‘Mamata is hardly the person I knew in 2006 when she was herself protesting against the eviction of peasants in Singur’

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Trinamool Congress MP Kabir Suman tells Shonali Ghosal that Mamata Banerjee has changed after becoming West Bengal CM

Kabir Suman
Kabir Suman

In Professor Ambikesh Mahapatra’s case, how does sharing a cartoon amount to ‘eve-teasing’, ‘humiliating a woman’ or ‘causing offence using a computer’?
It doesn’t. TMC goons thrashed Prof Mahapatra and made him sign some document in which he had to confess that he was a CPM supporter, and after that he was arrested. It reminds you of Hitler’s Brown Shirts gang. And then two Cabinet ministers say that what the police did was right. It is autocracy. The police belonged to the CPM in its time; today they belong to TMC leaders. How else do you justify police arresting the people who were actually beaten up? Mahapatra and the goons who attacked him were released on a bail of Rs 500. It’s ridiculous. The judiciary is also cornered.

How does the TMC justify the arrest of Dr Partho Sarathi Ray and 68 others, while conducting a peaceful protest against the eviction of slum-dwellers in Nonadanga?
I fail to understand the logic of the West Bengal government. Frankly, today’s Mamata Banerjee is hardly the person I knew in 2006 when she was herself protesting against the eviction of peasants in Singur. She always stood up for the oppressed. Now after the formation of her government, she is showing a face that I’ve not seen before.

What about the TMC’s now retracted diktat to its party members to not marry or mingle with anyone from the CPM?
This is primitive, medieval. I feel strange not because buffoons like Jyotipriya Mullick make such statements, but because Mamata Banerjee is backing it. She should take some counselling, and I do not mean it sarcastically. She should take advice from well-meaning and informed people.

Is this intolerance for dissent actually a sign of the TMC government’s insecurity?
There is no TMC party as such. TMC is Mamata, Mamata is TMC. It is an unstructured party, she can make you the president of some branch today and tomorrow she can remove you. You can’t ask why. She is paranoid.

Has the public in West Bengal lost the right to question?
Theoretically, they have the right to question, but when someone questions, hooligans come, and then the victims are arrested by the police. She is equating the TMC with the people. The TMC has been the order of the day, whatever madam says is the law. She thinks she can do whatever she wants. It’s a new scenario of impending peril.

Isn’t the TMC eventually turning West Bengal into mini-China, controlling what people can read, circulate or voice, even when their actions are within the limits of the law?
It is almost like watching Joseph Stalin in action. She runs her own TV channels, newspapers, virtually owns them and they’re there to beat her drums. I used to know Mamata Banerjee very closely; either I have been a jackass or she is a profound actor. It’s almost a demonic turnaround. If this continues, anarchy will prevail.

Does the TMC’s fascist tendency stem from the belief that it can get away with anything by holding the Centre to ransom?
I don’t know about fascism, but it’s arm-twisting. It is in the Indian parliamentary system — if you have the strength, you can arm-twist your ally. Congress activists and I fought together against the CPM. But after the elections, TMC says the Congress can be avoided. The challenges she throws at the UPA are unwarranted. This is not fair politics.

Shonali Ghosal is a Correspondent with Tehelka.
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