 2011 actually fell into her lap as she happened to be there when Nandigram and Singur took place. before that she had been more or less a lone mercurial agent , once even allying with the BJP, who although she waged a relentless war against the Left was not actually able to build a movement. That's why I believe she has misread her mandate: she won because Bengal voted the Left out not because they voted her in. When you'come to power without building a political movement, there is no vision or administrative blueprint for you to implement...unless both political formations--both left and TMC free themselves from the Harmad Bahini or the goon squads, the culture of violence will remain rooted in Bengal.

Q. The most violent activity of Naxalism originates from Naxalbar in WB. It was to the credit of SS Ray that he brought things under control. Subsequently the controls seem to have been given a go by the rulers. Why has the congress not been able to return to power to deliver peace to the state? Asked by: sundar1950in

A. Many would say one of Mamata's successes was the taking on of the Maoists and eliminating the threat. The killing of Kishanji was important for the security forces. The maoist forces for now have been beaten in their strongholds in Purulia and Midnapore. The Congress fate in Bengal is a different issue altogether..the Congress has not found the energy to take on the Left, they became watermelons..green on the outside, and red on the inside. The congress restricted to the Adhir Choudhury controlled pockets in Bengal at the moment. Mamata was their best asset and what they needed to give the Congress new momentum, but they threw her out. What an irony that Bengal congress members like Subarata Mukherjee who were instrumental in throwing Mamata out, are now in her shadow in the Trinamool!

Q. Why should student bodies be affiliated to political parties? politicians will brainwash the students ideologically and turn them into hired goons. shouldn't we make students organisations in colleges be independent of political parties? Asked by: sanjeev kumar

A. Students have always been politically active in Bengal, but over time the mainline political parties have entered the campuses and carry out politics by proxy by individuals who are not part of the student body. The manner in which political parties have rampaged over Bengal's university campuses is the reason why campuses are such violent places in Bengal..

Q. Is Mamata a CPM in disguise? How can she show such common traits in all areas - law and order and industry included. Asked by: B Sen

A. Her DNA is Leftist. She is a sort of 70s Leftist who will never be comfortable with business, attracting investment or occupying herself with growth. Her instincts are undeniably Left of Centre, she sees herself as the champion of the underdog and the voice of the poor. She lives a very spartan life, wears only cotton saris, is totally personally incorruptible--rather like Marxist cadres of the past! Don't think she will be able to make a huge pitch for industry and business the way other chief ministers are doing, her instincts will always be towards the farmers and the displaced. She is very conscious of not doing another Nandigram and avoiding the Left's mistakes..In a way that's a good thing, but she needs to modify her thinking a bit too..

Q. Is it not time for dismissal of Mamta Government and imposition of president rule Asked by: sanna kumar

A. As I said before as long as the UPA is hopeful of getting Mamata back in the fold and as long as they see her as a potential ally, there can be no President's Rule in bengal. Think the Congress is hoping to woo her back as with over 20 per cent Muslims in Bengal's voting population, doubtful whether Mamata can ever ally with the NDA, particularly if Modi is the face of the BJP!

First Published: April 15, 2013, 7:55 PM IST
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