Lessons From Nandigram’s Heroic Land Struggle – 14 Nov, 2007

November 15, 2007

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat, Countercurrents

Nandigram is burning and the Neros of the left front governments are watching it with great patience. Those who are up in arms against any displacement elsewhere remain mute spectators at the butchering of people in this ‘war zone’, as the governor of the state Mr Gopal Krishna Gandhi mentioned in his statement. CPM and its leadership were prompt in condemning the governor for his remark as unconstitutional. If governor’s remark is out of the touch of Bengal’s reality then how can one justify the ‘call’ for ‘recapture’ of land by the top leadership of CPM?

The fact is that this unprecedented crisis needed a strong response. It is rare for a governor or that too of the stature of Gopal Krishna Gandhi to speak out openly against the state government. It clearly reflects his mind and pain on what the state is witnessing in Nandigram. A governor should not keep quiet if the state government that operates under him violates basic principals of governance. Whether it is Gujarat or Bengal, state can not withdraw itself from the governance asking people to take the law in their own hands, as CPM and its chief minister continue to chant. It is not only shocking for a party to defend the illegal act of their cadre to recapture the land. Why was government silent on this for such a long and why were the central forces being kept at the mercy of the party cadre. A party can not be asked to take over the role of the governance. Bengal’s government is using the same language which very unfortunately Rajiv Gandhi spoke in the aftermath of Indira Gandhi’s assassination and later on Narendra Modi, in Gujarat after the Godhara fire. A chief minister is expected to act and provide protection to the people and not to teach lesson to those who faulted or disagreed.

West Bengal is passing through a big crisis. It is the test of its patience with a government which actually is the symbol of brahmanical supremacy and tyranny in the name of Marxism. Now, that supremacy is also being challenged by another woman Mamata Bannerjee, who herself has no clean record despite claiming to lead all the people’s movement. In fact, any one supporting her should first ask her the question what her stand is on land reform and secondly how long would she flirt with the Hindutva forces in Delhi. But it looks as if all the opposition forces are uniting in their battle against the CPM. However, ground realities are different and mere media attention might not change

The situation except that the hallo of good governance and Panchayati Raj and much-touted land reforms the left stand exposed in front of the world.

Whether the government go or not, is not the answer. Nandigram has silver lining on the one side and duplicity of Bengal’s Bhadralok politics on the other. Let us discuss about the silver lining. Despite all our condemnation, one thing that needed to be expressed here is the spirit of the people of Nandigram, which defies all convention so far. The governments of the day, whether in Bengal or elsewhere are shamelessly pursuing the agenda of acquiring people’s land for the SEZ, big dams and big companies, without rehabilitating them. Those in power know that the people’s struggle start for a few months and fizzles out. And that has given them the reason to pursue with their dangerous policies of land acquisition. Hence the question is really not about the face of CPM or not. The question is that there is a broader agreement in the mainstream ‘national’ parties and regional parties for ‘reform’. They have gone far beyond people’s aspirations and the result is that these movement will shake the nation and find space somewhere else which might not be democratic.

Unfortunately, many of their friends thought the Marxists as the only party committed to ‘land reform’. But Buddha dev had other ideas. He had to attract the middle class Bengalies who felt betrayed of 30 years of left rule without any industrialization. Disturbed over the ‘loss’ of ‘face’ of Kolkata and Bengal as an ‘industrial hub’, Buddha government went over board to attract ‘investment’. The selection of the company from Indonesia was equally important to understand. Despite its track record, the Marxist would want us to believe that contract given to this ‘Indonesian’ firm is according to secular and anti-imperialist belief of the left front. This, at a time when the Muslims and Dalits are regularly at the receiving end in West Bengal. The disturbing question is why particular area of Nandigram or Singur or why 19000 hectare of land was required. Many report charge Party MP Laxman Seth, a man who is heading Haldia Petrochemicals, as allegedly instigating the land grabbing in the area. All this was done to promote ‘industrialisation’ of Bengal. And in this battle to dislocate people and invite industries to suck the blood of the people, the government got wholehearted support from the ‘national’ media. Like Gujarat where Narender Modi’s corrupt practices and criminal past as a chief minister is easily ignored by the equally corrupt corporatised media where corporate interest are bigger than the people’s interest, all in the name of development, Buddha Dev Bhattacharya also became a star of the media even when a large number of his party persons were not in demand there.

CPM and its allies have been opposing Congress party’s new economic policies. They have participated in numerous programmes, condemned Narendra Modi and rightly so, they organized massive demonstration against WTO and yet when their own state is concern, they remain mute. They do not even want a discussion leave along allowing people to visit Nandigram.

