Ongoing Coverage: Cultural protest against Operation Green Hunt

December 13, 2010

About the protest program

Dec 24: A Report on the Cultural Program against Operation Green Hunt – Anindya
Dec 21: Videos and photographs from the protest – Sumanta

Leaflets of Program (Bengali pages 1,2 and English page 3)
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A Report on the Cultural Program against Operation Green Hunt

By Anindya, Sanhati. Dec 24, 2010

On the 18th of December, Saturday, the Metro Channel, usually a popular venue for pre-electoral muscle-flexing of the dominant political parties in Kolkata, saw a rather different form of political action as twenty-nine different organizations with a wide spectrum of political programs and many concerned citizens came together as the “Operation Green Hunt-virodhi Nagarik Andolan” to put up a united voice of dissent against the most vicious and widespread counter-insurgency operation in the history of independent India. Saturday’s rally – named “The Voice of My Protest” and largely featuring cultural activists from different parts of Bengal and beyond- is understood to be the first among a series of campaigns meant to raise public awareness about the rampant human rights violation perpetrated by security forces in course of Operation Green Hunt and expose the real economic designs fuelling this disastrous war on the poorest of India’s poor.

The event began around 11 am with tributes being paid to all who have fallen to state violence in the recent months in different states of the country. The stage was named after Swapan Dasgupta, the editor of the Bangla People’s March, who had been arrested under UAPA and allowed to die in custody without treatment of the cancer he was suffering from.

The introductory speech was delivered by Amitabha Bhattacharya of MKP, who grimly noted the havoc wreaked by counter-insurgency operations in vast swathes of Central and Eastern India and emphasized the urgent need to build a strong citizens’ initiative to hold the state accountable for its’ inexcusable action. The core message of sustaining people’s struggle against the shrinking democratic space in the country was strongly articulated in the songs of Pratul Mukhopadhaya and singers Charul and Vinay, as members in the audience joined in with the chorus. The performance of revolutionary balladeer Gadar, assisted by Sambhaji Bhagat, of the cultural activist group “Vidrohi” of Maharashtra, really set the tempo for the evening, as people burst into spontaneous chants and slogans after almost every song. While Sambhaji himself captivated the audience with his songs, his cultural activist troupe “Vidrohi”’s performance was also greeted with spontaneous applause.

Among the more familiar faces, Bibhash Chakrabarty presented a skit (sruti-natak) involving his rather interesting conversation with a statue of the late poet Sukanta Bhattacharya (Shyamal Chakraborty) regarding the ideological bankruptcy of the parliamentary left. Kabir Suman spoke about the near-complete marginalisation of the real people, who bore the brunt of atrocities by the CPI(M) goons and police to usher in the so-called “Poriborton”, in the present political discourse involving just the two dominant political parties. He strongly attacked the often-stated allegation of “violent politics” against CPI(Maoist), emphasizing that mainstream parties indulge in a far greater level of violence in their quest for power within the realm of electoral politics. A memorable performance of the evening came from the troupe of jhumur artist and cultural activist Ajit Mahato, who has himself faced detention on charges of being a Maoist sympathiser in course of the crackdown on the Lalgarh movement. The street theatre groups Chena Adhuli and Anarya showcased their talent at the event, and a children’s mime group from Halisahar, Pran-tuli, enacted a captivating performance of exploitation of workers and peasants through mime.

There were many other performances throughout the day, including songs by the groups Ganabishan, Pratibadi Loksanskriti (who performed a choral presentation of Salil Chowdhury’s songs) and RWAIA, a play by the students’ group USDF, and songs and recitations by nearly every cultural activist of West Bengal. A high point was the brief appearance and speech by the noted third theatre or angan manch activist Badal Sarkar, who attended the meeting disregarding his advanced age and ill health. The success of the protest action laid in the participation of a cultural activists and organizations cutting across ideological barriers, something which happened for the first time after the post-Nandigram protests.

On behalf of the organizers, Partha Sarothi Ray read out the resolution, signed by the participating cultural activists, adopted by the assembly, demanding that the state government take cognizance of the hunger-strike by 150 political prisoners, including three women prisoners, which has been going on for the last fifteen days at the Medinipur central jail. These prisoners, all victims of Operation Green Hunt, had started their hunger strike on 10th December, Human Rights day, on a 29 point charter of demands including the withdrawal of joint forces from Lalgarh and better conditions and political prisoners’ rights in prison. Although the condition of many of the hunger strikers is deteriorating, the government has not taken positive action to start a discussion with them about their demands. The resolution demanded that the government immediately start a dialogue with these political prisoners and listen to their demands.

The number of people attending the rally varied from a couple of thousands to about five thousand throughout the day. The fraction of young people-college and university students- was particularly encouraging, as many of them sat through hours at a stretch. There was a large attendance of workers, many of them coming from the districts, and they participated enthusiastically by sloganeering. While the success of Saturday’s rally shows that there is indeed a huge political space for third stream initiatives, it also points out the urgent need of building a larger and more active coalition of organizations to sustain the momentum created by Saturday’s mobilization – a goal that Sujato Bhadra, in his concluding speech, said the Andolan was determined to achieve.

The programmed ended by a joint rendering of the song “amar pratibader bhasha”.

The event was covered by a reasonably big media contingent, and was reported in nearly all television channels and newspapers. The reporting of the event in mainstream media, however, remained skewed as usual. For example, most newspapers only carried a photograph of Kabir Suman and Gadar, where the latter was referred to simply as a “Maoist supporter”, and most of the reporting was about Suman’s speech and his criticism of the Trinamool Congress. The press reporting again showed the necessity of alternative media initiatives to get engaged with and report on such events.


Videos and photographs from the protest:
Courtesy: Sumanta, Sanhati

Gadar, noted revolutionary poet and balladeer.

Photographs from the protest:
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About the protest program

Twenty nine organizations and many individuals in West Bengal have organized a citizens’ campaign against Operation Green Hunt “Operation Green Hunt-virodhi Nagarik Andolan” to raise the popular voice against the war being waged by the state against people and the rampant violation of democratic and human rights, all in order to facilitate to taking over of natural resources by corporate interests. The Operation Green Hunt-virodhi Nagarik Andolan plans to conduct a sustained campaign against all aspects of Operation Green Hunt and expose the larger economic designs behind it to the general public. As the first among the series of campaign actions, a day long public cultural protest action, “The Voice of My Protest” is planned in the heart of Kolkata on 18th December, 2010, from 10 am onwards. Cultural activists from all over Bengal and beyond will participate in this programme to express their protests against state repression and the corporate looting
of resources in the name of Operation Green Hunt.

Details of programme:

The Voice of My Protest
Metro Channel, Kolkata
18th December 2010, starting at 10.00 am

Inaugaration by : Mahasweta Devi
Performances by : protest singer Kabir Suman, revolutionary balladeer Gadar, cultural activist troupe from Maharashtra “Vidrohi” led by Shambhaji Bhagat, cutural activists from Gujarat Vinay and Charul, theatre personality Bibhash Chakrabarty, Jhumur artiste and activist from jangalmahal Ajit Mahato and his troupe, cultural activist group Ganabishan, street theatre groups Anarya and Chena Adhuli and singers, poets, theatre groups and cultural activists from all over Bengal

Please join and voice your protest.
Please circulate widely.