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Who claims responsibility for the Headline?

May 30, 2010

The Times of India sub-editor who let today’s headline go through should lose his or her job. “Terrorists, not Maoists”, it declared. This before the CPI(Maoist) had claimed responsibility for the derailment of the Gyaneshwari Express. Indeed before there was any clarity regarding how the train was derailed. At least the Hindustan Times, not usually known for its temperance, made some attempt to adhere to journalistic protocol to say “Naxals Blamed”, and not “Naxals did it”. Though it then goes on to say “All fingers point at Maoists, their spokesman denied hand in Bengal Mishap”. Meanwhile the West Bengal police, in other reports, claim that the PCPA have taken responsibility for the derailment, when Chatradhar Mahato has explicitly said the PCPA is not involved. Today the CPIM(Maoist) has also denied any involvement. The Maoists, historically, have not exactly been shy of claiming responsibility for actions they have carried out. Even when, such as with the recently blown up bus in Dantewada, they are likely to be at the receiving end of severe censure.

A hundred and thirty one people have died. It is a terrible terrible tragedy. At this moment, we need some articulative silence from the newspapers, not war-mongering hysteria assigning blame and asking for the army. There are wildly conflicting reports in the press. No one is sure if there was an explosion or not, or of the exact sequence of events. And this is not surprising considering the incident occured little over 24 hours ago. But these days the press essays the roles of detective, forensics expert and judge all rolled into one. How did this happen? Who is responsible? Why were the side clips missing? Where did the fishplates go?

How is it possible to answer these questions in less than a day from the incident, while relief and rescue efforts are still on? But this does not halt the news-express.

In her column in the Hindustan Times today Barkha Dutt expresses worries about what she calls “political reticence” and “prevarication” at apportioning blame on the part of the Home Minister. Before all the facts have been established, before any investigation regarding what happened has commenced, before anyone is even sure of the sequence of events that lead to the tragedy, in the face of explicit denials by the two parties who have been blamed for the incident, is reticence not preferable to sabre-rattling confidence? Maybe, Barkha, Mr Chidambaram (who no one has accused of coyness when it comes to fighting “naxal terror”) is reticent about assigning blame because, at this moment, blame cannot be apportioned with any certainity? Maybe Mr. Chidambaram is cognisant of the fact that since 1990 there have been at least 46 major train accidents in the country leaving over 3,000 people dead and countless more injured. Clearly rail safety norms, or the lack thereof, have the jump on the Maoists when it comes to “mass murder”. Maybe some very severe and searching questions need to be asked about rail safety protocols and why India has one of the worst rail safety records in the world.

Is it possible that this terrible tragedy, despite their denials, might finally be the work of Maoists? Yes, it might. Is it possible that it might point to the involvement of, as the Maoists claim, “other parties’? Yes, it might. And yet, given the railways poor safety record, is it possible that this is not sabotage, but an accident caused by a host of other factors? Yes, it might. Do we know anything for sure right now? No we do not. Till we do, it would be best for the media and its oracles such as the likes of Ms. Dutt to excercise some caution in their utterances. Traditionally it is customary to observe two minutes silence out of respect for the dead. Perhaps the news media might grant us a small window of respite from its ceaseless production of white noise and let us mourn that which is beyond doubt. The death of 131 people – mangled bodies and shattered limbs and twisted steel and broken glass.

26 Comments leave one →
  1. Manash permalink
    May 30, 2010 5:34 AM

    Aarti,

    I am always reminded of the song from the movie Company when it comes to news journalism –
    “Sab ganda hai par dhanda hai yeh!”

    Irrespective of what is ganda, they know what their dhanda is: Lick, if necessary, where is suits them, and hurt, if necessary, for the same reason.

  2. Aditya Nigam permalink*
    May 30, 2010 8:09 AM

    Your point about the media hysteria is absolutely correct – this is irresponsible war-mongering at its worst.
    However, the other point that you are making can be argued the other way round as well: denial itself means nothing – even from those who are used to claiming their most gruesome acts. For one thing, this could be a result of the fact that once the main target (presumably the goods train) was missed and another ‘mistake’ happened, it was too much to claim it. Because in that case it was such a major blunder that even they cannot afford to claim it. Alternatively, we must remember that unlike the Dantewada scene, where the PGLA central command is by and large in control of the operations – or so it seems – this region has always been the hotbed of activities of the MCC gangs – many of them even involved in a range of activities that can hardly be described as political. Gangs of anti-socials have also found it expedient to join the Maoists in some of these areas. It is entirely possible then for any of these to undertake the operation without the knowledge of the central command. A third possibility: PCPA, after the arrest of Chhatradhar Mahato has been pushed into the arms of the Maoists it is true. Nonetheless, it seems to me that even so, it still represents a strong section of the tribal population who have been demanding the release of Mahato and may still have acted desperately. They seem to have the capacity to act independently of the party in some individual acts. At any rate, the operation did not have the typical Maoist stamp of ‘blowing up the railway track’.

