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Mainstream, Vol XLVI No 1

In the Wake of Nandigram

Tuesday 25 December 2007, by Sunanda Sanyal


The International Women’s Film Festival was to have been inaugurated by Aparna Sen, the well-known actor and film director, at the Eastern Zonal Cultural Council in Salt Lake City, West Bengal. But Subhas Chakrabarty, the State Transport Minister, said the organisers would be well-advised to sign her out and let Anindita Sarbadhikari stand in for her. Anindita is close to Alimuddin Street, the State headquarters of the CPI-M. Aparna, on the other hand, had fallen out with the party the moment she opposed the Left Front Government’s policy of land acquisition and atrocities at Singur and Nandigram committed by Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s police and party cadres together. Aparna herself has commented that you either unquestioningly approve of whatever the party says or does, or else…

The artistes claim to have earlier protested against the atrocities in various forms. Possibly Subhas and his party didn’t quite realise this or would have dealt with them before now. But the performing artistes and various other intellectuals have since taken the protest out to the street, culminating in a mahamichhil. They are now frankly telling the government (hence the party, the government and the party being indivisible), the atrocities they are committing on the poor peasants are unacceptable. It is like crying out aloud: ‘Stop you must—at once!’ Therefore the party leaders’ diatribe on the intellectuals is getting increasingly strident—that is, filthy, for as far as the CPI-M is concerned, stridence equals filth. So Subhas Chakrabarty’s exasperation has shot up since November 14 when no fewer than 10 million intellectuals marched from a park in front of Calcutta University’s main campus to the space allotted for rallies on the Esplanade.

Free India has rarely witnessed such a huge rally of intellectuals. The Chief Minister must have watched it on the telly. Yet he persists in his hope that the ‘true Leftist intellectuals will surely return to our fold’. I have no idea why those whom the Chief Minister expects to return ‘left home’ in the first place. The reason probably is that the CPI-M is unbeatable in double standards. This capitalist-friendly party of the poor, which is now wallowing in money, also buys political support. But leave that alone. More to the point is the fact that the noted film-maker, Mrinal Sen, joined the marchers, returned to ‘the fold’, and had tea with the Chief Minister.

A regular TV viewer tells me that a promising young actor has frankly confessed to his aversion to Mamata Banerjee. A section of the media too has started propagating the view that of course the CPI-M has acquired all the vices that a party in power for 30 years cannot but be afflicted with—for example corruption, arrogance and heartlessness—but then where is the alternative? Indeed it should be all right with the CPI-M as a party if it just gets rid of Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee as the Chief Minister. In fact an Opposition party, the CPI-ML (Liberation), is trying to forge an alternative ‘Left Front’, to which the SUCI and RSP seem to be responding positively. The Forward Bloc, which is a partner of the ruling Left Front, is nevertheless going it alone in the forthcoming Panchayat election. One wouldn’t be too surprised if the RSP eventually follows suit. Be that as it might, at the Balagarh Assembly by-election, to be held soon, the Opposition remains as divided as ever.

So this is the time when the non-partisan citizens’ groups should make a clean breast of what they intend to do. Speaking for the Ganamukti Parishad, which accepts all political parties that swear by the Constitution of India, it wants to save democracy by restoring the rule of law in West Bengal. The question of restoration arises because over the last 30 years the CPI-M has replaced it with the one-party rule. Ministerial interference even in the inauguration of a film festival is the result. People in the rest of India should by now realise that the CPI-M is no more a political party: it’s an efficiently managed industry, where efficient management does not necessarily translate into humanism. The crime syndicate of Dawood Ibrahim, who lives in Pakistan but organises pogroms in India, is a paragon of efficiency. The fact is, such a party as the CPI-M cannot survive in power without knocking hell out of the lives (Binoy Konar said, life hell kore debo) of the people, as evidenced at Nandigram and Singur.

THE people of West Bengal have begun to realise that those who do not do politics, but need political parties nevertheless, must cleanse politics all the same—eternal vigilance being the price of liberty. The Ganamukti Parishad has therefore publicly declared that it will neither form a political party nor join any—nor will its members of the executive committee seek any election. We have amongst us the so-called Rightists and Leftists who believe that politics of all descriptions have gone wrong in Bengal—perhaps in the whole of India. Most politicians today think of themselves, their families and their parties—in that order. They do not think of the people they represent—except as a nuisance to be got rid of, for the people stand between the politicians and untrammelled power. At this point of time we must therefore, no matter what ideology we subscribe to or oppose, work together to stop state terrorism and try to ensure human rights in the first place.

Actually you have to be in Bengal today to realise what it means to live there. We expect no constitutionl relief from the Union Government, the Cabinet of which includes a powerful Ministrer who is beholden to the CPI-M. And the lives of the people of Nandigram are a small price to pay for the Union Government if that softens the CPI-M’s stand on the Indo-US civil nuclear deal. Under the circumstances the Ganamukti Parishad is willing to partner any group or party that prefers a wobbly government to a stable but tyrannical one. Wobbly government are easy to fell—more often than not they fall on their own—while the ones that are as obstreperous as Dawood Ibrahim’s crime syndicate can continue in power by striking terror through murder, rape and arson.

To get back to the idea that the CPI-M has no alternative, it echoes Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s slogan ‘the alternative to the Left Front is an improved Left Front’. Take the promising young actor’s view that Mamata is for him the absolute limit! What such intellectuals do not seem to realise is that Mamata, alone among all political leaders in the State, probably India, is the only charismatic leader. You may be too sophisticated to like her “manners”, but the fact is, the people do like her precisely for that matter. The latest proof is the huge turnout at her Nandigram meeting, shortly after the pogrom. Thousands upon thousands joined the rally, aware though they were of the risk they were taking. The Dainik Statesman reported that the
CPI-M had severely beaten many of them for joining the rally. I have seen from close quarters how victims of violence seek solace from her. In fact, right now there is no choice between Mamata Banerjee and the CPI-M. And mind you, the CPI-M means more rape, murder and arson.

Mamata has floated a Progotishil Ganatantrik Dharmanirapeksha Morcha (Progressive Secular Democratic Front), which any party can join. As I know, she has personally written to Prabhas Ghosh of the SUCI and Siddiqullah Chowdhuri of the Jamiat-e-Ulema Hind urging them to join the Front. But they did not show up. However, the Krishi Jomi and Jivan Jeevika Raksha Committee, of which Mamata is the Chairman, welcomes all those who want to remove the CPI-M through democratic means. While the BJP is no factor at all in Bengal politics, the Sachar Report and the subsequent violence at a Nandigram, Rizwanur’s end, and virtual expulsion of Taslima Nasreen from Kolkatta show that the CPI-M as a party is no less communal than Narendra Modi’s government. The National Human Rights Commission has found the Muslim communites to be the main victims of the pogroms in both Gujarat and Nandigram. That is, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee is as guilty as Narendra Modi. On the other hand, Mamata’s secular credential are perfect.

It’s heartening to hear at the time of writing that the intellectuals and performing artistes are going to float a group called Swajan. This permanent body will deal with human rights violation. Since no such group can specialise in all aspects of human rights, wouldn’t it save time, money and attention if their activities were coordinated?

The author is the President, Ganamukti Parishad, West Bengal.

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