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Nandigram Redux: Reading Sudhanva Deshpande

November 15, 2007

It is interesting to witness the spin doctoring of the CPI(M) come into play once again in the wake of the renewed violence in Nandigram, which in CPI(M) newspeak is now being called ‘a transition to peaceful conditions’ .

Recently, I have had the opportunity to read the seasoned voice of one of the leading ‘cultural’ lights of the Consolidated Promotors of India(Militant) in Delhi, Comrade Sudhanva Deshpande, on Nandigram Redux, on an extended posting made on Pragoti.org,

I urge you all to read Sudhanva Deshpande’s text as a window into the amazing felicity with which the Consolidated Promotors of India (Militant) constructs the edifice of its positions.

In this posting, I intend to subject Comrade Deshpande’s text to some close reading. I am writing this in order to respond especially to the work that Aditya Nigam is doing in keeping the question of Nandigram alive on Kafila.I have relied extensively on reports, news and analysis on an excellent archive-blog – Sanhati – for a great deal of the material for this posting.

1. Nandigram and Gujarat

Comrade Deshpande begins by saying -
“As peace returns to Nandigram, the media – especially the electronic media – and the blogosphere is going crazy.One hears that Nandigram is a “concentration camp,” and has been witness to “massacre” and “genocide.” Nandigram 2007 is worse than – or at least as bad as – Gujarat 2002. And so on.
For a long time, no one on the Left has responded to the comparison with Gujarat in 2002, which witnessed a barbaric anti-Muslim pogrom, simply because responding itself elevates the charge to an undeserved degree of seriousness. However, as the rubbish accumulates, let us remind ourselves of some simple facts.”

Let us remind ourselves of some simple facts. Let us indeed.

I agree, “Nandigram 2007 is not Gujarat 2002″, but is that ground for comfort?

To be fair, the comparisons between Gujarat and West Bengal are misleading. Just as comparisons between Gujarat and Nazi Germany are misleading. And just as – to call the RSS ‘Fascist’ is to betray an understanding neither of the RSS, nor of Fascism, similarly, to call the CPI(M)’s rule in West Bengal a mirror of Modi’s Gujarat is to understand neither Gujarat, nor West Bengal. This is not to say that West Bengal is heaven and Gujarat is hell. It is to make the important point that hell comes in different varieties, and that West Bengal and Gujarat can be, and are two very different flavours of hell. It is not to say that West Bengal is better, or worse, than Gujarat, it is just to point out that it is different in its venality.

I for one, do not think that jumping the gun and parrotting the cliche of ‘concentration camps’ and ‘genocide’ is very useful as a method of being critical of the CPI(M)’s politics in West Bengal. Nandigram is not Auschwitz, nor was Naroda Patiya. And to invoke the language of some holocaust or the other when trying to construct a critical politics for today, in conditions that are quite different, is actually counter-productive.

All that the CPI(M) needs to do in response is to say that West Bengal does not have ‘concentration camps’, or ‘genocide’ and because they are formally right on that score, the opposition to them, which includes everyone from the Trinamool Congress to several Naxalite factions all playing the very Bengali game of overstatement and exaggeration, risk looking foolish. And they have looked foolish. Mamata Bannerjee, has made a lifetime’s theatrical career out of looking and sounding foolish, and virtuous.

That is part of the reason why there is no effective opposition to the CPI(M)s stranglehold in West Bengal. The CPI(M) could not, in a thousand lifetimes of power, have hoped for anything better than the confused, incoherent, hysterical opposition than the one that entertains it in West Bengal. That is what keeps it in power, just as much as anything else does. No amount of ‘scientific rigging’ can be as effective as opponents as idiotic as what the CPI(M) has in West Bengal. If the CPI(M) did not have the Maoists and Trinamool Congress around, it would have had to invent them. With enemies like them, who needs friends?

However, just because West Bengal is not Gujarat, does not mean that when Buddhadeb Bhattacharya says ‘we paid them back in their own coin’ he does not risk inviting a fair comparison with Narendra Modi who, post-Godhra, talked about the anger of the injured Hindu, or Rajiv Gandhi, who in the wake of the Anti-Sikh riots of 1984 invoked the language of ‘when a big tree falls, the earth shakes’. In invoking the identical language of vendetta and retribution as a response to a political crisis, the speech acts of Bhattacharya, Modi and the late Rajiv Gandhi, speaks volumes about the impoverished monotony of the political imagination in contemporary India.

Having agreed to point one of Sudhanva Deshpande’s assertion, let me now come to the rest of his argument.

2. Violence

First, let us come to the question of the quantum of violences. I am not one of those who say, or find it necessary to say, that “thousands of bodies were dumped into mass graves in Nandigram”. I think that even at lesser numbers, the reality is quite chilling. Whatever be the case, the official count of 14 dead in the violence of March this year has reason to be widely disputed.

In a report titled – ‘Nandigram Turns Blood Red’ in the Economic Times of March 15, 2007

The West Bengal Left Front Government’s PWD minister Kshiti Goswami (of the Revolutionary Socialist Party) is quoted as saying that “50 bodies were taken to hospital, but it was impossible to ascertain how many were actually dead.”

Normally, when one says “50 Bodies”, it is understood that the reference is to 50 dead bodies. The accompanying qualifying expression “it was impossible to ascertain how many were actually dead.” must then be taken to mean that at least 50 people had died, and their bodies were taken to hospital, and it is possible that more, perhaps many more had also died, but that number is impossible to ascertain”.