    Now, I am not claiming that any of the above is actually the case but it is as easy as this to set up alternative scenarios which point to their (the Maoists’) culpability. So, I am not always persuaded by the kind of questions that you raise. What is interesting and important in this case, however, is that opinion among people and even the media in Kolkata is highly suspicious of the way things have happened. Some friends have pointed out that since this incident took place on the eve of the municipal elections (where local CPM committees had already conceded defeat), thing of this sort would be a Godsend – immediately connecting the TMC, the railway minister, the Maoists – all in one blow. For another, this stretch of Jhargram is apparently now a CPM controlled area – recently recovered by the harmads. I am not sure about this but we need to confirm this. Now, let us go back to the fact that tracks were not blown up. And apparently there is no fishplate business here. So how was it done: Sucpiciously, very suspiciously, ‘the Police’ (according to the TOI today) said that “the Umakant-Bapi gang could have forced the railway gangmen and linesmen to help saw the track and remove 120 feet of pandrol clips…” Very interesting and the most risky thing to do – to force railway employees to do the sawing and then leave them alive. Certainly not a terrorist operation, this. So, this story has to be cooked then, in order to cover up for the fact that the operation could only have been carried out with the complicity of railway gangmen and linesmen who were possibly interested parties themselves (CPM/ CITU members?). A neat way to get the railway minister and their main political rival in the state in the dock.
    Of course, speculations can go on but the police story itself is quite full of holes.

  3. cellar permalink
    May 30, 2010 1:58 PM

    can someone send this work to arundhati? also, i would like the kafila people to read this not very famous book:the ethics of ambiguity by simone de beauvoir. and, perhaps, we could discuss it. thanks.

  4. Aditya Nigam permalink*
    May 31, 2010 8:35 AM

    And so, as I suspected, Aarti, the situation is clear now. Not that there is any final proof but the most plausible story now emerging – especially after the Indian Express report of the interview with Bapi Mahto of the PCPA shortly before he was actually named as a culprit – is this: There has been increased harassment of the tribals in the area with and more of them being arrested and needless to say, tortured. Some of them were arrested on the previous night and this action, from Bapi’s account, seems like an act of desperation. It was also a major goof up – they wanted to derail the goods train and ended up with this mess.
    Now, my point is this: West Bengal is neither Kashmir nor Chhattisgarh. There is a vibrant democratic political space, a huge and active democratic public and many many players in the field. The possibility that the LF may be dislodged in the next assembly election is quite big now. With the right kind of alliances and the right kinds of alternative left-wing platforms the post LF dispensation could have marked an important turning point. Instead, as far as I can see, if the Maoists and their style of politics has its way, the CPM/LF dispensation might indeed start looking benign in comparison to what lies ahead. Don’t forget that in recent elections the SFI recovered Jadavpur and Presidency college. And remember that it was the Maoist ‘boycott of elections’ call that ensured CPM’s victory in Lalgarh.
    The long and short of what I am saying is that there is no better option that to imaginatively use the logic of democratic politics where possibilities exist.

  5. Vaths permalink
    May 31, 2010 11:14 AM

    Aah.. there is finally some concession to the vibrant democratic culture in West Bengal from Shri Nigam.

    The trouble is that for all the problems with the LF, the political alternative in terms of the opposition there is full of whimsical semi-fascist, opportunist right wing forces personified by that lady. And all kinds of forces from the extreme right and the extreme left have tried to piggyback or hitch their bandwagons on her. Only to threaten the very same democratic institutions that are in place in even the most remote parts of West Bengal. Some angered by LF Policies never understood that the milieu in which the LF functioned faced a “besieging environment” of various regressive forces. There is truth to the LF itself losing track of its mandate, but the virulent opposition asking for the toppling of the Left only played into the hands of the regressive opposition.

    Apparently Shri Nigam’s choice of an “alternative” left wing platform lies on mere arm chairs and blog writers. There are others who still have hopes of a left wing consolidation from within the Left Front or indeed the organised Left, unlike those who have lost full faith in it (although they do have a legitimate grievance here and there). In sum, a resuscitation of the Ashok Mitra- Jyoti Basu – Harekrishna Konar axes of the Left in WB, with suitable incarnations who are alive to the progressive norms of the 21st century is possible.. from within the aegis of the Left Front. The process of rectification/ introspection has yielded a few dividends from within the organised left and unlike some cynics such as Shri Nigam, there are still large vestiges of a progressive, popular and pro-active Left that still leads the way (compared to compatriots across the world) in its creative application of praxis in a liberal democratic system.

    • Bhochka permalink
      May 31, 2010 5:18 PM

      Priceless. A ‘besieging environment’ of thirty years of unbroken electoral power. A ‘creative application of praxis’ – Special Economic Zones, land-grabbing for corporate real estate in Rajarhat, harmads to gun down opposition, illegal and unconstitutional arrests and torture of dissidents. And of course you’re ready to admit that there have been ‘mistakes’ – that kind of admission is strictly correlative to the Maoists’ justifications (‘yes we make mistakes, a bus carrying civilians was blown up, but our revolution surges ahead nonetheless!’) and every bit as repulsive. You’re quite right that no credible political alternative has emerged in West Bengal – but the claim that the CPM stands for ‘progressive forces’ in ANY sense in that state (though there certainly are ‘vestiges’ elsewhere in the country) is plain ridiculous. You got the wrong Konar when you wrote of the ‘new axis’ – it’s the Benoy Konar – Lakshman Seth axis, not the Harekrishna Konar-Ashok Mitra one, that has defined the path ahead for West Bengal’s ‘organized left’. Add to that mix a chief minister more slavishly devoted to corporate capital than almost any other in the country, and you have your ‘praxis’.
      Of course Mamata Banerjee represents no meaningful positive hope. All the same, your comment about the ‘virulent opposition asking for the toppling of the Left’ is very amusing. According to you, then, a ‘proper’ opposition, then, would have been one that refrained from seeking to replace the present government? That more or less sums up what democracy, LF-style, has become.

