Scarlet Lake

Where Do We Go from Here

It was a very dull morning when Anirban Konar encountered the District Magistrate Sumanta Majumdar for the first time.Late in the previous evening the Leftists Front Govt was dismissed by the ruling Party at the centre. Though the official decision was taken by the President, everybody knew that the President, who could be heckled in his very office by his own party-members for losing his dhoti, was but a puppet in that God-forsaken country. Years prior or after his Presidential tenure, all the decisions were actually made by the Party chief and now the President had to sign on the specified rubber-stamped space. So the arrests of all the social activists had been duly made, and Anirban was picked up early in the morning by the police and produced in front of the District Magistrate by mid-morning.Sumanta was a young and relatively short man in his late thirties, dark but already balding on both sides of his forehead, and had piercing sharp eyes. He smiled, “Sorry for the trouble, but you know, I had to do it; well, I do understand that you guys are not of the same feather as the so-called Leftists, but I had my orders. By the way, Mr Konar, where can I find a copy of that book written by Martin Luther King which you used to keep on your book-shelf?”‘Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community’ – was the book’s title. Anirban was surprised, “You read King?” –“Oh, yes”, Sumanta answered politely, “I’m well versed in Das Kapital too.”Eventually all the seven, including Anirban, SRC and Asit Poddar were released from the custody after a fortnight, which turned out to be a hassle-free release altogether and Anirban was too involved to remember to get himself a copy of the book by Martin Luther King.Two years later they met again in an entirely different situation.In a distant village in the district, a group of agricultural labourers were not paid due to a dispute between the members of a land-owners family and when the police intervened, they apprehended a few labourers for agitating against the landlords and demanding to be paid. For Anirban and his group it was a fit case to raise a hungama in the DM’s office. They assembled the families of the labourers, a horde numbering around one hundred and fifty persons inclusive of women and children, in the premises of the district administrative headquarters and blocked Sumanta Majumdar’s office door. Soon the smart DM came out for a dialogue and the crowd gheraoed him at the wide veranda of the old structure of the former British colonial building. Mr Majumdar was given a chair in the middle of the gathering and made to sit surrounded by the villagers. Apparently the siege continued quite peacefully for more than six hours till the reinforcements arrived with their batons and guns.The DM, Mr Majumdar, who was sitting pretty until then, jumped up to stand upon the chair and shouted aloud at the top of his voice and ordered to stop the progress of the police advancement, as if he had taken the agitators’ side. The baton charging police force halted and DM took the opportunity to pacify the situation. It was another pleasant surprise for Anirban; the arrested labourers were freed without any charges filed against them.* * *It was a semi-dark humid autumn evening during the height of the extremists’ movement. Carefully avoiding the hassle, Anirban was passing through the busy and crowded Park Street pavement. He thought it safer in the up-market locality rather than the empty narrow lanes where he could be isolated more easily; he was absconding from his residence since the extremist outfit annihilated a corrupt politician in that locale. All of a sudden, a forty-something non-descriptive person emerged from nowhere to push Anirban aside into a corner of and asked if Anirban was using his hideout at Tarakeshwar, a suburb known for its religious connection.Astonished by the spontaneity of the incident, Anirban asked for the identity of the person and questioned about what the relation was between his staying at Tarakeshwar and walking through Park Street. Sumanta Majumdar’s smile made Anirban recollect. “I’m at the New Secretariat now working in the department of information. Better you believe me; there’s talk about not arresting you any more – but … I hope you know what I mean. Please leave that place, go somewhere else. The department is tracking every move you make there. Trust me, and make no mistake … you never saw me, officially.” And then the former DM vanished into the darkness as suddenly as he had appeared.

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