Clearly, we are looking at a number of dead that is at least three and a half times as large, if not more, than has been admitted to by the CPI(M). The math is simple – three times fourteen is forty two, and it takes eight more than forty two to make fifty. If at least 50 died on the 14th of March according to a minister of a party allied to the CPI(M) – remember, we are not talking about a hysterical Mamata Bannerjee plying her own obscene trade in the numbers of the dead here – then the juggling of that figure by Sudhanva Deshpande lays him open to the suspicion that he is dissimulating whenever he talks of casualties and the dead. I am all for probity and precision when it comes to statistics about the dead and the injured, whether the dead or the killers come from the CPI(M).

In fact, the possibility that a large scale build up of violence was calculated to intimidate the population of Nandigram, as an example to everyone in est Bengal.

A report on sanhati.com states -

“After the resistance of the ordinary peasants of Nandigram in early January had compelled the West Bengal government to declare that no land will be grabbed without people’s wishes, there were ominous sound bytes coming from the CPI(M) leaders. On 29th January the central committee member, also the state health minister, Suryakanta Misra, was elaborating on the role the opposition was playing in stalling the State Government’s drive for industrialisation in a public meeting at Khejuri (three kilometres away from Sonachura village of Nandigram). His advice to the farmers, “winter is retreating and summer is on. Venomous snakes may raise heads from their holes. They may even bite. Keep the staff of the red flag handy. As they spread their hood, strike them. That would treat them fine.”

The likening of ones political opponents, essentially poor peasants, to ‘venomous snakes’ who need to be struck down, does not suggest a ruling party committed to persuasion, consensus and democratic methods of solving complex political and social questions.

3. Notices, and a few things Sudhanva Deshpande chose not to notice

“One, the so-called “land acquisition.” What was purported to be the land acquisition notice was not that at all“ it was a notice to clarify rumours about land acquisition. In any case, the notice was, rightly or wrongly, deliberately or otherwise, construed to be for land acquisition. Once this became apparent, the government, in February itself, clarified that there was no question of land acquisition in Nandigram. Period.”

There is a very delicate game being played with language here. And I would like us all to pay close attention to it. According to Comrade Deshpande, a ‘land acquisition notice’ is not a land acquisition notice, it is only a notice to clarify rumours about land acquisition.

Let’s take that statement at face value.

If this were so, then, the land acquisition notice that was not a land acquisition notice could have clarified the matter by saying that there would be no land acquisition. It did not do so. And that is very inconvenient, and totally contrary to party discipline. Because, as anyone schooled in Stalinism knows, ‘the unity of opposites’ is a fundamental dia-mat principle, such that, a thing should be itself and its own opposite. A land acquisition ought not to be a land acquisition notice. It is really being mischievously deviationist when it insists on being a land acquisition notice. A deviation from the party line is a far more serious error than a deviation from the truth. Because the truth only suggests how things are, while the party line tells us how things ought to be. Only a fool, or a renagade, would jettison the ought for the is.

Be that as it may, the notice issued issued by the Haldia Development Authority (Nandigram-I block office), dated 28 December, 2006, which was circulated to all gram panchayat offices (though not to individual landholders) stated, that ” 27 mouzas of land in Nandigram and two mouzas of land in Khejuri ~ comprising 25,000 acres in all ~ would be acquired for the Salem Group’s proposed chemical hub.”

What did these “27 mouzas of land” include? In a subsequent notification, issued to the same Gram Panchayat and Block offices four days after the first, on the 2nd of January, 2007, the Haldia Development Authority stated initially, about 14,500 acres of land would be acquired. This included 5 Gram Panchayats in Nandigram-1 block namely 10 No. Sonachura, 9 No. Kalicharanpur, 3 No. Kendemari, 2 No. Muhammadpur and 1 No. Vekutia and Khejuri GP in Khejuri-2 Block – all having a population of nearly 60-70,000 people.

In other words, the ‘notice’ (two notices, in fact) clarified the rumours about land acquisition by responding affirmatively. They effectively said – yes, there would be land acquisition that would affect about 60-70,000 people. The Chief Minister, in a statement in the West Bengal Assembly on March 15 said that “Though no final decision has yet been taken about the exact location of the projects, on December 29, 2006 an *informal* notice for public information regarding likely location of this project was circulated by the Haldia Development Authority to all blocks and Gram Panchayat offices of the area.” Since when does a written notice, sent out by a government department to the lowest tiers of legislative and administrative power – Gram Panchayats (village councils) and Block Offices constitute a study in informality, or have the rules about what constitutes a formal move by the state and what constitutes an informal move by sectional interests allied to the ruling party in West Bengal been radically reconstituted in the last 30 years? Or does this blurring of distinctions between the ‘formal’ and ‘real’ subsumption of capital (as in land) constitute the CPI(M) unique and singular contribution to a renewed Marxism for the twenty first century?

Morover, the people of Nandigram were exercised about the possibility of the ‘real’ , if not ‘formal’ subsumption of 25,000 acres because news of the way in which the question of land acquisition and compensation had played out in Singur in Hoogly district had by then become common knowledge in West Bengal. The crisis in Nandigram has somewhat overshadowed the recent history of land acquisition in Singur (perhaps because the Trinamool Congress in that area has been reasonably successful in buying peace from the Tatas in hard cash, in happy collaboration with the local CPI(M). But it needs to be borne in mind that the road to Nandigram, and the history of SEZs in West Bengal had to necessarily pass through the experience of Singur.