  6. mkrao permalink
    May 31, 2010 11:24 AM

    in the name of media hysteria atc. many r trying to cover-up Maoist gangs, it is not surprising thing. earlier also Forward Block leader Hemantha kumar basu murder was tied to cpim. but latter proved that was falls, in many incidents history sheeters were Maoists, anybody can not show even a single incident involved cpim. pl. dont make peoples fools.
    mkrao

  7. Aditya Nigam permalink*
    May 31, 2010 5:11 PM

    mkrao, who has fooled the people is very clear now – so let us not argue, Please go and try to save your tottering fortress. People in West Bengal are voting with their feet – in case your leaders haven’t told you that yet! Indeed, even CPM members and local leaders are leaving the sinking ship. Most of the new Trinamool leaders in some districts are ex-CPM cadres.
    Aur, hey Vaths…Your imagination and your world is so limited that you simply hold on to my reference that democratic institutions are alive in West Bengal as a vindication of the CPM/LF. In that case, the existence of democracy in India should be credited to the Congress. Is that how they teach you politics and political analysis in catechism classes? Democratic traditions and institutions have had – despite serious problems – a long innings in the state. Communists have also contributed to it in the past but in the last two decades, if not more, they have survived despite your party and its leaders. Do you even understand what this means? And in ‘far flung areas, CPM rule means despotism.
    As for the ‘Left’ – let me not enter into an argument with a mind so closed as you. Let me just state this for whoever else may happen to pass by: CPI(M) is no longer a Left party. Not even a ‘social democratic’ Left party. It represents today the last resort of Neo-liberalism and the worst kind of conservatism on all social issues. The social democratic Left died in India some years ago. If at all a Left emerges in this country in the future, it will not be from the womb of this reactionary force.
    One more point: the people of West Bengal are not asking your or your party’s permission to dislodge you. You may rave and rant about what lies ahead, but for the moment, the dice has been thrown.

  8. Vaths permalink
    May 31, 2010 8:31 PM

    Hey Aditya Nigam. I tried to be civil in my earlier post. I am forced to adopt the same tune as yours in this one. It would be travesty if this does not pass the moderator’s cut, just because of the tone.

    I am still waiting for the alternative left force that you are so enamoured about that will be “born” from the ashes of the Left Front. As of now, your “open” mind is still restricted to the arm chairs of Kafila and angry blogs.

    Meanwhile, the CPI(M) has forged a Untouchability Eradication Front in Tamil Nadu, attracting much marginalised sections from Dalits into progressive activism. The class-caste question has been fused to light up possibilities.

    In Haryana, the mass organisations of the CPI(M) lead the fight against patriarchy and khap panchayats, while fighting for inheritance rights and other features attacking the caste system. Yeah, this is the force that you call “reactionary”. Only a deluded idiot would do that.

    In Kerala and WB, the “social democratic Left” works to expand its already strong social welfare measures instituted way in the past..now extending them to Urban Employment Guarantee Acts and Health Insurances. Meanwhile in Kerala, Public Sector Units are being resuscitated and made profitable and tea gardens are being run by employees themselves. Suicides in Wayanad have been halted and despite reverses due to globalisation, the traditional industries have been given a fillip from the state government.

    In AP, land agitations were conducted and distribution assured not very long ago. A flux persists in the state because of the Telangana agitation, but the CPI(M) still advocates the most progressive solution among the lot.

    And now to WB, yes, land acquisition policies backfired. But the state remains the only one, which halted them. A greater emphasis on social welfare has been restarted by the LF. Land redistribution continues to persist. The state continues to redistribute the highest amount of land to the poor, anywhere in India. And the grassroots still contain dedicated activists who are still in touch with the masses.

    You may rant and rave about the LF becoming “neoliberal in toto”, but you would still not manage to tell us which alternative force is there in the state that has a genuine progressive agenda, unless that comes from the LF itself.

    Your site – you in particular and Bhochka’s deluded parents, went hammer and tongs of a left-of-left alternative to the LF in WB. Instead what we have left in that alternative is an adhesive semi-fascist nonsensical negativism that has allies from the extreme right to the extreme left, each riding their own tiger with one agenda in mind – dislodge the LF through hook (elections/rabble rousing) or crook (kill all CPI(M) sympathisers, supporters and physically annihilate the LF).

    As for the institutions of democracy in the WB, I, (more than you surely based on the abusive filth you wrote in the previous para) know that the Congress launched the most comprehensive semi-fascist terror in the state in the 1970s with the Left (first the Naxals, then the CPI(M)) as its prime targets. And that the institution of the three tier PR system was most comprehensive in Left ruled states and even now the states of most left presence register the highest participative percentage in several elections at all tiers. That is not a coincidence.

    I am more than willing to give the same benefit of commendation to the Congress at various points of India’s history for emphasis on democracy – during Nehru’s rule or the enunciation of the 73rd/74th amendment under the tutelage of someone like Mani Shankar Aiyar. But the overall record of the Congress is limited to formal democracy and no substantive effort at greater democratisation. All this is easy for students of history/political science in India. Perhaps not to your blinkered eyes and prejudiced self – is this because you were thrown out of the CPI(M)? If thats so, why don’t you say that aloud on the site. That all of your politics against the LF is reduced to your personal antipathy. What a tragedy!

