I wouldn’t mind courting arrest (2012)

Laughter is the best medicine, says Kabir Suman, who has composed a song on Mukulgate

There’s no language for protest better than music — and no one in Bengal knows this better than Kabir Suman. The musician and MP has uploaded on his website a string of songs that sting with their political content and commentary. The most recent one is a take on the Mukulgate incident on Facebook.

Titled “Hashi niye thako”, this song talks about the dearth of humour in Bengal and has direct references to the Facebook incident that got JU prof Ambikesh Mahapatra arrested for circulating cartoons lampooning chief minister Mamata Banerjee. The song was recorded at his residence and posted on the website on April 15, two days after the incident.

“See the barrage of creations that the incident has triggered. It only shows how creative we Bengalis are. The arrest shows the lack of humour on the part of the authorities and my heart goes out to the people. Poor, poor Bengalis…” he says. An MP and technically still a member of the ruling party, Suman says this isn’t what he had fought for. “I supported the CM in her struggle, gave speeches regularly, sang songs. But I had no idea we would come to this. The government has flouted almost all promises it made before coming into power.” The singer-songwriter says he was part of a private Bengali channel when the Singur incident happened. His lending the movement support only translated into him resigning from the post. “At that time, I would be paid 60,000. Though it was not a huge amount, it was no paltry sum either. After the news of my resignation spread, the current CM texted me saying, ‘Swadhin bhabe sangbadikatar odhikar tomay firiye deboi (I will give you back the right to work freely as a journalist).”

With humour inviting wrath and freedom of expression reduced to ridicule, are we expected to collectively turn into Ramgorurer chhana — a Sukumar Roy creation that embodies all things serious? Suman shoots back, “We common people should celebrate life. Laughter is still the best medicine. The government can at best slam a case on you. Let them do that. I would have courted arrest if they had not released Ambikesh. I plan to stage satyagraha in front of Writers Buildings if such an arrest happens ever again.”

Apart from this latest song, Suman’s website has two songs — “Singur theke Nonadanga” and “A song for Damayanti Sen, IPS” — apart from many others. Touching on the first, he says, “I’m a small man. What can my music do? But yes, with an intellectual like Noam Chomsky writing to the PM to free arrested scientist Partha Sarathi Ray, it will help the administration think. We can at least hope for the best. The only decent way to survive today is through protest.”

About his other that celebrates the work of the now-transferred IPS officer Damayanti Sen in the Park Street rape case, Suman says, “There’s still something called the RTI. Why can’t citizens fill

up a 10 form and seek information from the government?” After a pause, he adds, “CPM is the government we fought against but this is not exactly the government we fought for.” But even if he has composed a number of songs, will he ever be able to perform them on a public platform? “I had done that during the CPM rule, which prompted their people to beat up my assistants. Let it be just the same. Why do I need to fear?”

As the musician falls silent on the other end of the receiver, the promise is already made — music will continue, so will his protest.

April 18

The Times Of India

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