In a very detailed article
titled – “Agrarian Confusion-Singur, Farmers’ Consent and the Left Front’s Statistical Misrepresentations“, Sankar Ray convincingly argues that there were a series of irregularities that attended to the process of the ‘acquisition of land’ in Singur.

It is worth our while to read a lengthy quotation from this article -

“The West Bengal’s Land and Land Revenue Minister Abdul Rezzak Mollah has stated that in Singur, 2552 farmers, owning 326 acres did not consent to the policy of acquisition of land for the Tata Motors factory. Morevore, the acquisition of land itself did not occur as per the rules laid down in the West Bengal Land and Land Reforms Act…

…Let’s quote from the LF government’s Status Report on Singur (SRS) . ‘Declaration of award for the entire 997.11 acres in five **mouzas** was made by the Collector of Hooghly on 23 and 25 September 2006. On 4 October 2006, the Collector took possession of the lands and handed them over to the WBIDC the same day.’ The SRS stated that compensation, paid until 31 December last, covered 658 acres – meaning that compensation for 339 acres was yet to be paid.

LF policy-framers may go through an article by Amar Chattopadhyay, an expert on matters pertaining to land and land laws, in ‘Bhumibarta’, mouthpiece of the West Bengal Land and Land Reforms Officers’ Association, months back. He raised fundamental queries on the SRS rationale. Referring to a circular (1701-LA, dated 6 June 2006) by the L&LR department, he cited the rampant violation. Para 23 of the circular states – Possession only after payment – “Along with and as soon as award money is paid in connection with any land acquired, the possession of such land shall be immediately handed over to the requiring body and the possession of the acquired land to the requiring body shall be a continuous process and completed within 15 days after payment of award money”.

So, excepting lands for which compensation was paid until 4 October 2006, no land could be taken possession of. In other words, possession of over one-third of land by the Collector of Hooghly district (SRS rightly states that power for acquisition is delegated to the Collector, as per Section 16 of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894) (is irregular)

The tearing hurry and lack of patience to abide by the rules are evident in the SRS. “Conversion of usage of land from agriculture to factory was done of 21st November, 2006 in accordance with Section 4C of the WB Land Reforms Act, 1955. WBIDC has thereafter given permissive possession on 27th December, 2006 to Tata Motors Ltd,” it states. Thus the 6 June 2006 circular was trampled arbitrarily, taking unwilling-to-consent land-owners for a ride. The WBIDC is obviously a trespasser, compensation-payment having been incomplete. Chattopadhyay elaborated the point further that Section 4C and rule 5A of WBLR rules were misused. How could the WBIDC accord “permissive possession” to a third party (Tata Motors Ltd)? It has been allowed to travel far behind the statutes.

There are many instances of desperate bid by the CPI-M leaders to throw away principles of agrarian legalities. Ignorance or innocence is not an acceptable escape route after three decades of uninterrupted hegemony that provided the party enough trial-and-error experiences to fine-tune agrarian attitude in line with the electoral pledges, laid down in 1977 and thereafter.

Sankar Ray cites Chattopadhyay pointing out several more lapses in the manner in which land was acquired and possession transferred at Singur, citing sections 9, 10,11, 12 and 13 of LA -1894 for dealing with likely objections or petitions and inquiries thereof as also preparation of individual-wise award for ascertaining compensation as per different subsections under Section 23.

Relevant criteria include inter alia market value of land [“at the rate of twelve per cent per annum” over a period between on and from the date of publication of notification’ under sub-section 4(1), plus 30 per cent of market value].

The present government pays little attention to those fundamentals that are consonant with the logic of civil society. For instance, after notification for land acquisition under Section 4(1) through two newspapers (one local), the collector must elicit details about at least ten most recent sales of holdings up to the date of notification in order to compute market values (average) with type-wise segregation. This was not done, according to sources in the Hooghly collectorate. CPI(M) biggies from general secretary Prakash Karat to acid-tongue central committee member create an impression that the LF government goes out of the way to pay compensation to the share-croppers. Explanatory portion of Section 23(4), Chattopadhyay points out, has clearly provided for such compensation (not confined to recorded ones). The net annual income – six times of which being the compensation – is 50 per cent of “total produce of the land cultivated by him in that year where the plough, cattle, manure and seeds necessary for cultivation” are provided by the person owning the land and 75 per cent of total produce in all other cases.

The compensation the so-called pro-landless peasant government wants to pay to the bargadars is much less. It’s nothing short of deprivation. The WBIDC, according to the SRS, “decided to pay higher compensation to the recorded bargadars to the extent of 25 per cent of the amount of compensation paid to the owners.”

4. The People, and their Consent

From the above, four things become clear, and unfortunately, they fly in the face of everything that Brinda Karat, Jayati Ghosh, Sudhanva Deshpande, Sitaram Yechury and Buddhadev Dasgupta have said whenever they have uttered the word ‘Nandigram’ or ‘Singur’

Remember, the facts pointed out above come not from a Maoist or Trinamool source but from a journal (Bhumibarta) of the West Bengal Land and Land Reforms Officers’ Association. I do not know how much closer you can get than this to an official position on the subject of the mechanics of land transactions in West Bengal.

1. land was acquired against the wishes of at least 30% of the farming population of Singur. This exposes the CPI(M) claim that 95 % of the people of Singur had signed their consent to the acquisition.

2. The acquisition process occurred in undue haste, leading to several procedural irregularities, including the acquisition of land from people who were not compensated for the acquisition.

3. Where compensation was paid, it was not paid as per the guidelines which lay out methods for the computation of the inter alia market value of the land.