  9. Vaths permalink
    May 31, 2010 8:44 PM

    @Bhochka,

    When I say mistakes were made, I don’t simply limit myself to acknowledging them alone. I look at them from the larger perspective of things. I for e.g., know that the LF’s challenge remains in working out an alternative in a neoliberal era while running “merely” a state government with limited powers. I look at how and what could be done to transcend the limitations of earlier progressive reforms – land redistribution resulting fragmentation and losses in productivity and the general agrarian crisis elsewhere.

    Yes, the shift from a bottom up – land redistribution based strategy of growth to a sudden impulse to industrialise and use farmland in the process (while continuing redistribution) is flawed. And the degeneration (at places, not everywhere) of the three tier decentralised system into the “party-society” is also acknowledged. The question is, have there been correctives? For me, yes..in a limited way and for you, it seems to be no and nothing is redeemable. My correctives would hinge on a mixture of possibilities in industrial policy – from restrengthening PSUs a la Kerala to focus on cooperatives/ investment in agriculture, while retaining emphasis on large scale industrialisation with alternative means of transition. A Ratan Khasnabis writes on those lines even now in WB and he doesn’t take the side of the political bankrupt opposition!

    But I also look at the larger political picture. The opposition – led by Mamata Banerji – never had an alternative in place and there were all kinds of forces hitching on to her bandwagon – besieging the LF – even its progressive sections and its committed grassroots. You and others condoned this aspect. Electoral loss – for tall people like Ashok Mitra and little me- is not the problem. But the loss in the battle of ideas is the bigger one. We are willing to see the LF being defeated and the progressive sections within it re-take the helms of policy making and organisation building (Yes it is still possible). But we can’t be silent to the daily attacks on the CPI(M) in the three districts killing its ordinary activists day in and day out. Or the rabble rousing opposition getting a free hand and reversing whatever positivity that remains of LF rule in the state.

    In that sense, my political priorities are clear. Apparently yours are not so.

    • Bhochka permalink
      June 1, 2010 1:35 AM

      @Vaths:

      Quite clearly this is a dialogue of the deaf – the very premises we start from are radically different. You presume that the LF in West Bengal (and please remember that my points were about WB alone; the party’s nationwide fortunes require a different discussion, though I’m inclined to agree with Aditya on many of his points about that) still stands, in some measure, for the working-out of an alternative within the constraints of neoliberal capitalism. Exactly what this presumption is based on remains unclear. You make vague observations about employment guarantee schemes and health insurance, disregarding the LF’s abysmal record in implementing the NREGA and the truly catastrophic state of public health in the state, which of course goes hand-in-hand with a proliferation of expensive private hospitals. To use health care as an argument in favour of the LF is so outrageous as to be laughable, if it weren’t so tragic. So I’m still in the dark about the nature of the ‘alternative-within-constraints’ that you write of. The failure to imagine an alternative to neo-liberal capitalism in the post-Soviet world is, of course, not unique to the CPM. What’s truly disgusting, however, is the speed of the capitulation, which unfolded, roughly, between Operation Sunshine and Operation Green Hunt more or less continuously and without effective opposition.

