Though politicians from all spectrums, including top national leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), mourned his death on Sunday, legendary actor Soumitra Chatterjee was a critic of the saffron force and believed that secular values in the country were getting eroded. He was equally critical of the Left parties and the Congress, if one goes by the last signed article he wrote before the Durga Puja.
Often referred to as a renaissance man by Bengal’s intellectuals, Chatterjee was not a member of any political party but believed in communist ideology and occasionally wrote for the mouthpieces of the West Bengal CPI(M), including Ganashakti, a daily.
His last article appeared in Ganashakti’s festive number published on the eve of Durga Puja. “I still believe that the Left path is the only alternative,” read the headline of the article in which the actor spoke about communalism, Ram Mandir, BJP, Congress and the Left parties.
“I am surprised that the man during whose tenure Gujarat witnessed communal riots in 2002 is now ruling India. Indians are tolerating these people and voting them to power once again. I think the big reason is that people cannot find a powerful alternative. Or, they don’t know what to do,” Chatterjee wrote in the signed three-page article. He did not name anyone.
Referring to construction of the new Ram Mandir, Chatterjee wrote, “So many people are dying during the pandemic and yet there is politics in the name of Ram. The funny part is that Ram, to whom a temple is being dedicated, is known to us since our childhood. He is popular for thousands of years. He is right before our eyes…”
Writing a rather long portion on the cow vigilantes, the actor said, “How can someone put a diktat on what to eat?”
Referring to demolition of the Babri Masjid, Chatterjee wrote, “I will always raise one question. Where were the political parties that could have stopped it? Speaking against the incident is not enough. People should have been brought together under their flags.”
“The Congress ruled the country for 60 years. Many of its leaders are Rightists. Not openly but secretly. It is time to review the history,” wrote Chatterjee in the article.
“It is my opinion that there are shortcomings in the evaluation of the Leftists as well. We had many differences with Gandhi and it still exists. But we cannot deny the honesty in his politics. How many politicians have that honesty today? This is making us rethink. The Leftists could have declared that Gandhi was the leader of the freedom movement but they had differences with him. Can’t this much be done?” Chatterjee wrote.
BJP state vice-president Jay Prakash Majumdar said his father and Chatterjee’s father were friends and the two families lived at Krishnanagar in Nadia district where the actor spent his childhood.
“I knew him all my life. The height he achieved with his multi-faceted talent put him in a class above the rest. How can the BJP not show him respect just because he believed in Left ideology? I am in the BJP but he freely discussed many current issues with me. We also had our differences. Some things are above politics,” said Majumdar.
Chatterjee’s final journey to the crematorium on Sunday evening was marked by the presence of the state’s top Left leaders. CPI(M) state secretary Suryakanta Mishra, Left Front chairman Biman Bose and others walked in a procession led by chief minister Mamata Banerjee while a few thousand fans of the departed screen icon followed.