4. Bargadars or Share Croppers were compensated in a meagre fashion, as compared to large land owners. This meant that poorer people were worse off in the deal as a whole, even when they were given compensation.

It does not take rocket science to prove that the process of land acquisition, as it had played out in Singur, was unjust, and there was nothing to reassure the people of Nandigram that it would not be unfair in their case. It was this clarity that made the people of Nandigram anxious when the two notices of December 28 and January 02 were sent to the Gram Panchayat and Block offices.

It must be remembered, that Nandigram had been a solidly CPI(M) area, and a majority of the people who joined the resistance to the land acquisition were disgruntled former CPI(M) supporters who felt badly let down by the very party that they had supported for decades, and which claimed to speak on their behalf.

No amount of CPI(M) spin about Maoists entering Nandigram from the Bay of Bengal, Trinamool terror, or even a secret (and unlikely, under the present circumstances) entente between the US consulate in Kolkata and muslim fundamentalists in Nandigram can distract us from the reality that in Nandigram, the CPI(M) was essentially battling what had been its ‘own people’. And it is this that gives the developments in Nandigram a particularly vicious and violent character. The people of Nandigram had to be taught a lesson so that people elsewhere in West Bengal, especially the CPI(M)’s own people understand clearly that dissent from within the party’s ranks would not be tolerated. As always, when a Communist party decides to shed blood, the first people it chooses to sacrifice are its own, and those who were once its own.

The recent violence (which has its own unique revanchist, vendetta based character) is essentially about the party winning back its own turf, and realizing the conditions which will fructify the Chief Minister’s assurance that land acquisition will not happen without the people’s consent. So far, the ‘people’ of Nandigram had churlishly withheld their consent, and so, if necessary, a new ‘people’ must be invented, or manufactured in Nandigram. It is these ‘new’ people who will consent to the ever closer integration of their land with the juggernaut of global capitalism. Who better than a party that calls itself communist to oversee this transition. Remember, things ought to be the very opposites of what they are. Generally speaking, no one makes for better partisans for capitalism than the apparitchiki of Communist parties.

Bertholt Brecht, writing in and ironic vein in the wake of the failed workers uprising against the so calld workers state of the German Democratic Republic on the 17th of June, 1953 had said in a poem pithily titled, ‘The Solution’

“After the uprising of the 17th June
The Secretary of the Writers Union
Had leaflets distributed in the Stalinallee
Stating that the people
Had forfeited the confidence of the government
And could win it back only
By redoubled efforts. Would it not be easier
In that case for the government
To dissolve the people
And elect another?”

The ruling party in West Bengal, a past master at the intricacies of electoral politics, could now consider the wisdom of dissolving the people, and electing another in its place. Nandigram is an exemplary first step in that direction.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. P S Manoj kumar permalink
    November 17, 2007 11:10 AM

    I agree that a comparison between gujarath and west bengal will not be fair in a historical sense. But its a way of communication. The violent attack against the muslims in gujarath is in the minds of people.
    Further we can equate several portions of history for conveying an idea. Here too we can. Say for the case of Germany during nazi regime. The rulers suspended the citizenship of jews. Gujarath government too have done that and is still doing by denying voting rights to muslims. In bengal the citizenship of the people having anti CPI(m) sentiments is being questioned. The voice of CPI(m) chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya felt like the underworld dons seen in action films consoling the pack, when he said, ‘we paid them back in their own coin’. Suspension of citizenship of the people by the ruling parties is a grave reality and one problem which is to be criticised and resisted.
    This is happening everywhere. Whether it’s a campus, co- operative society, pachayath or whatever. The denial of rights awarded for a citizen by using the power vested in a government is something alarming. As we can see, Hitler, Stalin, Modi and Buddhadeb has done this.Buddhadeb’s membership in this gang cannot be denied.
    We used to say here. Its tough to handle a communalist and a marxist party member. Because there are no much people who can fabricate lies and popularise it with such an efficiancy in India.
    Let me use the language of comparison once more to end this. Now the blame is on maoists who are equated with terrorists. This is the tactics which is used by imperialists under the leadership of american government on a larger stage with a better effect against muslims and anti imperialists. Terming a group and a section of people as terrorists will give a better freedom to annihilate them. Is it a licence and call to finish the villagers of Nandigram?
    In the context, let all who love peace, raise the slogan–Long live TATA , long live SALIM Group.

