Battleground Bengal: Why EC Needs To Seriously Consider Demands To Ban Trinamool's 'Khela Hobe' Battlecry

Battleground Bengal: Why EC Needs To Seriously Consider Demands To Ban Trinamool's 'Khela Hobe' Battlecry 
Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee
  • The slogan originally belongs to a Bangladeshi politician who used 'khela hobe' as a barely-disguised threat to political opponents, challenging them to match his muscle-power.

On the face of it, the song with its catchy beat is a pretty innocuous one. However, Khela Hobe, the Trinamool’s campaign song written by the general secretary of its youth wing, Debangshu Bhattacharya, is anything but angelic.

The song, a war cry in fact, is actually a very ominous one. Especially since it is always delivered in thinly-veiled malevolent tones by Trinamool leaders, including party chief Mamata Banerjee.

The fact that this khela hobe slogan has been plagiarised (watch this video) from a notorious parliamentarian from Bangladesh, Shamim Osman, who faces many criminal charges including murder, makes it all the more sinister.

Shamim Osman’s father and grandfather were respected personas and founders of the (ruling) Awami League in Bangladesh. However, Shamin and his brother Salim, also a parliamentarian, are feared and accused of many crimes (read about the family here and here).

Salim is reputed to be highly communal and anti-Hindu and has been accused of plotting atrocities against and persecution of Hindus in Bangladesh.

Shamim Osman has used khela hobe as a barely-disguised threat to political opponents, challenging them to match his muscle-power. He is widely accused of using threats and even violence, including abductions and murder, to silence his own opponents as well as those of his party.

This threatening slogan, virtually patented by Shamim Osman in Bangladesh and delivered in his trademark bullying tone (watch this video), was copied by a senior and highly controversial Trinamool leader Anubrata Mondal.

Mondal, a roughneck who has been accused of many crimes and openly threatens opposition functionaries and even government officials (watch this video of Mondal threatening a police officer), copied this slogan and started using it sometime in late December.

Realising its potential to energise cadres and perhaps even drive fear in the hearts of opposition functionaries and supporters, Debangshu Bhattacharya, the general secretary of the Trinamool Youth Congress, penned the lyrics around this khela hobe slogan and made it into the Trinamool’s campaign song.

Since then, this war cry has been played in all Trinamool meetings, rallies, processions and from its party offices.

But what is significant is the tone and tenor of Trinamool leaders voicing this slogan. It has always been delivered in a very ominous and threatening tone, and to seasoned political observers, it appears as a call to violence.

“The manner in which Trinamool leaders, including Mamata Banerjee, say khela hobe, often with a menacing half-smile playing on their visage, gives away the true meaning of the khela (game). They make it abundantly clear that its not an innocuous political or electoral game they are talking about, but a gory game,” said political commentator Monimoy Sheet.

Veteran political observer Kapil Manna agrees. “The way they (Trinamool leaders) say khela hobe gives their game away. They deliver the slogan in an ominous tone, quite like bullies,” he told Swarajya.

Take Mamata Banerjee’s speech at a rally at Kalaikunda two days ago (watch this video). Mamata can be heart asking the crowd: “Khela hobe?”. They reply loudly in the affirmative, and Mamata then makes a menacing gesture and exhorts womenfolk to use ladles (serving spoons) and cooking spuds (khunti in Bengali) for the khela.

“If goons from outside try to rig the polls, will you chase them away with hata (ladles) and khunti in your hands?” she asks. “Haata and khunti is enough to win this khela. A jhadu (broom) is also enough. We use shil-nora (pestle-mortar) to grind masala. One blow of the pestle is enough to take the brains out of a person’s skull. Have they (the BJP) ever tasted the blow of a rolling pin? It’ll be fun watching them being beaten by rolling pins. It will be a good game this time. This time the game will be a good one,” said Mamata in an intimidatory and minacious tone.

Mamata Banerjee and her colleagues have delivered many such speeches that leave no doubt what they mean by khela.

“People of Bengal understand what the Trinamool means by khela. It is a call to violence and vengeance. The Trinamool has reduced elections, politics and governance to a khela of partisanship, appeasement, intimidation and violence. That will stop now. The Trinamool’s game is up,” said BJP state chief Dilip Ghosh.

Senior leaders of the Congress and the CPI(M) also concede that khela hobe is a call to violence and bloodshed.

Khela hobe has an ominous ring to it and is a threat to the opposition. It is always delivered in an intimidating tone,” said Congress state chief Adhir Ranjan Choudhury.

CPI(M)’s Biman Bose says that khela hobe is an open threat to opposition parties. “Khela hobe does not mean ‘let’s play’. It actually means ‘we’ll play with your blood’. It is a gory war cry,” he said.

Given this, it is time the Election Commission of India takes note of the khela hobe calls by Trinamool leaders and bars them from using it while banning the son that has very strong martial overtones.

Jaideep Mazumdar is an associate editor at Swarajya.


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