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Mainstream, Vol XLVI No 22

Nandigram Act II: Politics of Governance in West Bengal

Friday 23 May 2008, by Arup Kumar Sen


Nandigram is witnessing the ugly face of violence on the eve of the panchayat elections. Recent media reports suggest that violence has become an organic part of the structure of governance in the region.

It may be recalled in this connection that the eminent political theorist, Partha Chatterjee, has drawn our attention to the politics of governance in India in his recent research. He argues that greatness of ideology and sacrifice of leaders had an important role to play in Indian politics upto the 1980s. But, in the last twenty years a new paradigm has emerged in Indian politics. The principal motto of this politics is to ensure a process of extension of governance of the state. In the emerging new politics of governance, the citizens are forced to negotiate with petty political leaders in their everyday life for the sake of survival. Chatterjee hinted that violence, particularly the threat of violence, plays an important role in this politics.

The recent happenings in Nandigram testify that the ideology-based politics of the dominant Left has been transformed into politics of governance in the age of neoliberalism. The following episodes, reported in the media, convince us about the seminal role of violence in the politics of governance in West Bengal.

THE leading Bengali daily, Anandabazar Patrika, reported a few days back that the judiciary has issued show-cause notice to the officer-in-charge of the Nandigram Police Station for allegations of torture of political workers belonging to Opposition parties inside the lock-up. The Superintendent of the Haldia Sub-divisional Hospital has also been served such notice for not sending proper reports regarding the nature of injuries of such workers.

On May 5 Nandigram witnessed an obnoxious episode. To put it in the words of The Telegraph, “A woman ran naked half a kilometre in Nandigram after she was stripped and thrashed by alleged CPM supporters for refusing to campaign for the party.” The woman happens to be the wife of a farm labourer. The Chief Minister has ordered a CID inquiry into the incident.

A large number of people have fled their villages because of fear. One can get a broad idea of the terrifying situation in Nandigram from the following report carried in The Times of India:

A wide swathe of area in Nandigram Block I has virtually been sealed off by CPM goons ahead of the panchayat polls. Armed toughs have taken to roaming the lanes of Satengabari, Jambari, Sanachura and Gokulnagar, chasing outsiders and mediamen trying to sneak in. Only those with a “passport” from the CPM party of office at Nandigram town are allowed to enter.

The most glaring instance of violation of human rights reported in the media is that the identity cards of a large number of voters in Nandigram have been forcibly snatched by ruling party cadres. On the day before the election the State Election Commission has confessed that the situation in Nandigram is ‘extraordinary’ and taken the emergency decision of allowing voters in Nandigram Block I and II to cast their votes without voter identity cards. In the present situation, there is every possibility that this ‘extraordinary’ step, rather than ensuring popular justice, may lead to further annihilation of grassroots democracy.


The article “Nandigram Act II : Rape and Democracy in West Bengal” (Mainstream, May 3, 2008, p. 8) on the rape of Radharani Ari (that appeared in Dainik Statesman, Kolkata, April 27, 2008) was written by Sujato Bhadra and not Soumya Guhathakurta (who had translated it). This gross mistake was on account of some communication gap and an oversight on our part.

We apologise to both Sujato Bhadra and Soumya Guhathakurta for this error.

The date of P.N. Jalali’s death in the article “Lest We Forget” (Mainstream, April 26, 2008, p. 31) should be February 7, 2008.
These errors are regretted. —Editor

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