Woman in Bangladesh objects to Union minister Babul Supriyo’s campaign song in bad taste

The burden of Bollywood singer-turned-BJP leader in Bengal Babul Supriyo’s new election song in a video that has gone viral is that Mamata Banerjee doesn’t love Hindus but is extremely fond of Muslims

Woman in Bangladesh objects to Union minister Babul Supriyo’s campaign song in bad taste

S.N.M. Abdi

Didi tumi amader bhalobasho na

Tomar syllabusey nei, kokhono chilo na Dalit meye Purnima

Money porey sei Sirajgunje oshtom shrenir shorirer baalika baila

Kendey othe ek Banglar-i-Ma

Ek ek kore esho baba ra Ek ek kore esho

Meita khub choto je, aamar meita khub choto

The burden of Bollywood singer-turned-BJP leader in West Bengal Babul Supriyo’s new election song in a video that has gone viral is that Mamata Banerjee doesn’t love Hindus but is extremely fond of Muslims. The twice-elected MP is the junior minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change in the Modi government but is contesting the Tollygunge seat in the assembly elections on Amit Shah’s instructions to take over the Bengali film industry.

To demonise Muslims and pit Hindus against them in the election season, Supriyo’s video rakes up the 2001 gangrape of Purnima Shil in Sirajgunje in Bangladesh by Jamaat-BNP cadres. The BJP leader cites the omission of Purnima’s ordeal from school textbooks in West Bengal as proof of Banerjee’s deliberate neglect of Hindu causes.

The video, replete with Purnima’s photographs, incites hatred and enmity between religious communities which is anyway the staple diet of BJP poll propaganda and electioneering. Moreover, it’s packed with lies.

Purnima is not a Dalit as portrayed in the song to appeal to Scheduled Castes whose vote is crucial for a BJP victory. Shils are either Brahmins or from the business community – a mercantile class. Secondly, the song cunningly mixes the narrative of several rape cases to magnify the horrors of what 12-year-old Purnima was subjected to two decades ago. This is not poetic license but deliberate distortion with criminal intent.

Besides the video, Supriyo and actor Rudranil Ghosh – BJP celebrity candidate contesting from Banerjee’s former seat, Bhabanipore - keep harping in their poll speeches that the Hindus of West Bengal have forgotten the choto meye - Purnima - and nobody keeps track of her – especially Banerjee despite being a woman.

Purnima, now 32, has slammed the BJP video in an interview with Ananda Bazar Patrika from Dhaka for politicising her case.

“Have the makers of the video bothered to find out how I am? Once I was physically raped. Now I am being raped for political gain. In Bangladesh too, nobody bothers to take my consent before using my name and photo to serve their purpose. There is no difference between the two Bengals when it comes to exploiting and milking my ordeal.”

Well-known journalist, Shahriar Kabir, who was instrumental in rescuing and rehabilitating Purnima, is equally disgusted. Without mincing his words, Kabir said: “Don’t rapes take place in India? It is wrong to drag Bangladesh’s internal issue into India’s election politics. Purnima and her family haven’t given up the fight. She is still the face of protests in Bangladesh. Sheikh Hasina is fond of her.”

Fifteen rapists were given 12-15 years prison term in Purnima’s case even as the Awami League government and rights groups supported her wholeheartedly so that she could pursue a degree in electrical engineering from the Daffodil International University. Mercifully, she lived away from the public glare until 2013 when she suddenly discovered a Facebook page using her name and photo. Talking to the BBC in 2016 about how she was abused and hounded on social media, Purnima said: "The Facebook page had my office address and even my phone number. It was posting dirty words and dirty photos of women. There were posts that said, 'I am available for hire'."

"At the time I was working at a local TV station, where many of my friends and colleagues accepted friend requests from that Facebook account thinking it was genuine. They asked, 'Why are you posting these dirty pictures? Is this how you earn your living?' One friend even asked me how much I charge."

That Facebook page was ultimately pulled down thanks to Purnima’s persistence. In 2017, Bangladeshi film actress-turned Awami League politician, Tarana Halim, who was then junior minister for Information, hired Purnima as her personal assistant. In April 2018, Halim paraded Purnima in a Kolkata auditorium and made her narrate graphic details of her rape. The motive behind the Awami League show in defiance of all diplomatic protocol was to tell India that it must support Sheikh Hasina in the December 2018 general elections. Otherwise, the Jamaat-BNP would capture power and many more Purnimas would be raped.

West Bengal state security advisor Surajit Purkayastha subsequently scolded Bangladeshi officials for vitiating communal harmony by parading Purnima in Kolkata.

If BJP comes to power in West Bengal, will Supriyo introduce chapters on the Purnima and eight-year-old Asifa Bano rape cases in textbooks - and send a suitable Hindu boy from the New India to marry Purnima who is still single because of the stigma attached to rape in ‘backward’ Bangladesh?

(The writer is an award-winning journalist. Views are Personal)

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