A day after Bengali poet Srijato Bandopadhyay was heckled and the venue of his programme was vandalised in Assam’s Silchar by suspected members of Hindu organisations, he said he doesn’t feel secure in the country anymore.
The incident took place Saturday evening, following which he was rescued by armed Assam policemen. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee later called him and assured him of security.
“Intolerance is spreading and I feel insecure in my own country. People like us have no freedom of speech. The axe is falling on free thinkers. In my state I am secure, but we have to often go out for cultural programmes and recital sessions,” said the 43-year-old poet, who returned to Kolkata Sunday morning.
Srijato was invited to inaugurate a cultural event organised by ‘Esho Boli’ in Silchar. According to the poet, when the programme started, a group of people barged in and snatched the microphone. Then they questioned him about a poem he wrote two years back. One of Srijato’s poem courted controversy in March 2017 which was written the day Yogi Adityanath was sworn in as the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh. Police complaints were filed against him and he also received threats. “That is long back and I thought that the issue has died out,” said Srijato.
“I never expected this. Outsiders were shouting. Later they ransacked the hotel where the programme was taking place. They also chanted slogans,” said Srijato.
The situation soon got out of hand and the outsiders vandalised the hotel where the programme was taking place. Srijato and some of the organisers locked themselves inside the auditorium.
Later a huge contingent of policemen arrived and rescued the poet. Armed policemen took him to a local circuit house which was guarded through the night. In the wee hours he was escorted to Silchar airport.
“Assam police and the administration rescued me. Mamata Banerjee called me and heard in detail about the incident. She said that the Assam government will be approached and my security will be ensured…,” said Srijato.
Meanwhile, intellectuals in West Bengal protested against the incident. “This is of grave concern. It is natural for us to think freely. If such incidents continue to happen, one will have to believe that there is anarchy in the country,” said Sirshendu Mukhopadhyay, novelist.
“I am relieved that he is safely back…. For the past four and a half years, Hindutva forces in the country are targeting free thinkers and intellectuals. They are trying to spread hatred. I have been invited to a programme in Assam on February 2. As a mark of protest, I will read Srijato’s poems and not mine,” said Subodh Sarkar, poet.