  2. nakul permalink
    November 20, 2007 5:49 AM

    link to sudhanva deshpande’s response to Shuddhabrata Sengupta’s article-

    http://www.pragoti.org/pragoti/news_detail.php?news_id=370&sessionid=

    please do read it…

    nakul

  3. Aditya Nigam permalink
    November 20, 2007 10:33 AM

    Shuddha, Shuddha, Shuddha…Have you not learnt this elementary lesson? Never enter into a debate with a communist [at least of comintern lineage] and a fascist. For they do not debate; they know not how to debate. I just saw Sudhanva’s response to your posts – posted by one ‘nakul’. Interesting! Standard ‘Leftist’ stuff: counter an argument with peronal insinuations, invectives and lies. Criticism of CPM beocmes ‘hatred of the Left’; jibes about ‘long records of struggle’…(if personal records are at issue, a lot can be said about the personal records of struggle of many of these blog crawling hacks, including the venerable author); and of course, people with ‘fancy institutional affiliations’ are surely not the Prabhat Patnaiks, Jayati Ghoshs and Irfan Habibs – they are you stupid. And Mr Deshpande who of course works with the biggest corporation – owner of Kairali, umpteen other empires of various shapes and sizes, and to top it all, whose factions fight it out on the streets over taking loans from the ADB (you would be an imperialist agent if you did, but god, can they ever but be revolutionaries and ‘Left’?). And on top of all this, to criticise this travesty of a Left – a pathetic 21st century joke – is to express hatred of ‘the Left’. Shuddha, my dear, these are the last of a fast disappearing tribe – vanguards who have been deserted by ‘the people’ who vanguards they claim to be. What was Left in West Bengal was the last outpost of a reactionary Left wing capitalism masquerading as ‘the Left’. A corporation selling Che Guevara T-shirts surely does not become ‘Left’? Nor do they. About other matters in Mr D’s reply to you, you might like to let it be; they are really on the way out.
    And of course, if Mr Deshpande’s friend (real of fictive) really wants to see abuse, s/he would be better advised to read Peoples’ Democracy. (Abuses for anybody you want – including respected historians and till recently, fellow travellers, Sumit and Tanika Sarkar). It has only been surpassed in recent history by the Organiser. Kabhi khuda ne teri taqdeer likhte waqt likha tha ki tu Leftist hai? Yeh khitaab to inhein hi mila tha; aur khuda ke likhe ko tu taale, teri yeh majaal. Unhe karne de bete; lakh ho, aakhir hain to kamyunist hi na; Zabar zina karein ya qatl, kamyunist phir kamyunist hai. Tu lakh koshish kar le, inki baraabari na kar paayega.

  4. nakul permalink
    November 20, 2007 11:23 PM

    shudha, here are some more who ought to have “sleepless nights”.

    “Chomsky, Falk, Mamdani and other intellectuals on Nandigram

    To Our Friends in Bengal.

    News travels to us that events in West Bengal have overtaken the optimism
    that some of us have experienced during trips to the state. We are concerned
    about the rancor that has divided the public space, created what appear to
    be unbridgeable gaps between people who share similar values. It is this
    that distresses us. We hear from people on both sides of this chasm, and we
    are trying to make some sense of the events and the dynamics. Obviously, our
    distance prevents us from saying anything definitive. We continue to trust
    that the people of Bengal will not allow their differences on some issues to
    tear apart the important experiments undertaken in the state (land reforms,
    local self-government).

    We send our fullest solidarity to the peasants who have been forcibly
    dispossessed. We understand that the government has promised not to build a
    chemical hub in the area around Nandigram. We understand that those who had
    been dispossessed by the violence are now being allowed back to their homes,
    without recrimination. We understand that there is now talk of
    reconciliation. This is what we favor.

    The balance of forces in the world is such that it would be impetuous to
    split the left. We are faced with a world power that has demolished one
    state (Iraq) and is now threatening another (Iran). This is not the time for
    division when the basis of division no longer appears to exist.

    Noam Chomsky, author, Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assult on
    Democracy.

    Tariq Ali, author, Pirates of the Caribbean: Axis of Hope and editor, New
    Left Review.

    Howard Zinn, author, A Power Governments Cannot Suppress.

    Susan George, author, Another World is Possible if, and Fellow,
    Transnational Institute.

    Victoria Brittain, co-author, Enemy Combatant: A British Muslim’s Journey to
    Guantanamo and Back, former editor, Guardian.

    Walden Bello, author, Dilemmas of Domination. The Unmaking of the American
    Empire, and Chair, Akbayan, the fastest growing party in the Philippines.

    Mahmood Mamdani, author, Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: America, The Cold War and
    the Roots of Terror.

    Akeel Bilgrami, author, Politics and the Moral Psychology of Identity.

    Richard Falk, author, The Costs of War: International Law, the UN and World
    Order After Iraq.

    Jean Bricmont, author, Humanitarian Imperialism: Using Human Rights to Sell
    War.

    Michael Albert, author, Parecon: Life After Capitalism, and editor, ZNET.

    Stephen Shalom, author, Imperial Alibis: Rationalizing US Intervention After
    the Cold War.

    Charles Derber, author, People Before Profit. The New Globalization in an
    Age of Terror, Big Money and Economic Crisis.

    Vijay Prashad, author, The Darker Nations: A People’s History of the Third
    World.”

  5. radical hypocrite permalink
    November 21, 2007 2:34 AM

    From when did official Marxists start quoting official anarchists like Chomsky to prove their point, while completely missing out on the “We hear” and “distance prevents us from saying anything definitive” bits? :P

    And A.N is right on the point when he says there’s no arguing with you ‘lot’.

    The best that comes from ‘you’, ‘us,’ ‘ourselves’, whatduyecallit, is enlightening pretense and intellectual foppery, the worst is bared teeth,fangs and raw venom. Why choose the first when the second option is so easy? After all it has been ‘scientifically’ proven to success in West Bengal time and again, and as of recent uncontested as “The Way.”

