‘Scientific’ Land Grab and the Lie-Machine

Even as the CPM general secretary Prakash Karat made his astonishing statement regarding the need for a ‘scientific’ land grab policy, his party’s totalitarian lie machine has moved into action to suppress the fact that it might be facing its Waterloo – or may we say, its Stalingrad? The lie manufacturing machine is working overtime to make it appear as though the struggle in Nandigram over the imminent acquisition of 14, 500 acres of land for a new SEZ is the outcome of mere ‘rumour mongering’ by ‘outsiders’ (The Hindu 9 January 2007). It is as though there were really no plans to that effect (though none of the leaders has yet denied this so far).

One of the sinister players here is the shadowy West Bengal CPM secretary and Left Front Chairman (sic), Biman Basu. Basu went on record saying that (a) a large number of ‘outsiders’ have been entering Nandigram [and this presumably is by itself a crime, in Basu’s language] and that the police should thus ‘investigate’ it. (b) these outsiders were “responsible for stoking fears among local villagers that they were on the verge of losing their land.” To give it a more sinister ring, Basu said: “ These people are still moving about in the Nandigram area [as though they are criminals who should have been put behind bars] and held periodic meetings at a four-storied building where social activist Medha Patkar addressed a meeting on December 3.”

These outsiders, Biman Basu goes on to say, came “from Bihar, Orissa and even Kolkata [!!] and are holding clandestine meetings.” This statement itself calls for a deep analysis – for that alone might reveal the psychic structure of the fear that Basu seeks to whip up (and is himself constituted by), playing on a host of different kinds of elements – the Other, the outsider, the ‘Maoist’, the terrorist, the criminal – that are invoked by totalitarian lie manufacturing machines all the time. Remember that using the presence of the Jamait-ul-Ulema-e-Hind in this area with a large Muslim population, the CPM machine has already raised the communal bogey, directly resorting to the most time-tested of methods of most hated oppressors. However, just by way of a minor clarification, we might draw attention to the fact that the entire ‘scare’ – if that be the name for what people who were on the verge of losing their land felt – was created by the order of the Chief Executive Officer, Haldia Development Authority, dated 28 December 2006. Rumours, would you say, Mr Basu? Yes, the interesting and important fact is that this order that was meant to be kept secret till the party machine had already terrorized the prospective land losers and the state machinery was prepared – scientifically – to move in with armed forces. Unfortunately for the CPM, it was leaked. More likely, the CEO of the HDA himself acted in haste; he should have waited for further order before issuing his orders.

The other dramatis personae in this story include the Krishak Sabha leader Benoy Konar (brother of the legendary Harekrishna Konar) and the local Tamluk Member of Parliament, Lakshman Seth, who incidentally chairs the HDA. As the fear of land acquisitions spread and the local people prepared to fight it out, clashes erupted, the exact sequence of events of which has yet to be reconstructed. One thing is clear: the CPM was taken by surprise and this was simply because it had not anticipated the leak and the anger it would generate. Let us be clear about one thing here. Nowhere in rural West Bengal is the CPM in a position of being hounded by any political party – least of all the Trinamool Congress – as was being suggested by the state CPM leadership, for it is the CPM that constitutes the power bloc at the local level. It was an unexpected mass anger that took it completely by surprise that the party had to reckon with. It was from its own people that it was forced to flee and take refuge in camps. It was not a clash between the CPM on the one hand and the TC and Jamait and the Naxalite groups and SUCI on the other. In fact, the reason why all these disparate forces are having to make common cause is because they are dealing with popular discontent. And what did the party do, faced with this situation? They took a day to recover, whereafter, Benoy Konar declared that the CPM would call for “armed retaliation if the Opposition’s terror campaign continues.” Bijon Roy, secretary of the Haldia Zonal Committee of the CPM assured the local activists, before departing foe a ZC meeting on Friday (5 January) evening that ‘necessary action” would be taken. Reportedly, in the ZC meeting, Lakshman Seth said that “the party’s morale must be boosted at any cost.” District secretariat member Ashok Guria was even more candid as he spoke to The Telegraph, a paper that has become the CPM’s most loyal supporter: “We realized it was of utmost importance to boost the flagging morale of the party workers. So we brought over our comrades from Khejuri and other places.” So reports Naresh Jana of The Telegraph, “The mobilization began on Friday night. Activists, mostly from Khejuri poured into Tekhali, Bhangabera, Sherkhachak, Kurighat, Bangshubazar, CPM strongholds on the fringes of Nandigram.” Further: “they came in Matador vans, on motorcycles, bicycles and on foot. By Saturday there were about 250 of them in each of these five centers.” On Saturday night the clashes began. Through Sunday the clashes continued. Need we say more about how the killings of that day might have taken place? It was necessary in this situation that the incidents of the earlier days be presented as a mere fight between opposing parties – a version that some sections of the press seem to have swallowed.

Meanwhile, Buddhadev Bhattacharya, chief minister and key player of the industrialization story, is at least more forthright, having accepted before television channels on the day of the Nandigram killings that “‘our’ past mistakes are responsible for this situation.” The mistake, according to him, is that ‘we’ ‘invented’ this style of politics, “we invented the word ‘gherao’”. There couldn’t be a more candid self realization – a public recognition that he and his party have changed sides. Perhaps, he might remember that there was a time when he, Biman or Benoy Konar went around from district to district (as understudies of the older generation of leaders) – often holding clandestine meetings in villages, stoking fires of revolt. Except that he is wrong to say that ‘we’ invented this politics: neither he nor his party did. This has ever been the method available to powerless groups in revolt through the ages – whenever power becomes despotic, that is.

