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Mainstream, Vol XLVII, No 1, December 20, 2008

Lexicon of Insolence!

Sunday 21 December 2008, by D. Bandyopadhyay

Politics of language and language of politics are two fascinating cousin disciplines in the larger sorority of political theory and practice, human behaviour and social anthropology.

A language carries with it the basics of sometimes conscious but more often subconscious mind-set of a people of their fundamental political structure. A small illustration may clarify the point. We have been a Republic since January 26, 1950. But do any of the local languages, say, Bengali, Assomia, Hindi, Marathi, Oriya and the like use the word “citizen” when talking about the commoners? The most accepted and used term in all these languages is “praja” (subject) implying that there is a “raja” or a “master” somewhere to dominate, guide, use or abuse these “prajas”. The concept of republicism has yet to seep down to our common parlance. Our languages still carry on the tradition of long dead “monarchy” or that of recently dead “feudalism”. That is the politics of language.

A language is enriched both by its written literature and oration of great leaders of men. Great orations, whether extempore or prepared, reflect the vision, the ideal, the philosophy of the orator. Orators, apart from having their own inherent qualities, are also products of time and situation. At an epoch-making event or moment an accomplished orator not only captures the moment, he goes beyond and presents the future in the way he or she would like it to happen.

Sixtytwo years ago at the midnight of August 14-15, 1947, in the Constituent Assembly Hall Pandit Nehru said:

Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny and now the time comes we redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially.

More than half-a-century later we have not redeemed that pledge. The struggle is still going on.

At the bleakest hour of the British history, when the Nazi Germany overran all the Western democracies of Europe and was at a point of launching an invasion against Great Britain through Operation Sea Lion, the UK stood alone, almost friendless. At that hour of utter despair Winston Churchill, in total defiance of defeats suffered so far, roared:
We shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end… We shall fight on the seas and oceans… We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills, we shall never surrender. (June 1940)

The British rallied round him and desperately fought on till they vanquished Germany.

At the initial stages of the Civil War in the USA, the Federal Government suffered a number of defeats. After winning the battle of Gettysburg President Abraham Lincoln came for a memorial service for the soldiers who died. Immortal words came out of his mouth. He said:
That this nation under God, shall have a new birth of freedom and that the government of the people, by the people and for the people shall not perish from earth. (The Gettysburg Address, 1863)

Such immortal words and noble thoughts not only enriched the language, it enlivened the spirit of men.

These were a instances from history. Only recently, on November 4, 2008, at Chicago, in his acceptance speech Barrack Obama heralded the age of change with only three simple words “Yes, We Can”. These three ringing words would determine the course of American history for the coming decades. Either at the moment of great elation or joy or in deep despair and depression enlightened leaders of men spoke in language which was sublime and whose contents transcended time and space. These were one set of language of politics which changed course of history of humankind.

THEN there is another set language which comes out of men who pretend to be leaders but whose basic attributes are that of back-alley knifers or subway muggers qualifying them only to be street gang leaders. Their lingo is vile. Their motive is ignoble. Their diction is coarse. Unfortunately, we have them in ample measure in West Bengal. These counterfeit “Marxists” have gibberish of their own. Before these fake pearls are consigned to the trash can of history, it might be of some interest to record them for the purpose of future research on the process of debasement of human mind.

With a rare prescience, George Orwell almost foresaw what would happen in West Bengal in 1977-2008 when a set of deceitful and knavish people would rule the State. He wrote:

Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable and to give an appearance of solidity to pure mind.
The fraudulent Marxist Chief Minister of West Bengal, after assuming office in May 2006, announced with great fanfare in the Capitalists’ press that he would promote capitalism for the development of the State; as if the Industrial Revolution in the world in the 18th and 19th centuries required mediation by the Marxists! This CPI-M leader and his cohort of camp-followers hardly ever speak in the language of socialism or class politics. And if on any rare occasion they refer to Marxism, they vulgarise it. Here is a gem of vulgarisation from Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee (the CM of West Bengal):

from agriculture to industry, from villages to cities, this is civilisation. We Marxists never deny this aim. We too want this to happen.
(Randhir Singh: 2008)

What an obscene caricature of Marxian thought! One charitable view was that Buddhababu could not be faulted, because of his profound ignorance of Marxism. The other view was that he could be accused of piracy of the Marxian brand name. It would be proper to leave the matter to the readers to judge.