  6. November 21, 2007 10:27 AM

    Nandigram and its Truth

    The events in Nandigram have brought about a complete polarisation
    between those who justify and rationalize the way the state government
    has dealt with the issue and those who calls Nandigram as a valiant
    example of anti-SEZ movement that for the first time offered an
    militant resistance to the armed might of the predatory state
    providing a radical critique to the model of development that
    displaces a large number of people and destroy their livelihood in its
    wake. Sudhanwa Deshpande’s article on Nandigram posted last week
    offers one such view point which sees the events from the CPI (M)’s
    perspective and ends up defending the indefensible. Here I’ve tried to
    present a critique of Sudhanwa’s article that serves to whitewash the
    utter culpability of state government in allowing the CPI (M) cadres
    to go on a bloody offensive against the people of Nandigram.
    Sandeep

    “What was purported to be land acquisition notice was not that at all
    it was a notice to clarify rumours about land acquisition. In any
    case, the notice was, rightly or wrongly, deliberately or otherwise,
    construed to be for land acquisition. Once this became apparent, the
    government, in February itself, clarified that there was no question
    of land acquisition in Nandigram. Period”. (Sudhanwa Deshpande)

    To his credit Sudhanwa does write about the two notices that were
    issued by Haldia Development Authority (HDA) (CPI (M) intellectuals
    like Jayati Ghosh in her article, On Nandigram simply dismissed the
    issuance of notices as rumour). However, he gives a misleading picture
    when he writes,

    a) “…all it was a notice to clarify rumours about land acquisition. In
    any case, the notice was, rightly or wrongly, deliberately or
    otherwise, construed to be for land acquisition. ”
    b) “…, the government, in February itself, clarified that there was
    no question of land acquisition in Nandigram”.

    What are the facts? In all, two notices were issued by HAD, the first
    one (dated Dec 28, 2006) was circulated to all Gram Panchayat’s
    offices. Of course, it was not a Land Acquisition served to individual
    landholders under 7/12. It stated “27 mouza of land in Nandigram and
    two mouzas of land in Khejuri…would be required for the Salim Group’s
    proposed Chemical hub”. On January 2, 2007, another public
    notification was brought about by HAD announcing its intention and
    plan to acquire lands in Nandigram with Salim Group acting as the main
    player. There were no rumours. The second notification, instead of
    clarifying the rumours (WB Chief Minister made a fantastic claim that
    it was an “informal” notice brought about by HAD in the Assembly on
    March 15) further reconfirmed and elaborated upon the earlier notice.
    As Ashok Mitra has written “Nandigram was not after all the first
    blood. The Singur episode had happened before that”, (Party’s Over,
    HT-Nov 19). For the people of Nandigram, Singur has demonstrated the
    fact how the state government through consent and mainly through
    coercion, lies and fabrication carried out the “successful” land
    acquisition on behalf of Tata. Though the movement in Singur lost its
    steam it held valuable lessons for the rural poor of Nandigram, after
    all the proposed project would have affected the lives of around
    70,000 people. That the state government will not stop in this land
    acquisition drive unless and until it was forced to was the grim
    lesson learnt from Singur.
    On March 14, the police in league with the private militia of CPI (M)
    went on bloody rampage that killed 14 (official figures) members of
    Bhumi Uchhed Pratirodh Committee (BUPC). It was only after, following
    a widespread protest over the massacre that the government finally
    withdrew its notification and announced that there will be no chemical
    hub at the proposed site. At left front meeting on March 17, it was
    decided, under the pressure of three major CPI (M) allies, that there
    will be no SEZ in Nandigram.

    “And why were they forced to live in camps to begin with? …They
    would not allow road blocks to be lifted, would not allow people to
    come back, would not allow the administration to resume its normal
    functioning. ” (Sudhanwa Deshpande)

    In Nandigram the battle lines were clearly drawn. Immediately after
    HAD issued a public notice announcing its intention and plan of
    acquiring land in Nandigram the people were up in arms. There were
    incidents of violence reported after the day public notification was
    issued. The targets of people’s anger were the government
    institutions. Fight broke out between the supporters of
    anti-SEZ/chemical hub and pro-SEZ/chemical hub. The peasant’s
    supporters of anti-SEZ movement formed the BUPC to carry forward their
    movement. Set against the armed might of the state out to expropriate
    their land, the BUPC members used guerilla tactics. They barricaded
    the area, cut off the roads in order to stop the administration and
    CPI (M) members from carry out their designs. Fearing reprisals, CPI
    (M) supporters were forced to flee from the area, while a large
    majority joined the mass movement itself. The massacre on March 14 of
    BUPC members was meant to teach the BUPC members a lesson and showcase
    the brutal might of the state. Nandigram was bloodied but the
    resistance could not be crushed. Since then there was no peace.
    The governor issued a statement saying “the news of deaths from
    police firing in Nandigram this morning has filled me with a sense of
    cold horror.” High Court has now called the police firing as
    unconstitutional. But inspite of a huge uproar over the firings and
    widespread protest all over the country the government did not make
    any attempt to institute a credible independent enquiry nor it took
    any action against the killers in Khaki uniform including CPI (M)
    cadres. Such was the intensity of people’s anger that no CPI (M)
    leader dared to enter the area after the massacre. In such a state of
    affairs when the state and the party has merged together and police
    openly siding with marauding gangs who attacks the BUPC members and
    retreat back to their safe havens, how could there have occurred a
    rapprochement between the two warring groups. And whose responsibility
    lies in dividing the poor people, in the first place, into such an
    antagonistic camps between anti-SEZ/chemical hub and pro-SEZ/chemical
    hub. It is the state government that is ultimately responsible for
    creating such a divide forcing its rural poor supporter’s to betray
    their own class interest and fight with the camp composed of the
    overwhelming poor majority and bogging them down in a confrontational
    politics. All this, in the service of international capital. As Ashok
    Mitra, former Finance Minister of West Bengal rightly pointed out,”
    the responsibility of unspoken suffering of those(CPI(M) ‘s supporters)
    who spent 11 months as homeless rests squarely on the shoulders of the
    government”, (Ashok Mitra, The Party’s Over, HT-Nov 19)

