The Controversial Governor

The Controversial Governor

Priyanka Deb Barman

Born in a well-to-do family in South Calcutta with roots in Bangladesh, Tripura Governor Tathagata Roy has a long yearning to take part in the development of Bengal. Roy also sees a possibility of well utilization of natural gas and tourism in Tripura and also shows eagerness to request the central government to facilitate the transit route of Tripura which would develop the road transport system consequently enabling people from outer states to visit the State in a much easier way.

Tathagata has a deep connection with Tripura. His grandfather Raisaheb Surendranath was the dewan of the Tripura's royal family. One of his relatives used to own a tea garden in the North District of Tripura. "I have a deep connection with the state. First, my ancestral home in Bangladesh is nearer to the state and moreover, my grandfather stayed here as dewan of the royal family," Governor Roy said.

Roy's active association with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) helped him pen down a biography of founder of the saffron party Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee and another book – 'The Hindu Exodus from East Pakistan and Bangladesh.' He was influenced by his father Debesh Roy's close friend – Pramathanath Bishi, also a Bengali litterateur who became anti-Marxist, although he was not much aware of Hindutva.

His immature political consciousness started getting into a shape when he was in his fourth year as a civil engineering student in Bengal Engineering College at Shibpur in West Bengal. He had interacted with a group of students who took admission in the college after being driven out from Dhaka, Bangladesh's capital, due to religious minorities. The incident made him ponder about the term 'Hindutva' and his belief about Hindutva became firm following repetition of such incidents from East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) after 1947.

After passing civil engineering in 1966, he landed himself a job in the Railways in 1967 and was promoted to Chief Engineer of the Calcutta Metro Railways in 1988. Within that period, he was deeply attached to Hindutva and had initiated to visit the RSS office in Calcutta with his two companions of the Railways, also active RSS members. He also decided to look for an alternative career and with the intention he registered his name in a law college. Ironically, he got selected for the post of professor at the newly opened Construction Engineering Department, Jadavpur University in the year 1990. He was the first Head of Department of the new course. Interestingly, that very day, he joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) despite not getting support from his wife Anuradha Roy.

At Jadavpur University, Tathagata Roy first took part in the Rashtriya Swyamsevak Sangha camp first in Ranchi in 1999, later in Bengal the subsequent year, and lastly in Nagpur, headquarters of the RSS in 2001. The following year, he was pushed for the presidentship of the BJP Kolkata unit. He continued the post till 2006. Then he was asked by Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh about his appointment as Governor. Roy contested in the Lok Sabha in 2009 from North Kolkata constituency; he did not win. Again, he contested in South Kolkata Lok Sabha constituency in 2014 last before he was selected as Governor in May 12 this year.

Roy now resides in Tripura, but he still visits the house of one RSS leader near his house in South Kolkata whenever he finds time. The most controversial Governor, has, however, now posed as a threat to the state's ruling Left Front. Tripura CPI (M) initially reacted to the announcement of Roy's appointment as Governor by threatening to launch stir if he surpassed the constitutional limit after assuming the office. Perhaps the Marxist leaders are not ready to lose their last bastion in Tripura or witness any interference from the Governor with a different ideology opposing them after a great setback in West Bengal and Kerala. Roy, however, ruled out the apprehension of any conflict between him and the ruling Marxist party and said that Chief Minister Manik Sarkar was quite polite during his swearing-in-ceremony. He also clarified that he would discharge only his constitutional duties adding that he will have to act as per the advice of the council of ministers led by Chief Minister Manik Sarkar till there is any constitutional crisis.

However, in spite of declaring 'no more political tweets' after he was sworn as Governor, Roy still landed himself in controversy due to his several tweets; one of them being the infamous Yakub Memon tweet. Barely 48 hours passed of Memon's death at Nagpur Jail, Roy evoked sharp reactions for his another controversial tweet on the mourners of 1993 Mumbai blast Yakub Memon. He tweeted that many of the people who attended the last rites of Memon in Mumbai are 'potential terrorists' and that the intelligence should keep a tab on them. However, Governor Roy said that he never intended to target any community through his tweets.

Some of his controversial tweets are:

  • 'Whatever gave you the notion I am secular? I am a Hindu. My state, India, however is secular since 1976.'
  • 'The intelligence should keep a tab on them. Intelligence should keep a tab on all (except relatives & close friends) who assembled before Yakub Memon's corpse. Many are potential terrorists.'- July 31, 2015
  • Overwhelming Hindu majority is ESSENTIAL to maintain a multi-religious society & secular state. But West Bengal is slipping.' – December 17, 2014
  • The tweet for which Roy drew most flak was the one where he commented on the 'fighting back' nature of Hindus, he wrote, 'One exception was Gujarat, 2002. I'm glad you appreciate what the Hindus did then.' – March 23, 2015
  • Roy's allegation on his tweets that Hindus were under attack from Muslims brought sharp reactions from across the country. 'Attack by Muslims on Hindus at Ghazipur, Bangladesh. Attack by Muslims on Hindus at Mallikpur, W Bengal, India. What awaits us Bengali Hindus?' – April 23, 2015
  • When the country debated the much-talked about 'Love Jihad' and forced conversions, Roy congratulated the BJP's Uttar Pradesh unit through tweet for highlighting it. 'Congrats UP BJP for bringing issue of Love Jihad to the fore. We in West Bengal must perhaps do the same to save hapless gullible Hindu girls.'- August 24, 2014

CPI (M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury lambasted Roy for his controversial political tweets on Gujarat riots. Tripura CPI (M)'s central committee member Goutam Das said that a person acquiring a constitutional post cannot give such remarks. "Roy is an active man on Twitter and he has many followers. But it doesn't mean he has to behave insensitively. According to the Indian Constitution, India is a secular country. As a Governor, he cannot make such unconstitutional remarks. I am surprised, he is still sticking to the Governor's post after such kind of statements," Das said.

Countering the statement of Das, Bharatiya Janata Party leader and Tapash Majumder said that a person has the right to declare his own religion in the democratic country. "We all know that India is a democratic country. Here, a person can say that he is Hindu. As the Marxist leaders don't believe in religion, they have turned the simple statement of the Governor into controversy," Majumder said. Meanwhile, Congress spokesperson Dr. Ashok Sinha said, "As a Governor, he must be careful about his speech. He should not make any such remark which can defy the Constitution."

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