10 thoughts on “‘Scientific’ Land Grab and the Lie-Machine”

  1. After spreading the canard that the entire unrest in Nandigram was on the basis of `rumours’ of land acquisition spread by `vested interests’, the West Bengal CM has backtracked and admitted that the Haldia Development Authority did issue a notification identifying some mouzas as sites for an SEZ in Nandigram, `without government sanction’.

    Meanwhile the Central Committee of the CPI(M), in its latest statement, holds on to the outdated rumour that no notice was issued for land acquisition, technically correct of course, since the HDA notification only identified mouzas without government sanction. With this, the CPM CC wishes to warn `well-meaning individuals’- Romila Thapar, Sumit Sarkar, Rajindar Sachar, Arundhati Roy etc., please note – that they may be falling prey to `disinformation’ by `vested interests’. In the CC’s view, it appears that peasants in Medinipur or Singur, or intellectuals in Delhi, have no minds of their own, and are always ready to be mislead by rumours and disinformation spread by `outsiders’.

    Yesterday, the historian Sumit Sarkar, son of the late Marxist historian Sushobhan Sarkar, and himself “a lifelong Leftist” wrote of his trip to Singur (posted on forestrights yesterday). What he discovered directly contradicts the version of Singur published by Brinda Karat in The Hindu, ironically titled “Just the Facts, Please”. Medha Patkar had earlier pointed out that Brinda Karat had got all her `facts’ about Singur from a visit to Kolkata.

    Special mention must be made of The Hindu group of publications, which sometimes read like the alternative mouthpiece of the CPI(M), especially when the by-lines read Marcus Dam (The Hindu), or Suhrid Shankar Chattopadhyay or R. Krishnakumar (Frontline). The venerable Editir-in-Chief also pitches in. A New Year’s day full-page editorial on Singur (http://www.hindu.com/2007/01/01/stories/2007010102541000.htm) drew on the same “key facts” and “context” that Brinda Karat was privy to and presented a blatantly partisan picture. Frontline did the same with the same set of `facts’ and hackneyed arguments about the imperative of industrialisation, prophetically titling the piece “Starting Trouble”, and inexplicably prefacing it with a quote attributed to Lenin- “You cannot make an omelette without breaking some eggs”. (http://www.frontlineonnet.com/fl2325/stories/20061229002003300.htm)
    Several broken eggs later, one wonders what the omelette will taste like, if it eventually gets made.


  2. Rajesh: Thanks for filling in on the parts I did not cover. And of course, I also completely agree with your take on this Hindu/Frontline business. Mouthpieces of the CPM, without doubt and equally guilty of twisting facts. A mirror-image of the Indian Express, I would say, as far as covering the CPM is concerned. Apoplexy: Really enjoyed reading your blog and the pictures on Nandigram.


  3. Thanks.If you read the blog more. there is a successive civerage of Singur and even before the CPM/sfi violence against left wing student protestors in Calcutta.11 of my friends were taken into custody for protesting against CPM in Calcutta.Today 4 were picked up from a cultural center more moving about “suspiciously”.Leftists and freedom and democracy lovers at all levels must speak out against CPM totalitarianism, as well as expose Congress/BJP likes forces which have even more demonical records.
    Just wondering, what do you do?


  4. Politics in West Bengal is going for a toss. The so called ruling party CPM is just doing things which are anti-villagers and th every root of them is being at stake.Blocking the roads and media and then piggybacking on forces like state police etc. is completely a sheer sign of frustration. Though it won state elections with thumping majority but their act shows no sense party’s look. The kills which involved women and children in Nandigram was a utter shock to me, the high-handedness of CPM workers and the utilization of police to settle scores with Villagers,shouting that outsiders are howering Nandigram and so, is a cowardly act.Their act is reminding me of the British era in India, we are a Democratic country and every person has his/her right to decide what way he wants to do with his/her property and when its fertile tilling Land, then Govt. shouldn’t drag things into this sort where innocent mob is shot by none but the elected ruling party.It’s high time that Centre Govt. teach this ruling party a lesson or two and book culprits under the court of law. Bhudhhadeb is not the type of person that he pretends to be (definetly not an intellectual), and behaving like a Mad Dog bitten by power, greed and proud not of his countrymen but his own thoughtness, which is blank.


  5. singured and nandigrammed
    this i think is the beginning of revolution in india. i really appreciate the courage with which young boys and girls face police brutality. they cannot do this without any conviction which i am sure springs from their ideological commitment. i have seen the SUCI activists give life for a cause they believe is genuine. if not who would fight like that for the reintroduction of English? The cpim is so helpless that it thinks physical annihilation. death can kill a body not an ideology. it will inspire many more. including teh cpim cadres who are now moving over to teh BUPC to resist theland grab


  6. Today’s Economic Times carries an article in Kolkata edition in the political theatre section titled Landing beyond Lakshman rekha and this is how the piece ends

    “Kolkata was 135 kms away and we were intent on crossing this distance before dusk settled in. With all vehicles under attack, especially Press cars, there was no way you could see where the next hurled brick was going to land. Fun afterall.”

    please note the last two words…thought the usage was quite unwarranted…and shows complete lack of sensitivity…are we not writing on the loss of human lives and on such a scale and given the circumstances…or any circumstances for that matter which deserve more respect…

    for the whole story one could visit this link…


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