Mainstream, VOL LIII No 40, New Delhi, September 26, 2015
A Rejoinder to Suryakanta Mishra
Monday 28 September 2015, by
The CPI-M leader, Suryakanta Mishra, who wears the double-hat of the Secretary of the party’s West Bengal unit and leader of the party’s legislative wing, has given a long ‘inter-view’ to his party’s theoretical organ The Marxist (April-June, 2015 issue). The interview is an exercise in deceit, duplicity and plain dishonesty.
Let us examine them one by one. The interview starts with the charge that “The repression that we have been facing in West Bengal today, four years after the changing of the government, is a multi-pronged one.” He elaborates by saying the attacks have been on democracy and democratic institutions; on people’s livelihood; and on the CPI-M and Left Front. Mishra obviously thinks that in the last four years the people of West Bengal have forgotten the CPI-M’s unsurpassable record of killing democracy and democratic institutions. Elections became a farce from the second term of the Left Front rule. All elections were loaded dice.
Mishra has not explained how the new government has taken away the ‘people’s livelihoods’. In fact, within its limited resources, the State Government has tried to expand employment opportunities but certainly they fall far short of the requirement. Employment was provided to rural people under the MGNREGA scheme. Many youths were given employment as ‘civic volunteers’.
But the mostatrocious charge is that there have been attacks on secularism. The present government has been fearlessly and consistently championing the cause of secularism and keeping the communal forces at bay. These forces have been constantly trying to rouse fear, suspicion and hatred against the minority community. Mishra needs to be reminded that it was none other than the former Chief Minister, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, who had called the madrasas as being the “cradle of terrorist activities”—a charge that the later had to recant under heavy pressure and after facing a barrage of criticism. At a meeting at Siliguri in north Bengal he accused the madrasas of ‘hobnobbing’ with the ISI of Pakistan and other anti-national elements. He threatened to close down all ‘unrecognised madrasas’ and directed the police to survey the madrasas in Murshsidabad district and furnish all information regarding their strength of students, their addresses and their sources of income. The people of the State have not forgotten that when BJP leader Lal Krishna Advani took out his famous rath yatra in 1990, the then CPI-M Chief Minister, Jyoti Basu, allowed Advani to pass through West Bengal without let or hindrance. It was his Bihar counterpart Laloo Prasad Yadav, who arrested Advani and put an end to his rath yatra (which paved the way for the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992).
Mishra has gone on to state, without batting an eyelid, that no farmers’ suicides had taken place “in the 34 years of Left Front rule”. This is a blatant untruth and has to be thoroughly exposed. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, “3537 farmers killed themselves in the State in the three years between 2001 and 2007 for which records are available. Only Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattishgarh and Madhya Pradesh have a worse record. In 2007 alone, 1102 farmers committed suicide. Of these 878 were male and 224 were female, an NCRB official said. The figure was 1189 in 2006 while the highest number of 1246 farmer suicides in the State took place in 2001.” (The Mail, July 12, 2010)
Then there was Amlasol in West Medinipur district. Five persons of the extremely poor Sabar tribe starved to death in 2004. The then West Bengal party secretary, Anil Biswas, promptly denied the charge and explained, in typical bureaucratic language, that the deaths were not due to starvation but due to ‘disease and lack of medicare’. (Don’t ask why there was ‘lack of medicare’ in the Left heaven.) Starvation deaths of tea-garden workers in closed gardens were reported from north Bengal. There were starvation deaths in Murshidabad, Bankura and Purulia. The traumatic memory of those deaths cannot be erased from the public mind.
There are many such gems scattered through-out the interview. Sample a few. “The right of workers to strike has been taken away.” The Left Front organised a ‘March to Nabanna’ (the present State Secretariat) and brought life in Kolkata and Howrah to a standstill on August 20. Then there was the Bharat Bandh called by the central trade union organisations on September 2. There was massive response from the workers in the State. Buoyed by the success of the two successive movements, the CPI-M has now decided to hold a rally at the Brigade Parade ground in Kolkata on December 27. Do these two events confirm the CPI-M charge that the right to strike has been taken away in West Bengal?
When the farmers of Nandigram came out to resist forcible eviction from their land by the police, it was the then Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee who gave the (in)famous order to the police: “Blow them up.” What mindset did it betray—democratic or autocratic? Mishra’s party was using the brutal force of the state to terrorise the peasants. That was the CPI-M’s way of ‘industrialising’ West Bengal.
Mishra has given figures—of party workers killed and party offices captured by the TMC and false cases started against its workers—as proof of his charge of the prevailing ‘terror’ in West Bengal. Mishra has cleverly avoided answering a very pertinent question. West Bengal has been a traditional Left bastion. It is the State which was ruled by the Left Front uninterruptedly for 34 years. How is it that in such a State, the party suffered such a massive defeat and dislodgment from power in 2011? Mishra does not explain, why. Why is it that not in a single case when a CPI-M party office was forcibly occupied and its workers targeted, did the local people come out spontaneously to stand by the party? It shows the alienation of the party from the people. Why and how did it happen? Mishra does not explain.
In the honest answer to that question lies the way to revive the Left in West Bengal. Unfortu-nately, the CPI-M has changed neither its neta (leadership) nor its niti (policies). So its fortunes are not changing either but dwindling. This has been proved again and again in all the elections since 2011.
The author was a correspondent of The Hindu in Assam. He also worked in Patriot, Compass (Bengali), Mainstream. A veteran journalist, he comes from a Gandhian family and was intimately associated with the RCPI leader, Pannalal Das Gupta.