11 October 2007

Silence, not calm

A couple of days ago, the Times of India carried a story on Page 1 on the riots over the public distribution system in West Bengal. It was more an edit than a story. It said something like the calm of 30 years' Left rule in the state is being finally stirred, etc.

I wondered whether it was calm or Silence, the Deafening type.

Just before I joined journalism college five years ago, the Left had won the state elections. And Frontline magazine had attributed the victory to, what else, land reforms. It struck me as weird.

However great or dismal an achievement or event may be, how could it continue to be the trump card 30 years later? Had nothing changed in 30 years in Bengal? What about people who were born 10 years after the land reforms? They would be around 20 now... was there no difference between their and their parents' aspirations? How could Bengal be so different from what was happening everywhere else in the country?

Last year, the Left won again. There was jubilation in my office. I couldnt understand that. Didnt the very fact that one party continued to rule for 30 years in a democratic set-up strike you as somewhat odd? To this question too, I got the same answer: land reforms. And someone also told me: probity in public life.

Let's not talk about the Left and its land reforms. There is only so much their frayed nerves can take. Probity in public life: well, it's all over the papers now. Dont know if national television has picked it up yet (I have stopped watching news on TV; bollywood is better.).

Rizwan-ur Rehman's death is the latest squeak from behind the wall of Silence. No, it's not limited to religion, money and status. It's got everything to do with the state of things in Bengal. The suspect cops have not even been suspended, let alone their being ever punished. Right from Buddha babu to the cops, everyone knows that if they sit mum and sit tight through, say, a month more, it will be business as usual.

They also know that the people who staged a candle light protest against Rehman's death will not see the connection between things.

The more things change, the more they stay the same, eh?

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