‘You are all Maoist, CPI(M) cadre,'she tells audience, before storming out
Moments after walking off the stage where a discussion hosted by a television channel on Friday evening was being recorded, an angry West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee instructed the police to take photographs of those in the audience who had asked questions which did not go down well with her.
The police, according to unofficial reports on Saturday, have begun enquiries.
The questions that drew Ms. Banerjee's ire were on the increasing attacks on women in the State, the infringement of democratic rights by the authorities, and the police action following the recently circulated e-mail by a Jadavpur professor with graphics directed at her.
“I must tell you that you are CPI(M) cadres, Maoist cadres … I cannot reply to CPI(M) questions,” Ms. Banerjee furiously responded before walking out in a huff from the interactive programme organised by CNN-IBN with the channel's deputy editor, Sagarika Ghose, as moderator.
The Chief Minister shouted and pointed fingers at the students of Jadavpur University and Presidency University present in the audience and told them to go back to the jungles as they were Maoists. “The students are only asking Maoist questions and the CPI(M) questions,” she complained as Ms. Ghose sought her answer to the issues raised. “They are the Maoist students.”
When Ms. Ghose tried to pacify her by saying that those in the audience were indeed university students, Ms. Banerjee said, “So what … they are only selected for Maoist activities.”
“I am shocked and horrified by what happened on Friday. For a Chief Minister who keeps screaming democracy, this is not expected of her,” a participant in the aborted TV programme told The Hindu , requesting anonymity for fear of retribution by the police.
Two days before her government completes its first year in office, Ms. Banerjee's response to the studio audience has given fresh ammunition to those who accuse her of running an intolerant administration.
CPI(M) leaders described the incident as an example of the “culture of intolerance” being preached by Ms. Banerjee. “Every incident in the State is termed a design or a conspiracy of the CPI(M) and there are attempts to provoke hatred and intolerance against her opponents. After one year of the government this is being directed against ordinary students and citizens who are shouted at and not allowed to ask questions,” Md. Salim, a central committee member of the CPI(M), said.