      In your response to Aditya, you write of the state terror suffered by all sections of the Left during the Congress governments of the 70s. No one’s disputing this – it was in large measure the basis of the Left’s initial determination to enact reform and also of its sustained popularity. That only makes the CPM’s recent recourse to a very similar form of political terror all the more tragic. (Though not all that recent, of course – Morichjhapi, anyone?). The violence of Panchayat elections and the seats won uncontested, the systematic rape of women in Nandigram in March and November 2007, the framing and illegal arrest of Chhatradhar Mahato…all of this describes a very precise and deliberate political matrix, or ‘praxis’, to use your term. ‘Democracy’, ‘socialism’, and ‘communism’ have nothing to do with this praxis.
      Your response, I suppose, would either be outright denial or an admission that ‘there are some flaws’ which are of course being remedied even as we write. I think that’s moonshine – the rot goes very deep within the Party, and is restricted to neither the state nor the local leadership. Have you ever asked yourself why the peasants of Nandigram and Singur described your party workers as ‘police-cadres?’ I may be deluded (I won’t touch on your charming piece of gossip about family ‘delusions’), but those delusions were at least partly based on meeting and speaking to an old woman in Singur who had to hide in a ditch all night in the winter of 2007, in the fear of being caught and killed, while Party cadres rampaged all around. They’re also partly based on having played a small part in transcribing the testimonies of dozens of women systematically raped by ‘police-cadres’ in Nandigram in March 2007. (At least one was raped in both March and November, clearly as a deliberate strategy of political punishment). Of course you’re free to deny any of this happened, but simply watching video footage – easily available – of the spectacle of victims in Tamluk Hospital after 14 March will testify to the size of the ‘flaws’ that you so generously admit do exist in the LF administration.
      Your use of terms like ‘mistakes’ and ‘flaws’ is extremely revealing, as is your representation of the industrialization policy as a ‘sudden impulse to industrialize and use farmland in the process’. These are such innocuous, modest phrases – of course, the words ‘Special Economic Zone’ and ‘real estate’ are carefully blocked out of such an analysis. Please explain to me, though, what the dispossession of thousands of peasants in Rajarhat and the redevelopment of the land around into malls and luxury housing has to do with ‘industrialization’? My point is very simple – the kind of slavish embrace of corporate capital we’ve seen in WB attests a very coherent strategy of neoliberalization. It’s a ‘mistake’ or a ‘flaw’ only in the same sense in which Maoist killings are a ‘mistake’ or Operation Green Hunt is a ‘flaw’. There’s a structural logic to Buddhadeb’s economic policy, which can only be blocked – and quite possibly not even then – by the CPM’s defeat in elections. There’s nothing exceptional or remarkable about this logic – it’s the same policy that’s enacted by central governments of all hues, resting upon the large-scale expropriation of peasants, tribals, and whoever might be sitting upon lucrative land. And you’re quite right to write that the CPM practises a politics of ‘redistribution’ – only it’s redistribution upwards, entirely in the service of corporate capital. This isn’t my analysis or that of a bunch of ‘deluded’ armchair left-of-leftists alone: Debabrata Bandopadhyay (surely you’d accept his credentials) described Buddhadeb’s government, a couple of years ago, as the most completely committed to big capital that he’d ever seen. Yes, as you point out, the state withdrew some of its projects – though by no means all of them, and by no means its wider neo-liberal policy. But that was a consequence of the mass mobilizations against those projects. If you weren’t insistent on seeing the terms ‘left’ and ‘Left Front’ as somehow umbilically attached to one another, you might have been able to appreciate the scale of the achievement that the forced rollback of the Salim plant was – an achievement that owed everything to the determination of people to hold on to their land and nothing at all to any sort of belated ‘realization’ on the part of Buddha Inc.
      Your one half-way substantive point about West Bengal concerns the nature of the political opposition there. I agree that it would be foolish to have any great hopes of a Trinamul-led government. Unlike you, I believe there was a moment of real political hope, when something of a left alternative could have emerged, in 2007. That was rapidly snuffed out – not least because the LF took to political terror on an unprecedented scale, manically using extra-constitutional laws of exception like the UAPA to crack down on any sort of dissent. I personally believe that the consequences of the coming elections, whichever way the numbers add up, might well be tragic. If Mamata comes to power, we may well see enormous political reprisals, in revenge for the atrocities the Opposition has been subjected to, and in the heady carnival of long-hungered-for state power. And she may very well continue Buddhadeb’s economic policies – and yes, her coalition, whatever it is, will probably be defined by nothing other than a visceral anti-LF politics. But that’s the price to pay not only for the structural incoherence and opportunism of the political opposition in West Bengal, but also for the systematic authoritarianism of the government in power for at least the last decade-and-a-half, probably longer. Of course you’re right to point out the horrific nature of TMC and Maoist attacks upon CPM cadre – doubly horrific because, in the nature of such violence, it’s always the very poor and most vulnerable who get targeted. But please don’t pretend that this kind of politics is in any sense unique to either the TMC or the Maoists – the CPM has enthusiastically practised it, and it’s also played the dominant role in producing and reproducing the structures that sustain such violence.

      My political priorities are as clear as yours – the LF government has got to go. I feel no pleasure at the prospect of what lies ahead, and I’m not kidding myself about the immediate implications, which will probably be awful. But if there’s to be even the faint possibility of any sort of meaningful democratic practice in the state, and also if the miniscule residues of left-wing consciousness within the structures of the West Bengal CPM are to find a voice, it won’t be possible as long as this corporate-loving, trigger-happy, authoritarian administration remains in place.

  10. Aditya Nigam permalink*
    May 31, 2010 10:40 PM

    I think Bhochka has hit the nail on the head. As for his parents, I do not know about that but right now ordinary people think Budddha, Biman and Benoy are the really deluded guys. After all they claim to lead a “Left” movement/party with the likes of Lakshman Seth and his cronies. A party of filth it certainly is, at least in West Bengal and Kerala – corrupt, ruthless and power hungry. So don’t give us this nonsense about Congress semi-fascist terror – we are talking about your party’s terror machine – call it fascist or semi- or proto-fascist, it really does not matter.
    As for panchayat elections, you really are naive, I must say. For the last few elections, how wide was this phenomenon of not allowing opponents to even contest elections – something that has been happening in universities in Kolkata right from the early 1980s – is common knowledge.
    As for this list of land agitations and struggles against khap panchayats are concerned, let me just tell you that every other day I meet leaders of your party (many of whom I have known from our days of doing politics together) who confess how hollow all this is. (Yes, Jagmati Sangwan is an exception and an individual fighter). So, the fact is that when the soviet union collapsed no one was surprised but ‘us’ – who took the leadership and the ‘line’ too seriously, just as you are now. Let me assure you your own leaders are not going to be surprised – they are expecting every possible disaster. It is simpletons like you who are destined to make fools of themselves over and over again.

  11. Vaths permalink
    June 1, 2010 8:35 AM

    Aaah.. Aditya..

    Doesn’t it strike you that Jagmati Sangwan is with the AIDWA and fighting for the rights of women and the young to choose for themselves instead of raving hard against all forms Left that you do in your personal antipathy?

    And if you think that the CPI(M) is same as the Congress, surely you don’t deserve that onions that you receive as an “expert” on this site.

