I think of 21 July, 1993 as something which just happened just 24 hours before. Not in a flashback, but I can vividly remember the events leading up to the dreadful day. On 20 July at 1 pm, Mamata Banerjee told me to speak once more to officers at Lalbazar (the police headquarters) and see if the police would allow us to make the dais. It was decided that we will have stages at six points in the city. Our workers would come and stand in front of the dais, the leaders would speak and after that the party workers would leave. Our main agenda was: No identity, no vote. The CPM never would allow voters without identity (EPIC) cards. When I entered Lalbazar, Tushar Talukdar, Dinesh Bajpai, Hemen Biswas, Goutam Chakrabarti… all were seated in one room. Suddenly, Dinesh Vajpai, excitedly said no stage can be erected and Lalbazar is ready to battle that.
He asked one of the sentries posted there to shut the door as there was a lot of commotion outside. It prompted me to ask, ‘will you hit me. I’m just a messenger’. He said that they will not allow us to make a dais on Mayo Road. I pleaded that it will be our biggest congregation. He asked for the figure. I, by an expansive estimate, quoted a figure of 10,000 to 20,000 people. True to what they said, they did not allow us to erect stages. As a parting statement, Vajpai said: “Tell your leader that we know how to counter. We are ready with bullets.” What I could sense is that they had planned beforehand that they would fire at the crowd. At 11.20 am when Mamata was entering on 21 July, 1993, we had two mikes fitted atop a Matador as we could not construct daises. A 1.5-2 lakh-strong rally, under the leadership of Gobindo Naskar and Pankaj Banerjee was crossing Mayo Road, when I went ahead to ask where do I make the rally stand as there was no dais, no cordon for us.
Somebody came up to me and whispered that the police have cut off the wires of the mikes. We lay on the street. We had on one side the rally and on the other, police force. It was decided that only Mamata Banerjee would move to all six points and all of us would stay behind. Mamata Banerjee arrived in a Gypsy with a driver and a woman companion. The vehicle was given to Youth Congress during Rajiv Gandhi’s time. Meanwhile, someone spread the word, which was a rumour, that Mamata is going to capture Mahakaran (the administrative headquarters). Her actions, it was falsely claimed, would be akin to what Hitler and (Benito) Mussolini did. She was not allowed to move ahead and just before GPO, she became senseless. Simultaneously, at Brabourne Road, BBD Bag, Esplanade East, Mayo Road firing started. Police indiscriminately fired at protesters.
They alleged that many of the policemen were injured in the incident. We had raised the issue in the Assembly that the government should come out with the list of injured and their injury reports. It was later seen that the police hospital, which was under the control of the CPM-led government, had given a report and none of the policemen were injured. It is very clear that the whole incident was a conspiracy to kill Mamata Banerjee. This year, on the same day, it is a challenge that they could not murder her then and would not be able to in the coming days. In the 2023 panchayat polls, with the support of love of people, we will win. The win will also be an indicator that in 2024 LS polls, we will get 42 out of 42 seats.
There was a commission to inquire on the 1993 incident. We took part in that. If we had done something wrong then the CPM could have made our lives hell. They could not harm us even using all the machinery. They had intentionally fired on us. This time, our slogan will be that the 3-time CM will come back with a bigger margin and the future course of action will also be made clear from the dais, this year. They had falsely accused us. How could one woman with another woman companion take over Writers’ Buildings? Was the CPM so weak that they would have left the place the moment Mamata walked in? The police had tried to prove that Mamata’s protest was synonymous to blood spill and bullets and with that they wanted to finish us.