After his successful invasion of Singur in late 2006 when he faced massive resistance from the farmers and agricultural workers spearheaded by the women of the farming families, Buddhadeb strongly cautioned the agitators saying: “Let me see who among them dare touch a stand of hair of Mr Ratan Tata.” No Praetorian Guard of any Roman Consult ever bragged so coarsely about his prowess and loyalty as did the Chief Minister of West Bengal for his new master, Ratan Tata. As the agitation and police repression went on mounting in intensity, instead of showing even any lip-sympathy for the suffering families, the Caligula of Kolkata went on threatening and hectoring: “Come what may, the Nano factory will be set up at Singur despite all opposition.” Little did he know that his dream-child, the Nano, would decamp from Singur and West Bengal leaving him looking both foolish and forlorn!

On January 3, 2007 the Haldia Development Authority put up notices in all the Gram Panchayat offices in Nandigram that about 34,000 acres of agricultural land would be acquired for setting up a chemical hub by the Selim Group of Indonesia. Coming as it did after Singur, there was an instinctive outburst of anger of the farming community. Public rage was so intense and vehement that the government retracted. But the CPI-M, insolent with power and pelf for the last three decades, decided to retaliate through open physical violence. Benoy Konar, a so called “peasant” leader, threatened: “We shall surround them from four sides and make their life hell.” The last clause of the sentence he spoke in English. He said so in the evening of January 5, 2007 and on the night of January 6-7, 2007, the CPI-M goons went on a rampage in Nandigram killing half-a-dozen agitators and setting fire to many houses of the resistance leaders. Since there is no rule of law in this State that man is still roaming freely.

After this incident Ms Medha Patkar wanted to visit Nandigram. Benoy Konar threatened that if she went to Nandigram, women cadres of the CPI-M would welcome her by showing their bare buttocks. He spoke that in unprintable Bengali slang. And the CPI-M women, giving up their sense of dignity, self-respect and shame-did what they were ordered to do when Ms Patkar went there. One shudders at the abominable degradation of cultural values of Bengali women under the CPI-M rule.

After the reconquest of Nandigram in November 2007 through mass murder, mayhem, arson and gang rapes, in a purely Goebbelsion style, Biman Bose, the party secretary, said: “At last the sun has arisen in Nandigram after a long night.” Somewhere else Buddhadeb addressing a press conference told a reporter of a neutral daily, which had been fearlessly exposing all the misdeeds of the CPI-M party and government, that he could finish off that paper if he so liked but he was desisting from doing so as he did not want to soil his hand by killing a mouse. The reporter protested openly. But the bully that he is, he ignored the protest and said people of Nandigram got “tit for tat”. It could not be the language of any Chief Minister anywhere. It only laid bare their basic character of street ruffians. He went on to say what the Opposition would do: “We are 234 they are only 30 (in an Assembly of 293 members).” But it was an ill-placed bravado. The margin of votes by which the CPI-M won was only 0.32 per cent more than the combined Opposition votes. It is good that such niceties of statistics would not penetrate his skull; otherwise he would get more confused.

The CPI-M MP from the Nandigram area held a public meeting sometimes in the middle of 2007 to convince the agitators the benefits of a chemical hub. He exhorted the people to be with the CPI-M, because that was the surest way of making money. Then he gave the example of his own life. He said:

I am the son of a beggar. I joined the party early in life. And all of you know how much I am worth today. Hence my advice to you is that be with the party and make money.

He did not make any empty boast about himself. He is undoubtedly one of the richest Bengalis today. The Chief Minister was present in that meeting. He did not protest. Obviously, he endorsed the MP’s short-cut route to riches.

On October 5, 2008, while opening an SEZ project at Rajarhat, Buddhadeb declared that in Singur he lost a battle and not the war. It was a heroic statement in Churchillian style. The only thing he refrained from mentioning was that he was waging a war against small and marginal farmers and agricultural workers in favour of the big capitalists—the perpetual oppressors. One cannot but applaud such a mindless courage to take a theoretical U-turn while still calling himself a Marxist.

