|Courtesy: Somnath Roy and Saikat Bandyopadhyay|
Everything stated here is based on recollections of eye-witnesses
There was a clarion call for #HokKolorob-ers on Facebook on Oshtomi and Nobomi, supposedly the grandest days in the City of Joy. Nobody took them seriously: it was, after all, Pujo — the season that smells of new clothes, perfume, and stale chilli sauce.
Oh, and the location! The location! Who on earth would want to brave them at Maddox Square, that rectangular stretch of non-grass where heaven descends four days a year to lure males from all corners of the city?
But #HokKolorob roared back, and how! They marched inside the non-greenest of grounds, heads high, banners in their proud hands, the blaring microphone drowned in a kind of protest Kolkata has seldom seen: music. During Pujo.
“#HokKolorob,” they roared (sans the hashtag, because “hashtag HokKolorob” sounds un-cool). “#HokKolorob”, the others echoed back.
It was too good to go on uninterrupted. The organisers arrived at the scenario. Apparently they had received a letter from Police Headquarters last night: the organisers have been accused of providing #HokKolorob with “space”, of entertaining #HokKolorob.
The organisers requested #HokKolorob-ers to not “spoil” the Maddox Square Pujo. They requested, because requesting politely is still fashionable among certain people.
#HokKolorob obviously had no such intention (it would have been rather ambitious: who on Earth can “spoil” a Maddox Square Pujo?). They wanted to be a part of it; they wanted to be another group who would sit in the glamorous section of the Pujo and keep to themselves, their music, and their posters.
The tone changed slightly. There was apparently a threat that if the trend (of music and calligraphy) spread through the ground the precious Pujo environment will be “spoiled”.
Summary of the above paragraph:
The organisers were scared that their Pujo may be “spoiled” if everyone present at the ground took to music and calligraphy.
They kept insisting, the tone seamlessly fluctuating between requests and commands. The latter may have to do with the fear of police and administration. Having grown up in the locality I have never come across a rude Maddox Square Pujo Organising Committee.
#HokKolorob agreed: the venue was shifted to outside the ground, between the southern and eastern gates (in other words, around the Richie Road-Valmeek Street crossing). They protested. Through music. And banners. Especially “VC tumi dushtu lok, tomar mathay ukun hok”1.
People — youngsters or otherwise — ignored the fragrance of new clothes, perfume, and stale chilli sauce to gather around the group. They were curious: what is #HokKolorob? Will they come in aid of students of other colleges as well?
Dusk melted into evening amidst Pujo light. They never stopped singing. Roads were not blocked (special care was taken to ensure that). The passers-by often stopped by to join in the chorus. #HokKolorob continued.
The confused organisers stood on the pavement on the other side — flanked by police —with a “why us?” look. The policemen were certainly not amused by slogans like “police tumi marle eto, maine tomar barlo koto?”2 or “police tomay japte dhore / gan shonabo bisri shure”3.
No, the police did not dare touch #HokKolorob-ers. But they prepared themselves — for the next evening at Laboni. Nobomi night was also supposed to be an onslaught of posters and music.
Nobomi was when the police struck. There were representatives from the Special Branch. They wanted to interrogate certain #HokKolorob-ers. Then they arrived.
Two police vans arrived on the scene. It was déjà vu for students present on that dreadful night at the campus on September 17. Some #HokKolorb-ers were painting banners on the road-divider. The police went for them.
Things started with interrogations, but were soon elevated to threats. When it was pointed out that they were not doing anything illegal, the police arrested 13 #HokKolorob-ers.
Media stepped in. They had to step in. On probing it was revealed that the #HokKolorob-ers had been arrested under Section 151 of the penal code.
Section 151:Knowingly joining or continuing in assembly of five or more persons after it has been commanded to disperse. Whoever knowingly joins or continues in any assembly of five or more persons likely to cause a disturbance of the public peace, after such assembly has been lawfully commanded to disperse, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine, or with both.
Meanwhile, the other #HokKolorob-ers waited at the bus-stand, and were asked by the police to leave. When the confused #HokKolorob-ers asked for a reason, the following conversation ensued:
Police: Please do not stand here.
#HokKolorob-er: Why can we not stand here?
Police: We are not misbehaving with you.
#HokKolorob-er: We never said anything about misbehaving. We just want to know exactly why we cannot stand here.
#HokKolorob-er: Why were our friends arrested?
Police: Oh, so you have not got that? Come to the police station, we will explain you.
The 13 #HokKolorob-ers were released after an hour and a half. Some of them returned to Laboni. Some did not. Then #HokKolorob tuned in with the ubiquitous “we shall overcome...”
There is a lot to overcome, it seems. Exactly why police get away with brutal assaults on students and manhandling girls while #HokKolorob-ers get arrested for painting banners remains unknown.
Kolkata probably cares. She probably does not, despite having witnessed 1905, 1946, and 1971. She goes on nevertheless in sensuous meanders from Laboni to Maddox Square and beyond. She had cried her heart out the day #HokKolorob took centrestage on September 20.
Some day she will join in the march to overcome as well. Some day she will respond to #HokKolorob.
Translations (I am terrible at this):
1 VC, you’re not-so-nice. May your hair be full of lice.
2 Police, you did us bash. Did you get a lot of cash?3 Police, we will hug you tight; and create a racket with all our might.