    Personal antipathy drives people crazy and you are a prime example of that.

  12. Vaths permalink
    June 1, 2010 8:46 AM

    Bhochka,

    Several things to tell you in response. But one person that you quote in particular – Debabrata Bandyopadhyay. The only charitable word I have for him as a person now is “senile”. Check this – http://pd.cpim.org/2010/0110_pd/01102010_3.html .It is an article in the PD and party paper and all that..but do read.. it tells you to what extent critics of the CPI(M) have stooped to. Slander, malice and poisonous vendetta.

    Your answer says not a word about the work done by the Left in the rest of India or about the fact that the state govt in WB still continues to be distributing more land than anyone else in the country, still institutes a policy that is addressed towards the need of the rural poor – SEZs, warts and all notwithstanding. And I find your reliance on a utterly regressive opposition that clearly wants to undo any positive part of the Left’s achievement, unviable, unhealthy to the people of West Bengal and a great leap backward.

    I am truly inclined to tether my support, my activism and my heart to a left alternative that is willing to take the process of emancipation and alternative governance forward. As I see it, there are two choices – either reform by push from within (i.e. from the aegis of the LF) or pull out and articulate a wagon that is driven by a genuine, much more progressive alternative from without. As of now the latter exists in the virtual world, has been usurped by forces that were already defeated in the past and has in its forefront a sinister combination that potentially destroys any movement even in the lateral or in the forward.

    Good luck with your tickets in the Mamata Theatre.

  13. somnath permalink
    June 1, 2010 1:46 PM

    As a “probashi bangali” whose calls Calcutta (yes, Calcutta!) his home, the debates on the “Left”, extreme-Left and Mamata are surreal to say the least…Had it not been for the brutal proximity of their impact, one would look at it as almost Kafka-esque…

    The CPM government in Writers Building, whatever their initial successes in land reforms, has effectively wrecked the once-proud state in all respects..Economically, WB is middle-to-bottom on all indicators in India…Long years of absolote nonsense on English in school currciculum has relegated an entire generation, in fact two, to near sub Saharan status…Calcutta houses some of the premier national universities – IIM Calcutta, Indian Statistical Institute..how many students in these centres of excellence come from Calcutta? Few, painfully few…Above everything else, every single facet of social life, from Durga Puja Samitis to public services like police and municipality to schools has been deeply politicised…not a single appointment of a teacher – starting from primary school right upto Calcutta Uni – happen without the acquiescence of the “party”…..

    The decline of WB is not just in the decrepit state of Calcutta, or the rapidly falling ranks on development indicators, or the absolute shame of what is termed as an airport…It is reflected greatest in the rapidly increasing numbers of students migrating to other states after Class X, and the ever increasing crowds in trains to Chennai packed with patients…

    If there was ever a justified reason for anti-incumbency, CPM in WB does not fit the bill, it IS the bill…

    HAving said that, the alternative in Mamata Bannerji is nearly as much scary as the incumbent…..Lack of education, erudition, grace, that quintessentially bengali “culture” – lets ignore all of it…But “will make London out of Kolkata” an example of even attempted deliberation? Or for that matter the consistent, shameless defence of Maoists? Or the irresponsible theatre over Singur?

    The only saving grace, if there is any, is that Mamata will be succeeded by a dispensation that will hopefully break through the darkness…35 years of CPM, 5 years of Mamata – people of the state are bound to throw up something better, brighter….After all, even a benighted Bihar threw up a Nitish Kumar after the long spell of Lalu-Rabri…

  14. patriarchal jaat permalink
    June 2, 2010 4:10 AM

    @ somnath :IN my opinion the reason for failure of bengal is dur to excessive poiticising , useless debates…err Intellectual discussions , and partcising everything; Instead of delivering to the people.
    ” “Above everything else, every single facet of social life, from Durga Puja Samitis to public services like police and municipality to schools has been deeply politicised…not a single appointment of a teacher – starting from primary school right upto Calcutta Uni – happen without the acquiescence of the “party”…..” ”
    and the police also (To me it seems like from what I have read in newspapers and other sources)

    what after left parties decline?? Mamta ??
    the problem remains there .. people will be as poor as they were… bureaucracy will be as sluggish as it was

    To be politically aware is good. But you cant let the party prevail over the humans…

    I am very much biased in my opinions, hope you dont get offended by them

  15. Sunalini permalink
    June 2, 2010 8:02 AM

    Somnath, there was a spot empty for the articulate, predictably neoliberal, establishment-worshipping commentator on this site, and ever since you deservedly took that spot, you’ve never disappointed. Every single argument and ‘angle’ you provide, its been faithful to that position. Full points for consistency.
    Talk of being surreal and Kafkaesque. What could be more Kafkaesque than waking up as the same monstrous insect every single day of your life?

  16. Prashant permalink
    June 2, 2010 9:22 AM

    Sunalini, I am a simple guy, I have no idea who this Kafka is. But I can tell this Somnath fellow speaks the truth. I suppose most of the folks who visit and comment in this website are from the JNU school of thought – one which values the Party Line more than anything, where the truth is subservient to the Party. You cloud your hatred to the truth in verbose statements and boring rhetoric, you condescend towards those who speak the truth in subtle put downs, but you know as well that beyond the boundaries of JNU and AMU your logic does not fly.

    And yes, there is nothing wrong with being a neoliberal. In fact thats what every Indian needs to become if India is to realise its true potential.