    “…However, had the Central paramilitary forces moved in when
    requested, in October, the latest round of violence in early November
    would almost certainly have been avoided, and several lives saved. To
    blame the left for the latest violence is therefore to be callously
    blind to ground reality”. (Sudhanwa Deshpande)

    First of all, it is not clear why the CRPF was requisitioned for it is
    the responsibility of the state government and the police to handle
    the situation. Even if the paramilitary were sent late by the Centre
    it is matter of fact the CRPF was stopped at Tamluk by CPM cadres.
    Anandabazar Patrika reported, “Facts are telling a different story. On
    Sunday (Nov 12) two CRPF vehicles got blocked by the CPM cadres at
    Reyapara and Hanschara. Women supporters of CPM had a sit in front of
    the vehicles. The CRPF returned after waiting for 40 minutes.” When
    Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee was asked why the CRPF was stopped at Tamluk,
    he gave an interesting answer, “Trinamul was blocking them”. And today
    it’s the state police which is bent on trying “to clip the wings of
    CRPF” (HT-Nov 19). The delay in the entry of CRPF was meant to allow
    its armed militia to gain complete control over the area and to
    extinguish any form opposition to its authority. It knew after
    reclaiming Nandigram, the presence of CRPF will serve two purpose.
    First, it will free them of the charges of state complicity with the
    police in dealing with the situation. Second, since there will remain
    a possibility of the battered masses staging a fight back to drive out
    the CPI(M) supporters the role of CRPF here comes handy, to eliminate
    these threat perceptions. So there will be no danger of opposition
    dislodging the CPI (M)’s extra-constitutiona l authority in the area.

    “Have Medha Patkar or Mahashweta Devi said a word? Have they tried to
    visit those camps? Why not? The CPI(M) is vile and villainous, but do
    its supporters among the rural poor deserver to be abandoned for that
    reason? What kind of politics is this?” (Sudhanwa Deshpande)

    It is clear as daylight that Nandigram had a “war like situation”
    (Home Secretary of the state description) with both sides, agents of
    state (CPI (M) cadres, along with criminal gangs) and struggling
    masses of Nandigram (led by BUPC, TMC, SUCI and Naxal factions) are
    choosing their own weapons. It was Medha who was stopped in entering
    Nandigram by CPI (M) cadres during her visit to the area. And since
    her very presence was perceived “as another instigation of trouble and
    breach of peace” (CPI (M) state secretariat statement) she was not
    only prevented but also physically attacked. Those who swear by
    democracy should also live by it. This is nothing but reflection of
    the politics of intolerance? (for example those who refuse to
    participate in CPI(M) rally were assaulted, Nandigram school teachers
    assaulted, The Statesman, Nov 14). And who can forget the infamous
    “bare buttock” show choreographed by Benoy Konar, another central
    committee protesting Medha visit to Nandigram. Questioning her
    neutrality as CPI (M) does serves no purpose because she had made her
    position clear and chosen to be on the side of the victims of the
    state. Medha said ”We demand that peaceful defenders of human rights
    belonging to known peoples’ organisations be protected and their entry
    to Nandigram area facilitated. “The apathy, inaction and both direct
    and indirect support of the police to the CPI(M) hooligans indicates a
    breakdown of state machinery resulting in non-availability of any
    channel for security or redressal of grievances of common people,”
    she said. Is there anything wrong in what she said that makes CPI (M)
    supporters fume with anger? As per the reports of the several Bengali
    dailies, this particular attack on Medha was organized by Ashok
    Patnaik, a leader of CPI(M) and able henchman of Lakshman Seth, the
    Haldia sitting MP of CPI(M). Lakshman Seth is also known as the “land
    mafia leader” of the region who first announced the procedure for
    acquisition of land from Nandigram for the proposed SEZ.
    Who are these “rural poor” Sudhanwa talking about? Are they
    politically neutral? These “rural poor” are the supporters of CPI (M)
    and its accomplice in furthering state neo-liberal agenda in the state
    and hence perceived as “enemy” (it is a war-like situation in
    Nandigram) by those whose lives and livelihoods were threatened by the
    Party/Police combine.

    “There is no doubt that armed gangs moved around in Nandigram. But who
    were they? Who put in land mines, and who imported AK 47s?…But does
    it even make common sense for the Marxist cadres to put in landmines
    that targeted its own people and the administration that its own party
    runs? To be sure, Faced with the Maoists, the Marxist fought back. Who
    are the imported Maoists to prevent hundreds of villagers from
    returning to their homes?” (Sudhanwa Deshpande)

