Culture clan erupts

Some of Bengal's biggest names in art and culture punched holes in Mamata Banerjee's claim of paribartan (change) with a street protest on Friday against an alleged assault by Trinamul activists on theatre actor Bimal Chakraborty.

Thespian Soumitra Chatterjee and theatre veterans Rudraprasad Sengupta, Bibhas Chakraborty and Usha Ganguli were in the 200-strong crowd that assembled outside the Academy of Fine Arts, the gathering reminiscent of a similar protest in March 2007 after 14 people were killed in police firing in Nandigram.

Actor Bimal Chakraborty had been allegedly assaulted earlier this week for siding with a fish seller in Dunlop who was being targeted for participating in the CPM's October 1 rally.

The faces of protest weren't just known supporters of the Left, the gathering also included those like Bibhas Chakraborty who had publicly rooted for change in the run-up to the Assembly elections last year. "There has been a change in Bengal but has there been a change in mindset?" demanded the veteran artiste, whom chief minister Mamata had inducted into the culture and heritage committee of the railways.

A protest has been planned for October 11 in Dunlop.

Actor-director Sengupta, under whom Bimal Chakraborty had started his acting career with Nandikar, said: "I appeal to chief minister Mamata Banerjee to follow Raj Dharma and be the ruler of all and not just those who voted her to power."

Most of the speakers stressed that politics had little to do with standing for what was right. "The incident that Bimal faced is deplorable. Irrespective of political affiliation, one should always rise to protest such incidents," thespian Chatterjee said.

In a statement, poet Sankha Ghosh demanded action against those who had assaulted the artiste and the fish seller he was trying to protect.

Bimal Chakraborty, a government employee, did not attend the rally but wife Sutapa was there. "I can draw solace from the fact that so many people turned out to protest what happened to him," she said.

The last time artistes had spoken out against the Trinamul government was after JU professor Ambikesh Mahapatra's arrest for emailing a cartoon lampooning Mamata, Mukul Roy and Dinesh Trivedi.