Mainstream, Vol XLV, No 51
Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee Should Resign
Tuesday 11 December 2007, by
We are passing through critical times in which it is extremely important to defend the basic values of democracy, socialism and secularism. Another basic task is to protect environment and to evolve a path of sustainable development in these turbulent times of climate change. Last but not the least, we have to work harder than ever before for peace in a world of weapons of mass destruction as well as mass deception.
Alas!—in a world of such gigantic challenges, those who can be depended upon to take a firm principled stand to protect the basic values are still so few. Therefore, it is of the greatest importance to strengthen all progressive forces, help them to correct their mistakes, encourage them to incorporate crucial missing links in their programmes and to strive for the overall unity of progressive forces that stand for (or with some changes, can stand for) democracy, socialism, secularism, peace and environment protection.
It is with such a perspective that a critique of the CPM in the context of Nandigram and related episodes should be made. No doubt the conduct of the CPM has been characterised by the most shameless violation of democratic norms and civilised behaviour. This deserves to be strongly and widely condemned. But keeping in view that the forces that stand for socialism and secularism and oppose imperialism are so few and so weak in our country, surely on the whole the CPM along with other Left Front parties should still be treated as a friend and ally in the task of building a new society based on socialism, secularism, democracy, peace and protection of environment. Therefore, the criticism which goes over the board and compares Nandigram in 2007 to the communal attacks in Gujarat in 2002 is not justified. Similarly, statements equating Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee with Narendra Modi or even with Hitler are not justified at all. The criticism should be balanced and should be aimed at compelling the CPM to correct its distortions which lead to such disastrous actions.
Basically what Nandigram 2007 has revealed is that the CPM has not been able to live up to some basic principles of democracy and socialism. The SEZ (Special Economic Zones) law passed by Parliament is one of the most anti-democratic laws passed in post-independence India. The CPM failed to oppose it firmly in Parliament and to launch a nationwide campaign against this draconian anti-people law. Even after the law was passed, the CPM could have said that it will not create SEZs on the basis of this law in the States ruled by it. But on the contrary, the West Bengal Chief Minister appeared to be in a great hurry to implement it and create massive SEZs, inviting MNCs and displacing a large number of peasants. In Nandigram the CM was most eager to invite an MNC already known for its repression of people elsewhere to create highly hazardous industries which would have gobbled the smiling green fields and gardens of villagers. To make this possible, he was willing to tell any number of lies and unleash the most undemocratic repression on his own people. Murder, rape, attacks on women and children, harassment of human rights activists and mediapersons, preventing them from performing their duties—all these were acceptable to the CM in his campaign of repression. It is true that the idea of establishing an SEZ at Nandigram was subsequently dropped by him, but his repressive tactics continued even later and the same distorted thinking which created the Nandigram horrors will no doubt lead him to other disasters. This is not to say that in this entire tragic episode serious mistakes were not made by other parties, but the biggest responsibility for the tragedy of Nandigram rests with the CM who, despite many warnings, failed to make amends, thereby one disaster has led to another.
Nandigram, moreover, has been only one of the many disaster-situations unleashed by Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee in his short tenure as the Chief Minister of West Bengal. In fact his short tenure has seen more lies, more deception, more unnecessary conflicts, more discontent, more violations of essential democratic and socialist norms than all the previous years of Left Front rule. Therefore, the most honourable course of action open to him now is to resign. A new Chief Minister should make a new beginning by apologising for the serious mistakes of recent months and making suitable amends. The biggest challenge for the CPM, of course, is to make efforts for ideological clarity so that it is genuinely committed to socialism, democracy, secularism, peace and environment protection and thereby avoids such serious mistakes in future.