Kolkata, March 14: Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief Mamata Banerjee in her first public appearance after her injury paid homage on Sunday afternoon to the 14 villagers of Nandigram who died in police firing on March 14, 2007, marking the beginning of a long agitation against acquisition of farmland by the Left Front government.
“Let good prevail over evil. Have faith in me. I will move around in Bengal with my broken leg. Let’s play. A wounded tiger is more dangerous than a dead tiger,” Banerjee said drawing a well-known parallel in her short speech after leading a silent procession in the heart of Kolkata.
Mentioning the TMC’s popular poll slogan ‘Khela Hobe’ (let’s play) she said she would immediately leave for the districts.
“I have passed through many battles. But I have never bowed my head. I am in pain. The doctors prescribed bed-rest for 15 days. But if I take rest, who will reach out to the people of Bengal? In that case the conspirators will succeed,” Banerjee told a huge crowd at Hazra Park. A ramp was built beside the dais for her wheelchair.
She did not name the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) her main adversary in the imminent eight-phase elections.
“I don’t have much time to talk. I have to leave for Durgapur immediately. I have a programme in Purulia tomorrow. We have lost 5-6 days. During elections even a second matters a lot,” she said.
Banerjee was the face of the Nandigram agitation which played a key role in ending the Left Front’s 34-year-long rule in 2011. She observes March 14 as Nandigram Diwas every year and leads a silent procession in Kolkata.
Nandigram is once again in the news as Banerjee is contesting against her protégé-turned-adversary, BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari, for the Nandigram assembly seat in East Midnapore. Nandigram goes to polls in the second phase on April 1.
Adhikari, who hails from East Midnapore, has claimed that it was he who led the Nandigram agitation which continued till 2009 and witnessed many deaths.
Sending a clear message to the BJP before the procession started around 2 pm, Banerjee tweeted, “We will continue to fight boldly! I’m still in a lot of pain, but I feel the pain of my people even more. In this fight to protect our revered land, we have suffered a lot and will suffer more but we will NEVER bow down to COWARDICE!”
Banerjee was injured in Nandigram on Wednesday evening when the door of her SUV slammed against her left foot. She alleged that four or five people in the crowd, that had surrounded the vehicle, deliberately pushed the door. Opposition leaders have accused Banerjee of using the incident to gain political mileage.
“I am grateful to those who inquired about me. A pain in the heart is more severe than a pain in the body. The pain suffered by democracy is more crucial. One can’t rest when democracy is demolished. I have bruises all over me. I am thankful to the doctors. They will check me again. It is our responsibility to save democracy from autocratic forces,” Banerjee added.
Sitting in a wheelchair that was pushed by her security personnel, the chief minister led the procession along a five kilometre route from Gandhi’s statue in the Maidan to the Hazra Road intersection located close to her home at Kalighat in south Kolkata. She was driven down to the Maidan in a car.
In her speech, Banerjee mentioned the head injury she suffered at Hazra 21 years ago.
On August 16, 1990, when Banerjee was about to lead a youth Congress agitation at Hazra, Bengal was rocked by the news of an assault on her by Lalu Alam, a CPI(M) youth wing worker. Images of Banerjee, with her head wrapped in bandage, and reports suggesting how the injuries might have crippled or killed her, remained in news for months.
BJP leaders in Bengal did not react to her speech till 4 pm. The party’s central leadership in Delhi released a list of its candidates for the third and fourth phases. (Agencies)