FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

What About Chandana Kotal? More on Violence in West Bengal

by

Dear Mahasweta Devi,

In Byadhkhanda (“The Book of the Hunter,” 1994), you tell the story of Chunti Kotal (1965-1992) – I first read the story in your EPW article “The Story of Chuni Kotal” (29 August 1992). Born into a poor Lodha family, Kotal suffered all the indignities of caste oppression and class exploitation. Held up by her family and community, she was able to finish high school, went to work as a government surveyor, learned the skills that earned her a degree at Vidyasagar University, and then despite her hard work found her supervisors unwilling to let her complete her course work for an advanced degree. Ruthless behavior by her professors distressed Kotal. She left Midnapur for the home of her husband, Manmatha Savar, who worked in the railway workshops in Kharagpur. There, on August 16, Chunti Kotal committed suicide. Your poignant description of the events leads to the obvious lesson: “The tribals should realise exactly where they stand here. The curse of the babu culture runs in Bengal’s veins. West Bengal forces a Chunti Kotal to commit suicide.”

Two decades later, not far from Chunti Kotal’s village in West Midnapur, another ghastly event has taken place. I do not have your literary skills, but I shall try to lay out the facts as plainly as possible. It is difficult to do this because of the grotesque violence that I am about to describe.

In Panchrol, Chandana Kotal lived with her parents. She has two children. Their father left them years ago. On March 29, 2014, a few days before the West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee was to come and address a campaign rally in West Midnapur, men from her party – the Trinamul Congress (TMC) – went to Chandana Kotal’s parent’s home. They accused Chandana Kotal of having an affair with Biltu Giri. These TMC cadres took Chandana Kotal from her home, tied her to a tree and beat her in public. The next day, these men organized a shalishi – a community meeting – where they berated her. As judge, jury, executioner, these men then had Chandana Kotal’s hair cut-off and paraded her through the village.

The shalishi is the TMC’s variant of the Khap Panchayat that one sees in North India, a gathering of oppressor caste elders whose reflexive misogyny has become legendary.

The TMC controls all of the local government seats (village panchayats) in the area. They won the panchayat elections “unopposed,” preventing with force anyone from
15125371running against them. The TMC apparatchiks used their political authority to suborn the police. Chandana Kotal’s parents went and lodged a complaint at the local police station. The police arrested Biltu Giri, his wife and another person. Not one of the TMC cadres was arrested.

The Member of Parliament for Jhagram – the constituency that includes Panchrol – is CPI-M’s Dr. Pulin Behari Baske. He tried to go to Dantan, the main town (which also happens to be where he was born). The police prevented him from entering Dantan. He was not able to fully investigate what had transpired. This is TMC country.

Chandana’s mother, Padmavati Kotal, could not take the pressure. She ate poison on April 1 and died. Her son, Gautam Kotal, has lodged a complaint with the police against the TMC cadres for torture against his sister and harassment that led to the suicide death of his mother.

In January of this year, you shared a dais with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, head of the TMC, the party of the men who tortured Chandana Kotal and harassed to death Padmavati Kotal. At this rally in Kolkata, you said, “Mamata has worked for the upliftment of the weaker sections of society, including minorities and tribals. She is competent enough to be the Prime Minister.”

Chandana Kotal, like Chunti Kotal, comes from the Lodha tribal community. Chunti Kotal was harassed to death by what you called the “babu culture of West Bengal.” Chandana Kotal and Padmavati Kotal were, on the other hand, tortured and harassed to death by the “babu culture of the TMC,” the party whose leader you fete. In 2001, you remembered the story of Chunti Kotal for Outlook, and told Subhoranjan Dasgupta, “Lodha and Sabars and killed just because they are born into these denotified tribes while much greater criminals romp away scot free. Even the enlightened middle-class did not react.” The silence from the “enlightened middle class” around the events in Panchrol is as deafening as the silence for the enforced suicide of Ajit Bhuiyan (“The Suicide of Ajit Bhuiyan,” Counterpunch, April 2, 2014) in nearby Chandur – near the Chandrakona forest. West Bengal is being bathed in silence, drowned in the violence of your friend Mamata Banerjee’s TMC.

