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Mainstream, Vol XLV No 48

West Bengal’s Agony and Rabindranath’s Prasna

In Lieu of Editorial

Sunday 25 November 2007, by SC

Shocked into silence by the ongoing ‘Operation Nandigram II’ one has no option in this dark hour but to turn to our National Poet, Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore, for guidance and solace as this journal did thirtytwo years ago when Emergency descended on this land of ours. Nothing more needs to be conveyed in the circumstances beyond the following unforgettable words of Rabindranath that aptly mirror the anguish of a stunned humanity in the killing fields of Nandigram today. As the drama continues to unfold in and around Nandigram with the CPM hoodlums still trying to terrorise, under state patronage, the hapless rural residents into submission and one is appalled by the shamelessness of the State CM—himself a personification of the bhadralok culture—launching a veritable disinformation campaign while offering “moral justification” for the indefensible and unforgivable actions of his party’s cadres on rampage in the area, the Poet’s ’Prasna (Question)’ eloquently captures West Bengal’s current agony—though the question is posed to God, it is for the rest of the country to fashion an appropriate response.

November 15 S.C.

Prasna (Question)

Lord, time and again you have sent your
- messengers to this heartless world;
- and they have asked us to pardon all, to love all,
- to pluck out of the heart the poisonous roots
- of hatred.

They are adorable and ever to be remembered.
- Yet in these dark days from my doorstep
- I have turned them back with an empty salutation.

Have I not myself seen how, under cover of night,
- secret violence strikes at helpless innocence,
- and the aggression of the mighty unchecked
- in lonely silence the voice of justice chokes?
- Have I not seen young enthusiasts, in a wild rush,
- court painful death, knocking against stone walls
- in vain?

My voice is strangled, dumb my flute,
- The world is swaddled and lost in a nightmare
- of darkness abounding.

And I ask you: those who are poisoning your air, and blotting out your light,
- can you forgive them, is your love for them too?

[This poem was composed soon after the Poet’s statement on January 26, 1932—in protest against Mahatma Gandhi’s arrest on his return from London following the Round Table Conference—was not published in full due to the goverment’s press censorship.]

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