Last night, on a flight back to New Delhi from Kolkata, Railways Minister Mamata Banerjee drew an uncharacteristic sketch: A man engulfed in fire, with flames rising out of his body into the skies above — enveloping the sun in a thick black smoke.
Over past years, Banerjee has drawn outlines of birds, flowers, goddesses and green mountains. Banerjee’s style has not quite been associated with the morbid or dark.
“I was in extreme mental agony — overtaken by an extreme sense of melancholy at the loss of innocent lives in the raging fire at the Stephen House at Kolkata”, said Banerjee. “It was in such a mental state that this sketch came out of me”, Banerjee told Hindustan Times in an exclusive conversation.
Banerjee’s depression and anger is particularly pronounced because she feels that the deaths were “eminently avoidable”.
“When I visited the site on the first day, the police officers present told me that two deaths had happened and that no others were trapped inside. As of now 46 dead bodies have been recovered, while some persons are missing”, Banerjee said.
“The tragedy is that several lives were lost because the state administration suppressed information and gave a misleading picture.”
The fire brigade station at Park Street is just a minute away from the site of the mishap, she pointed out.
“The state government was extremely negligent. Negligence is a crime”, Banerjee said.