March 30, 2015

Crusader who bleeds blue

- hurrah over HC order
A Calcuttan was bleeding blue-and-white even as the entire country was bleeding blue on Thursday.
Tanweer Khan, who owns a ladies' footwear store on Ripon Street, was anxious about the PIL he had filed in the high court challenging the Calcutta Municipal Corporation's decision to waive off property tax for residents who painted their houses in chief minister Mamata Banerjee's favourite blue-and-white combination.
A billion hearts may have been battling the blues after M.S. Dhoni's men bowed out of the World Cup, but Tanweer had reason to be happy on Friday because the division bench of Chief Justice Manjula Chellur asked the state government and the CMC to explain the rationale behind their move to have the entire city painted in blue-and-white.
"I was anxious the whole day yesterday. Today, I am happy. I will pursue this issue till the last," said Tanweer who calls himself a "political activist".
The 40-year-old, who stays in a rented apartment near St. Mary's School on Ripon Street, had filed the PIL on March 11 because he felt that the ruling party's decision to provide tax relief to residents painting their houses blue-and-white was tantamount to bias.
"I saw this decision of the ruling party as an expression of one's allegiance. Suppose my house is not painted blue-and-white and I get into some problem with somebody whose house is in that colour combination. Will the administration be non-partisan? Will they stand by me if I am correct?" he demanded.
"The ruling party can't get away with anything and everything. Today, it is telling me which colour to use to paint my house. Tomorrow, it will tell me what to eat or how to lead my life. This is unacceptable," said Tanweer, also secretary of a voluntary organisation that works for underprivileged students.
He is contesting the civic elections from ward 61 as an Independent candidate and feels that the poll symbol assigned to him, an apple, is symbolic of greater responsibilities coming his way. "One Apple has changed the way we communicate. This one will change the political system for good," said Tanweer.
The idea of moving court occurred to Tanweer when he saw many people questioning the government's move to paint the city in blue-and-white. He thought it was imperative to raise the subject on the appropriate platform rather than just talking about it.
Tanweer believes that raising questions isn't enough. Doing it on the right platform is just as important.
"I have heard many people questioning the government's move, some even ridiculing it. But that is only among friends or in news conferences. I thought, why not approach the court and take the topic into the larger public domain," he said.
Tanweer soon approached a lawyer and has spent around Rs 25,000 so far in pursuing the case.
For him, leisure means reading newspapers and following news channels rather than watching movies. "My day is incomplete without reading the newspapers and watching news channels," smiled Tanweer, who idolises former chief minister Jyoti Basu.
When this graduate in Urdu from Maulana Azad College is not attending to customers in his footwear shop, he can be found pursuing his mission to seek "justice for the marginalised". He was one of the faces in the protest rallies in the wake of the Park Street rape and, more recently, Ranaghat.
Tanweer, who heard about Shreya Singhal and her crusade against 66A of the Information Technology Act only this week, feels the two of them are "comrades in arms".
Shreya, a graduate from the University of Bristol in the UK, was the first to petition the Supreme Court against Section 66A, which was struck down on March 24. Section 66A had been the favourite tool of those in power to suppress free speech.
"Both of us are fighting for the powerless and voiceless," declared Tanweer, the relentless crusader.

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