All those who do not sleep tonight

Dear all, (apologies for cross posting on Reader List)

Sometimes I wonder whether, when I use the phrase ‘rentier cultural apparatchiki’ it actually describes faces, real people, or is it just an abstract category, that one deploys in anger and sadness.

Well, em, here are some faces, some names – people we meet, say hello to, read the books of, see the art of, watch the films of…

As the weather turns in Delhi, we will meet them more often, there will be soirees, readings, screenings, exhibition openings, so much fun in the winter whirlwind, and they will turn up – two by two, or one by one,
and in the silence between us will hang the heavy weight of the name of a place called Nandigram.

Read these names, read them carefully –

Irfan Habib, Prabhat Patnaik, Utsa Patnaik, Shireen Moosvi, Jayati Ghosh, Indira Chandrasekhar, Rajen Prasad, Arjun Dev, D.N. Jha, Vivan Sundaram, M.K. Raina, C.P. Chandrasekhar, and Saeed Mirza.

Please read, also below, their exemplary contribution – to our understanding of the unfolding situation in West Bengal in the Hindu yesterday

Notice – how they nod their heads sagely between the words –

‘ “complete sympathy” for peasantry *anywhere* fighting forcible dispossession by or on behalf of corporate interests’

Except of course, in West Bengal. West Bengal is not *anywhere*. It is the citadel. And so when they express their complete sympathy with fighting peasants – *anywhere*. They are actually completely consistent.
West Bengal is not *anywhere*. There is no soil, no rivers, no fish, no rice, no nothing, there are no people in West Bengal. There are a few acres of land, which has come unhinged from a settlement that was
thought to be permanent, and these gentlemen and ladies are busy gluing the permanent settlement back, more securely, with all the adhesive that they can secrete together.

Their verdict – can be read to mean – “Agitation warranted if any storm happens in any teacup anywhere, but agitation unwarranted if villages are pillaged and burnt in West Bengal”.

But villages can be pillaged, indeed must be pillaged, because these villages are not *anywhere*. They are in West Bengal. And there are no people in West Bengal. Just as a notice for the acquisition of land is
not a land acquisition notice, when it gets posted in a West Bengal Panchayat office, so too, there may be voters and cadres, but there are no people in West Bengal. And those who are not voters and cadres are
non-persons anyway. They (the non-people) have been dissolved, and the party will think of how to reconstitute a new people, so that their consent can be ascertained for the building of a chemical hub. New
improved people in new improved West Bengal, how could that be *anywhere*? It never existed, it never will. It won’t be *anywhere*. How could we get such a simple equation wrong? How can we not understand?

A rentier is someone who lives off the investments they have made in a piece of property. These worthy eminences invested the substance of their lives, and their intelligences, – in the party, or should I say
the corporation, that they hold dearer than all the words they have ever written, and all the pictures they have ever made.

The party-corporation has now called a shareholders meeting, and promised higher dividends, in radical prestige, in social capital, in whispering distance to power, in the ability to make a phone call and
get things done, and the shareholders have closed ranks, made sure that their investments are secure. They have issued a promotors notice to the market. Their investments are secure. The party is safe. Normalcy
has returned. This is not anywhere. This is West Bengal. The people who are not yet the people, or who may once have been the people, have spoken. its just that it is a bit difficult to hear them speak. Or maybe
it is just me that is hard of hearing.

Anyhow, I hope that each one of these ‘activists’, (for that is how the newspaper report below describes them) these worthy gentlemen and ladies, have bought an adequate supply of sleeping pills tonight.

Because, as I know some of them, and as they are, at the end of the day, ordinary, way too ordinary, men and women, with headaches, joint pains and bad hair days ike the rest of us, they might have some trouble
sleeping tonight.

There is after all, that prickly and inconvenient human faculty-thing called a conscience, and that strange piece of connected human tissue called a spine, or back-bone, which sometimes makes the softest beds a
torture if you twist it or bend it too often. Am I being presumptuous in thinking that they are troubled by their consciences and their backbones.

Or did they lose both, conscience and back bone,on the way back from the last meeting of the corporation-party. There is a species that in the course of evolution decided to do away with the inconvenience of the back-bone. As far as I know it is not trobuled over much by a conscience
either. In Biology, they are called ‘Sarisreep’ – Phylum Reptilia.

From the sidelines, it is interesting and instructive to watch the shareholders of the corporation-party evolve into a wonderful new life-form that exhibits so many anatomical similarities to the Phylum

Good luck to them, I hope they use their waking and sleepless hours to think about the distances that they have travelled, or should I say crawled, each one of them.


