Long back, when the West Bengal election campaign was at its peak, one of my Kolkata friends, after having a long debate on why Bengal needs a change had snubbed me - a probashi (a term used for a Bengali living outside Bengal) - for being ‘judgemental’ about Mamata Banerjee. He had said that since I did not live in the state, I did not have the right to pass a judgement on her and her maverick ways. Since I wasn’t pro-CPM or Trinamool and had never stayed in Kolkata, he said, I wouldn’t know why there was a change needed after 35 long years.
That was two years back. When Mamata Banerjee came to power, lot of hope and aspiration were attached to this one lady, who my fellow Bengalis felt would bring some change. They were so ‘desperate’ to see the state ‘reformed’ that they were ready to ignore and look through the woman’s irrational behaviour and obscure notions on society. And for their sake and as a Bengali, I genuinely hoped that the woman would give Bengal all it deserved and much more.
But instead of heralding a new era, the lady kept making- to put it politely- faux pas, one after the other. From calling an innocent college girl a ‘Maoist cadre’ to getting a professor arrested for having a sense of humour to even getting a poor farmer arrested for asking questions concerning his well-being – the lady, time and again, proved that with power, her maverick ways had just got more leverage. And her supporters still quietly stood by her.
When increasing number of infant deaths were reported across the state, the paranoid Chief Minister called it a big ‘conspiracy of the Left’. And when the infamous Park Street rape case happened, she questioned the victim’s intent and her character instead of showing solidarity with the latter.
She was criticised widely in the media in each of the cases and the journalists were all safely labelled as biased and negative, out to ‘malign her reputation’. And instead of learning from her mistakes and recovering from the now much acclaimed ‘foot-in-mouth’ disease, the lady continues to make blanket statements, which continue to appal even those who had once supported her.
When the first few incidents of ‘Mamataism’ came out- I scoffed, smirked and laughed at those who had once vehemently tried to convince me that Mamata was the ‘answer’ to all of Bengal’s problems. In the next few, I cringed - reason, that I would be associated with her by the virtue of being a Bengali. What if the entire country starts believing that all Bengalis are like her, I wondered.
But the latest statement by Ms. Banerjee on the issue of rape has left me, the non-Mamata-supporter, embarrassed and ashamed. Commenting on some recent rape incidents in the state, Mamata made a sweeping statement that rape cases are on a rise in the country because men and women interact with each other more freely now.
“Earlier if men and women would hold hands, they would get caught by parents and reprimanded but now everything is so open. It`s like an open market with open options,” she further added.
When, a few days before, a Haryana minister had commented that “90% rape cases are consensual”, I wasn’t surprised. After all, what would you expect from a man whose state is famous for crime against women and where the term ‘gender-equality’ does not even exist? But when a Bengali and that too, a woman, passes such bizarre reasoning for the increase in crime rate against women in the state, it leaves the common man a bit shocked.
I have always been proud of my community’s liberal ways. The kind of equality that women enjoy in our community, they don’t in most states. Bengalis have been known to be liberal and usually don’t succumb to such archaic societal norms where men and women are treated differently. So when the Chief Minister of that state makes such a statement, it raises questions about the society and whether it is going two steps backward instead of going forward.
Mamata Didi has not only failed her community by passing such archaic statements, but has also, as a woman, failed to stand up for the weaker sex. The lady, who has always been the voice of the poor and the underprivileged, perhaps did not find the issue of defending and protecting the fairer sex a cause worthy of her attention. It is also amusing that the when you are heading a government which consists of male ministers, and where you have to interact with them ‘freely’, such statements are passed.
Mamata was voted for poriborton (change). She was brought in to stop all the absurdities of the Left. But her regressive and patriarchal comments just make her ‘one of them’. Earlier on, whenever the Left was questioned about such incidents, their answers were similar to what Mamata’s notions on sexuality are. In fact, Mamata and her regimental rule over the state seem like an extension of the party she took over from. So where exactly is the poriborton?
Male politicians making regressive statements on rape can be scoffed at but what does one do when a woman reflects a patriarchal mindset? Being a woman and being at a position that she is in, Mamata should take concrete action against such crimes instead of trivializing the whole issue time and again.
An entire community has given her chance of occupying a post that she has dreamt of ever since she stepped into politics. They have been patient, forgiving and have rested their hopes heavily on her government. And each time she goes her ‘eccentric’ way, she fails an entire community and leaves them red-faced.
It’s time to get your act right, Didi. For the sake of those who got you to power.