ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Calcutta Diary

IT was a meeting, called by assorted political organisations, to press a charter of demands in support of the unemployed. The charter included a demand for a dole for all those who are out of work for no fault of their own, but on account of, allegedly, 'the imperfections of the economic and social system', The details of how this dole is to be organised were not spelled out in the resolution passed at the meeting. Perhaps the resolution and the charter of demands were merely a peg. As prices keep rising, discontent, under cover for the last few months, is beginning to bestir itself. Alongside with this, the left parties, which had been in near-hiding because of Indira Gandhi's furious onslaughts, are also slowly re-discovering their innate militancy. But more than the declamations at the meeting, what was interesting was to watch its morphology. A meeting is not a meeting without an assembly of people. And to this parti- cular one, impressive numbers had in fact (locked. It is no longer possible for activists from the mofussil towns and villages simply to get into a train and arrive in Calcutta for attending a left rally. To travel without a ticket is of course totally to be ruled out, but instances are not lacking where even those possessing tickets have been pushed out of the train at intermediate stations in case it was obvious that they were on their way to join a leftist gathering. Trucks too are allowed to carry people into the city only if they are of the right sort, namely, if they are proceeding to a meeting to be addressed by the Prime Minister or some oilier Congress stalwart For other parties, trucks and lorries are prohibited. There is also the question of finance. For the left parties, the days of dazzle and glory are for the present over. They have to count each penny and make it travel the utmost possible length. The kind of quasi-pomp one witnessed at similar rallies in the past is now a mere matter of memory. These problems notwithstanding, thousands still did come to this particular meeting. It was an extraordinary compilation of events and emotions, of glistening enthusiasm on the part of some tempered by a quiet casualness displayed by others, a carnival spirit lighting up some faces next to deep furrows of worries lining some others.

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