Dear Manna da,
Last week brought us shock by the West Bengal Police’s brutal assault on a peaceful demonstration of students in Kolkata, killing a young activist, Sudipto Gupta, and inflicting serious injuries to many students. While the victim was battling for his life, the Chief Minister, who is also in charge of the police department, Ms. Mamata Banerjee, was active in the Indian Premier League (IPL) opening ceremony extravaganza. With stains of blood in her hand, within a day, she came down to Bangalore to “honour” you!
Our question before you, Manna da, is as follows.
Do you really need this “honour” from her, who has blood in her hands? Did you not check her record before you gave your approval to this “honour”?
Is it not a tragic irony that while you are a musical genius, the boy’s father, an unknown violinist, is also a musician? While the bereaved father plays the tune of mourning, can you – Manna da, accept this “honour” from a person, who publicly label the brutal custodial death of a student a ‘petty matter’ – who is the cause of it?
You have enthralled us with your unforgettable Puchho na kaisey mayne rayen beetayee..? Can you ask the same question to Sudipto’s father and sister, as to how, they spent the dark night of April 2, 2013 and thereafter?
Manna da, your voice became ours, when you sang Manbo na e bondhoney, manbo na e shrinkhaley (We shall not accept these chains that shackle us). That still is our aspiration. We are sure that you too have not strayed away from that.
This reminds us of an episode in the life of Bhagat Singh. An admirer of of Lala Lajpat Rai, Bhagat Singh was shocked when Lajpat Rai joined the communal organization, The Hindu Mahasabha. In agony, the young freedom fighter, Bhagat Singh , wrote a letter of protest to his leader, quoting from Robert Browning’s poem, The Lost Leader, which was Browning’s condemnation of Wordsworth’s betrayal of the cause of “liberty, equality and fraternity”. The poem begins with the words, Just for a handful of silver he left us. It pains us to believe that you could have accepted this “honour” from Ms. Banerjee “just for a handful of silver.”
And, it would always give us pain, to say about you,
We, who had loved him so, followed him, honoured him,
Lived in his mild and magnificent eye…..
…..He alone breaks from the van and the free-men,
He alone sinks to the rear and the slaves!
It would, hence be a great sorrow for us to say,
Blot out his name then, record one lost soul more,
One task more declined, one more footpath untrod,
One more devil’s triumph and sorrow for angels,
One wrong more to man, one more insult to God.
We are sure that what has happened is a cynical ploy by a discredited political agency to purchase credibility, by making you a victim of it. We, in no way would like to allow your name to be linked with them. For it was your voice which described them as,
Anna ditey narey bubhukkhu janataye,
Kantha rodh karey lathi raifele.
(Those who do not give food to the hungry mouths but throttle their voice with batons and rifles.)
But Manna da, we do not believe in infallibility of humans, even of the greatest of the great. We want you in our midst and thus request you to return this “one gift”. As Rabindra Nath Tagore had said, while returning the knighthood to the British crown in the wake of the Jallianwallah Bagh massacre, “The time has come when badges of honour make our shame glaring in the incongruous context of humiliation.”
Please, do consider whether the time has come for you too, to “give voice to the protest of millions of my countrymen, surprised into dumb anguish of terror.”
Do not be shackled, Manna da, by this “honour”, which heaps insult on you.
Manbo na e bondhone, manbo na e shrinkhale
Mukto manusher swadhinata adhikar, kharba korey jara ghrinnyo koushaley…
(We shall not accept these chains that shackle us
We will unshackle from those, whose shameful machinations trample upon the right to liberty of free human beings.)
With reverential honour to you from the depth of our hearts.
Kamayani Bali Mahabal, Human rights activist, Mumbai
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