yesterday was one of the darkest days in the 63-year-old history of Indian Federalism. An opposition chief minister and finance minister of a state were mobbed, heckled and roughed up by a violent crowd at the entrance of India’s Planning Commission on the so-called high security Parliament Street in New Delhi. What happened with Mamata Banerjee and Amit Mitra, who had come to seek financial assistance from the Centre for their cash-strapped state, bespeaks a much larger malevolence threatening to disrupt our political system. Despite the justified anger simmering amongst the Left-wing students’ groups because of the unnecessary and unfortunate death of the 22-year-old Sudipto Gupta few days back in Kolkata, this sort of reactionary attitude is unbecoming of citizens of any democracy. Manhandling an opposition leader from a different state, and an important member of her cabinet, points towards the general culture of violence that is engulfing youth politics all over the country, particularly amongst those in West Bengal. The SFI members, who misbehaved with Banerjee and Mitra, couldn’t have given a worse example of the sort of vindictive politics that is corroding our parliamentary infrastructures and socio-political institutions. Although, Banerjee’s dismissal of Sudipto Gupta’s death as ‘petty matter’ was rather callous and cavalierly, yet an eye for an eye has never been a solution for any problem.
The student protestors should have registered their anguish and demand in a civil and peaceful manner, instead of becoming shining examples of how not to come across, especially in times of hypervisuality driven by the 24X7 television media. This is also a stark failure of law and order in the capital, as the policemen deployed at the Planning Commission’s office did not budge or come to Amit Mitra’s aid, when he underwent the ignominious treatment by riotous students. Banerjee said that the students tried to hit her with an iron rod, clearly in a lighter imitation of Sudipto’s death by hitting his head against an iron pole. Nevertheless, the appalling lack of security response, despite the Parliament Street police station being located almost diagonally across the road, is shameful. If a state chief minister is not safe in Delhi’s highest security zone, what is the central government truly worth? How brilliant is the state of law and order situation Delhi, if a top leader of the country can be subject to such unpalatable behaviour from our people, no matter how justified their rage had been. The entire security staff at the police station should have been sacked for their inability to protect a state chief minister and member of opposition. What if the prime minister, union cabinet ministers and other ruling political hubris in Delhi are given a similar reception by violent mobs when they visit opposition states? No word is strong enough to condemn the attack on the West Bengal chief minister at the very door step of the country’s federal structure which the Planning Commission is supposed to showcase.