Aug 31, 2015 | Kolkata/Howrah: Students and Artists from across the city gathered today at Jadavpur University and Ramkrishna Ghaat to release sky lanterns with messages such as “AmioTamoghna” (I am Tamoghna too) and “TrashABP”. The protest was organised against the character assassination of performance artist Tamoghna Haldar, by the bourgeois intelligentsia and mainstream media (specifically the ABP group).
On 21st August, Tamoghna took part in a protest march at College Square area (Kolkata), in solidarity with the ongoing student protest in FTII against saffronisation of the institute. Tamoghna’s performance, inspired by Draupadi’s Vastraharan, was a sarcastic take on Gajendra Chauhan’s appointment as the head of FTII.
The words ‘Khuli Khidki’ – which is the name of one of Chauhan’s C grade, sexist films – was written across a white bra Tamoghna wore for his performance. In the midst of a confrontation with the police, where at least two people were severely injured, a saffron swastika was burnt as a symbolic protest against BJP propagated Hindutva fundamentalism. Meanwhile the film rolls Tamoghna wore were stripped off him.
Many of the protesters, including Tamoghna, later marched to the neighbouring Presidency University, where students protesting against the Vice Chancellor had also been beaten and molested by the police. Even though his performance was over, Tamoghna remained in costume, perhaps because he did not have time to change in all the confusion, or perhaps because by now, the performance had become a part of him.
In a vulgar display of yellow journalism the Bengali mainstream media, particularly ABP Ananda, ignored the actual protests, they sidestepped the molestation charges against the police, and instead humiliated Tamoghna on live news shows and discussions for hours, where his voice and side of the story was completely absent. In short, he was ruthlessly dehumanised and his performance was portrayed as “obscene” and “indecent”. All this with regular commercial breaks that included some of the most sexist ads on TV. The villification continued in newspaper articles the next day.
Almost the entirety of the Bengali “intellectual” society failed to see a ‘man’ wearing a ‘bra’ (which itself is a product of patriarchy) as breaking gender barriers rather than shaming women.
But his troubles did not end there. According to sources close to Tamoghna, a group of policemen in civil dress accompanied by ABP journalists showed up at Tamoghna’s house the next day. Finding his house locked, they questioned neighbours, and later left. The police, ofcourse, has denied this since.
Anandabazar Patrika sunk to even lower lows, printing a photo of Tamoghna’s front door and making public his home address the next day.
The counter attack came soon after as social media was flooded with memes and posts by Tamoghna’s fellow artists, students and other supporters who quickly organised and launched a counter campaign, using the hashtag handles #AmioTamoghna and #TrashABP, criticising the city’s bourgeoisie moral police (both right wing and left) and targeting the ABP group.
According to one of the organisers of today’s action, “The campaign that has been inaugurated today by floating sky lanterns will be followed by burning ABP newspapers tomorrow. Friends from Bangladesh have also expressed solidarity and will join us in tomorrow’s action. We reject a media which repeatedly since the Independence has highlighted issues and news that alienate the mass from the truth and now has the audacity to decide what’s modest and what’s not.”
Another protester posted on social media saying, “No, we did not fly lanterns of compassion today. We flew news across the sky. News of bitter disgust. Disgust at the “bazaar”, at its infastructure of civilised, systematic assault. We flew lanterns of warning against the haram of the ramzadas. Today we soar through the clouds. Tomorrow we plunge down to the streets, spewing fire at the Investors, at the Trinamool-Sanghis, at acrid ultranationalism. Tomorrow the bazaar will burn. Anandabazar, dripping in Japani Tel will burn tomorrow. Some of us will set it ablaze. Others will wake up, and after the customary morning fart, will shit on Aveek Sarkar’s face. They will shit on the smooth printed face of Modi. For the Ananda of it! We are truly indecent. And tomorrow we will show the audacity of our indecency!”