[Mahasweta Devi is one of India’s most well-known authors. For more on her, read the introduction by Gayatri Spivak to her translation of three stories by Devi, Imaginary Maps, 1994]

Vijay Prashad is the author of The Poorer Nations: A Possible History of the Global South (New Delhi: Leftword, 2013).

 

 

Vijay Prashad’s most recent book is No Free Left: The Futures of Indian Communism (New Delhi: LeftWord Books, 2015).

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
February 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Exxon’s End Game Theory
Pierre M. Sprey - Franklin “Chuck” Spinney
Sleepwalking Into a Nuclear Arms Race with Russia
Paul Street
Liberal Hypocrisy, “Late-Shaming,” and Russia-Blaming in the Age of Trump
Ajamu Baraka
Malcolm X and Human Rights in the Time of Trumpism: Transcending the Master’s Tools
John Laforge
Did Obama Pave the Way for More Torture?
Mike Whitney
McMaster Takes Charge: Trump Relinquishes Control of Foreign Policy 
Patrick Cockburn
The Coming Decline of US and UK Power
Louisa Willcox
The Endangered Species Act: a Critical Safety Net Now Threatened by Congress and Trump
Vijay Prashad
A Foreign Policy of Cruel Populism
John Chuckman
Israel’s Terrible Problem: Two States or One?
Matthew Stevenson
The Parallax View of Donald Trump
Norman Pollack
Drumbeat of Fascism: Find, Arrest, Deport
Stan Cox
Can the Climate Survive Electoral Democracy? Maybe. Can It Survive Capitalism? No.
Ramzy Baroud
The Trump-Netanyahu Circus: Now, No One Can Save Israel from Itself
Edward Hunt
The United States of Permanent War
David Morgan
Trump and the Left: a Case of Mass Hysteria?
Pete Dolack
The Bait and Switch of Public-Private Partnerships
Mike Miller
What Kind of Movement Moment Are We In? 
Elliot Sperber
Why Resistance is Insufficient
Brian Cloughley
What are You Going to Do About Afghanistan, President Trump?
Binoy Kampmark
Warring in the Oncology Ward
Yves Engler
Remembering the Coup in Ghana
Jeremy Brecher
“Climate Kids” v. Trump: Trial of the Century Pits Trump Climate Denialism Against Right to a Climate System Capable of Sustaining Human Life”
Jonathan Taylor
Hate Trump? You Should Have Voted for Ron Paul
Franklin Lamb
Another Small Step for Syrian Refugee Children in Beirut’s “Aleppo Park”
Ron Jacobs
The Realist: Irreverence Was Their Only Sacred Cow
Andre Vltchek
Lock up England in Jail or an Insane Asylum!
Rev. William Alberts
Grandiose Marketing of Spirituality
Paul DeRienzo
Three Years Since the Kitty Litter Disaster at Waste Isolation Pilot Plant
Eric Sommer
Organize Workers Immigrant Defense Committees!
Steve Cooper
A Progressive Agenda
David Swanson
100 Years of Using War to Try to End All War
Andrew Stewart
The 4CHAN Presidency: A Media Critique of the Alt-Right
Edward Leer
Tripping USA: The Chair
Randy Shields
Tom Regan: The Life of the Animal Rights Party
Nyla Ali Khan
One Certain Effect of Instability in Kashmir is the Erosion of Freedom of Expression and Regional Integration
Rob Hager
The Only Fake News That Probably Threw the Election to Trump was not Russian 
Mike Garrity
Why Should We Pay Billionaires to Destroy Our Public Lands? 
Mark Dickman
The Prophet: Deutscher’s Trotsky
Christopher Brauchli
The Politics of the Toilet Police
Ezra Kronfeld
Joe Manchin: a Senate Republicrat to Dispute and Challenge
Clancy Sigal
The Nazis Called It a “Rafle”
Louis Proyect
Socialism Betrayed? Inside the Ukrainian Holodomor
Charles R. Larson
Review: Timothy B. Tyson’s “The Blood of Emmett Till”
David Yearsley
Founding Father of American Song
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail