Sankar Ray’s column

Operation Green Hunt, a boon to CPI(M)

March 8 2010

Who says Operation Green Hunt is heading towards a damp squib ? At least in Jangal Mahal, western part of West Bengal ,under the jurisdiction of Paschimanchal Development department, looked after by one of the two czars of Paschim Medinipur district, minister for Paschimanchal Development Sushanta Ghosh (the other being the Beriaite district party secretary Dipak Sarkar) it has reaped dividends for the CPI(M) which has recaptured much of its lost bases in collaboration with the Eastern Frontier Rifles and central para-military forces.

In about 40 villages such as Enayetpur, Kanakavati, Bhadutola, Karnagad, Syedpur, Goaltor,Amlaguli,Salboni and Sijua , camps for training cadres and hired goons are going on. In the entire Jangal Mahal assembly of more than four persons is prohibited in those areas under section 144 of CrPc but CPI(M) cadres and leaders are exempt from the CrPc as they are a reserve force to the so-called counter-insurgency operation, conducted by 35 companies ( or may be more) of central paramilitary forces. The two terrorise thousands of innocent and poverty-stricken Adivasis.

After all, CPI(M) – rather the LF – and UPA have a common target: the adivasis. Their aim is to displace the Adivasis in the interests of national and international monopoly houses like Vedanta, the Tatas, the Jindals and Salim Group who want to exploit mineral and human resources at extremely cheap rates without caring for ecological preservation. Violence and massive evacuation comprise the methodology.

Economy has almost become standstill. Supply lines are almost inoperative and bus services remained stopped for 212 out of 365 days after 8 November 2008. Ananda Bazar Patrika carried a vivid description of economic collapse in a two-part after-edit piece (16-17 February 2010).If one tally-marks the days of stoppage of bus services and divides them between pre- and post-13 June 2009 periods, one will find that the incidents were much higher in the post-13 June months, thanks to the shrill-tuned jugalbandi is of the West Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, CPI(M) polit bureau member and the Union minister of home affairs Paniappan Chidambaram in Jangalmahal.Pampered by the media in 1996 when he was the finance minister of the United Front government at the Centre for presenting ` dream budget’ Chidambaram is credited for augmenting diseconomies, imposed by the LF in Jangalmahal.

Honchos at CPI(M) state HQ are happy with Bhattacharjee, for making Chidambaram chip in and deploy central forces on the plea of restoration of law and order. Chidambaram’s intention is almost explicit. In 1994, at a varsity , as a minister of state for commerce in the Congress government he said that the goal was to strengthen capitalism and capitalism in the post-reform era is provenly anti-poor. Small wonder, he was until 2004, a member on the board of directors of Vedanta group whose industrial philosophy is but an apism of what Union carbide campaigned for. His commitment to neo-liberal variant of globalization is not limited to his profession as a corporate lawyer.

Adherence to pursuit for pelf and power is an obsession for the CPI(M) – backed by other variants of official Left – augurs well with gradual withdrawal from limited welfare in the interests of economically weaker sections. The rank and file and a sizable section of middle leadership are vulnerable to criminality and anti-social aberrations.

All this could not save 24 EFR jawans on 15 February at Silda. It’s now crystal clear that they went down as their first priority was to provide security to half a dozen of local CPI(M) leaders, not OGH. The SP of Paschim Medinipur district Manoj Verma was accused by the EFR IG Benoy Chakraborty for disregarding repeated requests to shifting the EFR camp from congested area of Silda. Chakraborty’s jibe at the state police to the media persons at Salua camp was to keep up the morale of EFR jawans. “Over the years, the basic needs of EFR personnel were overlooked and they were inhumanly treated by the authorities, and there was total lack of security at the EFR camp and the jawans were subjected “, the EFR boss stated.

Sadly enough, the street-mart and Harvard-educated Chidambaram has to mutely accept all these situations which may be captioned as advantage-Buddhadeb. Rather the minister’s provocative feedback – ` So be it” – to the question on the sanguinary retaliation from the Maoists – got an ignominious rebuff. This is nothing new so long Chidambaram remains obsessed with his determination to provide security to industrialists like Sajjan Jindal instead of refusal to accept the ground reality. The day before Chidambaram met with the CMs of West Bengal and Orissa – absentees having been CMs of Bihar and Jharkhand- in Kolkata, Jindal assured newspersons that project work at Salboni would begin within six months. The home minister too said, Maoists would be flushed out within six months but said nothing about armed training of CPI(M) cadres and `harmads’

Take the cruel assassination of Lalmohan Tudu, president, Pulisi Santrasbirodhi Janaganer committee(PSJC:People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities). Doctors who did the autopsy of Tudu’s body in the morgue, found that five bullets hit Tudu from close range. The police and the CPI(M)’s Ganashakti gave the same version that he was killed in an encounter. This unholy bonhomie is no new. The DGP Bhupinder Singh at a press conference after the arrest of PSJC convenor Chhatradhar Mahato said Mahato has Rs 1.5 crore in banks. Ganashakti front-paged the statement which was subsequently proved to be a lie.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Chidambaram argue that the joint operations by central and state police and para-military forces are on for restoration of law and order in order to embark on people-oriented developmental activities. Eminent advocate of the High Court of Calcutta Partha Sengupta responded sarcastically at a seminar last year. “ There was no law and order problem in the last 60 years. Why developmental activities were not done in 60 years?”

Stanley Aronowitz and Heather Gautney in a paper Implicating empire: Globalization and Resistance in the 21st Century World Order (2003) differentiated the globalization in the pre-1980s from the pattern we have been witnessing, especially after the spread of IMF’s Structural Adjustment Program after 1990, rechristened periodically. The latter is from the above with a shift “toward a more destructive phase, marked by increased militarization, worldwide recession and increased economic inequality” We had seen this openly in Jangalmahal areas. But this has been going on in Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand. Rudiments of this were manifest at Nandigram and Singur. Instead of militarization, people saw CPI(M) – read false Marxist- innovative of storm troopers – the harmad vahini. When the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh described the Maoists as `greatest’ internal security threat – parroted by his comradely ( in terms of subservience to Fund-Bank model-building in the South) colleague, minister of home affairs P Chidambaram, most of us missed to note how globalization can “necessarily alter national security, both in its definition as well as how it is pursued, and, finally, the future of globalization”.

I faintly remember Bob Dylan’s song A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall , one of his longest songs, composed in 1963, after the assassination of US President J F Kennedy. Some lines apply to the pathos, scripted by the IMF, World Bank and WTO.

Where hunger is ugly, where souls are forgotten,
Where black is the colour, where none is the number

Did Bob read Red Oleander, English version of Rabindranath Tagore’s Raktakarabee ?

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In memory of Swapan Dasgupta

February 8 2010.

“Cowardice asks the question, ‘Is it safe?’ Expediency asks the question, ‘Is it politic?’ Vanity asks the question, ‘Is it popular?’ But, conscience asks the question, ‘Is it right?’ And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular but one must take it because one’s conscience tells one that it is right.”

- Martin Luther King, Jr

Swapan Dasgupta, editor and publisher of Bengali edition of People’s March, central organ of the Communist Party of India (Maoist), is the first known martyr of the Unlawful Activities Prevention (Amendment) Act, 2008.

He died – he was killed in police custody – on 2 February, 2010, the eve of the eighth anniversary of the Patriot Act. He was suffering from Lymphoma, a malignant disease, and he bled profusely. His vest, shirt and whatever he put on were full of blood. But there was no treatment. Nobody was allowed to help him urinate or spit with a bed pan. The UAP(A) disallows this human help.

People lined up in stupefied indignation along the route of Swapan’s last journey towards the crematorium. They outnumbered those who walked in the procession, including many like me who joined the procession mid-way. Primarily lower middle class people, they were eloquent in their silence.

The general protest, although not massive yet, is building up qualitatively. Sahitya Academy laureate poets, Sankha Ghosh, Alokeranjan Dasgupta, environmentalist Samar Bagchi and economists Asok Sen and Sourin Bhattacharya in a dignified joint statement demanded “an impartial investigation of how much of those rights were made available to Swapan Dasgupta, or for that matter, are being made available to other prisoners under the same Act. This was not the first death in jail custody in this state, rather an addition to almost a series.”

Do we know how many innocent downtrodden were hacked to death in jangalmahal by blood-thirsty and unholy combine of West Bengal Police, Kolkata Police, COBRA and other central forces teaming up with mercenaries and goons? Their martyrdom is seldom chronicled by historians.

Swapan was no Federico Garcia Lorca, the conscientious Spanish poet, brutally murdered by fascist regime in Spain under General Francisco Franco’s regime in 1936.

On 18 July 1936, Franco’s army higher-ups with the delirium of hatred against anything humane, democratic and blissful , staged a coup against Spain’s Republican government and triggered the Spanish Civil War. Lorca, along with Pablo Neruda, was to go to witness a wrestling match in Madrid. But he couldn’t make it to the venue as fascist hordes grabbed him in a hideout, dragged up a hill and executed the muse savagely. His crime was writing poems and upholding liberal political views in practice.

At Lorca’s funeral the French communist poet Louis Aragon gave a moving speech to enthuse the Republican zeal in combating Fascist counter-revolutionaries.

Aragon’s anger at Lorca’s funeral came out spontaneously. The same spontaneity brought together some 1200 men and women to bid adieu to an intrepid Swapan. One was reminded of W H Auden’s poem, Spain 1937: “ Tomorrow the rediscovery of romantic love”. And the next line that Auden never wrote but did mean “ But today the struggle”. The processionists and by-standers on 3 February 2010 in Kolkata too were mutely determined in resistance against UAP(A) and the ongoing Operation Green Hunt. Swapan’s martyrdom steeled their resolve.

Sujato Bhadra, one of the leading civil rights activists of India and former secretary of the Association for Protection of Democratic Rights spoke out in a soft but firm tone. “ An under-trial prisoner was denied treatment despite specific medical advice. It couldn’t be an act of involuntary killing but a pre-planned murder”.

The new Bengali morninger Ekdin carried reports on the deadly condition of Swapan for over a fortnight commendably. Indian Express, Asian Age , Statesman, Telegraph and other Bengali dailies such as Dainik Statesman and Pratidin too wrote on the mysterious lapse in medical treatment of a terminal patient even when he was shifted to Kolkata’s best government hospital. Reflecting anti-democratic stance, CPI(M) daily Ganashakti and its CPI counterpart Kalantar carefully spiked even agency creeds about Swapan after his serious illness was revealed.

The CPI(M) central committee adopted a resolution last year against the draconian act, more cruel than POTA, MISA or any previous statutes but the West Bengal government under the CPI(M) rule (chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, commerce & industry minister Nirupam Sen and LF chairman Biman Bose are all polit bureau members) applied the same act. Marxism is CPI(M)’s mask but its physique is essentially humanimalistic. A regime with a faulty nomenclature – Left Front – as it has over the years evolved as a typical hybrid – half-fascist and half-Stalinist with the NKVD-stained Beriaite intolerance.

The milieu prevailing in West Bengal is no bright. Take the protracted strike of over two lakh jutemill workers which crossed 55 days. The average dues per worker as per the last tripartite agreement was Rs 45,000. The recalcitrance of employers is evident. Gratuity and provident fund dues together crossed Rs 550 crores. But the jute goods market remained buoyant unremittingly since 2003-04’, said Nabendu Dasgupta, general secretary, Bengal Chatkal Majdoor Federation. Pitiably enough, mainline dailies unlike in the past impose censorship on news items on the jute strike which brought a sanguinary nightmare for over 20 million people.

A week back, 250 staffers of Ananda Bazar Patrika were fired with one day’s notice. There too CPI(M) and CPI dailies are silent, let alone large circulation dailies.

In such a socio-cultural penumbra, poets, playwrights, performers and academics are to be on the frontline for what Allen Ginsberg called the ‘counterculture movement’ during the Eisenhower years.

Protesting voices can’t be gagged. Remember fragments from Neruda’s Heights of Machu Pichu :

Give me silence, water, hope.
Give me struggle, iron, volcanoes.
Fasten your bodies to me like magnets.
Hasten to my veins to my mouth.
Speak through my words and my blood.

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Grand sabotage of an enactment of hope

Dec 9 2009

The fate of 80 million Adivasis and forest villagers is transiting to a darker penumbra of uncertainty as there is very little progress in ensuring submission of claims for agrarian entitlement under the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 – better known as- Forest Rights Act (FRA)- leave alone remedying the ambiguities and gaps which are against the interests of specified beneficiaries. The deadline for receipt of these claims is 31 December 2009- more so UPA government at the Centre led by the Indian National Congress has on top priority its resolve to apply the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention (Amendment) Act 2008 – resembling the nefarious Patriot Act, introduced by President George William Bush. Adivasis who account for 40 per cent of development refugees during the last four decades are terrorized and the majority of young members of Adivasi households are fugitives. How can those chill-penury-driven subalterns file claims for entitlements which will not benefit themselves only but save forests from encroachers?

All major or national political parties – BJP, CPI(M), SP, BSP, BJD and even All India Trinamool Congress – are silent and have not expressed concern over the fate of the Adivasis. The CPI(ML) Liberation too is yet to give it adequate priority in its list of demands. The CPI(Maoist) is not that keen on implementation of FRA perhaps because once entitlement deeds are inked and handed over to the individuals and village community setups, the Adivasis may not gravitate towards the Maoists. AITC supremo and railway minister Mamata Banerjee’s slogan – Ma Mati Manush (mother land and man) – turns grey when it comes to the Adivasis.

When the erstwhile Union finance minister P Chidambaram was chosen to replace Shivraj Patil as minister of home affairs in the UPA government after 26/11, it came as a surprise to many. But it was not that unexpected as the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, deputy chairman of Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia and Chidambaram have been committed to Fund-Bank reform program philosophically. And Chidambaram was a leading company law practitioner before joining the UPA government, having taken up briefs for corporates which have plans to set up SEZs and large plants using rich mineral resources in the vicinity of Adivasi habitats. In his infamous interview to Tehelka – `Give me 72 hours’ , when asked why the poor revolted against questionable manner of applying t Land acquisition act statutes to push ahead with SEZs with an openly pro-colonial SEZ act, Chidambaram said evasively and willfully “There’s nothing wrong with the mining plan itself. The point is, we don’t enforce what we lay down. People get away with impunity by cheating or bribing or violating the plan because the executive is weak”.

If the deadline is not extended – the likelihood of which is pessimistic as the beneficiaries are not middle or upper middle class – overwhelming majority of 80 million subalterns ( in fact, this figure may be more because of under-reporting for obvious reasons, especially structural inaccessibility of their habitats) will become trespassers. Companies with predatory antecedents like Vedanta, Arcelor-Mittal, Reliance and the Tatas (especially under the individual hegemony of Ratan Tata) will set up their manufacturing (read exploitation) plants and carry on unbridled ecocides.

Although FRA is one of the most democratic legislations in post-independence India, being the first genuine attempt to reverse the wrongs, forced by the British colonial rule leading to ruination of those that had preserved the rich ecosystem for centuries together, there are many flaws and ambiguities which may seriously hinder the entire process of investiture of entitlement rights to their habitats and forests, repeatedly pointed out by Professor B K Roy Burman, ex- chairman, Study Group on Land Holding System of Tribals, Planning Commission, Government of India (1985-86), and former chairman, Committee on Forest and Tribals Backward Classes Unit, Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India (1980-82). In an article in Mainstream weekly in March 2008, he sharply critiqued the finalized rules as one with a `half-hearted approach. Put into effect nearly 14 months after the bill was passed, the rules are conspicuously diluted than what it were logically envisioned, based on protracted dialogues and exchange of ideas representing all concerned. But there were obstructions from “the corporate lobby and its conscious and unconscious network, as well as from a section of ill-informed, though perhaps well-meaning, environmentalists. A canard was spread to the effect that vesting substantial ownership rights with the tribal and traditional forest dwellers will lead to large scale destruction of forest leading to an ecological catastrophe” (emphasis added-SR). .

While the FRA laudably recognizes the community as a legal entity to claim forest right; Section 4 (6) of the Act makes confusion between individual and community. The stipulation that right “shall in on no case exceed an area of four hectares, seems to have mutilated its positive intent. In North-East India in particular, and in many other parts of the country, community access, control and management of forest tracts go much beyond four hectares. It is highly incongruous to stipulate that this recognition of forest rights of communities would be four hectares only”, Prof Roy Burman observed.

Take Section 5 on provision for forest right to gram sabha and village level institutions to (a) protect the wild life, forest and biodiversity; (b) ensure that adjoining catchment area, water sources and other ecological sensitive areas are adequately protected; © ensure that the habitat of forest dwelling Scheduled Tribes and other traditional forest dwellers is preserved from any form of destructive practices affecting their cultural and natural heritage; (d) ensure that the decision taken in the Gram Sabha to regulate access to community forest resources and stop any activity which adversely affect the wild animals, forest and biodiversity are complied with. The doyen among anthropologists cautioned, “ use of the word `empowered’ is an euphemism, without quibbling on the words, it is to be examined what instruments of power have been made available to the holders of forest rights, to be able to ensure that the conditions indicated in this Section have been actually enforced or what assistance has been provided so that the forest right holders can discharge their duty.”

There are such gaps in the Act, and rules which need widespread dissemination among all who defend a democracy which ensures “the greatest good for the greatest number”

NGOs like National Forum for Forest People and Forest Workers and Delhi Solidarity Forum are fighting commendably for the Adivasis but their obsession with activism has a hidden element of negativism when they have to campaign against loopholes and ambiguities , maybe calculated . Fortunately, a handful of social scientists such as Prof Roy Barman have exposed this in no uncertain terms.

Adivasis have been disposed through `neo-feudalisation’, `primitivisation, and fractured humanitarianism’, Roy Burman stated in an article a couple of months. All this forced them to befriend the Naxalites and Maoists. Manmohan-Chidambaram-Montek may succeed in torpedoing implementation of FRA but temporarily. History is often literarily `a slaughter house’ ( Hegel).

Truth again is stranger than fiction. Siding with the treacherous trio among chief ministers are not only Narendra Modi and Dr Raman Singh of BJP, but Navin Patnaik of BJD and last, but not at all the least, CPI(M) polit bureau member Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.

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Combat terrorism yes, but is the focus really patriotic?

Nov 26, 2009

Press Information Bureau of India’s director (home affairs) Ravinder Singh in a 1450-plus word article, Security strengthened to meet challenges post 26/11 , focused on the security beef-up against an assumption that terrorists may strike New Delhi or Mumbai on 26 November to celebrate the sanguinary success story of 26/11.

If the past is any guide, this idiocy lies in the dogged chase for the obvious, like a ULFA blast on Republic Day or Independence Day. Routine predictions alike almost never happen, but sleuths who dish out such kitchen-grown falsities are never pulled up.

Pensive reflection is natural on the first anniversary of the fateful 26 November when at least 164 people were killed – mostly innocent passers-by who stood jinxed between the gun-trotting Fedayin youths and Mumbai police which were stupefied even when counter-attacking the high-street guerrillas who knew they might be killed and indeed most of them succumbed to combat operations. The inefficiency and myopia of our intelligence network was once again proved.

But the PIB higher-up embarked on laboured arguments to justify several post-26/11 steps – reminding one of the Bengali adage , intelligence dawns after the thief flees . Examples are the formation of a National Investigation Agency through enactment of the National Investigation Agency Act in a break-neck haste, a 24 X 7 Multi-Agency Centre monitoring 30 sensitive locations, four National Security Guards at Hyderabad, Kolkata, Mumbai and Chennai, a Planning Commission scheme for setting up twenty temporary counter-insurgency and anti-terrorism schools during the 11th Plan period, complete overhaul of the coastal security network (once again remember the aforesaid adage) and so on, let alone the amendment of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and notification on 31 December 2008 to “reinforce the legal and punitive provisions of law to combat terrorism with greater focus and for strengthening of provisions relating to financing of terrorism, bail, power to call for information”.

Legal luminaries like Partha Sengupta of the High Court of Calcutta and erudite legal expert and commentator A G Noorani found a replica of infamous Patriot Act of the traumatic George William Bush era in the USA in this act. No member of the Parliament, including the firebrand CPI leader Gurudas Dasgupta and spic-and-span CPI(M) MP Brinda Karat, questioned the bill. Did this default vouchsafe their unflinching opposition to the US imperialism?

The NIA, Singh gleefully wrote, “is mandated to investigate and prosecute offences under the Acts mentioned in the Schedule, including offences under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, that have inter-state and international linkages, which are assigned to it by the Government and would function under the superintendence of the Central Government”. The fundamental principle of innocence even of a killer, after arrest, leaving with the police and the state to show that the accused is no innocent is turned upside down. Now the police will give anyone a suffix, criminal, and the later is to prove that he or she is innocent. Baba Saheb Ambedkar must be restless in his grave as the democratic entity is being raped.

Television channels – owned by both national media and international media moguls – cash in on the national sentiment against murderous assaults on 26/11 at the Oberoi Trident but pay secondary importance to those killed at or near the Chhatrapati Shivaji Sivaji Terminus (erstwhile Victoria Terminus) railway terminus or thoroughfares of Mumbai. Their emphasis is on five-star hotels and posh pockets like Nariman Point. Fifty-eight commuters were killed first but fat-salaried TV anchors ignore them. Some pf these super-middle class stars are provocative. One of them after 26/11, tried the hand of war-mongering frenzy. No Left leader had the courage to say that such provocative gestures are unconstitutional. .

Kasab indulged in impersonation and feigned as Yogesh Sharma, son of Baleswar Sharma who has a fictitious address – Krishna Nagar. He managed to have a driver’s license, a ration card, a lease deed registered by a notary, a mobile phone connection, a PAN card and even a savings bank account – all documents for an Indian citizenship. His photograph was on the pan card, driving licence etc And believe it or not, for a mere Rs 500 Kasab got it as the motor vehicle licensing officer of Mathura casually scrutinized license papers with a photo of Kasab and confirmed that the license was genuine. The police know well that by payment of Rs 500 under the table, a genuine driving licence is available skipping rigorous driving tests . They foster such mal-practices, Kasab, Salem and their collaborators knew well. People seeking jobs as police drivers in Delhi, Haryana and Rajasthan procure such fake driving licenses that way.

And then it was easy for Kasab to get an Airtel simcard. “Any terrorist can become an Indian citizen like this by spending less than Rs 50,000 on agent fees and bribes to officials”, TSI rightly observed. And both of them had valid passports and used to operate ‘sleeper’ cells anywhere in India.

Take Abu Salem. He has a fake name Satish Kumar Sharma, s/o Bansi Kumar, D-5,Sector 3, Noida and a pan card unmistakably with his photograph, issued by the Income-Tax department. The PAN card was delivered to an ‘agent’ . Incredible as it may appear, he gave his address as one of ICICI Bank branches in NOIDA. This was in the official website www.tin.nsdl.com. His can card, issued with a backdate 30 July 1984, has a number CJWPS536363K. In those days, the first letter of the surname was at the end of syllables. Suppose one’s name is Pranab Behera. The PAN Card no will be XXXXB before numerals. The bank is Kotak Mahindra Bank where Salem has a savings account in the name of Satish Kumar Sharma, opened with a deposit of Rs 15,000 in cash. A cheque book and a visa card was issued in his favour. Interestingly, Yogesh Sharma’s date of birth is also 30 July 1984. So everything was done in an unseemly hurry.

Threat to internal security is home-spun. Even the most sophisticated guns and mortars ( Will Narayanan give a list of private agents – in India and abroad – who benefit out of liberal imports of those ‘terrorism-destroying arms and ammunitions ) can’t put a stop in that.

Mystery surrounds deliberate apathy of national news media and agencies in taking cue from The Sunday Indian group. Maybe, it is low-seed in the ranking for circulation or hits. . Loathsome craze for money is a threat to the sovereignty, if not suzerainty. We are sick and tired of tags like Jaish-e-Mohamed , Laskar-e-Toiba and Harkat-ul Islam. Terrorism is a flourishing trade like export business which flourishes through kickbacks.

The UP chief minister and Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayavati cannot escape the responsibility of indirect patronage to terrorists who indulge in subversive activities. She cannot be sure that there is no other such fake residency in her state, nor can she evade the responsibility on the plea that NOIDA almost belongs to the National Capital Region. The two impersonators have a rental lease agreement with photographs inset, shown in the expose out of sting operation.

People who helped the two dreaded terrorists are not Muslims. Busso von Alvensleben, commissioner for Global Issues: Civilian Crisis Prevention, Human Rights, Humanitarian Aid, and International Terrorism at the German Foreign Ministry in an article ‘Re-thinking homegrown terrorism’ in November last year referred to a study that rejected any “automatic correlation between Islamist sympathies and condoning the use of violence.” Individuals might have Islamist sympathies and condoned violence but they are “ a mere 1.1 percent of Germany’s Muslims”, he wrote. So it’s money that matters, not religion. Political Islam is a cover for flourishing in a subterranean economy where money circulation is faster than M3 of the Reserve Bank of India.

Extensive anti-poverty activities coupled with strong action against corruption and bribe are the basic requirements for combating terrorism which is stateless but an expanding virus.

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Buddhadeb’s we-they psyche

Nov 17, 2009

Many of us feel frustrated at belying of our expectation that successive electoral debacles beginning with the panchayat elections would compel the West Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, polit bureau member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) too, to plunge into self-criticism and shed his bumptious mindset. We thought one who is masqueraded as adherents to cognoscenti class would conscientiously admit that Bhattacharjee would admit the folly of we-they divide after the success of Operation Capture Nandigram– short-lived although – with storm-troopers (Harmads in colloquial vocabulary, picked up promptly by the media and political demagogues . The CM said and did mean, ‘ We are 235, they are 35- and so let’s not count the Opposition. Needless to explain, by 235 he had meant the 235 Left Front legislators out of 294.

But why doesn’t a man with average common sense realize that open self-critique bucks up his image? Sorry to note, this reflects the CPI(M) PB member’s primeval mindset which shows medieval backwardness still prevailing among clans and tribes. In 1979, a Soviet psychologist Boris Porshnev wrote a book in Russian whose English meaning is ‘ Social Psychology and History’. Let me quote a relevant portion that has striking similarity with Bhattacharjee’s ‘we-they’ dichotomy.. “ For a subjective ‘we’ to appear, the groups would have had to meet and separate from ‘they’. In other words, if we look at the issue on a subjective, psychological plane, ‘they’ are still more primary than ‘ we’. The appearance in the individual’s mind of a notion ‘they’ should, indeed, be considered the prime act in social psychology.” Porshnev had in mind the post-Neanderthal period when subjectivism dominated primeval man due to sanguinary crisis of existence. The dynamics of human civilization lay in the reduction of subjectivism and importance of objectivism. Porshnev too explained that the ‘original psychological separation from some ‘they’ reflects the co-existence of humans and their biological predecessors , the Neanderthalers” (italics added).

Actually, the we-they dualism in CPI(M) brass helps us understand how deep subjectivism in the structure of CPI(M), to some extent in the CPI too. This is actually a hangover of bitter factionalism, a symptom of subjectivism, handed down by Promode Dasgupta and Harekrishna Konar. It was seen in the late 1940s in the CPI during the Ranadive period when the triumvirate – Balchandra Triambak Ranadive, Bhowani Sen and Dr Gangadhar Adhikari – was wild with the delirium of subjectivism, in essence no room for dissent, a blatantly anti-Marxist but Stalinist trait.

When the CPI(M)’s Hooghly district committee leader and former MP Anil Basu (whose real name is Manik Roy, one of the accused in the shameful Sainbari murder episode and fled underground) said at a press conference on 25 October , he wished he had caught the Trinamool Congress supreme Mamata Banerjee by the hair and sent her back to her residence at Kalighat and her wits have come to her belly that was becoming bigger by the day, but was restrained by Bhattacharjee, I was not astonished as you can’t fundamentally differentiate between Bhattacharjee and LF chairman, CPI(M) West Bengal chief and PB member Biman Bose as both of them were groomed by Promode Dasgupta who used to say, “ We understand Marxism-Leninism the way Comrade Stalin did.”- height of subjectivism which is a virus against Marxist praxis.

The reaction from the Opposition is no less alarming. When Mamata Banerjee, railway minister, led a peace march between Nalikul and Tarakeswar in Hooghly district , CPI(M)’s corridor of citadel on 15 November, one of her followers; slogans was “Anil Basu/Biman/Buddhadeb-er chamra, khule nebo amra,” ( We shall peel off Anil Basu, Biman and Buddhadeb). This is crude verification of Newton’s Third Law of Motion.

We are sorrowfully in a penumbra of humanitarian crisis. Marx’s adaptation of Green philosopher and playwright Terence ( three centuries before Christ) – ‘I am human and nothing human is alien to me’ – has no meaning, courtesy 32 years of CPI(M)’s hegemony.

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Quo vadis, Dr Mitra?

October 30, 2009

Octogenarian Leftist economist Ashok Mitra’s weekly column in The Telegraph of Kolkata – Cutting Corners- is awaited by thousands including this humble scribe. Arguably, he is one of the best news-paper columnists of Indian subcontinent. Consider his ingenuous expression in his scan of CPI(M)’s debacle at the 15th Lok Sabha polls in Economic and Political Weekly (25 -30 July 2009).

The state CPI(M) leadership and senior Party ministers launched a full-throated campaign to justify the rationale of the land acquisition for private sector-sponsored industrial growth policy. Party hacks turned into instant theoreticians wrote convoluted pamphlets to claim that till as long as the popular democratic revolution was not complete, it was the bounden duty of communists to ensure full-scale capitalist development. Since the state administration had already opted out of the alternative of expanding industrial activities in the public sector, the emphasis was on abiding by the wishes of private entrepreneurs in every sphere, including in the selection of land they wanted the government to acquire on their behalf. The happenings in and around Singur and Nandigram illustrate how things can suddenly go completely out of hand when attention is concentrated on humouring private enterprise, and all other considerations are kept in abeyance. Land was chosen for acquisition, land which in many instances produced more than one crop during the year, maybe to the extent of even three or four crops. Such land was picked without prior consultation with the local administration or the local panchayat bodies or even the local Kisan Sabha functionaries. Industrialists were in a hurry, the government too therefore was in a hurry; negotiations, consultations, advisory sessions, etc, were judged as irritating roadblocks that would slow down the proposed projects. The government’s enthusiasm was particularly noticeable in the case of the Tata Group’s small car project. Party cadres were brought out on the streets to extol the virtues of Nano; some of the marching comrades went to the extent of vociferously shouting the chant: “Ratan Tata Lal Salam”, even though the gentleman concerned finally let them down. The opposition – till mid-2006, disheveled and disorganized – was handed an issue on a platter. Public outrage at the peremptory manner the government had gone about acquiring, or threatening to acquire, land was exploited by it to the hilt. The turmoil over land acquisition became the rallying point for hitherto disparate groups to bond together. In a multi-Party system, it would be fatuous to complain if political opponents availed of opportunities opened up for them by one’s own mistakes. Early warning signals from lower echelons in both the administration and the Party as well as from friendly well-wishers were ignored by the government and the state CPI(M) leadership.

I tender an unconditional apology to netizens for the atrociously long quote. However, a careful read generates interesting observations. First, the biting sarcasm is recessive while dominant is his pathos for the party that made him Left Front government’s first finance minister and then for three terms a member of Rajya Sabha, upper house of the Parliament of India. Doggedly believing in fundamental revolutionism in CPI(M), he believes –“ All is not lost, for the Party still has a dedicated band of workers who, if given the call, will forthwith form the vanguard of radical activism.” Sadly enough, he lacks the guts to accept the verdict of the people that caressed the CPI(M) and its brand of Leftism with high expectations for over three decades. Practice in canons of dialectical logic being pathetically rare among post-Marx adherents of Marxism, official Marxism continues to dominate their thinking process unlike microscopically few like Professor Randhir Singh who suggested that the collapse of USSR or the Communist Party of Soviet Union did not mean the ‘defeat of Marxism’ but that of ‘official Marxism’. Dr Mitra belongs to ideologically dwindling schools of official Marxists. His melodramatic statement that he “is “a communist, not bhadralok’ confirmed his moral allegiance to ‘disparate groups ‘ in bonds.

The CPI(M) leadership shrewdly caught up with Dr Mitra’s affectionate rebuke as Prasenjit Bose, convenor of research cell of party’s central committee made a prompt dichotomy between non-antagonistic critics and the rest of them. Giving Dr Mitra a revered seed there, he wrote (first at the bluntly pro-CPI(M) website http://pragoti.org , then reproduced in EPW ) “A trenchant and passionate critique of the CPI (M) in West Bengal has come from AM, whose concerns are genuine. Many of his criticisms, especially regarding the undue haste displayed by the State Government in its industrialization drive as well as the way land acquisition was handled, have merit”. He means the poll-scan by Dr Mitra in EPW.

Only the other day, CPI(M) central committee member and central secretariat member of CITU Shyamal Chakraborty, an MP as well, mounted on a strange logic in several private TV channels to say “there is no difference between the Maoists and Trinamool Congress as both supports SEZ.” Lip service indeed to the opposition of CITU and CPI(M) to special economic zones. Two years before the passage of SEZ bill in the Parliament, The Gazette Extraordinary on Special Economic Zones (SEZ), published by the Government of West Bengal on 28 June 2003, stated: “SEZs are specifically delineated duty free enclaves treated as a foreign territory for the purpose of industrial services and trade operations with exemption from customs duty and a more liberal regime in respect of other levies, foreign investment and other transactions. Domestic regulations, restrictions and infrastructure inadequacies are sought to be eliminated in the SEZs for creating an internationally competitive environment. (italics added). Chakraborty , president of West Bengal state committee of CITU also, is in tune with this hoary-headedly bureaucratic sermon than the commitment as a card-carrying communist and hence never cared to think that by trying to equate TMC with the CPI(Maoist), he crossed over to the other side of the barricade.

Why is Dr Mitra arousing false expectations to a party which is in the metastatic stage of politico-ideological malignancy? His pat at the back of CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat and other JNU-mill Lefties connotes a break in the continuity of his conscientious criticism of erosion of India’s largest Leftist ( namesake Leftist?) party. Remember his chagrin against the over-grown influence of CPI(M) in West Bengal in his high class reminiscences – Apila-Chapila ( A Prattler’s Tale –Eng tr), e.g., the dichotomy of two types of cadres and leaders : basyataa banaam dakshataa ( subservience versus efficiency- implying that subservient ones are Climbers. Barring West Bengal and Kerala set-ups, CPI(M) is hardly visible in Indian politics. What then makes him bubble in optimism which is simply vacuous. Has the CPI(M) the inner strength to rectify itself.

In the latest article under his column, Dr Mitra’s comment on the killings at Jangalmahal – “The brutal killings, specifically of CPI(M) cadre and sympathizers, have a collateral objective: the Maoists want no competition in the tribal belt” – is subjective. What about 150 Adivasis ( why call them tribals, to parrot colonial terminology) killed there, for refusing to work under the diktat of Buddha Bhakat, DYFI activist, prior to November 2008? Dr Mitra who is mum about this fact, evades the hard truth – CPI(M)’s alienation from the poverty-stricken adivasis. It is a tendentious travesty of truth to assume that the Maoists drive CPI(M) or others out through intimidation., Dr Mitra knows well that Maoists thrive on expanding poverty and destitution. West Bengal is no exception.

Take Nandigram. Dozens of women – mostly belonging to subalterns ( not Bhadraloks) – were raped by CPI(M)-backed roughs, if not cadres. Dr Mitra, like Karat and Sitaram Yechury, never admitted this. The High Court of Calcutta ordered compensation to the next of kins of 14 killed on 14 March 2007 ( death anniversary of Marx). WB chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee agreed to abide by the HC order but instead preferred an appeal only to kill time. Karat,Yechury and the like maintain deceptive silence.

CPI(M) cleverly used Dr Mitra’s ambivalence in trying to drive a wedge among conscientious opponents of Singur, Nandigram and Lalgarh atrocities which were simply counter-revolutionary acts. Others are branded as anti-Left, backers of US imperialists.

Sorry, Dr Mitra, we all are your admirers but permit us to state that CPI(M)’s flowers for you are brickbats to hundreds of conscientious protesters against pogrom at Nandigram and Lalgarh, atrocities at Singur.

Nearly three decades ago, you said , “ I am not a bhadralok, but communist”. Are you really so? Your Apila-Chapila is full of eulogies of all CPI(M) leaders from EMS to Benoy Chowdhury, Sundarayya to Saroj Mukherjee, but nothing about Kangsari Halder, Bhadrabahadur Hamal, Ketrnarayan Misir or Deben Das. Nothing at all about Ajoy Ghosh, the sterling leader of the Comintern era, as Boris Ponomarev rightly said.. In his Ph.D. Thesis – Share of Wages in National Income – in 1954 at the North Holland School of Economics in Netherlands, Dr Mitra questioned Marx’s Theory of Relative Impoverishment of Proletariat. He wrote “Relative share of labour did not decline in capitalist countries” , based on studies such as A L Bowley’s Wages and Income in the United Kingdom since 1860” . Timofiev showed that between 1840-49 and 1960-64, the index of labour productivity rose from 40 to 331 while that of real wages went up from 67 to 135, proving the decline in relative share of income. (T Timofiev The Working Class and Social Progress, Moscow 1978). So Marx remained valid. In an introduction to publication of his thesis when he was finance minister of the first in West Bengal wrote that his views “remains of some significance to its author”. My point is simple. Didn’t Dr Mitra question a conclusion, derived on the basis of the Theory of Surplus Value? Why should he claim to be a communist? It is not that all that Marx, Lenin or Engels wrote are irrefutable. They indeed slipped into subjectivism. But Dr Mitra in his reminiscences wrote that the great Marx can’t err.

Sorry, Dr Mitra, if I am acidic in my tone. I don’t claim what I wrote is true. It’s for netizens to decide and I am prepared to face a cruel dressing-down. After all, I can’t judge me.

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Champions of democracy forget India’s Mamlocks

October 22, 2009. Also appeared in Expressbuzz.

The concern expressed by about 150 scholars, writers and political activists over the “unprecedented military offensive in the adivasi-populated regions of Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Orissa and West Bengal” in a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh puts a huge question mark on our polity. “To hunt down the poorest of Indian citizens in the name of trying to curb the shadow of an insurgency is both counterproductive and vicious. The ongoing campaigns by paramilitary forces have created a civil war-like situation in parts of Chhattisgarh and West Bengal, with hundreds killed and thousands displaced”, they stated.

Signatories include Noam Chomsky, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, film maker Mira Nair and Arundhati Roy.

In West Bengal civil rights organisations were stupefied when sleuths took away Chhatradhar Mahato, convenor of Police Santras Birodhi Janaganer Committee (PSBJC: People’s Committee against Police Atrocities) blindfolded in broad daylight from Midnapore to Bhabani Bhaban, state CID headquarters in Kolkata on the plea of interrogation, assuming that PSBJC is a front organisation of CPI(Maoist). This was a first, at least in Independent India. Only when one is hanged is the face of the convict covered.

As for the Left, especially the CPI(M), champion of democracy, one is reminded of the play Professor Mamlock, about a Jewish professor who was tortured during the Weimar Republic. Unlike Mahato or Baske, Mamlock distanced himself from politics or political ideology — so apolitical that he threw his son Rolf out for joining the communists against the Nazis. Subsequently, the persecution of Jews stirred him to dissent as his daughter too was targeted for anti-Semitic attacks at her school, and he was tortured for that. The CPI(M) is behaving like the Nazis, forfeiting its right to point fingers at any political party for fascist, semi-fascist or even authoritarian propensities.

The Little Theatre Group, directed by Utpal Dutt, made a Bengali version of Mamlock in the 1970s when the CPI(M) — not CPI — characterised the atrocities of the Congress government as ‘semi-fascist rule’. But it’s no use reminding CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat or chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee of Mamlock.

Indeed, none of the Left parties with the sole exception of CPI(ML) Liberation’s state secretary Partha Ghosh protested, which makes a mockery of the Left Front’s and CPI(M)’s frequent protests against suppression of democratic rights in states other than West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura, ruled by the CPI(M). CPI central secretariat member and minor irrigation minister Nandagopal Bhattacharjee too justified the treatment of Mahato and Baske, reflecting the CPI’s subservience to the CPI(M) bosses.

The firebrand Opposition leader and railway minister Mamata Banerjee has also remained silent. She warned the state government (despite implicitly cautioning the Union minister of home affairs P Chidambaram and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh) of the consequences of hounding the intellectuals who expressed sympathy for the PSBJC, Mahato and the leadership of the Lalgarh Sanhati Manch (Lalgarh solidarity platform).

There are several questions on the application of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Act of 2008, if read against Article 22: “(1) No person who is arrested shall be detained in custody without being informed, as soon as may be, of the grounds for such arrest nor shall he be denied the right to consult, and to be defended by, a legal practitioner of his choice. (2) Every person arrested and detained in custody shall be produced before the nearest magistrate within a period of 24 hours of such arrest excluding the time necessary for the journey from the place of arrest to the court of the magistrate, and no such person shall be detained in custody beyond the said period without the authority of a magistrate. (3) Nothing in clauses (1) and (2) shall apply— (a) to any person who for the time being is an enemy alien; or (b) to any person who is arrested or detained under any law providing for preventive detention”.

Terrorism is enmeshed in complexity, although India has long experience of confronting various forms of terror, unlike most countries. Which is why the tearing hurry with which the UAP(A) was rushed through reveals, Ravi Nair of South Asia Human Rights Documentation Centre succinctly observed, that the UPA government “lacks any new ideas about how to tackle terrorism”, except through state terror. This makes Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and home minister P Chidambaram boon companions of Buddhadeb and Gujarat’s saffron chief minister Narendra Modi. Truth indeed is stranger than fiction.

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Vedic Vultures

September 2, 2009

A new breed of human vultures is very much in place at the sprawling Vedic Village, near Salt Lake Township. An amalgam of money power, skullduggery and moral downgrading comprise the syndrome of an enveloping social psyche that is paving the rapid downfall of the Official Left.

Vedic Village Resorts Company (VRC) managing director Raj K Modi was recently arrested for allegedly “harbouring criminals” and for patronage to underworld dons who muscled the project for Vedic Realty, like Gaffar Molla (now absconding) and his second-in-command Abdul Hai aka Kalo. This is yet another confirmation of the atrocious advent of realtors-dreaded goons-CPI(M) network. A few days back, Raj Modi, beaming with confidence, arranged a press conference which was positively carried by the mainstream media as if discovery of arms, police helmets and cartridges in the project area does not necessarily put the onus on the entrepreneur. The chief secretary to the Government of West Bengal Ashok Mohan Chakraborty gave a mischievously stupid explanation that the police would arrest a person or persons if those were found inside the house but not if found in the open space inside the house. He was shamelessly defending Modi – a stance that deserves to be probed as he was unseemly eager to hush up a thriving criminal ring on which Vedic Realty grew at breakneck speed.

One of the most expensive real estate destinations, breaching the greenery of Rajarhat on the north-eastern fringes of Kolkata, Vedic Village grew up during the last decade. But goings-on therein have been a cause of growing resentment among the people around. The small cottages are destinations for sex-tourists. A field officer in merchant banking division of a private bank gave this impression after spot-visits pertaining to a loan application by the promoters of Vedic Reality. “There are make-shift cottages with hay-filled roofs beyond bamboo fencings. Call girls entertain customers. The arrangement is the promoter’s responsibility. We did not tick off the proposal. Inhabitants at locations, 2/3 km away told us that farmers’ lands were taken away through intimidation for a song. Those who come for amorous forays are mostly youths of middle and upper-middle class families, astray due to faulty upbringing, said many people we came across there.”

Among the arrested officers of VRC is its assistant project manager Biplab Biswas. Biswas belonged to the same faction within the CPIM as strongman Gaffar Molla and the recently murdered Sujit Dasgupta, secretary of Dum Dum I zonal committee of the CPIM. Feuding CPIM factions of Dum Dum area all thrive on crime-real estate tête-à-tête. Biswas has a palatial house at Hudarhyte of Kashipur locality in North 24 Parganas district. This is not new – other strongmen of the CPIM like Gaffar Molla, “Hatkata” Dilip, or Anuj Pandey have all lived in mansions.

Gaffar Molla dissociated himself from the CPI(M) since 2007. According to one source, he didn’t work for any party in the 2008 parliamentary election, although some of his followers worked against the LF-nominated Forward Block candidate, Dr Sudin Chatterjee, in Barasat constituency. In the Rajarhat-New Town assembly segment, the LF candidate got about 11,000 votes less than the Trinamool Congress candidate, Dr Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar.

Alleging that illegal arms were stockpiled at Rajarhat, where the resort is located, and that clandestine land deals had been struck for it, Trinamool Congress chief and railway minister Mamata Banerjee demanded “an investigation by the National Investigation Agency to ascertain which politicians and ministers have taken land.” She does not call for the CBI’s nose into it, perhaps having in mind that the new body of NIA may work for credibility with greater sincerity to investigate whether illegal arms manufacturing units existed at Rajharhat and if land grab was facilitated by them. “ We have specific information that arms for Operation Nandigram in November by CPI(M) were supplied by those units too”, she told party workers.

State land reform minister Abdur Rezzak Molla, who expressed his dissent repeatedly, threatened to disclose matters that may not be palatable for several ministers and even some Opposition leaders. Approval for Vedic village project and lease-out/ sale of land was over in 1999 when Rezzak Molla was not the LR minister. Rezzak Molla who questioned sale of over 25 acres of vested land beyond his knowledge is to submit a detailed note on this to the government or the party. If this is made a public document, startling disclosures may emanate. Like how could VRC own 68 acres of land when the upper ceiling under the land statute is 24 acres?

Debesh Das, the minister of Information Technology, disclosed that his department had entered into an agreement last year with Akash Nirman Private Limited, a consortium of number of businessmen, of which VRC was a major stakeholder. The company, as per the deal, will procure land to the tune of 1,200 acres in area adjacent to Rajarhat New Town. What was the role of Rezzak Molla’s department in it?

For whom will it be an inch-by-inch-striptease? Let’s wait for Rezzak Molla’s revelation..

Where is Gaffar Mollah? He may have gone into Bangladesh as he may otherwise be murdered, according to a sleuth working for the intelligence branch, Union government, assigned to work along the Bangladesh border.

There is no doubt that West Bengal under the CPI(M)-led Left Front regime is pitiably a happy hunting ground for nouveau riche – a new breed who rose meteorically by deft use of goons who have the ear or ruling – at times Opposition – parties too. The sequence of quick-changing turn of events carries a very bad omen. It all began with the scuffle between two rival soccer teams. The raid of the village and unearthing of police helmets and guns – mostly sophisticated – shows that the gunpowder is strewn hither and thither. The intervening months up to the next state assembly polls in 2011 are feared to be studded with violent digits of unknown nature. The realtors-mafia dons- Comrades(??) nexus has caused accumulation of massive arms and ammunitions which several Operation Lalgarhs together cannot combat.

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Anuj Pandey – the rise of a rogue

July 10 2009

When half-fed rural mass demolished the brand-new two-storied building at Dharampur of Anuj Pandey, secretary, Binpur zonal committee of CPI(M) with crow-bars and hammers on 14 June this year,Left Front chairman Biman Bose took up cudgels for Pandey, claiming that Pandey did not amass money through corrupt means but had ancestral property. Little could the favourite of Promode Dasgupta, “organisational genius – sans ideological depth” – imagine that denial might come from none other than Pandey’s uncle Sudhir Pandey, residing at Dharampur in a thatched house, said his nephew didn’t inherit any ‘ancestral property’ but is a nouveau riche courtesy CPI(M)’s Paschim Dinajpur district secretary Dipak Sarkar who groomed Pandey when Sarkar was secretary of undivided Midnapur district committee of CPI(M).

Pandey comes of a family of priests who migrated to Binpur (under which is Lalgarh) in the 19th century. His father, Pankaj and grand father Sashashar, too were priests. Mail Today carried a story, filed by Aloke Banerjee, on 5 July. “How could a CPM ‘ wholetimer’ who gets a mere Rs 1,500 as monthly wage from his party, build such a huge palace in remote Dharampur? Amazed paramilitary jawans, who entered the house after Lalgarh was cleared of the Maoists, took pictures of the building on their cellphones”. It’s palace in a region where abject poverty reflects the social order and it “ could rival any residential building in Delhi’s Greater Kailash or Kolkata’s Salt Lake in grandeur. Three AK- 47- wielding bodyguards provided by Lalgarh police station ensured his security round the clock”, New Delhi-s daily tabloid wrote.

His uncle too said that CPI(M)’s isolation from the people was due to such “crude display of wealth” Inhabitants say Pandey was the last word in allotting road building projects to contractors in the entire Binpur area. His main collaborator and spill-over beneficiary is his brother Dalim, who too is a CPI(M) leader and a zilla parishad karmadhakhya.

And all this had the sanction of Dipak Sarkar.

Those who demolished almost half of Pandey’s luxurious seemed convinced had been exploiting them amassed fortune not through straight and honest means. Pandey was yet to begin staying there and put up in another house, built and owned by him. In front of them was, reportedly, CPI (Maoist) leader Bikash. The media in an unseemly haste assumed, he is Sashadhar Mahato, younger brother of leader of Pulishi Santras Birodhee Janaganer Committee ( People’s Committee against Police Atrocities) Chhatradhar Mahato. But it seems the man with back before TV lens-persons was Singrai, another Maoist activist.

Pandey joined CPI(M) front organization ,Students Federation of India 15 years ago. He got quickly into Sarkar’s entourage. He had never had to look back. From an ordinary member, he became LC secretary to ZC secretary to district committee member – from panchayat pradhan to panchayat samiti secretary.

Bose keeps quiet as his fabricated statement didn’t click to save ‘that immoral man”. Shielding the corrupt is nothing new. In the early 1980s, when a judicial probe against the CPI(M) minister Prasanta Sur was on for doling away Rs 35 million to a couple of civil contractors for earth-digging (disregarding objections of two executive engineers who pointed out the glaring irregularity in hiking digging rates twice during gestation stage), the CPI(M) brass and chief minister Jyoti Basu did not ask Sur to resign temporarily from the cabinet post. The then CPI(M general secretary E M S Namboodiripad too endorsed the tactic of shielding a tainted state committee member that Sur had been for many years. It did not end there. The two contractors filed a case for staying the probe. The state government never contested the case and paved the way for an ex parte order in favour of contractors (Sur too, indirectly).

So that’s how CPI(M)’s preparation for Peoples Democratic Revolution under the leadership goes on. Sur too was a PDG-crony.

But Sarkar or Pandey is no isolated or exceptional persons as if CPI(M) is no home for corrupt, greedy and immoral persons. A CPI(M) councilor councillor of Rajarhat-Gopalpur Municipality Dilip De was arrested on 5 July for attempt to murder of Subir Mondal, former Trinamool Congress councillor of ward number 35 of the Rajarhat-Gopalpur Municipality. De is a CPI(M) local committee secretary. Rajarhat MLA Rabin Mandal, ex-chief whip of Left Front and North 24 Parganas district committee leader, was quick to react that De was framed up and is innocent.

If the CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat lacks the guts let polit bureau colleague and Kerala state committee secretary Pinarayi Vijayan to face the CBI in the Rs 3.3 billion Lavalin scam, why blame Sarkar or Mandal.

But CPI(M) biggies at every congress will say, ‘rectification programme’ is a continuous one.

Falsity, opportunism, nepotism etc are traits that need shameful trampling of dissent or democracy. Lavrenti Beria is dead. Long live ( for Karat, Bose et al) Beria.

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From Meena Sardar in 2001, to the quartz mines at Chechurgeria, to Binpur where people die at 40 –

Meena Sardar in 2001

Did any CC or polit bureau member of CPI(M) – even Brinda Karat – try to ascertain why 18 year old tribal woman Meena Sardar was gangraped for 14 days inside the Lalgarh PS in June 2001 and became insane thereafter? Why were 62 Divas women arrested on false charges between 2001-08, allegedly on concocted allegations at Lalgarh and adjoining regions? And all this happened during the chief ministership of Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee. They never expressed regret over those incidents that question the validity of democratic polity under India’s largest Leftist party.

Binpur: life expectancy 40 years

Let’s pick Binpur, about 10 km away from Lalgarh, under the same Jhargram sub-division. It was no different from Orissa’s Kalahandi in abject poverty en masse. Bamapada Gangopadhyay, a freelance reporter, made an incisive on-the-spot survey of an undeclared famine in two villages under Binpur , Chikrakuti and Sushna of Midnapur district in the 1990s in the now-defunct Bengali fortnightly Pratikshan. Overwhelming majority of population of the two hamlets estimated at less than 400, belonged to Shabar or Lodha tribes. Forty five per cent of inhabitants of the two villages had been found suffering from tuberculosis or leprosy. Their life expectancy at birth is 40 years. There is no water source in the two villages or within eight kilometer radius of them. Both the villages, Bamapada wrote, based on his spot-survey, were languishing in an on-going famine for over two years.

Forest contractors coalesced with dishonest local officials of the state forest department to engage daily workers with unbelievably low wage for illegal felling of Sal trees. The forest cover underwent a very conspicuous denudation. The state forest department does an elaborate PR exercise to state that social forestry programme (a World Bank-aided endeavour) is apace. But the species for deforestation is Akashmoni (acacia auriculiformis) which grows very fast but depresses ground water level markedly. The idea of planting Akashmoni on laterite soil is inimical to sustainable vegetation.

Anuj Pandey and whom the CPIM calls martyrs

At Dharampur in Binpur CPI(M)’s Binpur zonal committee secretary Anuj Pandey had built a palatial two-storied building, whose valuation is conservatively estimated at Rs 40 lakhs in contrast to the chill penury. It was raided by villagers, with the moral support of Maoists. They pulled down the boundary wall and ripped out the first-floor balcony railing; smashed doors and windows, beating drums chanting: “Come and watch how a zamindar’s house made with money sucked from poor peasants is being demolished.” Pandey gets Rs 1500 a month as a party whole-timer. The episode was live-telecast by a couple of private TV channels, front-paged by several national dailies as well.

Pandey’s henchmen, Asit Samanta, Naru Samanta, Salku Soren and Prabir Mahato, allegedly killed Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (Babu Bose faction) activist Dinu Khilari, at one of his houses at Dharampur at the end of 2008. Khiulari was summoned repeatedly by them to be told to quit the JMM faction and dance to the CPI(M) tune. The JMM activist ignored them and was one day kidnapped. He was tortured for 12 hours but in vain. Khilari refused to oblige them. His dead body was found at a nearby forest next day. Bimal Dhibar, a CPI(M) local committee member at Sijua, Lalgarh, left the party in January with a statement. He named Pandey as an extortionist and morally degraded. The four henchmen were killed by a group of Maoists between 11-13 June this year. They feature prominently in the CPI(M)’s list of martyrs. “Dinu is our inspiration”, told a PSBJC member at Baropelia when this writer visited Lalgarh on 8 May last.

Quartz mine-workers at Chechurgeria: an unresolved case

Naba Dutta, general secretary, Nagarik Mancha, voluntary action forum for workers and dependants thereof, affected by industrial sickness and occupational hazards, told the other day at a seminar on Lalgarh, arranged by multilingual fortnightly The Sunday Indian (TSI) narrated that male members in those regions used to spend nights at forests, inhaling carbon dioxide as CPI(M) toughs used to raid their huts with a view to unleash torture until they submitted. This writer, when working as a special correspondent, Observer of Business and Politics , now-defunct daily of Reliance group, filed a detailed news on this in 1995. It was obviously spiked.

Remember the 12 victims of quartz mine at Chechurgeria under the Binpur PS in the 1980s. They were all poor Adivasis, all succumbed to inhaling emission of fine particulates out of crushing process. They had to work without masks. Not to speak of CPI(M and CITU or the then CPI(M) MP from Jhargram Rupchand Murmu, the Jharkhand MLA too never cared to lodge the faintest protest. CITU leader Dahareshwar Sen in a documentary defended the inaction. His wife is Nandarani Dal who got 90 per cent-plus votes from the Keshpur assembly constituency in 2001. Nagarik Mancha fought a 15-year legal battle for the next of kins of victims of Quartz stone-crushers and ultimately fetched Rs one lakh each for them.

Why has no action been taken against Lalgarh OC Sandip Sinha Roy?

On the other side of the barricade are those that talk of people’s democratic revolution under the working class. In practice, they have been institutionalizing corruption and violence to develop a kleptocratic state fitting into the logic of a mafia or predatory gang which tries to subordinate all misusing the police and administration and exterminates those that refuse to submit. Of course, they have supporters in the media like a Bengali TV channel where a veteran journalist, belonging to the fairer sex, tirelessly justifies the episodes and dishes out abominable lies along with a retired colonel – both of them are shunned by other TV channels. And with them is West Bengal’s chief secretary Ashoke Mohan Chakraborty who is unsurpassed in canine subservience to the honchos of Muzaffar Ahmed Bhavan, headquarters of CPI(M)’s West Bengal State Committee.

Kirity Roy, general secretary of Manobadhikar Suraksha Mancha – a civil rights organisation – at the TSI seminar – pointed out that disciplinary action against the then Lalgarh OC Sandip Sinha Roy whose crime in damaging an eye of Adivasi housewife Chhitamani Murmu in early November last with the butt of a rifle was proved by medical report has been evaded. For this lapse , the main responsibility is with Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, home (police) minister since 1996. Proving that in reality he is the ringmaster of the aforesaid ‘mafia or predatory gang’ comprising IPS officers and their subordinates down the hierarchy, party cadres who take orders from real estate nouveau riche and corrupt comrades among whom are ministers, let alone the Pandeys and a degenerated army, commandeered by the biggies of State Coordination Committee of West Bengal Government Employees’ Unions and Associations. And also the proverbial cabritoes who limp and cry for a suck in vain while other kids suck the she-goats– I mean the likes of the journalist and army colonel.

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Tienanmen snippets and the official Left

June 9, 2009

When scribes were hell-bent to remind readers and netizens of the 20th anniversary of Tiananmen tragedy of 1989, I felt an urge to go further back to 6 April 1976, the first stir there during the lifetime of the great helmsman behind the Great Wall of China, Mao Zedong. I do not know if many like me read Thomas Stearns Eliot’s The Burial of the Dead and murmured:

April is the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain

There was the bite of Cyclone Aila devastating coastal areas of South and North 24 Parganas and Purbo Medinipur districts. The dull roots of the once-thought-invincible communist party by name – CPI(M) – can’t enliven dozens of catastrophe-hit hamlets. If it were, “a sullen protest enveloping the symbolic heart of Maoist China, that marked the bankruptcy of the Great Helmsman’s ideas more clearly than any other event” – aptly penned by Geremy R Barm in the Australian Financial Review in 2006 – it is unimaginable incompetence and lack of sincerity of the party apparatchiks who rule the roost at Muzaffar Ahmed Bhavan, the headquarters of CPI(M) in West Bengal. The ostentatious biggies at A K Gopalan Bhavan in New Delhi, where CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat sits, dance to whimsical and bumtious tunes of M A Bhavan. Like the CP of China, under Mao’s diktat ( dismissing the protest as “ a counter-revolutionary incident”), Karat and others interpret the ignominous defeat of CPI(M)-led Left Front in West Bengal and Left as a whole as a conspracy.

Nobody will protest. After all, as Bertolt Brecht wrote:

One man has two eyes,
The Party has a thousand eyes.
The Party overlooks seven states.
One man sees one city

(Bertolt Brecht,Gessamelte Werke II,’Die Massnahme) tr, Sibnarayan Ray

Brecht-admirers including this writer would be shocked to read these abominable lines from one who never became a card-carrying communist to preserve his creative soul. But India’s largest Leftist party bosses are mesmerised. I asked a senior CPI(M) comrade why most of the 26 members of CPI(M) in the 14th Lok Sabha, lower house of Indian Patliament, keep mum. Pat came the answer, “They do as the party directs”. Even Muzaffar Ahmed, one of the founders of undivided CPI, often said, “Party is above every thing” – not masses.

The Tiananmen incident in 1976 was a popular outrage aimed against the Gang of Four. The protesters expressed that new freedoms would change China. Mao blamed the then secretary general of CPC, Deng Xiaoping and removed him from his post.

In West Bengal, too, there are four – although not yet as frightening as the “gang of four”. They are chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, Left Front chairman Biman Bose (both CPI(M) polit bureau member), All India Krishak Sabha leader and CPI(M) central committee member Benoy Konar and Mayor of Kolkata, Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharjee. The last named was taking a nap when corporators at the Kolkata Municipal Corporation were accusing the KMC brass for inept handling of post-cyclone disarray in the state capital and around. One of his ridiculously original comment on CMC’s failure to combat the disaster was : “ This experience of inadequate performance is a lesson for efficient handling for the next cyclonic lash”.

The four ‘B’s are street-jesters. They are good topics of light adda at roadside tea corners and coffee houses.

Two journalists and this writer were in and around Nandigram, the hamlet of protest, tragedy and hope, near the Bay of Bengal, on 8 May, the day after the first-phase parliamentary polling in West Bengal. A CPI(M) party flag was turned upside down at a farming plot. “The downed flag symbolizes the disastrous electoral performance of Left Front ahead”, quipped the photo-journalist who took a snap of it.

The premonition of the end was wrought on volte-faced flag on 16 May, when complacent comrades began to taste the bitter rejection by the electorate. Its strength dropped from 61 in the 14th Lok Sabha, lower house of Indian parliament, to 24 in the 15th at the 543-member national legislature the 15th Lok Sabha. In the last LS, 35 were elected from West Bengal and 19 out of 20 seats from Kerala – the two CPI(M)-dominated states. This time the two states elected nine from WB and four from Kerala. The exception was Tripura, another CPI(M)-ruled state, where the party retained both the seats in the 15th LS. Expectedly, Karat lashed out at Trinamool Congress in West Bengal. “The odds were heavier given the Trinamool Congress and Congress combining and all the anti-Communist forces launching a concerted attack against the CPI (M) and the Left Front” . Like a child in an earthquake-hit city, seeing the disaster without responsibility.

The hoodlums – ‘harmads’ – who unleashed a reign of terror, divided into action squads, killing squads and raping squads – on 14 March 2007 (124th death anniversary of Karl Marx) and almost entire November of the same year resembled the soldiers of the 65th Group Army of Peoples Liberation Army, who in civilian clothes on 3 June in 1989 killed several hundreds at Tiananmen Square to quell rebellion.

The plight of CPI general secretary A B Bardhan beggars description. In an interview to New Delhi-based Leftwing weekly Mainstream on 4 April 2009 he stated conceitedly, “As of now, my assessment is that the Congress will get 125 to 130 seats. The Congress and the so-called Third Front are running neck and neck.” The Left, he said, would win 45 to 50 seats.” The Congress alone won 206, 61 more than what it got in 2004. The Left’s strength fell vertically from 61 to 24 and the TF couldn’t cross the barrier of 80. CPI’s strength decreased from 11 to four.

Karat thundered: “Our opponents cannot dislodge us through the ballot. We are not going to oblige them.”

AKG and M A Bhavan leaders were trying to sell the effigy of Stalin as a living one in application. This trick clicked by fluke until 2006 state legislature polls. But the theoretical structure of Mao Zedong Thought came right under a note of interrogation during the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, admitted by the CPC in its historic thesis, Resolutions on Party History (1961). But that is a separate issue for debate which the official Left parties like CPI(M) and its subordinate CPI are too frail to handle.

Rosa Luxemburg, whom Lenin called, ‘the eagle of revolution” , wrote in her Reform or Revolution, “If democracy is, for the bourgeoisie, partly valueless, and partly even an obstacle, for the working class it is necessary and indispensable”.

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A cantankerous rot: Nepotism in education and business

May 28, 2009

Tapan Bhattacharya is completely blind but he is not blind against social , economic and cultural differences prevailing in the society. Which is why he is the Murshidabad district secretary of Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) - Liberation group and is widely respected. Asked about why the Left Front was defeated in all the three seats in the 15th parliamentary polls in his district, he said: “People’s wrath against the unholy collusion among administration, police, court and vested interests routed in the CPI(M) and its allies had its expression in this years’ polling. And this is the beginning of a beginning. The Right, Left and the Centrist all are united. I won’t be surprised to see one day people raiding the party honchos, their pliant officers and staff allegiant to the CPI(M)-led Coordination Committee of state government employees and a section of goons and the lower-rung police clapping their hands.”

Bhattacharya went on to elaborate his point. “ Say you are Mr. something having an ancestral property, staying there while your other two brothers staying in Hyderabad and New York. One day a real estate promoter along with a CPI(M) leader will come to you to ask if you have any future plan about your property, say a three-storied building. The strangers propose to do the job and ensure each of you a separate apartment . You say you can’t decide or reveal that your brothers want to settle down there after superannuation. They will go back. After a few months, you find unknown people with measuring tapes/ You ask them why they were doing so. They will tell you that they have a deed permitting them to do so. A false deed was prepared with names and signatures of not only your bothers but yours too. The sub-registrar signed on the forged document while the clerk has an initial. You may get an injunction from the court but by this time the land was sold plot-wise for construction. And this is no rare in not only Murshidabad but adjoining districts too”, the upright revolutionary revealed.

Mystery surrounds the unseemly haste in sale of lands near the Nano site of Tata Motors at Singur. And in most of the deals, some party activists or strong sympathizers were involved. Did they know beforehand that a large industrial plant was to come up? The same thing happened along the Barasat-Raichak route where an expressway was scheduled to be built by the Salim Group of Indonesia. Resorts, guest-houses and small way-side restaurants sprang up – all makeshift arrangements in the hope that the land price would go up. “ Maybe, the owners sold them at Rs 50,000 per acre but the re-sale price will not be less than Rs 200,000 per cottah”, Bhattacharya thinks.

Didn’t Jyoti Basu, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and even the communist of unimpeachable integrity, Benoy Choudhuri, know such goings-on? At every party congress, CPI(M) states in chaste PR language that “rectification programme is an on-going process”. But all this are mostly on paper.

Take the question of nepotism. When the late Anil Biswas used to look after education matters, especially appointment and promotion of college and university teachers, some members of College Service Commission were sent a list of names before every interview. In other words, a mandate to select candidates from the list used to be handed down, no matter if better candidates appear at the interview. A former member of CSC, split between conscience and servility, resigned from the CSC although did not put his chagrin in writing, perhaps to avoid harassment and mental torture from party apparatchik.

There is no end to examples in endorsement of what I have stated. Daughter of a minister and CPI(M)'s central committee member was interviewed for the post of lecturer in physiology at the University of Calcutta although she didn't have Ph.D. or papers published in reputed journals. She was stupefied to find her teacher, a Ph.D. with over a dozen of published papers too among the interviewees. The minister's child got the job.

Sidekicks of CPI(M) biggies have the heyday as they are at home in preferring less competent or incompetents to brilliant candidates in the appointment of college and university teachers. But frustrations are no rare among sycophants. Consider the pathos of a professor electrical engineering, Jadavpur University, at the fag-end of his tenure. Frustrated, he lamented before his select-few colleagues that his unflinching loyalty towards the CPI(M) went in vain. " My daughter cast dozens of false votes wearing burqas of different colours for the party nominees in the state assembly elections. Yet I was not considered for vice-chancellor of any varsity". A party member after the LF came to power in 1977, he didn't realize that his confession lowered his image of ethics and morality among his listeners, including a few of his former students.

Biswas’s wife got a job at the State Lotteries directorate after the Left Front government came to power while his brother, despite being over-raged, also secured a job in Nadia district under the West Bengal State Electricity Board. But nepotism benefited other parties too. Sons of West Bengal CPI secretary Manju Kumar Majumdar, two national council members (one of whom became an MP), too availed themselves of the same advantage.

The West Bengal chief minister and CPI(M) polit bureau Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee member was proud and not ashamed of Pabitra Sarkar's D.Phil scandal. It was established that Sarkar falsely claimed to have the doctorate in linguistics from the University of Chicago in 1975 . The UC registrar Thomas C. Black disclosed that Sarkar "did not receive a diploma, per se", although hastened to add , "I understand that he met all the requirements for the degree". He got the degree in end-2004 to cover up the calumny. But during these years, he served as head of Bengali department, JU, and V-C of Rabindra Bharati University. Patronising an academic of dubious antecedents, Bhattacharjee said that Dr Sarkar was the best known linguistics scholar he knew. It was reflection of pompous ignorance, merrily unaware of India's best-known linguistics scholars such as Prof Prabal Dasgupta with pioneering work on modern India's logic-linguistics boundary and grammatology .

Time has come to rephrase the Gresham’s Law of Money Circulation. Bad communists ( read official Marxists of Stalinist-Beriate strain) have been edging out good communists almost since the CPI(M)-led Left Front government came to power in 1977

Tailpiece: CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat in an article - Those Writing the Epitaph of the CPI (M) will be Proved Wrong: Prakash Karat 21 May 09 (http://www.vote.cpim.org/node/2054)

-branding all who opposed the LF in West Bengal as anti-communist gang-up wrote “Those anti-Communist quarters who have been rejoicing at the setbacks suffered by the Left and have written the epitaph of the CPI (M) will be proved completely wrong. The CPI (M) had in the past overcome many difficult periods by steadfastly identifying with the cause of the working people and uncompromisingly struggling against the reactionary forces, communalism and imperialism. The lessons learnt from this electoral defeat will only strengthen the resolve of the Party to wage this struggle with renewed determination.”

Who are then the communists? The ones Tapan Bhattacharya snapped fingers at?

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Lok Sabha 2009: Electioneering through culture, rhymes – a mini-kaleidoscope

May 4, 2009

Winning elections with political marketing is in sync with the rise of neo-liberal capitalism.

Vox populi is a diminishing phenomenon in electoral verdicts in most of the G-8 countries with increasing use of political marketing. The contagion spreads in India too, including West Bengal under the Left hukmat. Gall-up polls, exit polls and psephology are tools of political marketing in influencing polling patterns too.

The ‘India Shinning’ campaign by the BJP-led NDA in the parliamentary polls in 2004 was the first nationwide experiment in political marketing. It ended in a damp squib but the virus remained. The “ Jay ho” slogan, lifted straight from the Oscar-winner Slumdog Millionnaire, in costly colourful hoardings in at least 50 points in the northern part of Kolkata in praise of the CPI(M) nominee Mohd Salim, a sitting MP, is a specimen of political marketing. The CPI(M) state secretary and Left Front chairman Biman Bose, told the media that such hoardings should be withdrawn but nobody, least of all Salim, pooh-poohed the directive. The alibi that his well-wishers did it doesn’t explain the ‘aping’ ( imitation being too weak to express) of neo-liberal symbolism.

Time was when the CPI(M) cadres used to paint walls with black – multicolor having been prohibitively costly – with a rhyme – “Doohkhe jeeban jeerno tai/ Jot bendhechhi banchte/ Niyechhi prateek chinho bhai/ Tara haturi kaste ( free tr: Our lives being torn with sorrows/ We have come together to live/ Have chosen therefore, a symbol/ Hammer, sickle and star”.

This catchy slogan disappeared in the banks of Lethe. Sorrows are gone with real estate promoters, middlemen and musclemen flock CPI(M)’s local, zonal, district and at times the state committee offices. Old, quasi-rejected bicycles are replaced by two-wheelers that were symbols of threat at Nandigram in November 2007. Harmad Vahini is cockneyed synonym of storm-troopers of Germany in the end 1920s and 1930s.

The Left in West Bengal today has lost its aesthetic sheen too and its intellectual sharpness. Its campaign looks like a pathetic personal vilification against the All India Trinamool Congress chairperson Mamata Banerjee whose fearless political style attracts many Lefties too, thanks to unabashed embourgeoisment of CPI(M) and its allies.

Some of the Lefty postures grabbed by the opposition is in sync with a formidable section of intellectuals, performing artists and film personalities that were fellow-travellers of CPI(M) even in 2006. Frankly speaking, the cultural quality of slogans, graffiti and even street plays of the ruling Left Front has steeply fallen. “Where are poets like Subhas Mukhopadhyay,Ram Basu or Siddheswar Sen to write stanzas that still have high literary values”, lamented the late Dilip Bandyopadhyay who died on 13 April.

Dr Bandyopadhyay, cultural front leader of CPI(ML) Liberation, was fond of quoting Mukherjee’s campaign poem of 1952 for the undivided Communist Party of India : “Rastar morey lalbati jwele/ Shakunera dyay sondhye/ Jora baladke deyale lotke/ Thont chete bawle/ Vote dey “ ( free tr: Vultures gather lighting red lamps at street crossings/ As if to perform the evening worshipping/ Pasting the symbol of bullock of pairs on the wall/ They lick their lips/ and Say cast your votes on it)”. The Congress poll symbol until 1969 was a pair of bullocks.

Things indeed are changing. One finds almost everywhere a catchy caption in a poll campaign hoarding with a full size photograph Mamata Banerjee: Dinbadaler pala /Ebar pala badaler din.

Veterans who plunged into poll politics of 1967 feel nostalgic about the classy street play by the late Utpal Dutt, arguably the pace-setter in theatre production aside from giving the theatre-goers the feel of Brechtiana in the Stanislavskian frame: Dinbadaler pala. There was a change of guard at the Writers’ Buildings, the seat of West Bengal government, with the installation of the first United Front government, although not exactly the theme in the street play expected as a Gandhian Ajoy Mukherjee became the chief minister, not Jyoti Basu, one of the founding polit bureau members of CPI(M). Mukherjee was after all the head of Tamralipta government in Midnapur in 1942 defying the trigger-happy and oppressor Raj.

In contrast, a CITU graffiti at Bagha Jatin in Jadavpur assembly segment of Jadavpur constituency reads – the same with painter’s acumen at Serampore constituency “Tumi na thakle rajyota atow asthir hotona/ Tumi na thakle shilpo asto bekari hoto na” (Had you not been here, there would not have been chaos/ Had you not been here, industries would grow more and there had been no unemployment.” This rhyme, targeting Mamata Banerjee is found in almost every assembly segment of 42 parliamentary constituencies. Mass fronts of CPI(M) prioritise targeting her personally, not the politics or ideology of AITC or its leader. A unit of IPTA, the pro-CPI(M) outfit which is not related to the national IPTA, produced a street play, Dhangseswari (goddess of destruction). The deity here is the same Mamata who is blamed for failure of the Tata Motors’s Nano assembly plant at Singur and petrochemical and petroleum industrial SEZ at Singur.

There are some – though very few- good nonsense rhymes too. Taking a dig at Sudip Bandyopadhyay, ex AITC MP, who, after being defeated as an independent candidate in 2004, switched to the Congress to become MLA , came back to the AITC – now its candidate at the Calcutta North constituency – a graffiti by CPI(M) with a caption – ‘ honest candidate’ reads : “Rajneeti tar? Bolchhi moshai/ Dhanya chheler adhyabasay./Tatar deoa tangka gune/ Aajke Delhi, kalke Pune/Unishtibar bidhansabhay/Tatababur karkhana chay/ Manush tow nay/Magajta tar/Dhandabajir probol jowar.” (His politics? Listen, sir/ Bravo for his perseverance/ Taking money from the Tatas/ Rushing to Delhi today, tomorrow to Pune/Nineteen times did he/Campaign for the Tatas factory in the state legislature./Not just a man is he, or his brain/Turbulently opportunist).

The Left Front constituents’ cultural front brought out a couple of collections of street plays. Among the wellknown playwrights are Chandan Sen, whose Daibaddha (The Committed) was once a hit and Shib Sharma. But the scripts are poor in quality excepting one by Samudra Guha who refrained from Mamata-bashing and emphasised the threat of neo-liberalism. “ Some playwrights of our allies look like lip service to the Leftist cause. But their plays are very often a hit”, a senior IPTA organizer admitted. There is no denying that street theatres have a great role today in the battle against globalization which thrives on crazy consumerism.

In the 1980s, the present chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, belonging to the cognoscente, coined the word apasanskriti (sham culture) to insulate the tradition of creativity which was based of a metabolic relationship between man and society. The fast-spread of self-seeking consumerism edged out the commitment against apasanskriti. The evanescence of brave struggle for creative pursuit was inevitable. Identification of apasanskriti was all right but not the lip service that has been followed thereafter . The Left cultural activists need to be reminded of the American street theatre-famed Judith Malina’s words ‘The theatre is in the streets!’

The Opposition – Congress and AITC – graffitis target the West Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, CPI(M) polit bureau member, but not as bluntly as some of the CPI(M) ones. Take a sample, “Tata elo Nano gyalo/ Bangla holo shuddha/ Aar kawta din dhoirjyo dhawro/ Ebar jabe Buddha” ( Came the Tatas, went Nano/ Bengal became purified/ Have patience for some time/ Next to go is Buddha).

A cassette, sang by Ashim Giri, a school teacher – Nandigram & Megacity – is more appealing. Take the song, Megacity, written and tuned by Nitish Roy of CPI(ML) Liberation-Paschimbanga Ganasanskriti Parishad- Amader mega mega megacity habe gow ( we shall have our megacity). One of the lines is “ Dhonider megacity/ Goriber habe chhuti/ Goribera kothay jabe go ( Megacity is for the rich/ Holiday for the poor/ Where will then the poor people go?).

“Culture”, the 19th-century poet Mathew Arnold wrote in his essay Culture and Anarchy , “hates hatred; culture has one great passion, the passion for sweetness and light. It has one even yet greater! It knows that the sweetness and light of the few must be imperfect until the raw and unkindled masses of humanity are touched with sweetness and light.”

The sobriety of cultural creativity is absent in poll campaigns. But there were traces of creativity even in the 1970s. Something is missing – deeply missing – especially in the Left style of cultural campaign. Those who are nostalgic about the street plays and sharply-worded slogans of the 1950s and 1960s cannot but get pensive about this drift towards pathetic mediocrity. Rather a graffiti appeals the conscientious Leftist – “sonar dhan buke dhore/ jomi moder ma/ tufan asuk, police asuk. Jomi debo na” ( We shall keep to our chest the golden corn/ The land is our mother/ Let the cyclone come, let the police raid/ We shall not part with our land”. Poetically poor, but the expression is genuine.

Street theatres are lack-lustre in West Bengal. No IPTA team or even Sahmat have the guts to enact short plays exposing the co-existence of high-rise buildings with Santros, Altos and Qualises coming out of serpentine pathways from underground parking space below shopping malls on the one side and nearby dirt-floored shacks equipped only with pot latrines on the other side of the road. “Street children without shoes ”, new admirers of capitalism like Bhattacharjee do not seem to be bothered about, “ polish a new Mercedes that stands” outside corporate high-rises or public sector undertaking’s headquarters or branch at any megapolis. Marx’s famous words, “men make their own history but not in situations of their own making” have no utility to those whose religious commitment is to keep the LF government in power.

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Not BJP, but Congress is Third Front’s enemy number one

Apr 25, 2009

Ever since the Indian official Left had withdrawn support from the United Progressive Alliance government at the Centre led by the Congress, the CPI(M), the hegemonistic leader of Left combine, has been branding Congress as the first enemy, not the BJP. The party stopped branding the BJP as the enemy number one and for this, the 12.5 lakh strong namesake communist party – with ‘Marxist’ in the parenthesis – justified even poll understanding with the Congress in Punjab, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu in 2004 parliamentary poll.

No harm in changing the priority of categorizing class enemies but that should be preceded by a political declaration with politico-ideological explanation. The CPI(M) skipped this necessary ideological commitment. In the latest issue of CPI(M)’s central organ, Peoples Democracy, CPI(M) general secretary’s article is captioned Growing Support For Non-Congress, Non-BJP Alternative (http://pd.cpim.org/2009/0419_pd/04192009_1.htm) .

Not Non-BJP, Non-Congress but the reverse of it. Karat wrote “The Congress and the BJP have both released their election manifestos. They are accusing each other of ‘copying’ their manifestos. It is irrelevant for the people who has (sic) copied whom. But what should be noted is that they are admitting that their manifestos are similar – the same promises and the same policies”. Enraged at the Congress President Sonia Gandhi and BJP’s prime ministerial nominee Lal Kishinchand Advani, the elitist CPI(M) boss ( too uncomfortable to stay at the party headquarters, residing with his brother-in-law Prannoy Roy, principal shareholder of NDTV, along with his wife-cum-polit bureau comrade Brinda Karat), added, “both the Congress and the BJP are desperately trying to discredit the coming together of the non-Congress, non-BJP parties. The fact that the Left and six regional parties have entered into an electoral understanding in various states and posing a serious challenge to both the Congress and the BJP is the underlying cause for the stepped up attacks on the third front.”

What are these regional parties? Take the All India Anna DMK and its autocratic (if not fascistic) leader J Jayalalithaa. Karat, Sitaram Yechury and others in the top brass of A K Gopalan Bhavan seem to assume that public memory is very short. Let’s look at 8 July 2001 issue of Peoples Democracy. The heading of a piece by a political commentator was Shameless Constitutional Impropriety

This was when the 78-year old Tamil Nadu opposition leader M Karunanidhi ( now 86) was arrested in a medieval way in the wee hours at 1.45 AM. “The manner in which the arrest of M Karunanidhi took place in the middle of the night created an adverse impact. The CPI(M) categorically disapproved of the way the arrest was effected. It revealed a vindictive approach. The incident provided a handle to the BJP and its allies to mount an offensive” The comment went on to note, “when charges of corruption are filed against political leaders who have held public office, it is expected that these are pursued through the legal process…. This happened earlier in West Bengal and, this time around, in Tamil Nadu”.

And now Karat, his pliant ally, CPI general secretary A B Bardhan are wooing the same Jayalalithaa and rubbing shoulders as ‘Third Front’ allies.

The Tamil Nadu police raided the residence of Karunanidhi, forcibly broke the doors, went upstairs where he was sleeping in the bed, dragged him out of his bed, and took him forcefully, beating him with lathi down the stairs. SUN TV exposed the real face of AIADMK supremo with visuals showing Karunanidhi being kicked , making the septuagenarian leader scream and wriggle with pain due to the blows he received from the police: “They are Killing me, Aiyoh killing me”.
At the same time, another police party raided his Gopalapuram residence after waking up his wife Dayalu and daughter Dr Selvi.

“If such a front is only an illusion or just a motley bunch of parties without a programme, why are the two parties so worried”, Karat asked the Congress and BJP. Will Karat and Bardhan tell us whether it is Third Front or Third Class Front. Will the dream of people’s democratic revolution have a catalyst in the so-called third front?

Karat says that this ‘alternative policy platform is finding growing support among the people’. Is he sure that the parties of Third Front will remain in it after the election results are known?

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Farewell to a rare comrade: Dilip Banerjee

April 15, 2009

Death is a harsh reality –‘ende of every worldly sore’ wrote Chaucer in Canterbury Tales. But rare is a friend, sparingly few even among comrades, disappearing from the mundane earth ‘sorrowful; for he had great possessions”, words in the New Testament beyond the barricade between the theists and atheists.

Comrade Dilip Banerjee died prematurely of an undiagnosed neural ailment on 14 April 2009 at the SSKM Hospital, Kolkata. He was among the rare beings who apparently possessed nothing but had endless possessions which cannot be measured materialistically. He was the centre of gravity for a small but exceptionally committed comrades in the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation. One of them was Baren Bhattacharya, a quite competent commodity reporter who used to string for Financial Express. Baren’s tragic end due to cancer in gall bladder shattered Dilip mentally.

I was introduced to Dilip in 1976 by Dr S Sarma, secretary, Indian Paint Association, an arm of the Indian Chamber of Commerce, a constituent of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry when I was with the Chemicals and Allied Products Export Promotion Council which entrusted me to bring out an export brochure for paints. Dilip, then assistant secretary, Indian Chemical Manufacturers’ Association, shared the same room with Dr Sharma. Both of them were brilliant students of chemistry. Both had doctorates out of highly commendable theses. In the late 1960s, Dilip plunged into the Naxalite movement. He was arrested inside the Indian Institute of Chemical Biology at Jadavpur although he managed to work there taking another name to complete some of his postdoctoral research.

He was tortured. His nervous system was damaged and he ultimately succumbed to it. His reproductive system too was harmed. After release, he found a job at FICCI, bidding adieu to a prospective and socially-beneficial research career.

He devoted himself to theatre and cinema. When I was a special correspondent with the now-defunct Observer of Business and Politics, he used to write – not that infrequently – for the art and culture page. I know one of the reasons for writing for OBP was to donate the money to his party or party comrades.

It’s not the right time to evaluate Dilip. But some impressions are not deferrable. Dilip was not an ideologue but there lay his strength too. Creativity is triggered by emotion, not grey theorization. He never believed in defending Marx or Marxism through quotations which most of the Leftist official theoreticians use to drive their point by hook or by crook. One is reminded of the critique of John Donne, Shakespeare’s contemporary and fierce opponent- “heterogeneous ideas yoked together”. Unlike characters like Dilip, those selective polemics seldom convince opponents although they may buck up the conceit of theorists (who are in any case otherwise well-read).

I was introduced to CPI(ML) Lib comrades through Dilip. That was in the mid-1985 when Nagabhushan Pattanayak, later a polit bureau member of CPI(ML) Lib, frail and apparently suffering from incurable diseases (developed during imprisonment, virtually without trial) was felicitated at Krishnagar by the Indian People’s Front, then CPI(ML) Lib’s mass front, the party being underground. Arijit Mitra and perhaps IPF chief, Rajaram, was there. I got introduced to sterling comrades such as Baren, Nityananda Ghosh and Tapan Sen by Dilip. I was then with the CPI, secretary of its peace branch, directly attached to the West Bengal State Council. I had a dialectical relationship with CPI. I left the CPI in 2002. I am not associated with the CPIML) Lib. I am its critical sympathizer.

Dilip Kumar Roy, the great Indian singer and rarely erudite on Hindustani classical , Karnataka and Western music of the 20th Century, made a difference between the Ustad and the artist. The Ustad of Hindustani classical music often wrestles with his own shadow forgetting the finer side of musical demonstration. The artist never does so. The artist, I think is Ustad plus emotion.

I would not say Dilip will inspire the younger comrades of the posterity. The milieu around is not that conducive. But he will appear to fill the vacuum of many pensive moments for people like me in the rest of life. I believe his followers who are 40+ have the same feel.

Farewell, Comrade Dilip. I can’t say like Somerset Maugham, “Death opens unknown doors. It is most grand to die”. Believers may be happy with escapism which is their right. But our hopes are crushed “under the ribs” of dead Dilip.

Nonetheless, we shall take on the bloody reality and so Dilip, you will be with us for many years.

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Kala Pani tales: For whom water is no synonym for life

April 7, 2009. Sitamarhi, Bihar

Septuagenarian Hasima Bibi continues to weep all the time. She has lost all her family members, mostly due to incurable diseases for drinking chemically polluted water in the village , derisively named Kaala Pani although land acquisition records of Runnisaidpur block of Sitamarhi sadar region in Bihar has its name as Raksia.

Her man of faith is Ramsevak Singh, secretary, Runnisaidpur local committee of the Communist Party of India, the small party unit that fights for the pollution-affected 800 households of the village. Ramsevak Singh’s plight is the same.

As I walk along the path in front of her thatched house with Ramsevakji, she informs, “ Kal dow litre mittika tel mila ( yesterday, got two litres of Kerosene oil)”. Ramsevakji responds but has a grin against the administration. “ See how cruel and irresponsible is the present government. Not a single family got the promised 35 kgs of wheat at Rs 2 per kg under Antyoday Yojana. She got just two litres of Kerosene and feel happy. They have lost the power to say they should get 35 kgs of wheat at concessional rates. No political party is around. What we can do alone?”, he said with grit of communist of yesteryears with moral values that have forsaken five-star communists of today.

That is the state of Kalapani village. Perceptually very different from Kaala Pani of colonial era when armed freedom-fighters who were deported to the Cellular Jail of Port Blair were ostracized for crossing Kaala Pani or sea, this new Kaala Pani is amidst a watery strip in a 75 square kilometer area, submerged due to the embankments on the Bagmati. The result is blockage of entry of the Manusmara, a Bagmati tributary, into the village. And instead the entire water body (Manusmara segment) comprises unprocessed effluents, released by a sugar mill, belonging to the Dhanuka group of Kolkata.

Some 150 people – mostly children, oldies and women – died of Kala Pani ailment and another 350 have been suffering from debilitating syndrome such as nausea, loss of weight and appetite, fever and urinary troubles. Ramsevakji informs, “ The President of India bestowed the award of Nirmal Gram to the Mukhia, Archana Singh, last year and the sugar mill-owners managed to get a clean chit from a testing laboratory in Hyderabad . But you just dip any finger into the water, you will feel the irritation and it will be blackened. Poverty was unknown here a decade ago. Now it’s a regime of grim poverty”.

Indeed, the water here is black and stinking. No agricultural practice is possible although it was a fertile area producing three to four crops ands vegetables every year like wheat, Khesari, Arhar and Mesta .For the past ten years ,self-reliant farmers of Kaala Pani have to work as bonded labour in Punjab and Haryana to keep an wolf from the door of their households.

This apart, silted up river-beds and transport of silts due to reaction against embankments causes mounds of silts At Raksia and adjacent Ibrahimpur of Runnisaidpur block , a 27 feet high mosque in Raksia remains buried under with about five-foot upper portion of two minars visible while a temple of Lord Shiva is said to be dug out every year from the sand to help people offer puja.

There is hardly any reach of the embankment that has not faced the wrath of the river and the breaches. Queerly enough, the Government and masses in general consider such structures as hedge floods, even though every major flood has blasted this myth. Silt-load of rivers devastates catchment areas by rising bed level of the rivers.

A press communiqué issued by Barh Mukti Abhiyan – Freedom from Floods Campaign – whose convenor is Dr Mishra, warned , “The setting is seemingly perfect for another breach! The state has just woken up, collecting stones for the protection work in case the river decides to gnaw the embankment. Should that happen, what course the river would adopt before it joins that Ganga is not known just as it was not known the course last year following the breach at Kusaha?”

A few local Nepali inhabitants took members of the visiting team – this correspondent having been included – around and showed the position of increasing proximity of the rivers, boulders and wire-nets. “ Had it not breached at Kusaha, it would have taken place here at Prakashpur”, the oldest of them told the team.

The main reason for loss of farmland in other districts of north Bihar like Sitamarhi is embankment-accelerated floods, the deluge-like situation last year following the breach along 1770 metres of eastern embankment of Kosi at Kusaha in Nepal on 18 August last year. The course of the mighty Himalayan river remained changed for nearly five months. But the “civil engineers’ racket” which is necessarily hyphenated from numerous competent, talented and dedicated-to-rule book other civil engineers will never give up the highly detrimental policy of embankment-construction. A 15-member team of social activists, technologists, ex-bureaucrats journalists , after visiting five districts of flood-ravaged areas of Bihar and eastern Nepal including the Kusava dyke-burst spot in the last week of March , expressed apprehension about another breach at Prakashpur on the eastern bank in village Rajabaas in Sunsari district of Nepal, 14 km upstream of Kusaha. Kosi is close to the embankment site and with the spurs and the possibility of another breach anytime, following a heavy shower cannot be ruled out. The team leader and one of the handful of most knowledgeable flood management experts, Dinesh Kumar Mishra fears, “if it happens, large portions of Purnea, Katihar and Darbhanga may go under water.”

Engineers and interested politicians have no interest in understanding the secular hydro-dynamics of rivers but even political parties that vouch for democracy for social uplift, particularly the communists, including Naxalites and Maoists, too seem apathetic towards flood-afflicted thousands. Some 3.3 million people remain are still to recover from deluge-shocks in a state that gave to the nation stalwarts like Swami Sahajanand, Jayaprakash Narayan, Rajendra Prasad, Babu Jagajivan Ram and Karyanand Sharma.

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The Bihar Adjustment: CPI(ML)-L’s Ambivalent tactics

March 21, 2009

A very senior leader of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation once asked me what I thought of the party with which I have very close relationship. Many of its national and state leaders respect my gray hair. My reply was “I am a critical sympathizer of your party”. This clamps on me a conscientious compulsion to occasionally express my critical observations.

The CPI(ML)-L in a statement on parliamentary elections on 9 March said,” In Bihar, the CPI and CPI(M) have entered into a seat-sharing arrangement with the CPI(ML) and together the three parties will field candidates in 33 of Bihar’s 40 seats. The party has also decided to support a few.” At the same time, the party assures expose of and opposition to “non-UPA non-NDA dispensations that pursue anti-people policies and attack democracy, e.g., the CPI(M)-led regimes in West Bengal and Kerala”.

What is then the reason for seat-sharing with CPI(M) whom the CPI(ML)-L is determined to expose for anti-people and anti-democratic activities of CPI(M) in the two Left-led states? Will the party mention the nefarious antecedents of CPI(M)-led Left Front government in West Bengal and Left Democratic Front in Kerala in Bihar or will they skip restating how CPI(M) goons unleashed torture that resembled the way storm-troopers gagged dissenters in Nazi Germany?

Which are the “select communist candidates in Jharkhand, UP and Andhra Pradesh”? The CPI(ML)-L regards CPI and CPI(M) as social democratic, not communist parties.

Some individual Leftists with whom I discussed this issue expressed disappointment with equivalent stand of India’s largest Naxalite party in the parliamentary arena although it received less than 0.30 per cent of total votes on an average in parliamentary elections against over 5.5 per cent by the CPI(M). Let me quote one of them, a senior central government officer known for his integrity and efficiency.

“I like the CPI(ML) Liberation general secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya for his straight, in-depth and clear analysis about the national and regional issues and trends unlike his counterparts in CPI(M) and CPI – Prakash Karat and A B Bardhan. But poll-pact with CPI(M) is not convincing. Just to get one or two, even five parliamentary seats in Bihar – for the sake of argument – smacks of opportunism. To befriend CPI(M) in states where it is not in power and expose it where it is not is self-contradictory. Neither CPI(ML)-L nor CPI will gain in Bihar by seat-sharing with the CPI(M)”.

I listened to him without entering into a debate with him as even if this is a confusion, it’s out of genuine concern for the Left.

The CPI(ML)-L is optimistic about “reclaiming the Communist Ground in Madhubani” , one of the citadels of CPI until the 1970s. There was an impressive rally on 24 February at the Town Club field of Madhubani which elected the late Bhogendra Jha, a CPI stalwart of yesteryears, who died about a month ago. Comrade Dipankar released a book on Jha, written by Dr Nityananda Jha.

Encouragingly, the communist forces have amalgamated once again under the CPI(ML) and was made evident with a huge Communist Reawakening Rally”, asserted the 9 March communiqué. But will the CPI(ML)-L be able to regain the lost base of CPI, let alone roping in many in the erstwhile-fringe areas of CPI there. CPI(ML)-L is yet to achieve a feat of 2.5 per cent of total votes in Bihar. In 1967, the CPI got more than 6 per cent of votes polled in Bihar assembly and parliamentary elections.

I was going through Paul Clements’ A Rawlsian Analysis of the Plight of Bihar . Associate professor of political science at Western Michigan University, Clements pitted Rawlsian microfoundations against neoclassical economic approach. Instead of focusing on the failure to establish conditions for competitive markets or the maximizing strategies of political actors, Rawlsian approach identifies conflicts between democratic principles of equality and hierarchical principles of caste as central causes for Bihar’s stark conditions”. For the Marxists, electoral target cannot be an end, but a temporary twist in the meandering fortunes of life.

My modest suggestion is unprincipled electoral alliance damages the image of the Left whose primary commitment is struggle for social change.

Click here to read A Rawlsian Analysis of the Plight of Bihar [PDF, English]

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Bijon Bhattacharya, Utpal Dutta, and R K Dasgupta: the selectivity of cultural recognition

March 6, 2009

Rudraprasad Sengupta, doyen among India’s theatre-personalities – my Rudrada – deserves thanks for the mesmerizing piece of book review on Bijan Bhattacharya’s Collected Works Vol 1 in the wellknown Bengali fortnightly, Desh. The sleek volume is edited by Samik Banerjee and Bijanda-Mahaswetadi’s only child, Nabarun, both talented by their own intellectual possession and development. Rudrada’s erudition generates envy, although I differed often with his politico-ideological positions with due reverence.

Our cognoscenti chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee never thought of caressing memories and landmark achievements of Bijanda whose Nabanna gave the performing artists of Indian People’s Theatre Association in undivided Bengal a distinctive identity. Young netizens who will read this column will feel a different romance if I tell them that those who acted in Nabanna, directed by the legendary Sombhu Mitra included the noted scholar of literature and linguistics Gopal Halder and the firebrand CPI MLA of the 1950s, Manikuntala Sen.

Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee saw to it, Rudrada wrote with appropriate sarcasm, “ Beadon Street-er ekta awngsho Utpal Datta Sarani holo, kintu Nabannar srashtar kapale kono path-I jutlona (free translation:One part of Beadon Street was renamed as Utpal Dutt but for the creator of Nabanna, no road could be identified). Nabanna reflected the fiery spirit of militant share-croppers of historic Tebhaga movement. The CPI(M) is often boastful of Tebhaga struggle, claiming to be successors of the historic struggle but ignores Bijan Bhattacharya.

Dutt, a theatrical genius, though, staged a volte face in the 1960s by signing a bond while doing a role in Guru – like a Guru in changing colour. At a time, when he plunged into the Naxalite movement for armed revolution, he said, “ Revolutionaries have to choose between Naxalbari and brothel – Naxalbari awthoba beshyabari”. He walked slowly to woo the mandarins of CPI(M) at Alimuddin Street, party’s state headquarters when Promode Dasgupta used to call the shots. Bijanda, staying with the CPI, lived a life of a pauper, never compromising with the establishment.

Forget Bijan Bhattacharya. The CM or the Information and Cultural Affairs Department, headed by him, did not send a bouquet to Professor R K Dasgupta, the rarely-gifted scholar, the first professor of Indian languages and ex-director, National Library, who died at the age of 94 last month. I have doubts whether Bhattacharjee and power-greedy cultural honchos under the hegemonic shadow of CPI(M) know that a precious volume Literature East & West (ed G R Taneja & Vinod Sena) , a collection of essays in honour of Prof Dasgupta ,earned high appreciation among scholars in India and abroad. He got Rabindra Puraskar and Jagattarini gold medal of the University of Calcutta inter alia before the Left Front came to power in West Bengal. He refused to discuss cultural policies at Writers’ Buildings with Jyoti Basu when he was the CM. Which was why he got no such prize like Bankim Puraskar or Vidyasagar Puraskar.

In one sense, the LF government did the right thing by excluding Dr Dasgupta. Abysmally poor poets like Pranab Chattopadhyay who never had any poem published in Desh, Krittibas, Chaturanga and the like got Bankim Puraskar primarily for being a CPI(M) cardholder. Even pro-CPI(ML) Lib fiction writer Kinnar Ray got such a prize as he too never came up against the literary and cultural policies of LF government. But Kinnar is above the average fiction writer unlike Chattopadhyay.

All this reflects tendentious selectivity, a trait that identifies blinking idiots.

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From Rizwanur Rahman to Arindam Manna: Murky morals under suicide cover

February 23, 2009

Happenings in West Bengal under the Left Front regime – read CPI(M) hukmat- remind one of a piece of dialogue from the celebrated French playwright Jean Racine’s Les Plaideurs in the 17th Century. “One learns, said the other, to howl with the wolves”.

The mysterious death of Arindam Manna, a Government Railway Police officer, who was to depose before the court in the controversial death of computer graphics designer Rizwanur Rahman, lends credence to this gory perception. Contract killers are at large as never before in India’s most conspicuously Left-influenced state.

The subterranean link to crimes and dreaded criminals is beyond doubts. The move to scuttle the smooth progress of Rizwanur Rahman case under secrecy is more than apparent.. Which is why contract killers remain unidentified, thanks to the performance level of police network under the West Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee who has been officially looking after law and orders matters since 1996, and actually since 1993. But the network is extended further.

Take the brisk reaction from the part of CID which in the name of probing the Tapasi murder case didn’t allow the sniffer dog to move freely . It’s simply stupefying. On Tuesday, Feb 17, they have zeroed in on two tea sellers at Mankundu station and the two claimed to have seen Arindam on the night of February 10. What a tricky step to sell the suicide story? Manna’s family members allege that he was under pressure from powerful circles that tried to scuttle the Rizwanur case. They lodged a complaint with the Sheoraphuli GRP, Hooghly, firmly believing that it is a clear case of murder.

Manna telephoned the girl he was supposed to marry soon more than eight times during the fateful day, telling her to forget him as his parting hour was drawing nigh. “My world is coming apart. I don’t have much time left,” he said when he called up his mom Malati around 1.38 am on 10 February. But committed to dance to the diktats of CPI(M) state heavyweights, the police – both state and GRP – tries to derail the investigation and fed inspired stories to reporters, covering crime, that Manna and the girl had a disputatious psyche. It is now proved to be a cock and bull story.

A discreet effort seems to be afoot to discourage the endangered species of sleuths who refuse to be cowed down by the coward cops that serve the power-mongers at M A Bhavan.

Within hours of the news of Arindam’s mysterious death, a very senior journalist of Akashbangla , an unabashedly pro-CPI(M) TV channel – formerly with Ananda Bazar Patrika and Aaj Kaal (more blind to the biggies of Muzaffar Ahmed Bhavan, state CPI(M) headquarters than legwork-efficient junior cadres of party’s branch committees ) – told this scribe (in presence of an economist who was on the faculty of Madras Institute of Development Studies), “ it seems to be a case of suicide and I think this has nothing to do with the Rizwanur Rahman case”.

There is strange similarity in reactions from the bosses of West Bengal’s ruling party in all the three bloody episodes. It’s mischievously common: suicide or forced self-annihilation : Tapasi Malik at Singur (Hooghly district) in 2006, Rizwanur Rahman at east Kolkata in 2007 and now 31-year-old Arindam at Mankundu (Hooghly).

When Tapasi was brutally killed, LF chairman and CPI(M) polit bureau member Biman Bose, a Bengali daily (not to speak of CPI(M) morninger Ganashakti) and a private TV channel more servile to the CPI(M) honchos than bonded labour in parroting the CPI(M) called it the outcome of a love affair with carnal tinge. Even before the post-mortem report was ready Bose and Kolkata’s police commissioner Prasun Mukherjee said it was a case of suicide. CBI investigations which were obstructed by the chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee who is home(police) minister too blasted such pretentious lies.

In this case, the tearing hurry in the autopsy at the state-run Walsh Hospital of Serampore as an ‘unidentified” person when his identity card was there in tact generates a volley of questions. Arindam was posted at Dum Dum GRP office which was 45 km away from Mankundu.The unseemly endeavour by the journalist-friend appears to be a part of well-planned smear campaign to mislead vox populi – a volatile and footloose entity. After all, Arindam was on the list of witness submitted by the CBI submitted along with its chargesheet to the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate.

The finger of suspicion points to the Todis. Steps like suspension of two GRP police officers, including the officer-in-charge of Sheoraphuli railway police station Somnath Bhattacharjee and assistant sub-inspector Duhshasan Mondal for their apathy to investigation into Arindam Manna’s mysterious death or transfer of inspector-in-charge of Dum Dum GRP, Manab Chakraborty. The Manna family demanded that the case be investigated by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). “We don’t want a CID probe. We want that the case be handed over to the CBI,” said his maternal uncle Jitendranath Paul, according to the police.

Conflicting information on details of phone calls – to and fro- from the hapless and intrepid police officer deepens doubts about sincerity of probing staff and officers. Perhaps they do not want another front for the CBI which exposed the police administration under the CPI(M) Raj.

Workalcoholic and efficient, “he was a very good officer,” pensively told B Mullick, DIG (traffic) who saw Arindam closely as the erstwhile SRP (Sealdah). But Buddhadeb-Biman regime doesn’t primarily want efficient ad honest police officers but prefers those that show up canine subservience to let the crooks, criminals and looters a free style life. The Tapasis,Rizwanurs and Arindams do not fit in to those who are at home in kneeling down, never aspiring to walk collar-up.

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When tears froze?

February 9, 2009

Lacrimal glands of Singhamoni Debi have ceased to secrete tears. Somewhere around fifty, she was speechless when the bodies of 55-year-old Rajaram Mandi and her 25-year old son Lakhindar were taken away along with 37-year old Gopinath Soren‘s on 4 February inside the forest village of Lalgarh in West Medinipur district. All three unarmed men were killed on 2 February. Stream of bullets were sprayed and arrows shot from a procession which was guarded by 12 cars and 40 motorbikes, along with armed police cops who are supposed to lick the boots of CPI(M) leaders in one of the most severely penury-struck regions in West Bengal, nay India.

It looked pre-planned, some locals believe and said. None would attack them as the processionists, led by pro-establishment CPI(M) and its newly-set-up resistance committees – led Gana Pratirodh Committee and Adibasi-o-anadibasi Aikya committee- comprising a small section of tribals, lured in by the CPI(M)-police nexus, were returning after the cremation of CPI(M)’s Binpur zonal committee member Nandalal Pal.

The Peoples’ Committee against Police Repression – Police Santras Birodhi Public Committee ( PSBPC) has the support of over 90 per cent of residents of Lalgarh ( I am quoting what I gathered by eavesdropping when some sleuths were talking amongst themselves at Dacres Lane in Esplanade, Kolkata). The PSBPC leader Chhatradhar Mahato stated, “Our intention was not to stop the convoy. But some CPM workers and policemen started shooting. Those killed are our supporters”. When the dead and the injured subalterns were moved to the Medinipur Medical College & Hospital, doctors – allegiant towards CPI(M)-dictated Health Service Doctors’ body – pressurized the injured patients and their relatives to state in writing that they were killed / wounded by their own bullets and arrows. The enraged relatives and their friends came back without even the dead ones, after autopsy. This was front-paged by Dainik Statesman and then the dead bodies were taken home – the forest village.

Trinamool Congress chairperson Mamata Banerjee rushed to the forest village but the police superintendent Rajesh Singh discouraged her saying that it would be too risky for the police and her to give the security cover. A subordinate officer who too, like Singh, is more obedient to CPI(M) than a servant, told Mamata that there might be mines en route to her destination. Mamata didn’t pay heed to them. There was no mine on the way.

Another polit bureau member like Bhattacharjee told the media after Mamata rushed to Lalgarh that Trinamool Congress has links with the Maoists. Let’s, for argument’s sake, believe that clownish CPI(M) leader. What’s harm if she has political sympathy for the Maoists. After all, on paper CPI(Maoist) is yet to be banned in West Bengal, although in practice it is. By the way, the PB member once called himself as Leniner bachcha (offspring of Lenin). Reacting to his statement, a former LF MP said jocularly, “ offspring of Stalin’s sycophant, Lavrenti Beria, the notorious chief of Russian secret police.” While I too laughed at words like Leniner bachcha but would not react alike the ex-MP.

Lakhindar’s widow Golapi is pregnant. Her agonized state of mind beggars description. But other tribal women are enraged with a spirit of revenge. “ The baby in the womb will see the light of the day and aptly reply to the killers when he or she will be grown up.”

Meanwhile, falsifiers will go on fabricating facts. Dahareswar Sen, once known for his uncompromising defence for the underdogs, is a transformed soul. “The tribals opened fire and shot arrows at our workers. Our supporters managed to flee with Nandalal’s body,” he said. Is he imitating or aping storm troopers of Nazi days in Germany of the 1930s?

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Reliance Mishra – a honest obituary and the rise of the Ambanis

January 29, 2009

Death is no occasion to post-mortem the words and deeds of one’s lifetime. Yet even if it is a rule, it should be proved at times through exception.

The demise of Rishi Kumar Mishra , chairman, Observer Research Foundation (ORF), an Ambani outfit, a little over a fortnight ago, is one such occasion. The mainstream media portrayed him as a “veteran journalist”, but most of the journalists who worked with him or observed him closely will admit at least among their buddies that he wore a journalist’s cloak but had helped vested interests more than the media.

In the 1980s, when the Indian Express group carried a series of expose on the meteoric rise of Reliance Industries Limited with the help of Pranab Mukherjee who was accused of helping RIL out of the way to dwarf companies like Nusli Wadia’s Bombay Dyeing and Kapal Mehra’s Orkay Silk Mills, Mishra misused the now-defunct morninger Patriot to unabashedly defend. The pride and tradition of anti-establish daily, founded by the firebrand Aruna Asaf Ali who unfurled the tricolor in Bombay during the zenith of Quit India Movement in 1942 was trampled. Mishra and his sidekicks got the award for backing up Dhirubhai who inducted him surreptitiously in 1989 to head the board of directors of Observer (India) Limited which was formed to run two newspapers acquired by the RIL – Commerce and Sunday Observer – both weeklies.

“Dhirubhai used the government to destroy Indian Express and Bombay Dyeing. Wadia, Mehra and the journalist Gurumurthy were arrested on fake charges. He is alleged to have tried to get Wadia assassinated through Kirti Ambani and contract killers”, wrote Mohit Kapur of Minneapolis in reviewing Hamish McDonald’ Polyester Prince (http://www.amazon.com/Polyester-Prince-Rise-Dhirubhai-Ambani/dp/1864484683). “Reliance also resorted to envelope journalism and later buying out a newspaper to unfairly cast DMT as inferior to PTA”, Kapoor added.

It is evident today that the Ambanis had entered the media business temporarily. During the last 18 months, the daily Observer of Business and Politics used to carry 2-3 page full announcements on loss of hundreds of shares of RIL. The ads were free as the financial transactions were intra-group and small investors were kept uninformed as the circulation of OBP was less than 5000. Oldies among operators at Dalal Street, India’s Wall Street, often say that if a raid is conducted at registries of RIL or its group companies, bourses will be shaken more violently than the tsunami in Sumatran region of December 2004.

Mishra posed as a progressive in the mid-1970s, mixing with CPI leaders (wooing the then CPI general secretary C Rajeswar Rao) and radical Congressmen. But for votes of CPI legislators he could not make it to the Rajya Sabha, upper house of Parliament. Apart from being an MP for six years , he was head of foreign cell of All India Congress Committee .

But political commitment for Mishra too was ostentatious. He had no difficulty in switching loyalties. Which is why although he was once a close-door crony of Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi, he found no difficulty in getting very close to Atal Behari Vajpayee who sent Mishra as his emissary to establish a back-channel of communication with Islamabad and during the Kargil war (1999), secretly called on the Pak Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Grapevine had it that one of his assignments was to import sugar Sharif group company.

Strangely enough, N Ram, editor-in-chief, The Hindu, well-known for his Leftist views, described Mishra at a memorial meeting , under the aegis of ORF’s Chennai chapter, Mishra “stepped beyond the traditional role of a journalist”. Mishra had the credit of closing down Patriot and Observer. On how he forgot and ditched Aruna Asaf Ali and Nikhil Chakravartty but for whom he could not climb, the less said, the better.

Interestingly, Pranab Mukherjee was among the first to reach the venue of Mishra’s funeral in New Delhi. Small wonder, Mukherjee used to be called as Minister of Reliance.

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North Bengal – When the cup inebriates

January 21, 2009

The cup that cheers now inebriates. The muse is turning violently in his grave. Sadly enough, the greenery of Dooars in north Bengal is stained with blood. Even after three decades of rule in West Bengal, India’s largest Leftist party, CPI(M) failed to activate the government under its unflinching hegemony in making the Nepali/Gorkhali ethnic community and the Adivasis live and prosper amidst camaraderie. Instead, the party showed its acumen to foster lumpen tea trade union activist like Tarakeswar Lohar.

When the Gorkha Jana Mukti Morcha publicity secretary Binoy Tamang hinted that the GJMM might be forced to emulate Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose’s path of raising an army abroad for liberating “our homeland with foreign help ”, in combating the CPI(M)-backed Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad which gets help from the police too, I remember words of the late Bhadra Bahadur Hamal, MLA from the hills as a nominee of undivided CPI, in 1985 when the Darjeeling Hill region was astir during the Gorkhaland movement.

CPI(M)’s legendary arm-chair revolutionary, B T Ranadive, promptly characterized the Gorkha National Liberation Front, its leader Subash Ghising and the agitation as “secessionist”, with foreign inspiration. He was too myopic to foresee that within a few years, his party would keep Ghising in good humour to ensure that its nominee win from Darjeeling parliamentary seat .

Hamal-da, among whose admirers was Dr Ashok Mitra, lived like a pauper and remained identified with the subalterns in the hill, on the sidelines of West Bengal State Council meeting of CPI, “ Had Comrade Satyendra Narayan Majumdar been active today, the situation would not go out of control”. Yes, the spectre of both Hamal-da and Satyenda- haunt the entire strip between Darjeeling and Chalsa in Dooars. An ace theoretician and scholar on nationality question, Satyenda was a member of first Rajya Sabha – upper house of Indian parliament – 1952-57- made his mark as a communist parliamentarian through his rare-breed erudition and research ( he knew seven languages including French, Tamil and Urdu). He was instrumental in fine-tuning CPI’s stand on the Darjeeling sub-nationality question, although CPI(M) – later CPI too for its mendicant style of alliance with the CPI(M) – went adrift along its nationalistic path. Satyenda was an armed freedom-fighter and was thrown into Cellular Jail. There he joined the CPI through the process of “communist consolidation”. Back home, he plunged into tea labour movement in north Bengal and wrote a unique memoirs of early says – Kanchenjunghar ghoom bhangchhe ( Kanchenjungha rises from its slumber).

Veteran communists of yesteryears recall how he took the leading role in diffusing the disputatious episodes between the hill and plains people. And he did so not through patch-up, but principled compromise.

A poster of the Gorkha Liberation Army poster at Dumber Chawk in Kalimpong and Kurseong, reads, “The atrocities against the Gorkhas have exceeded its limits. In the 21st century, the Gorkha Liberation Army has embarked on the task of liberating our shackled mother with automatic weapons and not Khukri.” Another poster says that Gorkha Liberation Army would create Gorkhaland with the help of bullets. GLA is not professedly an arm of GJMM but there may be non-antagonistic relations between them. The point is who did the provocation? Obviously, CPI(M)’s leader in the region and urban development minister Ashok Bhattacharya whose bonhomie with realtors is a talk-of-town at Siliguri.

A good news is that GJMM general secretary Roshan Giri refuted Tamang and reasserted that GJMM would adhere to peaceful path. But will the CPI(M) honchos cooperate with GJMM to bring the Nepalis and Adivasis together at least to prevent violence against each other?

West Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has once again an ordeal. If past experience is any guide, one cannot be hopeful. Not a single CPI(M)-backed hoodlum has been arrested in Dooars, alleges a GJMM woman front leader openly in private TV channels. Everyone knows, Bhattacharjee looks after the police matters.

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Great Eastern Nightmare

January 14, 2009

One of the heritage sites that the CPI(M)-led Left Front government (read the then Tourism and Transport minister Subhas Chakrabarty with consent from the chief minister Jyoti Basu) hived off to the late Lalit Suri- owned hotel chain was the Great Eastern Hotel (GEH). A well-written project-document on how to pull it off from the red was contemptuously brushed aside. Quite expected from one who thrives on lumpen elements, real estate tycoons and others about whom the less said, the better. Records which were available before the transfer-process took off had numerous entries showing that food and drinks were supplied on credit to CPI(M)’s mass fronts like the Student Federation of India and Democratic Youth Federation of India as also Basu’s son Chandan Basu.

“National CITU leaders such as Niren Ghosh and Chittabrata Majumdar ( both are no more today-SR) are opposed to the goings-on inside the Great Eastern Hotel and Basu-Chakrabarty plan to sell it off but they are powerless”, the CITU –affiliate among GEH staff union secretary, the late Rabin Chakrabarty often lamented.

What I am going to narrate is the untold story of a carnal foray of a departmental secretary who used to look after GEH. There was system of a routine check of hotel rooms and suites in the evening when trainees used to go around every unoccupied suite, put them in order and lock them up before completing their duty-shifts. A young girl was doing that routine work. The secretary, an IAS officer, sneaked in and suddenly began to shout at her as if she was not doing her duty properly. Flabbergasted although, she politely defended her to refute imaginary accusations. Thereafter, the big boss closed the room from inside and was about to satiate his lascivious intentions. The girl shouted and forced the departmental boss to open the door.

The trainee girls met with a senior leader of CPI(ML) Liberation in desperation as they were completely disillusioned with India ’s largest Leftist party and its mass fronts. The first thing the CPI(ML) Lib leader told them, “ Did you file an FIR on this today?” . Innocents as they were, said, “ No”. It was about 9-pm. The Naxalite leader, fully sympathetic to the girls-in-distress told them further, “ If you haven’t done this, the secretary will certainly file a false FIR, misusing his authority. You must do so right away, even though it is late.”

The leader remembering the sad story told me, “ The hapless girl could not file the FIR for two reasons. One, she used to live near Naktola, southern tip of Calcutta , although she hails from Balurghat, district headquarters of South Dinajpur of north Bengal . Two, her mother was in an advanced stage of cancer. She could not wait beyond 9-30 am and I was talking to them at a place which was half an hour away by a public transport from the Hare Street police station where the FIR was to be filed. I told them that the authorities would terminate her traineeship and bar her entry into the hotel. I was pathetically right. The girl was not allowed to enter the hotel and to go back to Balurghat”.

The departmental secretary later became the chief secretary to the Government of West Bengal.

Lord Acton is immortal. In his Historical Essays and Studies, published in the late 19th Century, he wrote, you all know, “ Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely” . The CPI(M) party congresses go on saying that ‘Rectification Campaign’ goes apace. EMS came and went off as did H K Surjeet. Their successor Prakash Karat is now saddled at the five-star national headquarters, A K Gopalan Bhavan, in New Delhi . But absolutisation of corruption continues to get a stronger and stronger footing.

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Tapasi Malik’s murder: the lumpenised mindset of CPI(M)’s top leaders

January 7, 2009

The newest tactical weapon in the political battle of CPI(M) in West Bengal against its opponents and the Opposition is the issue of arrest of Parthasarathi Basu, the officer of Central Bureau of Intelligence, dealing with criminal cases pertaining to the murder of Tapasi Malik, daughter of a landless agricultural labourer in Singur and mysterious death of Rizwanur Rahman (visit http://www.rizwanur.com). Basu was caught red-handed while allegedly taking Rs 50,000 bribe from one Avtar Singh, a transport operator of Bhowanipur in south Kolkata in broad daylight. A dishonest officer who, according to the CPI(M) and some Left Front allies amassed over Rs 15 million, taking a meagre amount of Rs 50,000 on the street!! Looks incredible.

Anyway, since the CBI caught Basu redhanded, we must wait for the outcome, although Basu said, “ I am falsely implicated.” But CPI(M) has a scheme which is no discreet. As Basu was the main investigating officer in the Tapasi Malik Murder case that clamped the lifer punishment on Suhrid Dutta, powerful zonal committee secretary of Singur of CPI(M), the case should be recast as if Dutta was falsely accused.

But CPI(M) biggies and pygmies from the Left Front chairman, polit bureau member and West Bengal party chief Biman Bose to cub-reporters of party’s Bengali morninger Ganashakti do not stop there. Let me venture a free translation of a frontpage report on 31 December last. “ According to sources at Singur, forensic experts, appointed by the CBI , found Tapasi had an abortion shortly before her death. The CBI official made inquiries about the matter at a private nursing and veracity of the name . Blackmailing the nursing home that the owner would be implicated , he took bribe from the owner. On the other hand, the chargesheet does not mention anything about the abortion”.

Let’s not talk about the veracity of this statement. But the reference to abortion even if it were true, is not only stupid, but mischievous. What has the death to do with abortion?

Has Ganashakti any proof of abortion? To date, no. The day the news of sadistic killing of Tapasi was telecast in private TV channels, only channels that are in canine subservience to the CPI(M) honchos of the latter’s seat of power at Muzaffar Ahmed Bhavan telecast Biman Bose’s interpretation that Tapasi had a lascivious affair leading to her pregnancy forcing her to commit suicide. A fully cock and bull story is what CPI(M) is trying to rake up to confuse the innocent masses.

But can you imagine the level a polit bureau member of India’s largest Leftist ( “India’s only revolutionary party”, quipped the late Harkishan Singh Surjeet, then CPI(M) general secretary in an interview to Sunday Observer in mid-1990s) party can stoop to ? Bose is considered as the best-groomed product of Promode Dasgupta who, in desperation for not seeing many Naxalites killed by the Police in the 1970s said, “ Are the bullets used by the police Nirodh-capped?” Nirodh was then the most popular contraceptive. Yes, he truly inherits the lumpen heritage of his guru.

The LF shah-en-shah is at home in spreading lies. After all, his ideological depth is abysmally low. He told newspersons that before the police firing that killed a few peasants including non-adults at Nandigram in early January 2007 that Medha Patkar had a secret meeting at a four-storied building to hatch a conspiracy. When it was found that Medha never went to Nandigram before January-end and there was no four-storied house there, Bose backtracked saying, “ I was misinformed”. It was he who told the media before the post-mortem report on the death of Rizwanur Rahman was known that it was a case of suicide. Rizwanur too came of a lower middle class household.

The targets are a hapless girl of an agricultural labour household and a lower-middleclass stock. And we are to assume that this party is committed to Marxism-Leninism and People’s Democratic Revolution.

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ISI sans a jaundiced view by Sankar Ray

January 1, 2009

The first feedback to Andrew D. Bishop’s refreshingly balanced appraisal of Pakistan’s dreaded intelligence outfit Inter-Services Intelligence in Hong Kong-based Asia Sentinel http://asiasentinel.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1633&Itemid=180
is very crisp and pointed –“a rat-hole of Talibans and Jihadi handlers. The ill-advised in the 1980s has created a Frankenstein monster that comes to haunt US and its other Western allies”. The first success of ISI which was born as a step-child of CIA – I mean the modern and exorcist version of it – was victory of Talibans in the Afghanistan, defeating the Soviet Union-backed Left-wing government in Kabul, a prelude to the collapse of USSR.

The French weekly Le Nouvel Observateur carried an interview with Zbigniew Brezezinski, National Security Adviser in the Carter Administration in January 1998. He bluntly said that six months before the Soviet Army marched into Afghanistan, on 3 July 1979, the CIA in collaboration with the military rulers of Pakistan had pushed Talibans into the cauldron of fratricidal war where narco-terrorists like Gulbuddin Hekmeytiar engaged the Moscow-backed Communist hukmat in combats when innocent Afghans were inebriated with Political Islam, strewn by the Al Qaeda through Talibans. The Soviet army entered Afghanistan on 24 Dec 1979 . “It was July 3, 1979 that President Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul. And that very day, I wrote a note to the president in which I explained to him that in my opinion this aid was going to induce a Soviet military intervention”, Brezezinsky added.

The US imperialism had no regret in supporting, Carter Security chief, “the Islamic [intégrisme], having given arms and advice to future terrorists. What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the cold war?”. That is history.

Interestingly, the American edition of the weekly spiked the interview .

The full-text of the interview was published in former CIA director Robert Graves’ memoirs, From the Shadows.

The ISI helped Washington avenge two defeats: one, the defeat in Vietnam and two, humiliating surrender of Pakistani forces in Bangladesh in December 1971. Actually, the defeat in Dhaka happened despite the support PresidentYahya Khan-led military dictatorship received from the USA and China when Mao Zedong was alive. Ashim Chatterjee, polit bureau member of undivided CPI(ML), described Yahya Khan as “an anti-imperialist leader against Soviet Social Imperialism”, a whimper from an about-to-collapse- revolutionary.

Did ISI benefit Pakistan at all? The question is not for Pakistanis alone. It’s for all peace- and democracy-loving people in the sub-continent. Excluded are so-called nuclear hawks like K Subramanian or Brahma Chellaney. For them or their genes in Pakistan and Bangladesh, India’s Research & Analysis Wing or Bangladesh’s Directorate General of Foreign Intelligence are milch cows.

India’s minister for external affairs Pranab Mukherjee, the most mendicant emissary of questionable industrialists like the Ambanis, might not have gone through Bishop’s analysis. Diplomats including war-mongers are blissfully unaware of the intrepid daily which is not owned by any famous (including infamous) media chains. Mukherjee – stupefying as it may, being now the most trustworthy linkman of official Left as a liaison politician between the estranged Left from the ruling United Progressive Alliance in New Delhi – waxes and wanes over the bellicose tunes of Bori Bunder, the headquarters of world’s largest-circulation English daily ( because of its 10+ editions), although quite often tendentious in news dispersion. After all, a war between India and Pakistan will reverse the recession to a great extent – but temporarily. Recession-pill of war is like will’o-the-wisp. After the war is over, recession romps home more virulently. So what? After all, coffers of billionaires will be inflated within a short period.

The ISI in its dreaded form came into being as a revenge against the defeat of US-China backed Pak Army in the Liberation War in Bangladesh. Washington’s role was not merely in patronage. But the irresistible Frankenstein was born both in Afghanistan and Pakistan like a half-done abortion. Little wonder, three-fourths of Afghanistan are under the Talibans and two-thirds of Pakistans under Taliban-backed terrorists posing themselves as true followers of Islam.

The grave was dug deeper during the Carter era, albeit myopically from the viewpoint of US foreign policy which simply is global war in another form in the interests of US megacorps. Brezezinsly was questioned :It has been said and repeated: Islamic fundamentalism represents a world menace today.
Pat came the reply, “ Nonsense! It is said that the West had a global policy in regard to Islam. That is stupid. There isn’t a global Islam. Look at Islam in a rational manner and without demagoguery or emotion. It is the leading religion of the world with 1.5 billion followers.”

If Talibans were responsible for 9/11, why were Carter and Brezezinsly spared? No, Jimmy Carter was awarded Nobel Price for Peace over two decades thereafter.

President-elect Barrack Obama has enemies within the Democrats. . Pak President Asif Ali Zardari and Premier Yousaf Raza Gilani are politically bent down by the vexatious burden : ISI. Bishop quoted Stratfor, US-based study centre for country risk analysis, “it is important to keep in mind that the civilian government would love to bring the ISI directorate under its control and has even tried to do so but doesn’t have the power to effect such changes”.

Zardari and Gilani are in the government, not in power.

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Antulay’s fumbling frankness

December 24, 2008

I do not know how many people – especially netizens abroad- have read the just-resigned Indian minister for minorities Abdul Rahman Antulay’s interview to the CNN-IBN editor-in-chief Rajdeep Sardesai – http://ibnlive.in.com/news/i-am-proud-of-my-comments-a-r-antulay/81029-3-single.html

Antulay, the first and last Muslim chief minister of Maharashtra, replies to a question from Rajdeep: “In all humility I submit that Karkare and his two colleagues were killed by Pakistan. It has never been in doubt. Only a fool would say so and Antulay is no fool. No Indian and no human being can say that. The only question which is correct and which I continue to stand by and will for the rest of my life – is that from CST station, rather than he going to Taj hotel, Oberoi hotel and Nariman House, how is that he went in the opposite direction to Cama hospital where there was nothing?”

The assumption that he was killed by Pakistan , not a Pakistani, reflects the proverbial dualism of the bourgeoisie of India from the days of freedom struggle. Lenin in his Thesis on National and Communal Question at the Second Congress (1920) of Communist International suggested that the communists in the colonies unite with the colonial bourgeoisie where the latter positions itself against the colonial rule but differs openly with the bourgeoisie where it compromises with colonialism. This dualism extends even today in the realm of foreign policy (although the 81 Party Congress in 1960, the last international jamboree of communist and workers parties before the disastrous Sino-Soviet split cautioned very rightly that over time the area of compromise would increase and that of struggle shrink – a grim reality that began in 1991 when P V Narasimha Rao was the Prime Minister. Dr Manmohan Singh extends the process pathetically further), public sector and even non-alignment which gave India immense international prestige.

Why is Antulay so sure that Karkare was killed by Pakistan – mind you, he doesn’t say Pakistani. The answer perhaps lies in his interview. Muslims comprise only 8 per cent of the constituency that elected him. Seems he is as bothered about non-Muslim ( mostly Hindu voters) as the Congress President Sonia Gandhi is concerned about Hindu voters in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhatisgarh and even Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.

In this column, I raised doubts about Karkare’s death as assassination of him and two other proven sleuths would affect the Malegaon probe in which two so-called Hindu ascetics have been thrown into custody, based on specific documents of involvement in the Malegaon blast. I would modestly suggest that netizens read my story in The Rise of India’s Saffro-Nazis – http://www.asiasentinel.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1537&Itemid=174.

My question is bluntly straight. On whose malicious tip-off did Karkare and the two rush into the death-trap? Antulay’s hidden question seems precisely this. And he has rightly said, “I am proud of my comments”. The instant support from the Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh, ex- MP chief minister is meaningful. Does he mean that Sonia has no reasons to be afraid about Hindu votes in MP? His ingenuous defence is in sync with the words of Sheila Dikshit, the chief minister of Delhi who scored a hat trick for the Congress in the Delhi State Legislature- “BJP played politics with martyrs’ blood and lost” – http://www.thesundayindian.com/archives.asp?pageno=1

Lastly a question for Rajdeep Sardesai. One of his questions for Antulay was “Sir, effectively you are damaging the case that the entire Mumbai Police had built up that this was an operation by Pakistan-based terrorists by bringing in another agenda into it.” Is it the duty of a journalist to defend the police this way? Seems he plays to a gallery where the VVVVIP is India’s most jingoistic saffron politician Bal Thackeray.

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CPIM’s success in Rajasthan: a cautious note of optimism

December 17, 2008

The leadership of Communist Party of India (Marxist) deserves kudos from democratic people for achieving a respectable parliamentary presence in Rajasthan, one of the most conservative and inegalitarian states of India.

The rightwing Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party have been responsible for: (a) growing repression on mass movements and the death of 110 persons in the record 57 instances of police firing, (b) sharp increase in power tariff leading to mass discontent among the peasantry, (c) anger against inadequate availability of irrigation water in the canal areas (d) rampant anarchy and corruption in government machinery, and the accusation of corruption against every single minister (e) creation of communal tension in more than 100 cities and towns by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh , BJP, Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal, (f) saffronisation of education and textbooks and (g) policy to make various castes fight among themselves, bloody battles between the Meenas and Gurjars, and the death of 72 Gurjars in police firing.

The main beneficiary of these defaults is Congress, despite its failure to reach the magic number – 101 seats in the 200-seat legislature. It won 96 seats. In 2003, it got 56 seats against 102 by the BJP which got 78 seats this time.

The increase of CPI(M) strength from one to three is a significant leap forward: Danta Ramgarh, Anupgarh and Dodh with comfortable margins . The CPI(M) received in more than 20,000 votes in three constituencies . It lost the Lakshmangarh seat by about 2,000 votes. Pawan Duggal retained the Anupgarh (SC) seat by a margin of 21,570 votes. It elected CPI(M) three times in a row when it was a general seat.

It should be a lesson for CPI(M) biggies like the party general secretary Prakash Karat and polit bureau member Sitaram Yechury. Following Karat’s predecessor , the late Harkishan Singh Surjeet, their tactic has been (it still is) appeasement of regional leaders such as the Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav, Rashtriya Janata Dal boss Lalu Prasad Yadav and now Bahujan Samaj Party queen Mayavati and All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagham dictator J Jayalalitha for some assembly or parliamentary seats. This was the way they thought they were implementing the mandate of the Salkia Organisational Plenum (1978) to expand the party in the Hindi-speaking states. Rajasthan success story hinges on struggle and not parliamentary illusion. Yechury even campaigned against CPI candidate in Bihar along with Lalu when the multi-million dollar fodder scam was the political identity of RJD overlord.

Yechury or Karat hasn’t the political courage to admit this. Instead, Yechury talks of stepping up ‘class struggle’ which was not even uttered once in the 18000-plus- word political resolution at CPI(M)’s 19th Party Congress (Coimbatore ,2007). Ideological chicanery!

Lastly, CPI(M)’s peasant front, All India Krishak Sabha’s membership in Rajastham went up from 40,000 to 100,000, according to Hannan Mollah, MP from Uluberia, West Bengal. Mollah, secretary of CPI(M)’s agricultural labour body, All India Agricultural Labour Association, is in charge of Rajasthan matters on behalf of central committee. The issues based on which the anti-BJP government protest was organized were irrigation water and electricity. Traders who were disillusioned with BJP – to some extent Congress- joined an alliance with the peasants.

None of these issues is of interest to landless peasants and agricultural labour. Was it class struggle that CPI(M) cashes in on?

The success story, as I stated in the beginning, is in the interests of democratic masses.

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Genetic obsession with war-hysteria

December 10, 2008

Saeed Sha’s report in Mcclatchy daily on the role of educational and charitable arm of Jamaat ud Dawa(JUD) in grooming terrorists with the support of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), an Islamic extremist group banned in Pakistan six years ago following diktat from Washington is another confirmation that our neighbouring country is a hinterland of Islamic terrorists.

Husain Haqqani, Pakistani ambassador to the US and until recently on the research staff of Brookings Institution, revealed unequivocally that “a campus and training facility” has been funded by the Saudi royal family, the patron of ultra-conservative strain of Islam. Mind you, terrorists occupy two-thirds of Pakistan. There is little doubt that Jeddah billionaires subjugate ISI biggies making a mockery of Pakistan as a sovereign state.

In contrast, defence committee of Pakistan’s federal cabinet (DCC) has offered “full co-operation with India – including intelligence-sharing, assistance in investigations and the formation of a joint commission”. The Prime Minister has announced that Pakistani soil won’t be allowed to be used for terrorist activity against anyone. He directed all Pakistani departments to step up investigations on the basis of information so far shared between India and Pakistan.

Needless to say, all this is to be in sync with Pakistani law. The house-internment of LeT supremo Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi and chief of Jaish-e-Mohammed founder Masood Azhar is a clear indication of Islamabad’s resolve to deal heavy-handedly with terrorists. But Indian media, especially TV channels, are not satisfied. They want them to be extradited to India, disregarding Pak laws. They are reluctant to read between lines of Pak President Asif Ali Zardari’s post-editorial in New York Times on how terrorists are planning to destroy the new aspirations for a democratic polity in Pakistan – http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/09/opinion/09zardari.html?ref=opinion.

Having noted that about 150 Pakistanis were killed and 450 wounded , I cannot but agree with him that Mumbai blast is more “a painful reality of shared experience” than breaking news for most of the world. The 26/11 blast was aimed “not only at India but also at Pakistan’s new democratic government and the peace process with India that we have initiated. Supporters of authoritarianism in Pakistan and non-state actors with a vested interest in perpetuating conflict do not want change in Pakistan to take root”.

A few days after the Mumbai blast, Times Now and a few other TV channels carried a vitriolic propaganda for targeting Pak terrorist camps. This was a mischievous bid to help Saffro-Nazis get bigger political space just before the last leg of assembly polls in five states. We still do not know how far did it help Hindu comprador rightists ( a formulation by the Dakar-based left-wing economist Samir Amin) as hung assembly in Rajasthan and last minute swing in Chhatisgarh requires probe. I have grave doubts as to whether psephologists would try out a comparative study of electoral results between pre-blast and post-blast polls.

The television is not merely “idiot box” as in this case it’s of a mischievous variant- a direct campaign for another war with Pakistan. I rather praise Islamabad’s refusal to walk into this provocation-trap. On 8 December, Indian National Congress spokesman Tom Vadakkan rightly blamed the TV channels for tendentious politicization in Times Now. The anchor Arnab Goswami gagged him, sadly in silent or open collaboration with other commentators among whom were a very lovable and close friend of me, well-known for his consistent stories exposing corporate/economic frauds and skullduggery. Some commentators proved their idiocy inside the idiot-box by supporting Goswami. I remember my post-edit in Deccan Herald , captioned ‘Terrorism rooted in malnutrition’ four years ago on 25 November 2004. Malnutrition and poverty during childhood develops ‘ bad genes’, I referred to a paper in the American Journal of Sociology by a research group led by Adrian Raine, then Robert Grandford Wright professor in psychology of South California University.

I ask myself bluntly. Are those who want Pakistani authorities to bend down or face aggression free from bad genes?

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From Marriot to Oberoi, Trident and Nariman Point

December 1, 2008

New York University Professor Suketu Mehta’s heart bleeds as his own city, Mumbai bleeds. The concern is genuine. He has the guts to admit, “Mumbai is all about dhandha, or transaction. From the street food vendor squatting on a sidewalk, fiercely guarding his little business, to the tycoons and their dreams of acquiring Hollywood, this city understands money and has no guilt about the getting and spending of it.” So I don’t think foreign investors will walk out of Mumbai. Where will they get a peaceful place to mint super-profits?

We are all concerned but why shouldn’t we consider Pakistan Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani ‘s suggestion that there be no ‘blame game’? A similar type of blasts took place at the Marriot Hotel in Islamabad on 23 September and the Pakistani authorities suspected Al-Qaeda behind the gory incident killing at least 55 people. One Mursaleen, almost next to Ayman al-Zawahiri, the second-in-command of Al Qaeda and next to Osama bin Laden was arrested from a mosque in Gujranwala on Sunday, where he was faking as Jamshed.

My friend Gautam Adhikari, editorial advisor, Times of India, however, in his piece blames Pakistan as mainly responsible for global terrorism . He thinks the arrest of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, mastermind of 9/11, supports his contention.

I have an anathema towards hasty column-writing, although I know the media can’t avoid it. Even then there should be a good homework which is not difficult with a number of reliable search engines. Gautam, I think, ought to have that patience.

Tariq Ali’s suggestion that terrorists “could be a homegrown variety, a product of the radicalization of young Indian Muslims who have finally given up on the indigenous political system” is important for all concerned. This failure of indigenous political system is not new in Pakistan. Rather there are attempts to reverse it there in our neighbouring country. We should welcome this development. This could not be possible even ten years ago. Now people on both the sides are gradually coming round to the view that we lose heavily in continued bellicosity.

I remember the slogan of undivided Communist Party of India in the early 1950s – Hindustan Pakistan/ Dost banenge, dost rahenge ( India and Pakistan will become friends and remain friends). I was then a school student. The gesture of Gilani to send a top ISI officer to meet Indian higher-ups in the national security apparatus at the call of Indian PM Manmohan Singh deserves praise for statesmanship. Mind you, there is already criticism of Gilani and President Asif Ali Zardari as if this is an expression of humiliation. Former ISI director-general Lt. Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha considers the decision as “hasty” . He thinks it should have been “through established diplomatic channels and norms” .

Unfortunately, Dr Manmohan Singh continues the blame game, as if there couldn’t be any home connection – a ludicrous way of covering up the inefficient internal security network. I wrote an after-edit in Deccan Herald, captioned ‘Terrorism rooted in malnutrition’ four year ago (25 November 2004). Bad genes, a collaborative study at the University of Southampton found, have origin in anti-social aberrations. “Poor nutrition, characterised by zinc, iron and Vitamin B leads to a low IQ, which leads later to anti-social behavior”, the study inferred based on detailed interviews . November 2004 issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry published those findings. Our PM and his trusted lieutenants like the Union finance minister P Chidambaram and deputy chairman of Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia do not seem to be aware of such important academic findings. They are awfully busy to dance to the tunes of the World Bank, IMF and ITO.

Anti-terrorism as a strategy is judicious but to destroy the roots of it, anti-poverty programme deserves a greater priority.

Who will gain out of the Mumbai tragedy which might have killed about 200 people, according to the CPI’s Bengali morninger Kalantar. (My source in a top hotel chain informed me on the very morning after the raid that the toll veered round to 180)? Obviously, the BJP that may achieve unexpected results in the Delhi Assembly polls. The Saffron lobby and its foot soldiers are happy as the probe into Malegaon blasts , allegedly done by the Hindu terrorists that have links with some serving army higher-ups is set to decelerate. The death of Maharashtra’s Anti Terrorism Squad Hemant Karkare along with two rarely efficient anti-terrorist functioning during the raid is a damper in the Malegaon investigation. Those who killed them might have been financially inspired by the Saffron honchos. Who knows!!

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Happiness is for them is will-o-the wisp

November 26, 2008

In memory of Prof I K Shukla whose mundane life of unflinching commitment for the subalterns ended on 17 October 2008 in San Francisco, who migrated to the USA to live in the ship worker neighbourhood near the ocean front at the Long Islands, braving all odds

“Happiness is a permanent aggression”, said Adeline to the watch-manufacturer-turned –fugitive Charles De in Charles, mort ou vif (1969), a feature film by the Swiss film-maker Alain Tanner.

She was expressing her aversion towards the urban careerism ( crazy consumerism ) in every sphere of lifestyle in Geneva. She felt no urge to go back to Geneva for so-called decent living .

As I was witnessing the film at the 14th Kolkata Film Festival (10-17 November, the stark truth of the girl – portrayed by Marie-Clair Dufour – living together with the sign-painter Paul (Marcel Robert) to Charles, the lead character, uniquely enacted by Francois Simon, the plight of thousands of helpless children in the middle and upper-middle strata in urban India and their parents – all in the race for prosperity whose antonym is happiness- came to my mind.

Charles whose grandfather knew both Pyotr Kropotkin and Mikhail Bakunin was no successful entrepreneur although he was intellectually and professionally competent. Somewhere was some sort of a mismatch . Small wonder, when asked by the television interviewer ,” “If you are neither a watchmaker nor a businessman, what are you?”, he replied after a pause somewhat testily: “Just a fellow earning an honest living.” As if he committed a tactical blunder, he fled Geneva after the interview and stayed away for many days with a fake name. He became almost a new entrant in the bohemian household of a sign-painter Paul and his girl friend Adeline. The script was a collage of alienation in the Marxist frame- Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts (1944)- which Marx wrote four years before the publication of Communist Manifesto, with Engels.

Development for the sake of development – an approximation of industrialism , perceived by the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, West Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and Gujarat CM Narendra Modi. This thoughtless race for development by any means – carcinogenic in ideation.

I have no anathema to the petit-bourgeoisie or even the petit-bourgeois thinking. Not because I belong to the same class but as I believe without this class, no creative and positive transformation of production relations- the crux of any revolution – is feasible.

Unfortunately, this flawed and harmful perception about development without any responsibility towards raising aggregate consumption is infectious. The Opposition leader and Trinamool Congress chairperson Mamata Banerjee laments that she and her party had not opposed the Nano project in Singur but differed on the choice of location and the Tata Motors’ dogged obsession with possession of over 300 acres of lands (mainly outside the main plant) which the peasants refused to part with.

She is gravely erroneous. Environmentalists like Subrata Sinha, ex-deputy director-general of Geological Survey of India and former director, Centre for Earth Science Studies, Thiruvananthapuram feel disappointed. Why should we allow industries in one of the world’s most fertile tracts ? And that too for a high petroleum-and-water-consuming automobile project? If she has not read – in full or part – Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring , she can’t be blamed. But she can’t escape reading the great treatise. Her advisors – I mean those that hold on to some principles – ought to have drawn her attention to this work now, or never

The precious book was published in 1963. It was a bombshell for traditional economists and planners. Which was why it was unethically criticized in New York Times and even Life . Carson bravely pointed out the fall-out of unbridled use of pesticides. Hundreds of participants in the civil society protest against the Left front government on Singur and Nandigram too were branded as anti-industry like Carson who stood by her profound conviction: “It is not my contention that chemical insecticides must never be used. I do contend that we have put poisonous and biologically potent chemicals indiscriminately into the hands of persons largely or wholly ignorant of their potential for harm.” She silently roared in Audubon magazine, “We do not ask that all chemicals be abandoned. We ask moderation. We ask the use of other methods less harmful to our environment”

The rest is history. The intrepid author sharply rebuffed those who accused her of advocating a back-to-nature philosophy. “We must have insect control. I do not favor turning nature over to insects. I favor the sparing, selective and intelligent use of chemicals. It is the indiscriminate, blanket spraying that I oppose”

History came to Carson’s side. Her value system was eulogized after her death. New Yorker wrote : “She was not a fanatic or a cultist. She was not against chemicals, per se. She was against the indiscriminate use of strong, enduring poisons capable of subtle, long-term damage to plants, animals, and man”. Perhaps Senator A. Ribicoff was more vocal before the house after Carson’s death , “There is an appalling lack of information on the entire field of environmental hazards. We face serious questions, but we are woefully short of answers” (Brooks, 1972). He quoted from the book “We have allowed these chemicals to be used with little or no advance investigation of their effects on soil, water, wildlife, and man himself.”

I don’t say the Opposition supremo of West Bengal would lag behind by remaining unaware of ideologues in defence of man and environment. Why should I predict about her? I would only remind all of the tragic exit of Gafoor in Sarat Chandra Chatterjee’s classic short story Mahesh when he was unwillingly going for a job at a jute mill. He knew he was not walking up to a life of happiness which evaporated after he killed Mahesh.

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Give a Maoist tag and torture them

November 18, 2008

Manik Mandal is a Maoist in the lexicon of West Bengal Police. How did the police – precisely the superintendent of police, West Medinipur district, Rajesh Singh – came to such a ludicrous conclusion? The source of information is not any intelligence/special branch staff or officer. Then who could it be? The informer network is completely smashed up, thanks to the flourishing camaraderie between the local committee or zonal committee leaders of CPI(M), a new breed of social threat to civil life, and democracy and local police stations. “ As far I was told, the SP instructed police staff to shadow me when I left Kharagpur for Lalgarh on Saturday and the SP’s source of information that I am a dreaded Maoist was two LC members. I have their names with me”, Manik told a small group of social activists, intellectuals and journalists on Monday afternoon.

A few weeks ago in Singur, on November 2nd, Manik was beaten the way an irate peasant lashes out a cow. He was bleeding and had to be hospitalized, wrote Barun Dasgupta who and Himansu Halder too were roughed up by CPI(M) comrades ruffians. Barunda and Himansu went there – as I wrote in this column on 4 November last – to cover a meeting, convened by the Opposition Trinamul Congress there.

Manik went to Lalgarh, penetrated deep into presently- inaccessible villages of Lalgarh where the police resorted to despicable harassment and torture on the Santhals and Kurmis, overwhelming majority of whom live below poverty line. The blast at Bhadutola, near Salboni – at least 35 km away from Lalgarh- on the day of laying of foundation of mega-steel project by the Jindal Steel, the police ( or CPI(M) LC honchos)- was done by the Maoists.

However, it should be noticed that the childish way of conducting the blast has no similarity with the land mine blasts by the Maoists in the region. Let me not go into this debate. But how could the Maoists conduct the operation in a region where (within five kilometers of Salboni), no political party can function excepting the CPI(M)? Are we to believe that Maoists traveled 35 km to do the job?

Manik went there but he couldn’t guess that he was being shadowed. “ I stayed overnight, gathered invaluable and interesting information for a novelette I have in mind. All of a sudden, I was taken to the police station near Kharagpur and was interrogated only to prove that I am a Maoist. Among those who grilled me was the sub-divisional police officer. My mobile phone and notebook were temporarily seized, but the plan failed after about three hours of detention. I seem to be too hard nut to bend backward, someone quipped. I got my mobile phone and notebook back. I must say I did not experience misbehavior but was put to mental torture.”

Manik’s impressions cannot be narrated in this small space.. But let me share with you two nuggets of information.

One: under the National Rural Employment Guarantee programme, a small section of Lalgarh gets less than four days of work and they don’t get even Rs 30 on those days on an average against NREG norm of Rs 100.

Two, those who work for a day to sew sal-leaf dishes get Rs 20 in a day (minimum no of dishes: 80).

I must stop here. Gathering such field data or putting them in print is conspiracy against the Left, according to CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat.

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CPI(M)’s Todi-connection

November 10, 2008

The Rs 800 crore Shrachi group flourished during the three decades of CPI(M)-led Left Front government in West Bengal, courtesy: chief minister Jyoti Basu. Years after the public works department installed a lift (rather quail-escalator) at Basu’s inherited two-storied property on Hindustan Park near Gariahat Road-Rash Bihari Avenue crossing, he said that his family paid the expenses to the PWD. I am one of those who want to be surer about it. Entries in the passbook of bank account from which it was paid may reveal a different story. The Todi group, founded by the late Brijlal Todi, might have a role in it.

The power of industrial/business groups that had easy access to the CM’s secretariat during 22 years of Basu period has waned perceptibly. The Todi group got weakened in terms of bonhomie with the powers-that-be at the Writers’ Buildings, seat of the state government. But another Todi group has sneaked in.

And that is the Ashok Todi-led Lux Cozy group, which got an unprecedented publicity not because of fame, but infamy. He and his brother Pradip were accused to have been instrumental in the premature and mysterious death of computer graphics teacher Rezwanur Rahman, the fiancée of Ashok’s daughter Priyanka, even after trying in vain to prevent registration of their marriage. The High Court of Calcutta clamped a non-bailable arrest warrant against the two Todis but they are not traceable.

Many people – first disillusioned with the CPI(M) leadership and then cynical about not only with the party but the chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and LF chairman Biman Bose (both polit bureau members) – believe that the Todis are absconding with the help of CPI(M) with the full knowledge of police machinery.

Mind you, since 1993 and, formally, 1996 , police matters have been looked after by Bhattacharjee. The day Rizwanur’s dead body was found on the rail track near Patipukur, followed by telecast on massive protest in east Kolkata, LF chairman said, “ as far as I have been informed, the boy committed suicide”. How did he know? Were CPI(M) cadres (read toughs) around there? Or the police and CPI(M) comrades worked hand in hand? The CBI inferred that Rezwanur was forced to kill himself under mental pressure from a few police officers ( deputy commissioner of police, Ajay Kumar, Inspector Sukanti Das and his assistant , A Das, plus the Todis) six months after Bose. But many people still believed he was killed, more so when the post-mortem was not video-recorded.

The bonhomie – unholy or not – between CPI(M) ministers [and of course Muzaffar Ahmed Bhavan, headquarters of CPI(M)’s state committee] continues. At the venue of Indian Craft Village Trust, behind the ITC Sonar Bangla Hotel near the Park Circus Connector of Eastern Metripolitan Bypass – a signboard was placed claiming that the land belongs to LSBT Ltd, a joint venture between WBTIDC and West Bengal government undertaking.

The land, however, had been allotted legally to ICVT by the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) as per an agreement on 31 May 1994 as per the decision of the Bengal Chamber of Commerce, Jyoti Basu and the then chief secretary to the government of WB.

Mysteriously, the CMC passed a resolution to cancel the lease. Then the Mayor of Calcutta was Subrata Mukherjee as a nominee of Trinamul Congress. Mukherjee presumably did so on request from Bhattacharjee (and for keeping the state government in good humour). The matter is under litigation since then. The LSBT signboard appears to have been an illegal act.

But the cat was out of the bag, when the ICVT counsel and eminent advocate Shaktinath Mukherjee said at the HC on 4 July that there could be no settlement without first knowing about the land as he was given to understand one Mr Ashok Todi

Three questions:

a) What has WBTIDC – engaged in transport infrastructure development – to do at a place, meant for art and trade fairs?
b) Is Ashok Todi a new star in BUdhhadeb Bhattacharjee’s dream for industrialization?
c) Where are the two Todis, Mr Chief Minister?

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The attack on Barun Dasgupta and Himansu Halder in Singur: a few words for Buddhadeb

November 4, 2008

Singur, the venue where Ratan Tata’s bonhomie literally hit a road block, witnessed last Sunday (2 Nov) what West Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee (more pertinently, a polit bureau member of the 1.2 million-plus strong CPIM) had meant by his infamous dichotomy – ‘us and them’ (ora aar amra) after the second massacre of Nandigram in November last year. “Us” had meant marauding CPI(M) cadres and “them” the resistance and conscientious civil society.

“Us” attacked septuagenarian Barun Dasgupta, formerly chief of Guwahati bureau, The Hindu, who went to Singur to cover the meeting of Opposition leader Mamta Banerjee at the venue of fortnight-long stay-in against Ratan Tata’s adamant stance on 400 acres (CPI(M) says it’s less than 200 acres) for components manufacture and the protest action of Save Nano Committee (SNC).

Barunda was accompanied by Himansu Halder, formerly senior reporter, Aajkaal.

The attackers, wrote Barunda in Dainik Statesman, were about 200 in number, and they “rushed with bamboo and wooden sticks towards us when we decided to defy them. They beat up Himansu black and blue the way one beats cattle while another companion, Manik Mandal, started bleeding profusely. And the SNC people – basically beneficiaries of Nano’s purchase system – abused them as “son of a butch, bastard etc’.

For Bhattacharjee they are genuine comrades, not lumpens who fit in to aposanskriti (sham culture), a coinage the CM gave up the day he became admirers of crony capitalists such as Antony Salim of Indonesia and Prasun Mukherjee – a grand-crony as he is a link man of Salim.

Barun Dasgupta never went to college for a conventional education, but he is known for his unique style among sub-editors of Patriot when he used to report from Guwahati and Dhaka during the golden period of the first anti-establishment daily in New Delhi . Being son of Kshitis Dasgupta and nephew of Satis Dasgupta, both semi-legendary Gandhians during Bapu’s lifetime, he got excellent non-formal education at the Abhoy Ashram in the 1940s.

Himansu, on the wrong side of sixties now, was for 19 months behind bars during the Emergency. A Gandhian to the core – unlike Barunda who embraced Marxism and joined the RCPI in the early 1950s – he went on three-week hunger strike demanding political status for Naxalites in jail. He never traveled in 1st Class even when entitled to. He was inducted into journalism by the late Gour Kishore Ghosh, who was impressed with the upright but calm attitude of his younger jail mate. When Gourbabu promoted him to a senior post in Aajkaal, Himansu politely refused saying, “Gourda, I do not think I am fit for promotion”.

His role in the movement for rights of journalists in West Bengal is well-known and appreciated highly.

The hoodlums – “amra” in Buddhadeb-lexicon- assaulted the three in front of a large contingent of police ( mind you, Bhattacharjee is police minister) and did not spare the ambulance van that carried them for treatment. A local CPI(M) honcho and a police officer, said, “Tell us whether you belong to the Trinamool Congress” ( as if Trinamool Congress supporters deserve to be assaulted and beaten). When they showed their valid press cards, they were allowed to go but the ambulance van was damaged.

I have no words to condemn the pseudo-revolutionism of CPI(M) with support from its PB member. I have a simple question to Bhattacharjee and Left Front chairman Biman Bose, also a PB member. “ Do you have a past alike Barunda or Himansu?”

Tailpiece: The day Bhattacharjee spelt out the ‘amra-ora’ divide, Amal Sarkar of Dainik Bartaman, asked its rationale. Bhattacharjee threatened him in front of journalists. The next day, Bartaman editor, the late Barun Sengupta, described the CM as a pygmy saying, “ Come on, do what you said.”

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Thou art the savior, Lord Keynes

October 29, 2008

The spectre of John Maynard Keynes haunts the ornate corridors of Wall Street, world’s headquarters of finance capital. The castle is theoretically perishing. Milton Friedman, god of the triumvirate, IMF, World Bank and WTO, is turning restlessly in his grave. But the sentries-on-retreat are unwilling to give in finally without street fight.

The crisis has struck deep, deeper and something like a Keynesian therapy is needed to save the global finance capital whose carcinogens are hedge fund and derivatives. Warren Buffet told us years ago, derivatives are but ‘weapons of financial destruction’, distinctively different from George William Bush’s deliberately fictitious WMD. Alas, the neocons-patented WMD turned against the neo-cons via Bush. For the the European leaders, the meltdown is a godsend opportunity to dislodge the US from the throne of a post-USSR planet.

Let’s piece together now the yearning for an alternative for saving the finance capital from the Chicago School hegemony.

The reckless financialisation is “a crazy system”, said French president Nicolas Sarkozy in an interview to Deutsche Welle. Don’t forget, he is a Gaullist-and Centre-of-Right ideologue of European reform. He too had to beat a retreat when he mooted, that ratings be subject to controls and punished when necessary, where transparency of transactions will replace opaqueness, a regulated capitalism in which whole swathes of financial activity are not left to the sole judgment of market operators, in which banks do their job, which is to finance economic development rather than engage in speculation.”

German chancellor Angela Merkel rapped the US and UK for historical opposition to stronger financial regulation and pleaded for “better standards for rating agencies”. Even the British Premier Gordon Brown’s calls for empowering of ‘national regulators’ with “a global system of financial regulation.”

The background music of all this is a loud chorus- shrill in tone , but agonizing : “Save us, Lord Keynes, once more”.

But apologists of neo-liberal capitalism are neo Duryodhans: not an inch of land without war. Martin Walker in his column ‘Walker’s World’ eulogized the US Treasury Secretary exchequer Henri Paulson Jr as “American Lenin” for pushing up US tax-payers liabilities. Apparently innocent, Walker suggested that pumping in public fund in bankrupt mega-entities is what Leninism or socialism us all about: a mischievous way of equating Fabian Socialism with Scientific Socialism.

Keeping public sector sick is nothing but Fabian Socialism, cautioned Soviet economist G K Shirokov in the 1970s in a treatise
‘Industrialisation of India’, indirectly snapping fingers at the leaders of Communist Party of India, then enamoured of Indira Gandhi and her patchy- progressive policies. Some of her nationalizations weakened the national exchequer and saved incompetent management-style, the principal cause of pushing those industries into the red.

The labour’s acid tongue finds an expression in the Communist Party of USA national chair Sam Webb’s column. The bail-out has “nothing to do with socialism”. Had the measures, taken so far, contained even semblances of socialism , they “would thoroughly clean up and stabilize the financial system to be sure. A socialist-led government “would also place the good as well as the bad assets of the responsible parties (commercial and investment banks, private equity firms, and hedge funds) into the hands of a public democratically run authority”, he clarified . Slamming the deregulated financial markets and resultant bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers and the sale of Merrill Lynch, the American central trade union AFL-CIO president John Sweeney characterized the Merrill Lynch sale as “deeply troubling, especially considering the role of deregulation and the Gramm Leach-Bliley act in contributing to this crisis. The system of regulation of these integrated banks has failed, and it is clear that much stronger firewalls are needed.”

Soundly logical.

The “real” economy and a financial economy are carried away like a runaway train with the “leverage effect” inflating the value of assets on the balance sheets

If the Roman Empire collapsed, can the Chicago School remain perpetually relevant? Amusingly enough, a partial return of Keynesian remedies makes history repeat. Now as tragedy, may be as farce later.

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The American Marxist Victor Perlo – a nostalgic remembrance

October 19, 2008

There is no dearth of critics of the financial tsunami which mocks the abiding faith on globalization of present era under the hegemony of finance capital. But most of them overemphasise the housing finance-bubble. Even the new Nobel laureate in economics Paul Krugman, undoubtedly one of the few consistent critics of Busheconomics, a natural development (or decay) of Reaganomics, is somewhat obsessed, although he and the global fund management maestro George Soros predicted the collapse of globalization. Globalisation conceptually does not end in as a dependent function of Fund-Bank reform theory. It’s linkage with warmongering ideology of neocons is of no less importance. And this has been growing on par with the expansion of political hegemony of Milton Friedman-led Chicago School of Monetary Economics.

Let me humbly try to help netizens pick up threads of the past. Immediately after the coup in Chile on 11 September 1973 to oust the popularly elected Unidad Popular government with the defiant President Salvador Allende at the helm, the IMF rushed in to mould the Chilean economy on dotted lines of Chicago School. Allende’s martyrdom was a necessity for the budding neocons. History repeated itself as a mix of tragedy and farce on the same day 28 years thereafter when the World Trade Centre and Pentagon was hit simultaneously. After the fall of Babrak Karmal’s government in Afghanistan, IMF did the same thing as it did later in Iraq after the collapse of Saddam Hussein.

What will the IMF do now? I am not talking of palliatives like $700 billion bail-out but would wait for at least a medium-term prescription.

I remember the American communist Victor Perlo’s penetrating analysis in his classic book, American Imperialism, published in 1951. Economic ideologue of the CP of USA, he worked in important positions at the Brookings Institution and other government-run bodies. As chief of the Aviation Section of the War Production Board, one of his duties was to apprise the US and the USSR of aircraft production figures and shipments during the war. With the rise of McArthian era under the Truman era he was falsely accused of spying for the USSR along with Frank Coe and Harold Glaser. Perlo had to leave the government in 1947 and was deprived of academic assignments until his death in 1999 at the age of 87 as a CPUSA wholetimer. During that period he wrote other must reads like Empire of High Finance (1957) and Superprofits and Crises (1988), let alone his regular column in Peoples Weekly World.

Analysing the 2O-fold of profits of American MNCs during the three decades after the World War II, Perlo predicted that U.S. investments in Asia would affect employment of U.S. workers. Globalization we wrote in the late 1990s was ‘the exaggerated growth of finance capital’ with attendant havoc in Asia and the rest of the world. He defined U.S. imperialism as a financial oligarchy that controls the government and uses global monopolies as an economic form of domination through foreign investments, rather than through the export of goods. He pointed out how it heavily relies on militarism as a major source of business.

In one of his last columns, titled, “How rich is rich?” – a comment on Forbes Magazine list of the richest 400 Americans- he wrote, “They are the decisive force behind the global aggressions of U.S. imperialism, the anti-labor practices and politics and the intensified racism polluting our lives.” The naked face of US imperialism in Afghanistan and Iraq was exposed a few years thereafter. His sarcastic piece, characterizing the Clinton doctrine as first “humanitarian war,” in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo, and the bombing of civilian targets in Serbia, for setting up puppet governments was penetrating. Or take his sharp comments following the during the first petroleum crisis (1973) when Nixon’s secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, threatened to invade the Arab nations. The basis of crisis was end of domination of US oil megacorps in the Arabian Gulf. The Bush II regime implemented the Kissinger plan.

Readers may query why I write on Perlo suddenly. A friend who borrowed American Imperialism showed me how cockroaches and white ants converted it into dusts. It was presented to me by an activist of undivided Communist Party of India during the late 1940s and afterwards just after the fall of Soviet Union. Collapse of Soviet Union is at the most fall of ‘official Marxism’, the false revolutionism, under Stalin’s global ‘Russification’ of communist parties the world over. Many conclusions of Perlo are not only valid but guide to understanding the crisis of finance capital.

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Not Nano alone, but all autos ‘ecocidal’

October 2, 2008

A little more than 50 years back, Matt Savinar made a quantitative analysis on energy and water consumption pertaining to the automobile industry. For manufacturing a single four-wheeler, 840 gallons of petroleum and 120,000 gallons of fresh water are used. Mechanical engineers specializing in automobiles say there hasn’t been any significant reduction in the requirements of petroleum and water, despite some reduction in energy consumption when four- and two-wheelers are used. However, the rising cost of gasoline is many times more than the benefit out of energy assumed to be conserved due to technological innovations.

Even if we assume that for every Nano car, 600 gallons of petrol and 100,000 gallons of fresh water will be used, imagine how much of petroleum and water would be needed for producing 250,000 cars a year. The great neo-Bhagirath of industrialization in West Bengal, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, and even more enthusiastic than him, commerce and industry minister Nirupam Sen, are not bothered about these facts.

But what about All India People’s Science Congress or its prime mover, Delhi Science Forum? Why aren’t either of these two forums frequently criticizing the Union government for development sans ecological imperatives?

Not only the Nano, it is time to reconsider the parameters of all new automobile projects and their ecological costs. I am grateful to a young lecturer in physics from Viswa-Bharati University, Dr Arani Chakravarti, for his exposition of the work of Matt Savinar. Arani is a rarely principled scientist with a sense of commitment which is unimaginable to many. He doesn’t use electricity from the power grid. As a teacher and in terms of innovativeness, his feat is amazing by any reckoning.

Arani blasted the vacuous public relations-based economics of the Nano, which never takes into account ecological costs. Particularly superficial selling points apparently include (a) An ordinary auto-rickshaw costs > 100,000 (b) It has three wheels – the Nano will have four (c) Autos don’t have doors – the Nano should have doors (d) Autos have fabric roofs – Nanos will have permanent ones. (e) The springs have to be better in a car. (f) The paint has to be better.

Wrote Arani in an e mail to me, “The Tatas claim to have been able to reduce the price through innovation. Do all the other companies employ idiots in their design sections? If the Tatas are such tremendous innovators, why are foreign experts working with them .. It should have been the other way round? So many question marks” .

The logic is unassailable, at least to me and many friends with whom I discussed Arani’s points. Nano-enthusiasts, from CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat to West Bengal Left Front chairman Biman Bose, CITU president M K Pandhe to WB CITU president Shyamal Chakraborty, have no dearth of acrobatics to criticize the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for surrender to the US imperialism on the Indo-US nuclear treaty (perfectly all right), but are not least bothered of subordination to the oil MNCs – the financial engine of neocons- through Nano and other automobiles.

AIPSC and DSF are unabashedly subservient to the honchos of A K Gopalan Bhavan, seat of CPI(M)’s national headquarters. Their scientific temper and conscience is mortgaged to Buddhadeb-Nirupam’s crony capitalism.

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Total liquidationalism: an example of concession from government before the Tatas

September 23, 2008

A section of media and some commentators have consistently criticized the CPI(M)-led Left Front government of West Bengal on the bilateral agreement between the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation and the Tata Motors Limited for concessions to the TML’s ‘small car project’ Nano at Singur.

True, the ‘Industrial Promotion Assistance in the form of a Loan’ to TML at 0.1 per cent interest per annum for amounts equal to gross VAT and CST received by government once the production and sale of Nano begins from the date of commencement of sales of the small car, annual lease rental of Rs one crore per year for first five years, 25 p.c. after every five thereafter 30 years and thereafter at flat rate of Rs 5 crores a year and finally a loan of Rs. 200 crores at 1 p.c. interest a year, chargeable from the 21st year, in five equal annual installments are not only rare but unusual types of concessions. A leading financially daily Business Standard observed in a front-page news on the day when the part of the agreement was uploaded on the WBIDC website that if the money would have been parked as fixed deposit in any bank, it would have grown into Rs 3000 crores at the end of 20th year.

But why should we focus on Ratan Tata or the Tata-Buddha bonhomie alone? The other day Subrata Mukherjee, the erstwhile Mayor of Kolkata, in an adda disclosed that the Buddhadeb government paid Rs 350 crores to the Kolkata Municipal Corporation in 2001-02 on behalf of the Ambanis when Reliance Industries Limited ( before the split between Mukesh and Anil) refused to pay anything for laying underground cable line in Kolkata for the latter’s telephone and internet network. “ I was pestered by Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee to reduce the compensation for the damage to the city roads and licence fee, but I refused to budge an inch. Ultimately Rs 350 crores was paid to the KMC by the Left Front government.”

One remembers the imperialist hard nut – Sir Winston Churchill’s words : “ I will not preside over the liquidation of British Empire”.

In contrast, the CPI(M) polit bureau member and WB CM is literally liquidating the coffer of state exchequer whose debt burden crossed Rs 100,000 crores. Wayside gossips rechristen Bhattacharjee as ‘Bechubabu’ – one who is at home in selling out the state of West Bengal covertly and overtly. But there is an ideological link to : ‘liquidationalism’ which characterized Mensheviks and other variants of revisionists.

Postscript: At the end of a two-day seminar (20-21 September ) on labour rights and employment, organized by Nagarik Mancha, voluntary social action forum in defence of workers, hit by industrial sickness and occupational hazards, Abhas Munshi of the Hind Motor- Hindustan Industries Limited Sangrami Shramik Karmachari Union, abruptly ended his speech to rush from the seminar-venue at south Kolkata to Konnagar where independent candidates, associated with the HM HIL SSKU, defeated the sitting CPI(M) candidates. When the Gram Sabha (village council) formation was on, hired goons indulged in violence and severely injured some people and even a police officer. Did monetary inspiration behind the attack came from the Birlas alongside the CPI(M) ?

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Conscientious corporate analyst

September 16, 2008

Business India is infamous for blind support to the large corporates, especially megacorps and the MNCs, but exception once again proved the rules. This time refreshingly. Page 62 of the fortnight’s latest (21 September) issue carries a terse and acerbic comment, captioned, King Canute, a tiger and the Tatas , beginning with a wellknown limerick :

“There was a young lady of Riga,
Who smiled as she rode on a tiger.
They turned from the ride
With the lady inside-
And a smile on the face of the tiger”.

The writer, Subrata Roy, obviously means the maverick and intrepid Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee who – no matter whether the orthodox or official Marxists like it or not – is one who vents the “sigh of oppressed people” of West Bengal – the peasants in particular.

The author, if I am not incorrect, is former senior deputy editor of the same fortnightly, whom I introduced as a weekly stock market analyst for the now-defunct weekly, Capital, once India’s foremost financial newspaper that was revered not only by the economists and financial analysts but political decision-makers. Subrata came of one of the oldest stock-broking firms and needless to note, his weekly piece was the best one in the country. Incidentally, I was then the acting editor of Capital . That inimitable style is indelible with Subrata. “ Somewhere, Mamata Banerjee seems to have struck a rich lode of ore – and she has a groundswell of public support. Today, it is increasingly accepted that rich, alluvial, agricultural land at Singur has been acquired forcibly, illegally and by unfair means by callous and uncaring administration, and that the farmers truly have a grievance”.

Last week, none other than Rahul Bajaj, perhaps more respected among doyens of industrialists than Ratan Tata, candidly said that Mamata shouldn’t be blamed for defending the farmers at the Tata Motors Limited’s Nano project site. Interestingly, a very old friend of mine, claiming to be a fence-sitter, asked me whether the Singur agitation was funded by Rahul Bajaj. I had to be tough in reaction as I know the valiant role played by Jamnalal Bajaj in support of nationalist movement for scientific education in the early 19th century defying the colonial recalcitrance towards self-reliance in education. Subrata elucidates the point, although not consciously but with acerbic tone, “ Mamata Banerjee is the lone voice of protest against tyranny and the roles are completely reversed. It is chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee who has been riding the tiger. And with another flick of the kaleidoscope , in this tragedy or farce (which ever it is), it’s not politicians but the ordinary suffering people of Bengal who are being torn apart by wild beasts!”

This piece – unfortunately Business India is yet to launch a web edition – is in sharp contrast with Sumanta Sen’s piece – Nano fiasco –today. (http://thestatesman.net/page.news.php?clid=4&theme=&usrsess=1&id=222838) , reflecting his canine subservience to the mandarins of Muzaffar Ahmed Bhavan, the seat of headquarters of West Bengal state committee of CPI(M).

In a blatantly Beriaite voice, he advises the CM to be oppressive- “A government must govern and that is not always possible through consent”. The peasantry, this darling of M A Bhavan ( now perhaps the Tatas too) , is ‘ partly reactionary’, he formulated, with conceit of solitary and innovative mood.

Now it’s up to you, fellow netizens.

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Rotten Ta-Ta – September 9, 2008

Tata empire supremo Ratan Tata is a coward who knows how to make CPI(M) leaders dance to his tunes.

The mainstream media has highlighted some words of a press release, issued by the Tata Motors Limited (TML) in reaction to the historic agreement between the Left Front government and the Opposition Trinamool Congress on Sunday – apparently Tata is “distressed at the limited clarity” of the agreement.

Tata was not distressed at the gruesome killing of Tapasi Malik, a worker of Krishi Jomi Roksha Committee (committee in defence of farm lands), after being gang-raped, allegedly under a local CPI(M) plan. Nor did TML or Tata utter a word when Raj Kumar Koley committed suicide. None of them bothered about suicide committed by Sushen Santra when Tata embarked on a cheap black-mailing tactic by threatening to withdraw from Singur project. Santra gave his land for the Nano project pinning hope in the mirage that his sons would get jobs (interestingly, although Santra took poison at 6 am, he was taken to the hospital at 12 pm, a mystery that deserved to be probed and that the CPI(M) leaders and their government ensured was not).

My point is simple. Why did Tata refuse to send his representative at the meeting, convened by the West Bengal Governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi whose sincerity to solve the imbroglio is beyond doubt (but for him the Sunday agreement would not have been inked)? Was he afraid of a consensus that would otherwise have proved the low ‘project management index’ which is already low for the Nano project? It is available on the net and this been admitted by the TML.

Even had there been no Satyagraha at Singur, the TML couldn’t roll out the Nano in time. Anyone can go there and find that the essential power substation, to be dedicated to the project, is yet to be installed. And it would take at least two months to put it on for use. Maybe, the fault lies with the power department, under power and labour minister Mrinal Banerjee, a CPI(M) nominee, but Tata hasn’t the guts to blame him, not to speak of commerce and industry minister Nirupam Sen, the new polit bureau member of CPI(M), who virtually represented the Tatas at the negotiation.

Tata is not alone. Among his implicit sycophants is Dipankar Dasgupta, until recently professor of economics at the Indian Statistical Institute in Kolkata. A darling of two pliant Bengali TV channels, 24 Ghanta and Star Ananda, he said last night (8 Sept) that if the Tatas pull out, it would be useless land as it would be impossible to resume farming there. Can’t there be a hospital, an educational or research institute? Why this didn’t occur to him who claims to be an academic is not difficult to guess: commitment to the Tata-CPI(M) jugalbandi. Little wonder, scholars of international repute in the ISI are critical of erosion of teaching and research level at ISI’s headquarters in Kolkata, a contribution of destructive hegemony of CPI(M).

Tailpiece: Another doyen among Indian industrialists, Rahul Bajaj, defended Trinamool supremo Mamata Banerjee stating that she is “not playing politics over the Singur issue” and is “fighting for farmers”. He went on to add that two-years back the West Bengal government did not take the issue raised by Mamata Bannerjee “seriously”.

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Can you hear, Dr Monteiro? – September 2, 2008

Dr Vivek Monteiro’s image as an uncompromising labour leader is enviable, even among CITU. His epic battle against Hindustan Lever, India’s top FMCG company, now rechristened as Hindustan Unilever, is scripted in April 2001 issue of Aspects of India’s Economy of Mumbai-based Research Unit for Political Economy. Maybe, the communications execs of the MNC proved its acumen to ensure that media spike the news, although the documents submitted by the CITU-affiliate in March-end, 2000 would tempt any news editor with a nose for the news to display it on the front page. After all, the workmen’s struggle was in Mumbai which is not just India’s industrial capital, but a citadel of sidekicks of neocons. Dr Monteiro’s gutsy identity was manifest when he challenged one of the top megacorps the world over – Unilever.

Leaving his career as a physicist he plunged into the tempestuous trade union struggle in 1977. Forget his Ph.D in mathematical physics from the State University of New York, Dr Monteiro was taught by one of the topmost physicists of 20th Century, Richard Feynman. His conscientious assertion is emulation-worthy and that’s why he is revered by the top echelons of CPI(M). Which is why despite not being a central committee member, he oversees CPI(M)’s organizational matters in Goa although there are only 61 party members (67 in 2004). Needless to say, he took a prominent role in maximizing response to the all India strike on 20 August at the call of Leftist central trade unions.

I am not asking him why the strike evinced little response in Maharashtra. Dalal Street ended the day with decent gains, though after posting losses for the last five trading sessions. Nothing unusual. A successful labour strike would mean swansong for reform-happy investors. The strike was successful in three Left-ruled states under the CPI(M) hegemony – West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura, thanks to the solidarity, expressed by the administration in those states. But the issues, such as “relentless price rise, deepening and widening poverty and pauperization of common masses, rising unemployment and falling real wages, for the strike action had a strong rational basis. More important from the working people’s angle are “increasing atrocities on labour and mass scale violation of labour laws, en masse contractorisation and violation of existing laws”.

But is Dr Monteiro aware that the state-fixed daily wage of agricultural labourers in West Bengal is Rs 74.33 ( in reality even less) against Rs 125 in Kerala, Rs 140 in Delhi, Rs 100 in Kerala and Rs 80 in Rajasthan? Arrears of PF in WB shot up from Rs 5 crores to Rs 150 crores between 1980 and 2007. Dues of ESI and gratuity together crossed Rs 430 crores. CITU leadership is deceptively silent and the CPI(M)’s farm labour front All India Agricultural Workers’ Union has no existence in West Bengal. Unlike in the past, employers submit their memorandum to the LF government to pressurize the latter in persuading the TUs for smaller increase in grade-scales when industrywise tripartite agreements are due .

Will Dr Monteiro speak up why the plight of workers is deeper in a CPI(M)-ruled state than several capitalist-ruled ones?