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Mainstream, Vol. XLVI, No 23

The Unvanquished in Nandigram and Singur


Thursday 29 May 2008, by SC


Once again it is the people’s will, articulated through the ballot, that has triumphed over brute force. The panchayat elections in West Bengal have testified to the indomitable strength and power of the people—the ruling CPM’s total rout in Nandigram and Singur in the Zilla Parishad elections has proved that in the ultimate analysis it is the people and not the totalitarian party machinery and its operators who will have the last word.

One such operator (Benoy Konar, a top leader of the West Bengal CPM) had warned the people of Nandigram in early 2007: “We will make your life hell.” Another operator (Lakshman Seth, the powerful CPM MP of the area) had a month ago declared before the State CM: “We have broken the backbone of the inhabitants of Nandigram. There will be no further resistance there.” The people of Nandigram have delivered a fitting rebuff to such pronouncements.

The results (the full outcome has yet to come) indicate that wherever the CPM cadres indulged in violence and wherever agricultural land was sought to be forcibly seized from the people for the sake of ‘industrialisation’, the dominant constituent of the ruling Left Front has been decisively defeated. Whereas in Nandigram the Trinamul Congress has won three of the four Zilla Parishad seats, in Singur (where prime agricultural land was gifted by CM Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee for Ratan Tata’s Nano factory) it has been a clean sweep for the Trinamul Congress. The TMC has also captured the East Midnapore Zilla Parishad winning as many as 36 seats along with the SUC as against the CPM’s 17. What is more, the CPM has been forced to bite the dust and accept defeat in South 24-Parganas.

At one level it is a verdict against the CPM-led State Government’s indiscriminate and thoughtless policy of land acquisition for the sake of ‘industrialisation’—this was a direct attack on the life and livelihood of the poor, that is, the peasantry in particular (whose interests the LF had in the eighties sought to protect, preserve and promote through ‘Operation Barga’). But at the same time there was a direct assault on the citizens with the help of the hoodlums of the party in power, the harmad vahini in the case of Nandigram. People were mercilessly beaten up, massacred and women brutally gangraped. Tapasi Malik paid with her life in Singur, Narmada Shit and Radharani Ari were subjected to repeated sexual assault in Nandigram—they became the symbols of resistance to the fascist methods employed by the CPM to browbeat the people into submission.

After the March 14, 2007 attack in Nandigram it was written in these columns:

One lesson the CPM has yet to draw. March 14 has exposed the party’s double-standards as never before. It still believes that it can get away with murder. But this time there is every possibility of the democratic forces of the State and the nation effectively intervening to thwart its nefarious game-plan. This is reflected in the widespread reaction from the side of intellectuals, writers, artists of every hue in West Bengal. Neither naked terror nor massacre of democracy can prevail in the killing fields of Nandigram.

Today the people of Nandigram and Singur have asserted their will to vindicate those words. We are indeed indebted to those courageous people who shed their blood to defend their freedom and human rights and in the process reinforce democracy in the country. They demonstrated their innate strength that does not submit to repression of any kind.

Nandigram and Singur have shown the way: totalitarian arrogance has had to bow before the will of the people. The significance of this development as we observe next week the fortyfourth death anniversary of Jawaharlal Nehru, the architect of modern India who strained every nerve to safeguard our democratic ethos, cannot be overemphasised.

May 22 S.C.

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