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Mainstream, Vol XLV, No 49

Badge of Shame


Wednesday 28 November 2007, by SC


Parliament has discussed the Nandigram issue indepth and the role of the CPM hoodlums—constituting the harmad vahini—who launched the attack on the villagefolk has come under close scrutiny. This is doubtless welcome as it has exposed and brought into focus the misgovernance and maladministration of those at the helm of affairs in the State of West Bengal. Union Minister of I&B and Parliamentary Affairs Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi needs to be complimented for his objective presentation of the ground reality without trying to reap any political dividend unlike the principal Opposition party at the Centre and its stalwarts.

The CPM’s rank partisanship was the real cause of the problem in Nandigram. If the political leadership of the party and State administration could have taken a different stance and reached out to the people, the bloodbath of March 14 and the post-November 5 atrocities could have been avoided. For those spearheading the movement and offering resistance in Nandigram were neither Maoists nor Trinamul Congress activists but the disillusioned followers of the CPM and CPI. This simple truth was sought to be obfuscated by the CPM leadership. Anyone opposed to the party on a particular issue should never be treated as an opponent or an enemy but must be regarded as a potential ally. However, the sectarian partisans have a different attitude.

That is why several months ago it was the great Marxist Benoy Konar who threatened the people of Nandigram with his strident “we-will-make your-life-hell” call. The intention was clear then and there: we’ll teach them a lesson that they will never forget. And that is what the harmad vahini eventually did. Can the gentleman escape responsibility for his pronouncements?

Essentially resolution of the problem of Nandigram was left to such personalities as Benoy Konar and Lakshman Seth and their cohorts. That is what complicated matters. And the absence of farsighted leaders in the State CPM leadership aggravated the situation. Thus persons like Benoy Konar and Biman Bose the State party Secretary, went on publicly spewing venom at the Governor and the judiciary causing incalculable harm to their own party and the Left movement (they are, of course, unable to understand that). And then just before the operation began a relatively young member of the party’s Polit-Bureau came out with a revealing statement: “We will administer Dum Dum dawai.” This personality has no political background to comprehend what Dum Dum dawai was: a democratic resistance during the memorable food movement of 1966, something which could not even remotely be connected with what happened in Nandigram this month. But the presence of characters like Sushanta Ghosh of Garbeta fame in the operation to “recapture” Nandigram was enough to provide a clear idea of what was sought to be enacted.

As the drama unfolded one found the CM marginalised. Or was he? His subsequent statements proved that he was party to whatever happened. By his outbursts he betrayed the same partisanship which is the bane of most of the CPM leaders. It showed that he has much to learn from his illustrious predecessor.

The violence, bloodshed and rape in Nandigram have had an inevitable effect on the minority community—after all the Muslims and Dalits were at the receiving end there (although not by design). What erupted on the streets of Kolkata on November 21 was a consequence of the Nandigram developments.

That does not mean one should be oblivious of the danger inherent in those demonstrations. The demonstrators’ prime target was the poet-cum-novelist in exile, Taslima Nasreen. Apart from venting their anger on the happenings in Nandigram, they called for Taslima’s expulsion from West Bengal. The utterances of Biman Bose, who is also the Left Front Chairman, against Taslima were most disturbing as they gave the impression that he was kowtowing to the fundamentalist elements baying for Taslima’s blood. The Left Front should have gone out of its way to offer protection to Taslima and come out in her defence. Instead she has been sent to Jaipur.

The events of the last few days in Nandigram and Kolkata have besmirched the image of West Bengal and the Left. As a Bengali with a pronounced Leftist orientation one cannot but hang one’s head in shame.

However, one silver-lining in the dark and dismal scenario is the ability of the State and its people to maintain communal harmony. For this the toiling masses of West Bengal, not the political leaders, deserve unreserved acclaim. Let us build on this in the coming days so that the shameful events that were witnessed in Nandigram and the attack on Taslima do not recur in the near or distant future.

November 23 S.C.

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