Sunday, October 14, 2007

Bhulbo Na

Most of you are familiar with the Rizwanur Rahman incident that's been getting national coverage.
For those of you who aren't, I'm going to copy paste the facts that someone has very helpfully put up on the 'Get Justice for Rizwanur' group page on Facebook.
On September 21, Rizwanur Rahman was found dead on the tracks near Patipukur. The 30-year-old computer graphics teacher had been about to send a complaint to the Human Rights Commission about the police harassment he and his wife Priyanka Todi were facing over their marriage. The source of the harassment was rumoured to be Ashok Todi, Priyanka's father and the proprietor of Lux Hosiery. Within the space of a few weeks, Priyanka and her husband were summoned three times to Lalbazar on very flimsy grounds, and they were threatened, intimidated and abused. Priyanka was then induced to leave the family home in Tiljala by rumours that her father was ill; her uncle Anil Saraogi signed a bond promising to return her to Rizwanur in seven days. That never happened, instead Rizwanur's body was found, lying face up on the railway tracks with the back of his head blown off. The Police Commissioner stated that it was suicide, in advance of the evidence, and moreover justified the Todis' 'outrage' at Priyanka's marriage and the police interference that had ensued. A probe was announced but none of the concerned officers were suspended.

The chief minister met Rizwanur's mother today, and asked her for time. In the past three weeks not a damn thing has happened. There have only been meetings and defensives issued by the government and the police. No ostensible efforts are being made to investigate the nature and cause of the death at all. The police commissioner, entrusted with the security of citizens, was quick to decide that the death was a suicide even before the post mortem report was out. For a man more concerned with offices in cricketing associations, he should have known that statement was, well, not quite cricket. Ashok Todi, the father-in-law of the deceased owns a company with a 200-crore turnover. They're the ones with the tagline "yeh andar ki baat hai". Ironic, that. Priyanka Todi, Rizwan's wife, has been systematically silenced, with only the State-run Women's Commission, paying her a visit, only, apparently to see how she was doing and to, in effect, give the impression that she was alright and essentially, didn't want to be involved in the fight for justice that would invariably implicate her family, her father being considered to have masterminded the whole "mysterious" death. Again, it is important to read between the lines. We only know what transpired from what the representatives of a state-run body are telling us. Already, police officers who have admitted to having acted on orders from seniors and interfered in the marriage have not had any action taken upon them. The police, today, are marriage counsellors, protectors, and, it appears co-conspirators in the plot to terminate innocent lives and ruin families. A devastating talent pool of multi-taskers.

The problem is very basic, if you want to get to the root of it, really. When a government is given absolute power for over thirty years, units of its state machinery are likely to think they are god, given that there is nobody to challenge their stake as guardians and keepers of the welfare of citizens. They tend to find it convenient to forget that they are responsible for millions who have put their trust in them.
The purpose of democracy is to ensure that this kind of complacency is not allowed to afflict the larger State. In India, the idea of democracy has never quite been uniform, I think. But the present government in West Bengal would like to believe that they can make an utter sham of democracy and rest easy. They did it in Singur and Nandigram, they're doing it again now. Question is, are we, as educated and aware citizens, going to let them get away with it?
Those of you who have been following the case, are aware of the 24-hour vigil that has been on outside the main gate at St. Xavier's. The response to the vigil has been overwhelming. People from all over the city,across socio-economic *insert correct word that I can't remember. What I mean is, the rich and the poor alike* have come to Xavier's to light a candle for Rizwanur. I don't know how I've come across with what I've written so far, but I need you to know that the protest to get justice for Rizwanur has taken on dimensions of a mass movement that is not political. It is a demand for justice, a demand for the truth to be told like it happened, and without fabrications to save the asses of people in high office. Most of you already know what I'm talking about. I don't know if you've gone to the vigil, but even if you've just passed through Park Street lately, you couldn't have missed the spectacle of people, sitting on the footpath, in the midst of thousands of candles. It's a beautiful, touching sight. The Telegraph has been covering the case and this movement pretty extensively, and there are accounts of how senior citizens have travelled from the other end of the city to come and express their solidarity, and how, people who never knew Rizwan have sat at the vigil and shed tears for him. The facts of the case, and the way its investigation is being handled, are gory and polluted, but the public reaction has been inspiring, and is taking on historic proportions.
This is the part you actually need to read
Ok, enough. You don't need me to go yapping on about things you already know, and it's amazing how everyone has been reacting to this in their own personal way. So I'm going to cut to the chase now. The government and police authorities have been silent all this while, possibly in the hopes that the Pujo craze will push attention away from this issue. But we're not going to let that happen, are we? I know the Pujos are a festive time for us, it's about meeting relatives and friends and having a great time. Which is fine. But somebody lost a relative and a friend for no better reason than that our system does not treat all its people equally, and is favourable to those with money and power. There is an unhealthy lack of concern for the value of human life that must not be allowed to persist. A bunch of us are trying to organise events through the Pujos that will keep the protest going strong even at this time when the city takes on a different life altogether. We are not an organisation, just a bunch of individuals trying to do our bit, and we need as many people as possible to join in and help out. I'm going to list what we have planned for the Pujos, and this is where you all come in:

