The City Of Joy?

Marching Army , Rapid Action Force in their blue combat gear and police all around, Kolkata – the city of joy saw a terrifying scene on 21st November 2007. School children and office goers were taken by surprise at the sudden change in the situation.

For the first few hours no one was sure of the cause of such a violent outbreak, not the Government, not the administration and not even the media. There were reports that there was a protest over the Nandigram issue, some said it was a protest against Taslima Nasreen, who had written a book against Islam and was residing in Kolkata after being thrown out of Bangladesh, and some even said that it was the people’s anger against police because of the Rizwan case.

It all started with a small procession by a few small organizations – The All India Minority Forum, the Furfura Sarif Muzadeedia Anath Foundation and the Jamait Ulema-i-Hind. These organizations were protesting against a number of issues but the major among them was that of Taslima Nasreen. They were demanding the Government to deport Taslima Nasreen. Among other reasons for the protests, was also the Nandigram issue. The police blocked the procession, arrested the protestors and things started changing in a way which the police was not prepared for. It has been reported that the crowds had swelled to 12000 – 15000 people, but the initial estimated crowd was expected around 250.

Soon the mob got uncontrollable and started attacking the police with soda bottles, bricks, tube lights and almost any brickbats they could get hold of. Vehicles were set on fire and the violence spread like wildfire in the adjoining areas- Park Circus, Beck Bagan, Ripon Street, New Park Street and CIT Road. The city came to a standstill with the citizens shocked and terrified. The Nandigram-scalded police showed restraint against the mob and almost 30 policemen were injured. The whole affected area has a number of schools and colleges which made matters very threatening for school children who were held back in schools for hours.

The most striking feature of the mob was a major presence of youth. The organizers of the protest rally claimed that they were set for a non-violent protest and had a group of only 100 people. There were also reports that the ammunition used – bricks and bottles were planned and stored much before and that the crowd consisted of outsiders. Where had these people come from? Why had the come? What they wanted? No answers are officially available. It has been claimed by the local media that most people in the mob did not know who Taslima is! But they wanted her out.

The reason of the violent outbreak was not a result of a single issue or had developed overnight. In Kolkata almost 26% of the vote bank consists of Muslims and as per Census report the Muslims in West Bengal are in the poorest conditions in India. These facts, figures and the vote bank politics make them a soft target of politicians and leaders who misguide the people. There is widespread unemployment and poverty across castes and creed all over but the presentation of facts in such a manner makes the minority class feel that they are the only one affected makes their anger surging over the years. The protests on Wednesday has given a spark to the highly inflammable anger within the people and resulted in a violent outbreak. Lets expect that history does not repeat itself and the hidden powers behind such “planned” display of violence are put behind bars.

Namit Agarwal