Indrani Roy deconstructs the controversy over Trinamool Congress MP Tapas Pal controversial remarks on rape.
When Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee became West Bengal chief minister in 2011, she had stated, “Bodla noy bodol chai (We want change, not revenge).”
But quite a few members of her party conveniently chose to give her words a miss.
We shuddered in the past as Anubrata Mondal (Birbhum district TMC president whose name figures in a murder first information report) on television inciting his partymen to throw bombs at the police.
However, what TMC Member of Parliament Tapas Pal did surpasses any kind of political audacity that West Bengal in recent times has come to represent.
Pal hit the headlines on Monday when a couple of regional channels aired video footage that has the MP threatening members of the opposition with rape and murder during a rally at Choumaha in Bengal’s Nadia district on June 14.
In the Lok Sabha, Pal represents Krishnanagar, Nadia.
What exactly did the MP say?
Ekta kono CPI-M jodi amaar maa, bon, chacha, chachi karo gaye haat dey ei Tapas Pal chhere katha bolbe na. Tapas Pal nijer revolver bar kore guli kore diye chole jabe. Jene rakhben, bhalo kore jene rakhben, ami Chandannagarer maal… Ami Kolkatar maal noi, Chandannagarer maal. Rangbaji Tapas Paul korechhe. (If anybody from the CPI-M dares touch my mother, sister, uncle or aunt, then this Tapas Pal is not going to spare them. Tapas Pal will shoot them with his revolver. Remember, I am from Chandernagore. I am not from Kolkata. Tapas Pal too has been a tough).
Ekta jodi kono birodhi aajke Trinamooler kono meye, kono baap, kono bachchar gaye haat dey, tader gushti ke ami jaa taa kore chole jabo. Amaar chheleder dhukiye debo rape kore chole jabe, rape kore chole jabe…. (If anyone from the opposition dares touch a daughter, father, child from Trinamool, I will do whatever I can to their entire clan. I will set my boys on them, they will rape them.)
‘I said raid, not rape’
Speaking to CNN IBN on Monday, however, Pal said he never used the word ‘rape’.
He claimed to have said 'raid' instead.
"I never said rape. I said raid. I said they should raid all the people and places, including the women and the old," Pal told the television channel.
He also claimed that the opposition was trying to defame him.
Meanwhile, Pal’s wife Nandini on Tuesday apologised to the media on her husband’s behalf.
Pal’s words have drawn protest waves across the country and many want him arrested.
Can the TMC MP be arrested for what he said?
According to (Retired) Justice Bhagabati Prasad Bandyopadhyay, he can be charged with inciting violence.
Advocate and Congress leader Arunava Ghosh too is of the opinion that the TMC MP can be charged under Section 117 of the Indian Penal Code and can be put behind bars for provoking rape and murder.
Who is Tapas Pal?
The 1958-born Pal is a reputed actor from Kolkata.
He debuted in the film Dadar Kirti directed by Tarun Majumdar in 1980.
He received a Filmfare Award for his role in Saheb.
In an acting career spanning over about 30 years, Pal’s roles in films like Bhalobasha Bhalobasha and Guru Dakshina earned him much critical acclaim.
Pal shared screen space with Madhuri Dixit in a 1984-film Abodh directed by Hiren Nag.
He joined the Trinamool Congress in 2000 and was elected a member of the legislative assembly from Alipore for two terms (2001-2006 and 2006-2009).
He has been a member of Parliament from Krishnanagar since 2009.
Pal’s personal life has been marred with controversies.
He allegedly refused to take care of his mother and was even accused of throwing her out of their ancestral home.
His wife Nandini once went public about his alleged illicit relations with a co-star.
However, the couple is known to have buried the hatchet now.
Their daughter Sohini, is one of the new faces Tollywood.
When Pal supported Kunal Ghosh
In late 2013, Pal, along with another actor-turned TMC MP Shatabdi Roy, was seen siding with jailed TMC MP Kunal Ghosh in a rally.
There Ghosh was heard speaking against the state government with regard to the Saradha scam.
As a result, both Pal and Roy drew the party leadership’s ire and it took the duo only 24 hours to do a volte face.
India agog with criticism
Criticisms against the TMC MP’s comments are pouring in from every corner.
While National Commission for Women demanded Pal's arrest on Tuesday, civil society is up in arms against the actor-turned parliamentarian.
Actress Aparna Sen seemed aghast.
Talking to regional media in Kolkata on Tuesday afternoon, she said, “I am dumbfounded. This is not the Tapas I knew. I once shared warm and cordial ties with him. I am stunned. How can he make such obnoxious comments? Has it got something to do with being in politics?”
To writer Nabaneeta Dev Sen, the video clips aired by the television channels seemed like movie clippings depicting a villain’s takes.
“Probably, Pal forgot that he was speaking not as a reel life hero but as an elected representative of the people.
Sen urged the administration to take immediate action against the MP.
A reputed filmmaker, who has worked closely with Pal, told rediff.com on condition of anonymity, “Something is rotten in this state of West Bengal.
“I still can’t come to terms with the fact that Tapas has made such dirty comments. Someone needs to talk to him. It seems he needs help.”
Poet Sankha Ghosh was even more vehement. “I am out of words. I feel ashamed as a human being. It’s a sad day for Bengal,” he told rediff.com.
Trinamool Congress’ stand
As expected, an embarrassed Trinamool Congress promptly distanced itself from Pal's comments.
While the people of Bengal waited impatiently for a few words from their loved chief minister, the latter chose to maintain a ‘stoic silence’.
Instead, her trusted emissary TMC general secretary Mukul Roy did the talking.
“The chief minister is pained. The Trinamool Congress doesn’t endorse Pal’s comments,” Roy told the media.
Taking the cue from Roy, state education minister Partha Chatterjee and TMC spokeman Derek O’ Brien said, "Statements made by Tapas Pal are very insensitive. We do not in any way endorse what he said," O'Brien said.
"A chief minister as sensitive as Mamata Banerjee, I can tell you in colloquialism, she is hopping mad", O’Brien added.
While activists across the country are crying themselves hoarse asking for Pal’s immediate arrest, his party on Monday night asked the MP to send in a written explanation within 48 hours.
The opposition’s stand
The BJP has sought to know if Mamata Banerjee plans action against her party MP.
"The question needs to be asked to Banerjee if she would endorse such statements and what action would be taken," said Rajiv Pratap Rudy of the BJP.
Communist Party of India-Marxist said it would move the National Commission for Women against Pal and would also complain to the Lok Sabha Speaker.
According to party insiders, CPI-M will also lodge a first information report against Pal by Wednesday.
While India unites in decrying the words uttered by the TMC MP, what’s worrisome is the thundering applause that his ‘hate speech’ drew from among the people attending his rally.
It would be irresponsible for us to forget that we, the people, elected Pal as an MP.
Therefore, we cannot shirk our onus for having chosen a ‘wrong candidate’
We can’t but agree with what educationist and social activist Miratun Nahar had to say on a regional television channel, “It’s time to remind ourselves over and over again, the clichéd adage ‘People get the government they deserve’.”