Keeping in mind that the possibility of Kunal’s release from jail custody has become more difficult after Kolkata High Court’s refusal of Kunal’s bail, a Convention was held at Mahabodhi Society auditorium on Friday the 3rd May at 4 pm. The Convention was attended by a large number of participants, including 35 tribal men and women from the Mollarpur area.
After I gave a brief description of the background of Uthnau and the details of Kunal’s arrest, Shampa Karmakar, a woman from Goria village, described how agricultural lands were being usurped by the local quarry industry, and how the villagers are being terrorized by the police and what may be called the quarry mafia.
Mongli, a teenage girl described a recent incident where the quarry owners trying to bribe her mother into yet another plot to implicate Uthnau members. This was followed by Ghasiram’s account of what exactly had happened at the trial of Hupni Kisku, the woman whose FIR has led to Kunal’s arrest.
Mr. Nabo Dutta of Nagarik Mancha portrayed the various kinds of social injustice and environmental pollution from stone quarries and crushers, and explained that Kunal’s case is indicative of the impending risk of state-sponsored fascist oppression of all social movements, and that this particular case ought to be a cause for concern of all activists.
Samar Bagchi, science activist and educator, expressed his concern for victimized activists like Kunal, and the fallout of such harassment to activists.
Mr. Dilip Banerjee coordinated the discussion, and invited suggestions from the audience regarding concrete steps to ensure Kunal’s release and exoneration from the false allegations.
Ms. Jaya Mitra, writer-activist, gave a general portraiture of the mine fields and quarries in western districts of Bengal, and said that she felt social and political activists in such areas are always likely to be victimized by the quarry-owners-police-administration clique.
Prof. Subhendu Dasgupta of Calcutta University’s East and Southeast Asian Studies, analyzed the social and political forces in operation at the quarry areas. He felt that state oppression is being increasingly exacerbated by an increased empowerment of the police administration, which tends to be in collusion with industrialists, who are given a sanction for exploitation of the masses in this age of the free market.
Prof. Meher Engineer of Bose Institute discussed how the decline of reason and social accountability of state authorities is causing the decline of democracy. He said that he was no specialist in law, but was eager to see an immediate release of Kunal.
Sri Azizul Haq, himself a victim of custodial torture by the police under trial for 8 years, called for an active and united resistance to the reign of darkness. He warned that unless there is a sense of solidarity and an environment of commitment to fight darkness, more and more people would be prevented from doing meaningful work.
The audience was keen to discuss possible next steps to ensure Kunal’s release. Dilip Banerjee invited proposals from everybody, and listed the suggestions received from the floor. These suggestions included:
The Chief Minister will be approached in person and asked to exonerate Kunal from all false charges immediately; print and publish handbills and posters to build up public awareness; organize a convention at Suri, the Birbhum district headquarters and place a demand charter to the District Magistrate; assist Uthnau in going ahead with its work – especially the health center and educational programs – so that the quarry industry realizes that Kunal’s arrest won’t stop Uthnau’s activities; contribute money and assistance to help Debal meet all expenses.
Dr. Engineer, Sri Samar Bagchi and Sri Nabo Dutta said they would try to contact influential people to get an appointment with the CM.
Sri Amiya Saha, advocate, from Suri, said that he would help organize a convention at Suri, whose date was fixed on Friday the 17th May.
Sri Sajal Mitra, a political activist, committed to the responsibility of providing papers for posters and handbills, and Mr. Badal Ghosh and Sri Suvajit Roy Choudhury offered all help with printing.
Paschim Banga Khet Majur Samiti offered help to Uthnau to carry out health and educational work, and later on, all other activities.
Donations from participants amounted to the sum of Rs. 1100 at the end of the convention, which was a great contribution to paying part of the expenses of the convention.
The Convention ended with a beautiful song, composed by Ghasiram, a talented tribal artist, and sung by tribal women (Ghasiram is one of the accused, not yet arrested, in the case).