What next, hand in boiling oil?
Feb. 21: Chief minister Mamata Banerjee yesterday evening reached a Hazra café targeted by bandh supporters and asked Trinamul workers who had gathered around her: "Tora ki korchhili? Ghumochchhili? (What were you doing? Sleeping?)"
This morning, several people familiar in Trinamul circles but seemingly unknown to the party woke up and proved that they were not sleeping.
They went about their task with methodical precision, wreaking retribution on transgressors who did not turn up for work during the Left-backed bandh yesterday.
The choice of punishment ranged from slashing, which led to an official's ear being sliced and evoked medieval references, to making a headmaster sit in the sun for hours. Slaps and lock-ins were reported from elsewhere. (See graphic)
Trinamul leaders distanced themselves from the episodes and portrayed the events as an expression of popular discontent against disruptions. But those at the receiving end insisted that well-known local Trinamul figures were leading the vigilantes.
The mushrooming incidents confirm lumpen elements are again interfering in personal lives — a charge that dogged the Left when it was in power. The devious irony this time is such interference is being done in the guise of protecting individual liberties that protests like bandhs seek to crush.
Another more obvious irony — that the vigilantes were protesting against the bandh by enforcing more shutdowns — appears to have been lost on them.
Referring to the ear slash that television channels beamed across the country, Trinamul MP Derek 'Brien said: "Villagers were upset. The villagers pushed him around, heckled him, hurt him, injured him, the police will take care. It has nothing to do with the Trinamul Congress."
The medieval parallel appears to have touched a raw nerve in a Trinamul basking in the glory of the lukewarm response to the bandh, which appeared different from the earlier ones because the CPM did not lend Citu the muscle to enforce it.
'Brien told NDTV: "He's been badly injured. But to make it sound like a Biblical incident where Peter's ear got cut up with a sword, that is bizarre."
It was not clear which Biblical incident 'Brien was referring to. The Bible does have a reference to Simon Peter, later St. Peter, and a diced ear just before Jesus was arrested but the account does not match that of the Trinamul MP.
"Then Simon Peter having a sword drew it, and smote the high priest's servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant's name was Malchus. Then said Jesus unto Peter, put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?" according to John 18:10-11, The Bible, King James version.
Today, the panchayat official who almost lost his ear said "about 20 Trinamul supporters" were involved in the attack.
Hazrat Omar, 56, the executive assistant who represents the state government in the panchayat, was given five stitches to hold his ear in place.
The BJP-run Debipur gram panchayat office in Jalangi in Murshidabad was shut yesterday as no one turned up for work. Today, around 10.30am, a group barged into the panchayat building and asked everyone to leave.
Omar said from his bed at Behrampore General Hospital: "Today, when we were in our office as usual, about 20 Trinamul Congress workers entered the building and started hurling abuses at us. They told us to leave and said that as the office remained shut yesterday, it would have to be kept closed today also. I protested and so they converged on me.
"They beat me up and one of them hit me with a pistol butt. One of them took out abhojali and tried to hack me in the neck. I ducked and the blade caught me behind my ear. Other panchayat workers rushed to save me."
District superintendent of police Humayun Kabir said: "The BDO is already conducting a probe. The police will take action, according to the report submitted by him."