Kolkata: Once upon a time, Bengal's dreaded bandits used to announce their arrival with the blood-curdling "Ha re re re" cry that had an immobilising effect on the victims. Centuries later, the dacoits' war cry, ironically, is echoing from the lips of West Bengal's policemen.
Officers and constables of the West Bengal and Kolkata Police are resorting to the shout to drown out the voice of the arrested Saradha scam accused and suspended Trinamool Congress MP Kunal Ghosh who has turned a "loose cannon" by firing salvos at his own party.
While the "novelty" of the police act has made Ghosh seek redressal from the Calcutta High Court, politicians, rights activists and civil society members are wondering if the cops, under the Mamata Banerjee regime, have found their role models in the dacoits of yore.
Disowned by his own party, Ghosh, behind bars since November 2013, has been dropping regular bombshells, raising the discomfort level of the ruling Trinamool, which finds itself increasingly cornered over the multi-crore rupee chit fund scam with as many as four of its frontline leaders already landing in jail.
The journalist-turned-politician, who had in the past tirelessly sung paeans about Banerjee and Trinamool as Saradha's media arm head, has now been using his regular court appearances to make damaging allegations against the leader and her associates - providing powerful ammunition to the opposition.
Having made a flurry of sensational claims ranging from "Banerjee is the biggest beneficiary of the Saradha scam" to calling for "CBI interrogation of the chief minister", Ghosh now finds his voice lost in the din of the policemen, who are even not loathe to banging on police vehicles and pushing, shoving and dragging the Rajya Sabha member to make him inaudible to the media.
"It may be unfathomable to see the police shouting 'Ha re re', but it is hardly surprising to see them belting out the dacoits' war cry, for the police under the Mamata regime is nothing short of dacoits," BJP National Executive member Tathagata Roy told IANS.
"The police's novelty may please their political masters, but the way Ghosh's voice is being stifled vindicates our stand that the Trinamool has a lot to hide in the Saradha scam," Roy added.
Famed linguist and academician Pabitra Sarkar expressed his dismay over the police's new found "role model".
" 'Ha re re' had a blood-curdling effect and the dacoits used to give this cry to stave off any potential challenge. What can be more ironical than to see the police finding their role model in dacoits and using it to stave of challenges for the ruling party," Sarkar told IANS.
'Ha re re' has been immortalised in Rabindranath Tagore's "Birpurush" (The Brave man), a poem depicting a child fantasising how he saves his mother from dacoits. India's own Wild West - the Chambal ravines - may be famous for its gang of dacoits, but Bengal too has its fair share of popular lore about the exploits of the likes of Raghu 'dakat' (dacoit) and Bishe 'dakat' who robbed the rich but were benevolent towards the poor.
The exploits of Raghu and others of his ilk find a proud place in the "Bengal Dacoits and Tigers" - a compilation of 20 stories by Suniti Devi, ex-royal of the erstwhile princely state of Cooch Behar. Celebrated author Nirad C. Chowdhury also mentions the war cry of the dacoits in his book "The Autobiography Of An Unknown Indian".
Ghosh, who has already made a suicide bid inside the Presidency Correctional Home where he is lodged, has now approached the Calcutta High Court bench of Justice Nadira Patherya against the police hullabaloo.
"The treatment meted out to him by the police both inside and outside the jail is an infringement on his fundamental rights, including the right to live with dignity and freedom of speech and expression. So we have moved the court seeking justice," Arunava Ghosh, who filed the petition on behalf of Ghosh, told IANS.
In the petition, Kunal Ghosh has also accused the administration of discrimination, citing the instance of arrested state Transport Minister Madan Mitra, who is "often facilitated" by the police to put his part of the story before the media.
When approached, top police officers refused to comment on the issue, though none of them chose to deny the police's war cry against Kunal Ghosh.
Asserting that the Ghosh case was a glaring example of the "pitiable" condition of undertrials in the state, rights body the Association for Protection of Democratic Rights (APDR) has said it might approach the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).
"If an MP can be subjected to such inhuman treatment, one can only imagine the fate of the others. We have plans to approach the NHRC as well as the Calcutta High Court seeking redressal," APDR vice president Ranjit Sur told IANS.