  17. Nesar permalink
    June 2, 2010 5:17 PM

    While debating the economic policy of the LF govt. of the WB, there has been no mentioning of DfID, who has advised the WB govt. on almost all the social and economic policy issues for year.

    DfID, a department of govt. of UK and a Christian Aid study had indicated the policies suggested by DfId to be responsible for wide spread suicides of farmers in AP during the Chandarababu era.

    The same DfID has been advising the WB govt and some other states as well. What do we expect then.

    Is not it shame for the LF govt. that instead of taking advises from many well reputed economists members of their party they go to DfID for advises. These economists in many reputed institutes who (rightly) apposed World Bank’s people on Planning Commission’s advisory panel, an failed attempt by the UPA-I, did not appose LF govt. of WB taking finances and advises from DfID.

  18. somnath permalink
    June 3, 2010 11:18 AM

    Sunalini,

    Staying within ideological boundaries while confining others within similar (or different) boundaries is an “easy” datum level to operate off…Unfortunately the real world is neither neatly partitioned in ideological terms, nor does it have too much of Kafka (thankfully)! Real world has data and outcomes, and real problems are being solved (or not solved) on the basis of the same – not on ideological cut-and-thrust…

    Nesar, where from did you get the idea that the WB govt uses DFID advisors in any major way? To start with, DFID is hardly an intellectual hotspot..Second, neither WB nor anyone else in India uses DFID as a major source of funding anything at all…India has come a very long way indeed from the days when self important NGOs and Aid institutions would strut around with their money and gratuitous advice…Today we dont need either…

    The problem with WB is a case of malgovernance, pure and simple…Mixing up odd facets of ideology with an incredibly incompetent political class and the usual dollops of corruption – there isnt a redeeming feature there…

    The issue isnt about the “argumentative bengali”, patriarchal jaat (I would prefer that any day to the offensiveness that passes as social interaction in Delhi :()..It is about a political class that has permeated so deep and wide within every sinew of the society that it has sucked out every ounce of vitality from it….The “party”, or the “system” is so well entrenched that even a well-meaning change agent, someone who spawned hope, if only by his innate “bhadralok”-ness and his grasp of reality – Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, was reduced to a pathetic counter shadow to his own promise….

    • Anant M permalink
      June 3, 2010 10:33 PM

      OK Somnath, you are entitled to your touchstone and if it is neoliberalism – so be it. But that does not make a statement like “the real world has data and outcomes” true. The real world does not have data and outcomes. Models of the real world produce and consume data and show outcomes. When some one confuses model for the real, it usually means he or she is bounden to an ideological position and has limited capacity for inquiry. I hope this is not the case with you.

      You are factually vague about DFID funding. So I have to clarify. That DfID is not an intellectual hotspot is less than half truth. DfID hires intellectual hotshots. It virtually skims off the available talent in many fields. It contracts the intellectual part out often through competitive bidding. In India that cutting edge part of the work for DFID in some key sectors in at least three states at last count has been done by Adam Smith Institute. ASI ran what was known as Implementation Secretariat – basically a contract to kill State owned PSUs in Andhra Pradesh. In WB they said they can do it themselves. So WB saved money on that contract and used it for some very dubious purposes. DFID paid for many other international consultants on behalf of the state governments because the CAG will not allow state governments to make such payments.

      Likewise, the statement that DfID does not give major funding is less than half truth. It gives critical funding. The difference between the two is not insignificant. When you give small amounts, for tackling critical tasks, the consequence can be substantial. In many instances it has led to an exponential rise in corruption in target departments in India.

      DfID’s role in West Bengal is part of a bigger complex of consultancies-thinktanks-etc. in West Bengal. But it is in the best interest of everyone including the CPIM to go on as if DfID has nothing to do with West Bengal. Otherwise the CPIM would have to acknowledge that Buddhadeb belongs to a lineage of Indian chief ministers who became posterboys of home grown neoliberalism wired by DFID pillow money for exactly two terms and then disappear as the contradictions swallow their own makers.

  19. somnath permalink
    June 4, 2010 6:26 PM

    Anant, I try and analyse things from an outcomes perspective, not ideological – of the left, right or centrist types…Usually outcomes on development parameters are quite divorced from the underlying ideology, in fact too much of it becomes a dogmatic hindrance to achieving the desired outcomes…So thats not the point…

    Its funny that you agree with me on the gross failure of the CPM govt in WB, though your reasons are quite different from mine…I dont know enough about DFID’s operations in India…But triggered by your post, I did some cursory search…The total money DFID spends on WB annually is about 30 million pounds (spread across many heads ranging from poverty alleviation to health to economic restructuring) – a very very small part of WB’s annual budget…Doesnt seem all that much to either influence the govt, or for that matter to “skim off” all intellectual horsepower in India…

    But perhaps you refer to DFID’s involvement as a consultant to the restructuring of some of the state PSUs in WB..Now you can criticise the political decision here (though most Calcuttans consider the privatisation of the Great Eastern Hotel, an iconic Calcutta landmark, as 3 decades overdue)…But to presume that somehow its DFID (and foriegn consultancies) that are “influencing” the WB govt in its “neo liberlism” seems a bit stretched..The “controversial” PSE restructuring programme is only 28 million pounds over 3 years….the money at stake is simply not large enough for such conspiratorial motivations…