1. On Saptami, there are going to be groups of performers - musicians, theatre performers and the like, coming together at the vigil in front of Xavier's, who will gather around and perform. Span and Nevermind have confirmed. There will be others. Any of you interested in performing .. anything at all ... a play, a song, reading poetry .. absolutely anything you would like that will commemorate the cause will do. This is NOT a concert, timings are flexible. Anyone can come up and speak or perform, basically lend support in any way possible. Even if you don't want to, you could come and sit in, light a candle, sign the register and posters. Every little gesture counts. I cannot reiterate enough that those who have volunteered have done so from the goodness of their hearts. There is no money involved in this. When I say generate support, I mean your presence, your signature, your ideas on how we can take this forward.
2. We're trying to meet Pujo committees of pandals across the city, including residential pujos and ask them if they will allow us to just keep a register and a poster with Rizwanur's photo maybe, and a compelling slogan. When people come to visit the pandal, all they need to do, if they want to, is sign in to register their support. The problem here is, when I said we're a bunch of people, I really meant just a handful, most of whom will have to work through the Pujos. We need more people. Whoever reads this, if you know someone or are yourself involved in your para pujo, would you try and see if this is a doable option? Pujo committees need to be reassured that there is no political colour to this, and their pujo will in no way be hampered for a register being placed in its precincts. The point is to remind those who need to act on the matter, that Calcutta is not so easily distracted. We have not forgotten. We demand immediate action.
3. Again, we're trying to gather people who will be willing to generate interest on the issue by performing even at the small pujos, the residential complex pujos are more personalised spaces. Reaching out there, through the same means as I've mentioned [albeit sketchily. Sorry, but dude, it's the fucking middle of the night] will give favourable results, no? Anyway there are usually functions in the evenings at all these places, so why not have something that is exactly on those lines, but has ... oh I dunno .. a mention of Rizwanur in it? For this also, volunteers are required. If you can do nothing else, just spread the word. Ask around for people who are willing to do this. I mean, maane, please and all that.
4. Because The Telegraph has been covering this issue and the public response extensively, I'm confident that it will cover whatever happens, in whatever scale. And so, if we can reach a complex of 200, or even 100 people, and then that is covered, another several thousands can get to read about it, so support builds exponentially.
5. Leaving this blank. Insert Whatever ideas you guys have. We could meet, you could leave a comment. Anything man. Call me. Anything. Lets ACT. [Please don't call me or leave a comment saying, "Lets blow up Writer's Building, or lets kill the police commissioner." etc etc. Primarily, because hullo, lets not go to jail? And more importantly because the beauty of this movement so far has been in the way it has been so united in a very personalised, emotional, peaceful way. Ok, that sounds corny, but you know what I mean, yea?]

The nameless, faceless individuals who have been sitting in at the vigil, some for 8 hours every day - for days on end, are not doing it for any sort of gain. Neither am I or those with me, and those all over the city, who have, in their own way lent support to this cause. The government needs to know that it hasn't been elected so it can get away with murder, as it has been, repeatedly. This is a mass movement.

We Will NOT Forget.

Lets show 'em what we're made of? Spread the word.


March Hare said...

I went. And let's just say, it was an experience beyond words.

We ARE planning something after the Pujas. Shall fill you in through separate mail.

Sadly, shall be out of town during the pujas. But shall certainly pass it on to friends who will be in Calcutta.

For once, let's do this for humanity.

Anonymous said...

Hello, been reading through your posts. Started from the evry early days, and have been enjoying myself immensely. Just want to know how you guys can make some words bold/ underlined/hyperlinked in the comments - I cannot seem to be able to manage that !! Am not a blogger yet but planning to start soon !


Poorna Banerjee said...

I went there too. I stayed.

Kaichu said...

i went with her.

not much really. but we did. and so did others. lit a candle, wrote some words. but the cynicism had taken a backseat, even if for a short while. and that is something i'll take a while to forget.

rainbeau_peep said...

march hare,
i couldn't go either, had to work. but i hear it went really well, so that's a good thing.

in the comments? ok ok. see, u want ekta bold word tahole u do the word , maane I used spaces, u gotta d it without the spaces. same with itals: the word .
the link thing is a little more complicated. by which i mean, it isn't, but i can't remember and am too sick to try and figure it out for u right now. :-p
i'll post it another time here, ok?

panu and kaichu,
I know u were there. thank god for people who give a shit, you know.
sometimes i wonder if we're heading towards a time when we won't even know what it means to care for someone or about something. when we won't even be able to tell good from bad.
movements like this restore faith. it is all good. :-]

rainbeau_peep said...

ki kando.

uff. jeta ital korbi ba bold korbi, shei word er aage <> er modhye b or i, aar porey <> er modhye /b or /i likhbi, as applicable.
b maane bold, i maane ital.

Sam said...

very powerful!! liked teh way you wrote this one... and frankly, wasn't much updated one Rizwanur.. my visit to Kolkata a few days bk gave me some insight on what has been happening!! and frankly, i am aghast abt teh state of affairs.. they are questioning a number of people.. and frankly, i'd say that chick Priyanka is bloody useless!!
she should have given statement by now!!
despicable.. absolutely adn totally!!