[This guest post by SAMKUTTY PATTOMKARY responds to the ongoing debate in Kafila on the Chengara issue. -AN]
Reading through the discussions on Chengara in kafila, some thoughts I felt I need to articulate as follows.
It comes out vividly through the Chengara struggle that a large section of people remain alienated from social and political powers in the so-called democratic society of Kerala. Why is it not possible for the ‘class proponents’ to see and engage themselves in working towards solving the issue politically?
It is plainly visible to one who visits the Chengara land of struggle that more than 30,000 people who are directly involved in this struggle are going through hellish suffering. When they are subjected to many forms of violence and when barbaric strategies of suppression such as rape on women are used against them, why the communists in Kerala are unable to call these acts of violence injustice?
It’s more than a year that this struggle is going on. Why the CPI M is unable to come out with a solution addressing the issue of social equality for dalits, adivasis and other landless people in Kerala?
Why do the discussions get confined to those who are mediators or supporters to the extent of masking the legitimate questions the ones who struggle and their leaderships in Chengara put forward?
In this context, it seems important to look at some allegations raised against people who have been involved in the struggle.
From the beginning of this struggle itself, the CPI M had started spreading time and again that Laha Gopalan owned some 15 acres of land. This has been proved wrong by the enquiries made by several concerned groups and individuals. In a direct interview with Laha Gopalan, this was what he told me: “The Chief Minister had said that Laha Gopalan has 15 acres of land. I am saying, ‘give me 2 acres from that and then distribute 2 acres each to 6 other landless people. In the remaining 1 acre land, a CPI M party office may be built up’. But, respected Chief Minister should show where the 2 acres of land for me are lying?” Till now, to my knowledge, the Chief Minister had not shown Laha Gopalan the 2 acres of land.
LDF convener Vaikom Viswam had also made such allegations that the Chengara protesters are those with substantial land holdings. However, when the CPIM people are asked in return as to how much land they had thus discovered during this period, they have no answers.
Now, if we look at the CPIM and its followers, what do we see? We can see that the Kerala CPIM as a Private Limited Company. That is, a big Private. Ltd. Company that owns and runs things from TV channels, news papers and magazines to amusement parks and five star hotels and so on. Those who work for them and go along with it do not find it necessary to have an ideological crisis or a definite political direction. They, who are only interested in promotions and increments available within it, mindless careerists in short, are the ones who defend this party blindly.
We must not forget that the Chengara struggle began with the slogan of land for landless people. It encompassed the issue of land and livelihood for those 70 people who were employed in the Chengara plantation as well. Without addressing this issue, the group of goons entered the stage in the pretext of arguing for the plantation workers. We watched in utter shock how the united trade unions of CITU, INTUC, AITUC, BMS, HMS, KTUC, and UTUC have all come together, to evict Chengara protesters whom they shamelessly and conveniently termed a ‘bunch of thieves’. CITU district secretary, Rajagopal- a CPIM MLA has led this trade union blockade. None of these people ever uttered a word about the fact that the Chengara plantation is already out of the lease period and hence its continued possession by the Harrison’s need be questioned in the first place. Remember, this is a company who have acquired land on negligible lease, flouted the lease contract, by reselling the leased land and giving land on subsidiary lease against rules, and then continue to keep land illegally.
The Indian Independence struggle demanded the British to ‘quit India’. Today, the poor landless people of Chengara under the subaltern leadership is asking this London based company of Harrison’s to ‘quit India’. And the irony here is that the united trade unions and the CPIM leadership in Kerala are asking, ‘Harrison, please don’t go; give some of us some jobs, somehow’. Here the question arises, who represent the Indian citizens? If George Bush starts a tea shop in Kerala, I apprehend that Mr. Prakash Karat would say, ‘Bush, give us jobs’.
There is a saying in Kerala, namely, ‘to bring in the red mongoose in solemn procession’. This red mongoose refers to an old mongoose with hair gone and eye-sight diminished and has no actual strength to put to any use; because of having aged so much, it has become red and even big snakes fear it. So, the small mongooses who are afraid of snakes would take this red mongoose on their head and bring him in solemn procession to the snakes. Seeing the red mongoose, the snakes would run away. This is what the CPI M does and those who gulp their words do it for not any genuine content.
The CPI M responses to the Chengara struggle reveal their continued assault on democratic consciousness. The Chengara demands for right to resources and equal citizenship have been raised by the subaltern people to those who built their parties on their blood and sufferings. If the real workers of India could speak English language, how many Marxist party members would have been exposed day by day? Again, there is a proverb in Kerala which says, ‘if you don’t sit where you should be sitting, dogs will sit there’. How true in the context of the ‘workers’ government’ in Kerala. Yes, those who could not sit where they deserved to be sitting are the ones who conduct the struggle in Chengara.