A little more than 2000 years ago, in the 80s BCE, Lucius Cornelius Sulla, one of ancient Rome’s most successful military generals, got himself appointed dictator of Rome. He had just defeated his main rival – Gaius Marius – in Rome’s first large scale civil war.
What Sulla did after becoming dictator is what I want to talk about. He put up lists in the central forum containing the names of Marius’ sympathizers. People who’s names were on one of these “proscriptions” were immediately excluded from all protection under law, and anyone who killed a proscribed person would be rewarded by the state. Predictably, Rome was plunged into chaos by violent attacks where hundreds of people were brutally murdered in the streets and in their homes.
A couple of generations later, the founders of the second triumvirate, including Octavius and Mark Antony started another proscription where even more innocent people were murdered for supporting the wrong politician.
As Mark Twain once said, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes”. What we have been seeing over the past few days in West Bengal, is another round of proscriptions, this time started by “Caesar Bengalicus”. Workers from opposition parties, mainly the BJP, are being killed mercilessly by hordes of TMC workers all accross the state. Their offices are being burnt, their shops are being looted and many of them have been forced to flee to other states. The home of Shantiniketan is soaked in blood and nothing is being done about it. The land of Rabindranath Tagore cannot be ruled by a malevolent dictator who has people killed just for holding the “wrong” political views.
Amar Shonar Bangla surely doesn’t deserve this.
“The good of the people is the greatest law”, is a quote by one of Rome’s finest statesmen, Marcus Tullius Cicero. Cicero was one of the last victims of the proscriptions – he was beheaded as he tried to escape from Rome. His head and hands were fastened to the rostra in the forum, for daring to speak out against the people in power.