In an exclusive and candid conversation with this correspondent, she spoke about the political situation in Bengal and her disappointment with her film fraternity. Excerpts:
Q: Why did the Bengal unit of the BJP feel the need to launch the Save Bengal campaign from Delhi and not from Bengal itself?
A: It is not that the Save Bengal campaign will happen only from Delhi. We wanted to start it from here and take it forward all across the country where we have a substantial number of Bengali population to highlight the plight of the state. Bengal has not seen any development for the past so many years because of which the youths of Bengal are leaving and settling in other parts of the country. Bengal has to become equally strong like all other states where students can get quality education and jobs along with healthcare. That is why we started the campaign from Delhi.
Q: Regarding the communal tensions that we have seen in West Bengal, the Bengal government has accused the BJP of “manufacturing” such communal tensions for electoral gains. What do you have to say about that?
A: When the government of West Bengal makes such statements, there are a lot of calculations behind it. When I talk about Basirhat, the people who created the ruckus did not belong to Basirhat. After a controversial Facebook post went viral, the boy alleged to have posted it was immediately arrested and the matter should have rested there. But no, suddenly, the next day, thousands of people gathered as if they were ready and the local police did nothing. It was a designed programme. If it was organised by the BJP, do you really think that the police would have let them do what they have done? The police kept quiet because they knew that this would happen and they were being supported by someone.
Q: Parties like the Congress and CPIM have accused the BJP of being a “softer ally” of the TMC. How true is that?
A: It is totally false. The term “Didibhai-Modibhai” that you often hear in the media in Bengal is actually a term planted by none other than the TMC because this phrase benefits the TMC in Bengal both electorally and politically and we do not gain anything out of this.
Q: The TMC in West Bengal also accuses the BJP of playing vindictive politics by “using” the CBI and ED in alleged scams like Narada and Saradha. What do you have to say about that?
A: Okay, so do they (the Bengal government) want to say that Saradha did not happen? The investigation into the Saradha scam case was handed over to the CBI by the Congress government and not by the BJP; then how come it is BJP’s agenda? And if you want to tell me that the CBI only wakes up when there is something going on in Bengal, I would say something or the other keeps happening in Bengal every day and it is a mere coincidence that the CBI calls for enquiry soon after a political chaos there. We cannot expect the CBI to wait for political situations to improve in Bengal to carry out their job. They are an autonomous body that does not work under any influence.
‘If Basirhat (violence) was organised by the BJP, do you think that the police would have let the mob do what they have done?’
Q: A perception among the people is being created that the BJP is not being able to keep its flock together in Bengal as was seen in the case of Rumpa Ghorui, who was elected on a BJP ticket from the Pujali municipality, but later joined TMC. Also, the tribal family in Naxalbari that had hosted BJP president Amit Shah during his recent visit to north Bengal, also joined the TMC. What do you think is wrong?
A: Why don’t you see that so many people from the Congress as well as the CPIM are also joining the TMC? Do you think they are happily joining TMC? I don’t think so. They are being forced to join that party, with people going and threatening them to join TMC.
Q: You come from the film fraternity of Kolkata, but seeing so many of your fraternity members joining TMC, do you now feel a disconnect?
A: Most of the artistes in Bengal joined TMC when the party came to power in Bengal in 2011. I did not have any feeling about anybody joining politics and it did not affect me, as they have their own choice. But when I was dragged by my hair by 10-12 men on the streets of Kolkata during a protest, when I was beaten, kicked and punched mercilessly on the streets, where policemen just stood as bystanders, when they tore my saree and kicked me on the stomach, on my legs (she chokes). I was surprised that none of my film fraternity members stood up to raise their voice against this incident. They did not quit nor did they say a word about the incident. Since that day, I do not belong to that film fraternity (she chokes again). I always believed that artistes were open-minded, they were emancipated, but I never knew that they were so selfish and I am sorry to say that.