Under Development: Singur
If you are in Kolkata between 27 June and 2 July, you may do well to visit the Seagull Arts and Media Resource Centre, Kolkata, for an exhibition of photographs of Singur. There will also be a panel discussion and a film festival.
Photo exhibition: The photographs will remain mounted for viewing everyday from 2 to 8 pm at the Seagull Arts and Media Resource Centre, Kolkata.
Panel discussion and open forum
Friday 27 June, 4:30 pm: ‘On the Representation of Displacement and Development’
– Professor Samik Bandyopadhyay (Senior Film Critic and Scholar)
– Dr Kavita Panjabi (Professor, Department of Comparative Literature, Jadavpur University)
– Dr Rajarshi Dasgupta (Fellow in Political Science, CSSSC)
– Dr Paromita Chakravarti (Senior Lecturer, Department of English, Jadavpur University)
Saturday 28 June 2008
11.00 am: Bombay: Our City – Anand Patwardhan (India: 1985, 82 min)
2.00 pm: Mahua Memoirs – Vinod Raja (India: 2007, 80 min)
4.30 pm: Czech Dream – Vit Klusak and Felip Remunda (Czechoslovakia: 2004, 90 min)
6.00 pm: An Aura of Development – Shubhasree Bhattacharyya and Sumantra Roy (India: 2008, 65 min)
7.00 pm: Unnayan – Banduker Nole – Pramod Gupta (India: 2007, 44 min)
Sunday 29 July 2008
11.00 am: A Narmada Diary – Anand Patwardhan (India: 1996, 60 min)
2.00 pm: Still Life – Zhang ke Jia (Hong Kong: 2006, 111 min)
4.30 pm: Mahua Memoirs – Vinod Raja (India: 2007, 80 min)
6.00 pm: Teardrops of Karnaphuli – Tanvir Mokammel (Bangladesh: 2006, 60 min)
About Citizens’ Initiative:
We at The Citizens’ Initiative are trying to organize a continuing open discussion on the paradigms of development and the relationship, in this context, between politics and ethics. These issues, we feel, are extremely important given the kind of state-sponsored violence that people are facing all over India and particularly in West Bengal.
The group of students, researchers, and teachers that is the CI started out in February 2007 to debate and question the cost of development and the growing schism between ethics and contemporary political culture. Questions have also begun to arise on the naive equation of the ‘partisan’ with the ‘political’, and the brushing aside of any non-partisan civil political action as not just irrelevant, but, as in some circles it is fashionable to say, ‘anti-political.’ The role of the civil society in a democracy is a subject of critical re-examination now, and it is the disregard for non-partisan opinion and the consequences of it that have led us to discuss and take more concrete actions.
We launched this initiative with a one-day seminar on 16 February 2008 on ‘Development and Ethics’, where the speakers were Dr Dilip Simeon and Dr Aseem Shrivastava. Dr Dilip Simeon taught history at Delhi University for several years and is currently a Fellow at the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library in New Delhi. Dr Aseem Shrivastava has a doctorate in Economics from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. He has taught Economics at various universities in the US and India, and Philosophy at Nordic College in Norway. He is an independent writer who writes on various contemporary themes like globalisation, human rights and US foreign policy. At the seminar, Dr Simeon spoke on ‘Ethics and Contemporary Political Culture’, and Dr Shrivastava’s talk was titled ‘SEZ and the Cost of Development’.
Our next event was a workshop on the legal possibilities of the common citizen’s redress of wrongs. Mr Sabir Ahamed of the RTI Mancha spoke on the Right to Information and Mr Sujato Bhadra of Association for Protection of Democratic Rights spoke on Public Interest Litigations.
We have visited Singur six times since February 2008. A full report of our findings is to be released shortly, and a brief interim report is now ready for dissemination. In the last few months, we have carried relief – in the form of clothes, rice and pulses – to Dobandi in Singur (in March 2008), and organized a medical camp there (on 18 May 2008) with the help of the Centre for Care of Torture Victims. But neither of these efforts reflects our primary objectives. Our most ardent wish is to everywhere induce long-term reflection on models – and ethics – of development, and to contribute to reconstructive thought and efforts in the areas already adversely affected by the present political take on development. We have extensively photographed life in Singur and how it has been affected by the fencing-off of the land for the Tata Motors factory. Very few people in Kolkata have any idea of what Singur looks like, and press photographs can perhaps tell only a minuscule portion of the story. Our photographs are aimed at covering this invisible distance between the affected village and the urban centre – to put it simply, to show what development looks like in reality.
However, we should stress that we have not been to Singur as unaffected photographers who are there to snatch images and leave. We wish to be able to propose/introduce alternative means of livelihood for people who have for generations been based in agriculture. Unhappily, the government’s promises that alternative training and employment shall be the norm rather than the exception among all peoples displaced from land and/or livelihood, have been resoundingly empty. In even our limited ways, we hope that we shall, in a few months, be able to organize in Singur training workshops on certain alternative means of livelihood like machine knitting, embroidery, machine embroidery, and even cultivation of mushrooms.