    It is indeed a supreme irony that when thousands of armed cadres of
    CPI(M), in a pre-planned move sanctioned by the top leadership
    savagely attacked the villagers resisting projected land acquisition
    resulting in many being killed, maimed, raped, abducted and with many
    dead bodies dumped in the canal to destroy the evidences, (Several
    displaced as turf war rages on, DNA , Nov.13) forcing thousands of
    them to flee (fearing reprisals from marauding “red” army), leaving
    the trail of death and destruction in its wake, blocking all the entry
    routes and disallowing media in a brazen manner (remember the party
    and the state has merged) but Sudhanwa like the state police turns a
    blind eye towards all this and lays the blame on the Maoist guerilla
    squads that has a “marginal presence”, if at all, (State Committee of
    CPI(Maoist) statement in an TV interview towards this effect in March)
    in the area, as an main instigator of violence. The movement in
    Nandigram saw the coming together of ordinary working people to thwart
    the neo-liberal designs of the state, in the form of BUPC and
    supported by TMC, SUCI, Naxal factions. It acquired the character of
    mass militancy throwing up an entirely new breed of leaders. Sudhanwa
    belittles the movement by pointing a finger on the “imported” Maoist
    for creating “law and order problem” and attacking CPI(M) cadres, as
    if the BUPC incapable of fighting the CPI (M) militantly. Earlier the
    ruling party claimed that “there was no existence of Opposition
    parties in Nandigram” (Ashok Mitra, The Party’s Over, HT-Nov 19) now
    its leaders and Sudhanwa are blaming the “imported” Maoist for the
    flare up in Nandigram. In a similar vein Brinda Karat, a Politburo
    member of the CPI (M) screamed international conspiracy in the
    Nandigram as a part of the slander campaign against the movement.
    The stage was set after Brinda Karat in the presence of the Chief
    Minister (in effect silently endorsing the call) declared in a public
    meet on November 4, “Dumdum Dawai Ditey Hobey” (“mob violence will
    have to be employed”). The peasants of Nandigram were attacked on Nov
    14 by the “mercenaries (who) were collected from across the state” by
    CPI (M) (Ashok Mitra, The Party’s Over, HT-Nov 19). When the West
    Bengal government comes out openly and aggressively on the side of the
    international finance capital decimating its own people how is it
    wrong for the socially conscious people from any part of the country
    to come to the defence of the beleagueredBUPC members fighting for
    their life and livelihood. Sudhanwa’s they did it first argument soon
    takes the form they asked for it and then with triumphantly suggesting
    we did it (“the Marxist fought back”) which is quite an implicit
    acknowledgement of CPI (M) using arms to win the turf war in
    Nandigram. There are credible reports that mercenary elements and
    members of the CPI (M) were given sophisticated weapons like AK 47 and
    SLRs apart from providing them vehicles, trucks, bombs and bottles of
    liquor (for e.g. read The Telegraph report, Power flows from gun &
    bottle – Encounter with Comrade X, a hooded hunter, Nov. 16, 2007).
    How is it any different from the Maoists who are alleged to have used
    landmines and automatic rifles? The difference lies in the nature of
    the politics. On one hand CPI (M) cadres unleashes violence under
    state patronage to subserve the corporate interest while the violence
    of Maoist is primarily directed to thwart the attacks on the
    struggling peasants, even though it hardly exists in the area.
    The raising of Maoist bogey essentially serves an important purpose of
    not only justifying the rampaging act of CPI(M) cadres on the people
    but also deflecting the all round criticism over the total failure of
    the constitutional authority in the area. As a Bengali litterateur
    Suchitra Bhattacharya noted, “Bhattacharya’ s excuse to recapture
    Nandigram is like George Bush’s excuse to attack Iraq where no
    chemical weapon was found later”. “Are Maoists the new WMDs” for
    CPI(M).

    “All those who have the interests of the poor at heart should welcome
    the peace. To be sure, the political battles will continue to be
    fought. But let them be fought democratically, by mobilizing the
    people. Not through the barrel of the gun”. (Sudhanwa Deshpande)

    What a pious thought indeed? After unleashing a reign of terror to
    recapture lost territories by armed men of CPI (M), Sudhanwa
    pontification on the need of fighting the battle democratically
    reflects rank political double standard synonymous with present day
    political class. The highly deplorable recent pronouncement of the
    chief minister, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee (and no less different from
    Narendra Modi’s statement “every action has an equal and opposite
    reaction), “our boys did it” and that “we paid them back in the same
    coin” is a crude justification of the brutal violence unleashed
    through private militia of the CPI (M) cadres. Peace to CPI (M) means
    a situation in which the political and economic writ of the party
    freely runs. Its “victory” was achieved and Nandigram reclaimed
    through barrel of the gun. The former finance minister in Jyoti Basu’s
    government, Ashok Mitra has written, “Houses were torched anew, those
    who were inside Nandigram were butchered in a massive celebration of
    revenge”. The Governor of the state dubbed the way CPI (M) supporters
    were brought back to take their shelter back in Khejuri as “totally
    unlawful and unacceptable” . Calcutta High Court has called the March
    14 firing as totally unconstitutional. There “exist no channel for
    redressal of grievances, Nandigram is like a concentration camp” said
    Medha Patkar. NHRC Chairman has likened it with the post-Godhra
    violence in Gujarat (HT- Nov 19). Outraged at the events in Nandigram
    West Bengal PWD minister and RSP leader Kshiti Goswami decided not to
    continue in the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee cabinet and sought his party’s
    permission to resign over continuing violence in Nandigram. The events
    at Nandigram amplifies the fact how CPI (M) practice democracy.
    Lastly, Sudhanwa raises a pious hope about the dawn of “peaceful
    development of democracy” without addressing the fundamental question
    about the nature and direction of corporate industrialization taking
    place in Bengal that has resulted in a blood bath in Nandigram. It was
    the pro CPI (M) intellectual Prabhat Patnaik who offered an insight
    that “tragedies like Nandigram are inherent in the operation of such a
    neo-liberal policy regime” and that “one must look at the real
    processes of primitive accumulation of capital (or more generally of
    ‘accumulation through encroachment’ ), which neo-liberalism has
    unleashed in our country” (Prabhat Patnaik, In the Aftermath of
    Nandigram). But does the CPI (M) care to listen?

    sandeep

Trackbacks

  1. Nov 16, 2007: Nandigram Redux: Reading Sudhanva Deshpande at Sanhati
  2. Life…is elsewhere, not here: Rizwanur Rehman « Love’s Ragpicker
  3. Inside Gotham City: my last prose on Nandigram « Love’s Ragpicker

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