Agitation unwarranted, say activists

The Hindu, November 15, 2007
Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI: Academics and artistes on Wednesday described as “totally unwarranted” the agitation in the Nandigram area of West Bengal after the Left Front government’s repeated announcements that no chemical hub would be established there.

In a statement, they also said the protests being organised against the return of Communist Party of India (Marxist) sympathisers to the area are “as unjustified as they are unhelpful” for the restoration of normality. Sympathy with peasantry

Expressing “complete sympathy” with peasantry engaged anywhere in struggles against forcible dispossession by or on behalf of corporate interests, they said the continuation of the agitation in Nandigram was a means of making the region out of bounds for CPI(M) sympathisers.
Return of refugees

Also, according to them, it was a means of preventing the return of refugees driven out of their homes and into refugee camps since January, of keeping out the administrative personnel of the State, and of establishing the unchallenged writ of a coterie over the entire area;
all of which violated basic human rights and constituted a blatantly anti-democratic act reminiscent of what happened at Kespur in West Medinipur district a few years earlier.

The signatories said no voices of protest other than from the Left Front were raised against the “flagrant denial of basic rights” to thousands of people whose only fault was that they supported the Left Front.

“In the absence of intervention by the State machinery and civil society organisations, and of unwillingness for a political dialogue by the Opposition Trinamool Congress, is it surprising that the displaced CPI(M) sympathisers made their own moves to return to their homes?


The real need of the hour is to ensure that this return does not give rise to a further round of displacement this time for the opponents of the Left Front, and that peace and normality returns to Nandigram at the earliest.

The signatories include Irfan Habib, Prabhat Patnaik, Utsa Patnaik, Shireen Moosvi, Jayati Ghosh, Indira Chandrasekhar, Rajen Prasad, Arjun Dev, D.N. Jha, Vivan Sundaram, M.K. Raina, C.P. Chandrasekhar, and Saeed Mirza.

6 thoughts on “All those who do not sleep tonight”

  1. Shuddha, Its so sad to see the names of people we’ve respected and loved for years here. My heart broke when I read this. Mario.

  2. I do want to report that the ‘soft’CPM- TINA (there is no alternative) Buddhijeevi brigade is doing its work, though much more mutedly, in Kerala. This week’s Matrubhumi Weekly (which has a circulation of above 45,000 copies) carried a ‘conversation’ between two ‘Marxist observers’ — T K Ramachandran, an ex-Naxalite intellectual and Dr K N Panicker, who answers the former’s question about the direction of the Indian left in the light of Nandigram,Singur and Munnar,and in the process turns it into — what else would you expect — a Stalinist development issue. These three, according to him, are ‘failings’, and they point to larger issues, specifically, the issue of the relative importance of ‘agriculture’ and ‘industry’ in moving ahead! How convenient such theory can be, as a Procrustean bed, and how it can turn people into ‘productive forces’! There is a saying in Malayalam which refers to the story of Rama acknowledging the services of a sqirrel that did its bit for the building of the bridge to Lanka — right now, even the little bit done by the TINA brigade counts a lot! The fact that Nandigram is ethically indefensible is precisely why the CPM is now frantically summoning everyone from the ghost of Christopher Caudwell to Tariq Ali to provide them with good-character certificates!

    Meanwhile, other left-liberals who’d recite poetry or make speeches till they turn hoarse at the tiniest signal from the CPM, have kept quiet. When we asked they said that they lacked ‘reliable information’! Well they apparently never looked for it! The poet Balachandran Chullikad, who was a radical in the 1970s, told me that this was precisely the reply that he received when he and his comrades tried to organise a signature campaign against the Emergency…

    And there is of course the Hindu — the Pride of the South — which is now producing the Left in a particularly aggressive way. Woe is yours if you aren’t on the Hindu’s list of left radicals!And you won’t be there unless you resemble Com Karat, Yechuri, Brinda karat and the rest…

  3. Thanks, Shuddha, you’ve articulated the way so many of us feel – that mixture of sadness and anger, of solidarity betrayed, of sheer, jaw-dropping amazement at the ease with which principle and conscience can be traded. It hurts to see names one had associated with ‘the better side of the CPM’ for so long shuffle to attention at the dictation of the Party. And they choose to do so at this moment,when an act of genuine political courage and commitment, a refusal of the politics of the Party in West Bengal, which is violent and corrupt and sick from bottom to top, would have meant so much.

  4. I feel really grateful for this post. Distinctions have almost vanished between liberals and the Communists in popular perception. I don’t read Hindu, do had missed this one, and was generally satisfied with the outrage in the media, pretty much unaware that Hindu was carrying on thus.

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