It is clear that the proposed SEZ would displace thousands of people particularly the rural poor. In the case of Nandigram and Singur, these would automatically the poor Muslims and Dalits, who unfortunately are not the vote bank of the CPM. A party like CPM whose chief minister spoke the language of Lal Krishna Advani when he was home minister of India, on the issue of Madrasas and his stand on so-called Bangla Refugees, Buddh Dev and his party thought it is good to create an SEZ some where else which does not affect the Bangla upper caste or CPM’s supporter’s zone. After all, why should they annoy their own supporter who would get the benefit of Tata’s promised Rs One lakh car and jobs in Salim’s company? It would not be the Muslims and Dalits who would get job in these companies. This opinion maker Bhadralok had charged the CPM in the past with insensitivity towards its own issues and condition of stagnation in West Bengal in past three decade’s left front rule. Left front has to come clean on the issue of Dalits and Muslims in Bengal. Where are their land reforms? Where is Dalit and Muslim representation in their government jobs, police and elsewhere? Well, the bhadralok make us believe that they don’t believe in caste system and therefore there is no need for reservation. Of course, it can not deny the fact that the scavenging community in Bengal is worst hit by its manipulations apart from the Muslims. The condition of Dalits in Bengal is a matter of grave concern. Scavenging is still prevalent though CPM dominated cadre and intellectuals would not allow outsiders to expose this bitter truth of Bengal. Even loyalists like N Ram and his ‘ The Hindu’ did not think twice before giving Bengal clean chit on issues of scavenging and now on Nandigram, the most ‘secular’ newspaper in India has turned brahmanical. Of course, those reading ‘The Hindu’ in the South know it well that it serves the brahmanical interest under the guise of secularism. The other loyalist for Buddha Dev at the moment is Goenka’s Indian Express, voice of India’s corrupt middle classes supporting an irresponsible privatization. Express has been supporting every effort of the government that displaces people and support Industries.

But suddenly with huge turn around, the other dominating media houses could not ignore the public pressure and started condemning CPM. Their own friends started deserting them. This resulted in media scrutiny and blame game. Embarrassed, the party banned media and activists from going to Nandigram. And look who was the first visitor after CRPF reached Nandigram. It was Lal Krishna Advani and his Hindutva team, that visited Nandigram.

It is rare for a communist chief minister to be complimented by the Hindutva Hridaya Samrat. When Lal Krishna Advani was home minister, he lauded Buddha’s effort to fight against ‘Bangla’ ‘infiltration. Buddha was also complimented for his remarks against Madrasas. Therefore, Bengal CPM reflects a domination of the Bhadralok and their political view point. The Bengali middle class has already been communalized long back and one can find these reflections in Durga Puja celebrations also.

The problem of Nandigram is wider. Why was such a place chosen. Is it because the area has a sizeable Dalit and Muslim presence? In Bengal so far the issue of Dalits have not got any support from any political outfits. As far as Muslims are concern, Bengal is the only state where we find starvation deaths among the Muslim community in Midnapur and Jalangir. The Bhadralok dominated CPM’s leadership might have thought this would go unresisted. Yet, they proved wrong. The brave people of Nandigram and Singur have actually rendered a great service to strengthen movement for land rights all over the country. Governments, corporations who are working to suck the blood of the people must also understand that their theory that after initial reactions people forget things, have proved absolutely wrong in Nandigram. The way way the people have fought their right to dignity and land will go in the history of India as one of the most sustained response to an effort of the government to occupy their land.

Question is not whether the government is shifting SEZ elsewhere or not. The question is how come the forces of the left are silent on growing discontent in their home territory. Why should the government allow a political party to have a field day, to kill the opponent and ‘capture’ the land? Prakash Karat says that there is nothing wrong for the supporter of the CPM to ‘recapture’ their land, which was hijacked by Trinmul Congress workers. These political statements should not be taken on a serious note except for the fact that they are not meant to introspect. Prakash Karath’s biggest blunder was to say that Maoists have joined the movement. It seems he realized it late that there are radical left groups who are uniting in Singur and Nandigram. But Karat’s worry is not Mamata Banerjee but these left groups who can teach CPM and their goon a lesson in their own language. CPM has never bothered about the opposition in Bengal which is mute and Bhadrlok dominated like the CPM. It is worried about the reorganization of the radical left forces in the state. Therefore, it does not surprise us when Karat in his press conference in Delhi, charge the ‘Maoists’ from Jharkhand for spreading violence in Bengal. Mr Karat knows well that the National Security Advisor has already stated this that the red corridors are increasing.

But more than that, the question again comes to the forefront of those in power. Nandigram has shown that people will resist any attempt to dislocate them in the name of development. Whether it is Khammam in Andhra Pradesh or Kalinganagar in Orissa, the war cries of the people should not be termed as ‘revivalism’ of Naxal movement in India. It is not therefore co-incidence that Naxalbari movement in the Darjeeling hills of West Bengal was butchered in the same way as we have been witnessing in Nandigram. The only difference was that time it was state police which caused enormous death in the village of Naxalbari while today it seems the police remain mute when the CPM’s cadre started their ‘gharwapasi’, very similar like the offensive return of the tribals and Dalits by the Hindutva brigade in Chhatishgarh and Gujarat.

Secretary General Prakash Karat also asked people not to equate the Nandigram incident with that of Godhara. But comparison will always be made as long as those who kills come from the same class and communities and those who suffer too hails from the same. In Gujarat the Muslims were butchered by a powerful state dominated by the Hindu upper caste, in Delhi it was the Sikhs who were killed by the same state and in Nandigram, it is again the Muslims and Dalits who are at the receiving end. I can understand the problem of those writing about ‘poor’ being killed in Bengal because none of them really want that Buddha Dev be declared new avatar of Hindutva. But so far all indications suggest CPM’s common agenda seems to be soft Hindutva in Bengal by targeting the poor through its land mafia and Muslims in the name of Bangla refugees and growing Madrasas. CPM has lost an opportunity to lead people’s movement in India which is now uniting to fight against privatization of public resources and highly tainted liberlisation and globalisation where corporations would call the shot and people would get the shot if they oppose the diktat of the status quoists. Nandigram has shown that people will not wait for a Messiahs to come to rescue them, they will unite and fight endlessly against oppression and exploitation. The battle for honor and dignity has just begun now.