BUDDHADEB virtually divided the Bengali society by splitting it into “we” (CPI-M supporters) and “they” (the others). There is no law, no regulation and no ethics for the “we”. All the harshness of law and repressiveness of state power are meant for “they”. It is creating a dangerous and highly provocative situation which is clearly evident from the Lalgarh tribal uprising since November 4, 2008. It has not yet taken the shape of an insurrection. But it has all the grave portents for such a calamitous event. If through a massive tribal congregation they decide to declare a “hul” that would be the formal announcement of a “revolt”. The Santhal Rebellion of 1855-57 was preceded by such a declaration. The Salboni mine explosion took place on November 2, 2008 in a village inhabited wholly by CPI-M supporters. The Police would not enter into that “friendly” village, whatever crimes the villagers might commit—because they are Buddha’s “we”. So in search of the elusive “Maoists”, the police went to Lalgarh about 38 km away from the place of occurrence and started their usual savagery on Santhal men and more so on Santhal women. So far the tribal movement has remained peaceful, but it is a dry powder keg. It can explode anytime. Since these Santhals are not Buddha’s “we”, he could not care less about what happens to them. He has not uttered a word since the trouble began.

Ms Mamata Banerjee of the TMC has been spearheading the non-violent “land protection” (Bhumi Bachao) movements both in Singur and Nandigram. The movements started spontaneously before Ms Banerjee arrived at the spot. She is now inextricably mixed up with the land movement anywhere in West Bengal. What the CPI or CPI-M used to do in the fifties, sixties and early seventies, in a reversal of role Ms Banerjee is doing the same. The CPI-M leadership is deeply rattled by it. Solely involved in their money-making spree, the leadership is unable to fathom what caused the shifting of the ground under their feet. Hence their entire ire is on Ms Mamata Banerjee. They are out to denigrate her by means more foul than fair. Like the African “Black Mamba” they are spitting venom against her.

On November 9, 2008, the CPI-M held a meeting at Khejury near Nandigram to commemorate the anniversary of “reconquest”. There the same CPI-M MP from the area coarsely indicted Ms Mamata Banerjee that being a childless person herself she had no right to talk about soil and motherhood. In Bengali his language was utterly repulsive and lewd. It, of course, behove his culture. It drew protests from women’s organisations for generally insulting womanhood. The CPI-M party supported it by its studied silence. The refined English version cannot convey the repulsive abhorrence of his Bengali.

The black pearl of Cook Island came from Shyamal Chakrabarty of the CITU. Speaking at a CITU meeting at the Subodh Mullick Square on November 16, 2008, he advised all the would be-mothers of West Bengal not to name their daughters “Mamata” as Ms Mamata Banerjee betrayed the CPI(M)’s programme of development through capitalism. (Dainik Statesman, Kolkata, November 16, 2008) He almost suggested the deletion of this word from the Bengali vocabulary. One cannot but have some sympathy for such ill-educated persons holding positions of responsibility for which they were not prepared. The simple fact is that no Chakrabarty of the CPI-M, whether Shyamal or Subhash (who also participated), can banish the word “Mamata” because it is an imperishable word of an immortal language called “Sanskrit”. It was there before the CPI-M was born in 1964. It is here with all the malgovernance and shenanigans of the CPI-M. It will be there forever long after the CPI-M would be dead and forgotten.

The CPI-M’s continuing dominant presence in West Bengal is threatening the very basis of Bengali language, Bengali culture and the Bengali value system, the three most distinguishing marks of the small Bengali sub-nationality of the great Indian nation. Vulgarisation of the Bengali language, vandalisation of the Bengali culture and destruction of the Bengali value system are the lasting contributions of the thirtytwo-year rule of the CPI-M in West Bengal. To save the Bengali identity, they must go and go at once!

The author was the Secretary to the Government of India, Ministries of Finance (Revenue) and Rural Development, and the Executive Director, Asian Development Bank, Manila.

ISSN : 0542-1462 / RNI No. : 7064/62