“A terrible state of fear – the fear for survival – has descended over West Bengal, where every opposition or criticism would be nipped in the bud by means of threat, coercion and implications in false cases” – with these words pro-Trinamool theater director Manish Mitra declared on Tuesday that he is quitting from Natya Swajan, the theatre wing of the ruling party, and all other government posts that he occupied.
The 47-year theatre director also remarked that he might he hounded for speaking against the ruling party. “I may be made to sit inside a police station. I may be inflicted in false cases and my character might be assassinated,” said Mitra indicating that the fate of Jadavpur University professor Ambikesh Mahapatra might befall him too.
Mitra’s outburst against the ruling party comes as the latest among a series of incidents of prominent city-based intellectuals who once propagated for the regime change at the Writers’ Buildings later falling out with the new government.
The list includes educationist Sunanda Sanyal, singer Kabir Suman, theatre personalities Suman Mukhopadhyay and Kaushik Sen and painter Samir Aich. Even painter-turned-Rajya Sabha MP Jogen Chowdhury recently publicly criticised the state government for the poor state of the schools in West Bengal.
“I congratulate Mitra for making his realisations public but I wish they came before,” Suman Mukhopadhyay said. However, he agreed that Mitra has good reasons to fear being implicated in false cases, as “this is the predominant culture not only in the cultural sphere but in every sphere in Bengal”.
Mitra’s statement created strong reactions in the Trinamool camp, with theatre personality turned Balurghat MP, Arpita Ghosh, who is also the secretary of Natya Swajan, threatened to sue Mitra for making defamatory comments.
“His allegations are absolutely baseless. There much be some personal equations working behind it,” she said. “People who live in glass houses should not throw stones,” she warned.
On Tuesday, while expressing his disgust over the way of working of Natya Swajan as well as the Trinamool Congress government, Mitra said that merit was no longer the criterion for an artist or cultural group to survive, as being ‘yes man’ of the party in general, and tourism minister Bratya Basu and Balurghat MP Arpita Ghosh in particular, was being considered as the decisive factor for receiving government aids and getting programme slots.
“Many prominent theatre groups did not get government grants and programme slots, while groups those play volleyball or chess have been awarded aids. Can you believe that poet Subodh Sarkar would be deciding which theatre groups from Bengal would perform in National School of Drama’s Bharat Rang Mahotsav, the national theatre festival? What is Sarkar’s link with theatre?”
“I had welcomed the change in regime (in 2011) but could not digest the changes that came thereafter,” Mitra said on Tuesday, while announcing his decision to quit from the theatre outfit, as well as from various government posts that he occupied.
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