    More importantly, privatisation of PSUs is hardly the top-of-mind issue in WB….The gross mismanagement of every single facet of governance is….Lack of “Calcutta boys” in IIM, Calcutta and ISI, increasing loads of patient-passengers on Coramondol Express, decimation of a once-proud Calcutta Uni, utter politicisation of a once-elite Calcutta Police, regularisation of violence in the name of “political action against class enemies” – these are the issues….And no foreign consultancy had a hand in them…..If there is anything to blame, it would be a perverted, dogmatic implementation of an ideology – later taken over by the usual ills of politics (corruption etc)…

    Unfortunately, Mamata has no fresh ideas – so we will be stuck in the dark alleys till 2016 – which is when there might be a ray of hope emerging…

    • Anant M permalink
      June 4, 2010 8:55 PM

      Somnath, I may have said this once earlier. In my view the worst threat to public safety and sanity in the contemporary world is the ‘google search engine’.

      Let that be for now. You say that you dont know enough about DfID activities in India. Does that mean you know about DfID activities in the UK or in sub saharan africa ? If you do, that would be a good starting point. But just in case you dont –

      British ODA’s transformation into DfID under ‘new labour’, its rapid neoliberalisation and the consequences of its activities across the world — these are fairly well researched issues – quite a lot of that research is funded by DfID itself. And then there is a substantial body of independent research also. Not all that much has been written on this subject in India – but the little that there is, is unfortunately not very widely known and not taken seriously enough in public discourse for a variety of reasons. And no – none of this is about conspiracy theories. Conspiracy is not the only measure of culpability though.

      You can track down all that stuff through google also but then you have to know what to look for and where to look. If you start with the kind of model that you are using currently – “more money=more influence; less money = less influence” and go looking for data I am sure you find your outcomes. But they will have very little to do with reality. What you find will be what your ideological moorings tell you to find anyways. And yours seems to be as a matter of fact, a very strong ideological position which has no respect for facts of any sort. If quantum of aid and influence over policy were directly proportional to each other – the global north would have wound up the ODA business many decades ago. That is not how it works.

      As for Mamta didi spelling disaster for the state – yes of course that would be so. If she gets into power, her time will be mostly gone in witch-hunting. and she would be inheriting a treasury that will be in such doldrums that the only way she can stay in power would be to make a worse mess of what is already a mess. So, yeah, we are in agreement on that reading. But you and I arrive there via different paths and we depart from there too along different paths.

  20. somnath permalink
    June 5, 2010 8:01 AM

    Anant, my knowledge of DFID operations (in India or sub Saharan Africa) is close to zero…And you may have ideologically persuasive reasons for criticque-ing their activities..

    But you surely grossly exaggerate their influence…In case DFID were this mighty influencer of policy, Britain would not be the third rate power it is today…There is nothing “ideological” about the importance of money to buy influence…And the question is not the absolute quantum, but the relative importance of the sum to the recepient..an amount of 200-300 million (DFID’s annual budget for India) will be hugely improtant for sub saharan Africa, but too small to “influence policy” in India…(just as a perverse corollary, look at the amount of money A Raja is alleged to have taken to rig the 2G spectrum allotment – runs into billions)…

    therefore to blame DFID for the mess that CPM has created out of WB is a convenient strawman…Skirts the real issues – most of which were as a result of decisions stemming out of an ideological position whose critique might not lie easily with your own ideological convictions!

    But at least we agree on the continuing mess in my home state!

    • Anant M permalink
      June 9, 2010 4:09 PM

      Somnath, all I can say is that the self assurance with which you apply your commonsense to pry open questions of statecraft is truly stunning. I take back everything I have said – yes, DFID is insignificant, CPIM alone is responsible singlehandedly for Bengal’s mess and yes, there are a lot of lunatics including yours truly who make a pastime of blaming everything on DFID.

  21. AKS permalink
    June 5, 2010 3:49 PM

    From whatever has appeared in the press, the maoist leadership is probably not responsible for the planning of the sabotage of the train tracks.

    The police has claimed two persons being responsible. They are Bapi Mahato and Umakanta Mahatao. News reports mentioned that both of them are allegedly PCAPA activists who were once in police custody but were mildly let off. There were more reports that Umakanta Mahato was supposed to act as a mole for the police, but he had gone rogue.

    Indian Express reported that Bapi Mahato had claimed that he did do the sabotage. But later he retracted. Umakanta is apparently absconding. PCAPA spokesperson mentioned in some television channel that Bapi is not part of PCAPA leadership or committees but he is a popular leader in those villages. Bengali news media claimed that the saboteurs were purposely fed false information, allegedly by CPI(M) activists, such that instead of the goods train it was the passenger train which was derailed.

    Now there are reports that Maoists are carrying out an internal inquiry about the incident. They have also claimed that they will punish anyone who is responsible. There are conflicting press reports that Bapi has been picked up by Maoist squads or he is running for his life. Police claims that the Maoists might kill Bapi to hide whatever proof.

    The police has picked up Khagen Mahato for allegedly providing transport to the saboteurs. There are now reports that Khagen’s wife is a CPI(M) activist and member of the local panchayat.

    Most of the information we are getting are from press reports where the line between police handouts and original reporting is completely blurred. The truth about the incident should come out and the people responsible should be punished. But there is no guarantee that this will happen – we know the track record of the police across the country.

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