Let There Be Clamour
Calcutta is a dying city, newspaper opinion columns have never failed to declare. Years of poor governance have left the city (and state) in disarray, with marginal employment and little by way of investment. Calcutta then, has seemingly been resigned to a reverent nostalgia. Yet, in September, 2014, when 1,50,000 protesters descended on Red Road in a heavy downpour to stand in solidarity with students of Jadavpur University, who were attacked by state forces for peacefully demonstrating for justice after a female student was sexually assaulted on campus, the city suddenly came alive again.
Ronny Sen, who marched alongside protesters during the Hok Kolorob Movement (meaning: “let there be clamour” in Bangla), believes that to fight for one’s life is not simply a choice in Calcutta, but an integral part of the city’s fabric. Sen’s panoramic, grayscale images bear witness to this fight, and the immutable and fiercely independent energy that coursed through those tense few days. They are simultaneously in continuous motion while also pausing with stillness to acknowledge the magnitude of the moment at hand. Hok Kolorob wrestled the narrative of protest back from the locus of New Delhi and reinvigorated the potential for tangible action through student organizing.
These photographs were captured on Sen’s phone and shared almost instantly to his Facebook page, from where they were in turn circulated, re-appropriated, and harnessed in a whirlwind of social media—symbols of a moment that reminded us, to paraphrase Desmond Tutu, that to remain passive is ultimately to side with the oppressor.