All posts by Aditya Nigam

The Visible and The Invisible – Abhay Dube

Modes of Representation in Hindi Fiction

I must confess at the outset that I was a bit afraid when I begin to look for the literary representations of Ambedkar in Hindi creative writing. I thought that I am in for a business fraught with a kind of ‘political correctness’ not known for its introspective qualities. And, I had sound reasons to think so. In the world of Hindi speakers the impact of Ambedkar and his discourse is being felt lately both as a source of literary imagination as well as a potent force in politics. Therefore, a possibility of a linear narrative for and against the formation of dalit political community can easily have diminishing effect on the power of literary expression. While surfing for evidence, to my pleasant surprise, what I encountered was far more complex world of themes, situations, tropes, images and opinions. Another gratification I enjoyed from the fiction of last ten years, published or otherwise, belongs to the nuances of the inner voice echoed by the restless self of literary artist on the both sides of the fence, dalit and the non-dalit. Going by the traditions of cultural materialism I venture to say that in the dalit/non-dalit interface of Hindi literature, the power structure created by the dalit political practices is being subjected to a stern critique. Instead of providing the comfort zone it always looks for assuring its legitimacy, existing dalit political community finds a virtual battleground full of constant skirmishes on the pages of literature. A dialectic is already there to be seen as emerging. Contrary to the experience of Maharashtra, where a rich legacy of dalit literature never found a commensurate political success, it seems that North Indian shenanigans of dalit political power have of late created cultural conditions that leave the whole process open to the counter-narratives. In fact, I consider it as a classical situation producing the counter-narratives of emancipation suggesting different social possibilities within a discursive terrain of Ambedkar.

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NAPM Report: To Nandigram via Singur

A Preliminary Report on the Struggle and Violence in Nandigram

[Sometime ago (28 January 2007), CPM general secretary, Prakash Karat, had written in People’s Democracy against ‘the likes of Medha Patkar’ and those whom he called ‘modern day Narodniks’, for opposing the industrialization of West Bengal. The burden of Karat’s song in that piece was that what he called ‘the single-issue crowd’, was unbale to see the big picture – the Totality, as his marxist faith would have it. It is interesting that this point has never been responded to though it continues to be part of marxist understanding for a very long time. It might be worth keeping this in mind while reading the following report. The questions raised by it link up the immediate question of land acquisition with the question of ecological impact of making a chemical hub on the rivers Haldi and Hooghly; the question of livelihoods linked to fisheries with those of a larger development paradigm. Clearly, when the impact of global warming is beginning to be seen right here, this looks certainly like a much more holistic view, in comparison to that which can see nothing but industrialization and capitalism as the only reference point. – AN]

Nandigram has come on to the country’s map within a few months old struggle as also killing and atrocities during last few days of this New Year. The people’s determination not to give away their lands full of paddy, coconut and palm trees, ponds and fisheries for the two SEZs upcoming in Midnapore was expressed through many a demonstration including the Mahasabha on December 8th 2006. The Ganaunnayan Janadhikar Sangram Committee, an alliance of 22 peoples’ organizations including Jamat–e-Ulema–Hind, National Alliance of People’s Movements, Hindu Muslim Friendship and others, was formed in 2004 when 5000 acres of land, mostly of Muslim farmers, was to be acquired for the same Salim Industries in ‘Bhangad’, on the outskirts of Kolkata. The struggle is still on. The same committee, with statewide coverage took up the issue of Nandigram, about three months back, and the struggle began. A peaceful struggle in this region known for the historical contribution to the freedom movement and Tebhaga movement, picked up quite fast and with a clear perspective.

The people’s viewpoint is: ‘No destruction of agriculture based livelihoods and communities is necessary and inevitable for industrialization’; ‘no justification to set up a chemical hub on the banks of two rivers Hugli and Haldi’ and ‘no consent’ to a project undemocratically planned with impending forcible acquisition of 38,873 acres of prime land and habitats on the same’. It has helped convey the strength and unity as also a challenge to the state government of West Bengal and the SEZ approving authorities at the Center.

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Nagarik Mancha on West Bengal Land for Nuclear Plant

[In the current issue (28 January 2007) of the central weekly ‘organ’ of the CPM, People’s Democracy, party general secretary, Prakash Karat takes ‘the modern-day Narodniks who claim to champion the cause of the peasantry’ to task for opposing the historic task of industrialization. Inculded among these ‘modern day narodniks’ are ‘the likes of Medha Patkar’ and many other ‘Left intellectuals and progressive personalities’ apart from the hated naxalites, of course – all of whom have ‘ganged up’ with the Trinamool Congress, BJP and the Congress. Mr Karat is saddened by the this development but nonetheless ends up admonishing these Left intellectuals and asking them to ‘ponder on the question of why they have placed themselves in the company of the virulent anti-Communist gang in West Bengal and CPI(M)-baiters in the big business-run media’.We will reserve a more detailed comment on the series of points – alibis, to be more precise – made by the CPM leader for a later occasion. For the present pardon us for simply asking whether Karat thinks his company – that of the Tatas, the Salim group, and indeed the Ananda Bazar/Telegraph, is that of some ‘pro-communist’ philanthropists? Indeed, the tone and tenor or Mr Karat’s piece is at once pathetic and arrogant. Witness his attempts to argue that West Bengal is caught in a strange predicament and “will have the basic features of a liberalised capitalist economy” and so, “Those who believe that it can be otherwise are only deluding themselves” he admonishes. Well, Mr Karat, it is not everybody else’s problem that the CPM in West Bengal (and indeed in Kerala, if the ADB loan story is anything to go by) has painted itself into a corner.

Be that as it may, many of Karat’s points call for a longer discussion, if not for his sake, at least for that of those who are still hoping to find a way out – and such people are there in his own party – of this delightful corner. For the present, we present without comment, Karat’s definition of ‘Narodniks’ that appears in a note at the end of the article, that will provide enough food for thought, along with Buddhadeb’s letter to Sumit Sarkar and other misled Left intellectuals regarding the ‘end of history’ – without Tatas and the bourgeoisie, that is. He says:

Narodniks in late 19th century Russia believed that with the overthrow of Tsarism, a traditional village based communal system could go towards socialism. Considering capitalism and industrialisation regressive, they idealised the old peasant-village economy. Ultimately they resorted to individual terrorist actions against the Tsar and lost the sympathy of the peasants who were horrified by their actions (emphasis ours).

In the meantime, we present another story on the industrialization saga presented by Nagarik Mancha – AN]

BACKGROUND
Even as the Indo-US civilian nuclear deal was ‘under-consideration’, the Government of India decided to set up five coastal nuclear power projects in the country. A 12-member Site Selection Panel, under the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), visited a number of coastal districts in India during November 2006. The Site Selection Panel is said to have zeroed in on sites in Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and West Bengal. Based on its final report to be submitted to the Atomic Energy Commission, the Government of India will finally decide on the sites. Only after that the Central Government-owned Public Sector Undertaking, Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL), ‘spearheading’ India’s nuclear power programme, will undertake the job.

The NPCIL, the sole nuclear utility implementing authority, has a total of 16 operational plants with a capacity to generate around 3,900 MW, which is about 2.8% of the total electricity generated in the country. Seven more plants with a combined capacity of 3,000 MW are in advanced stages of construction, the first of which is expected to be operational by March 2007.
Continue reading Nagarik Mancha on West Bengal Land for Nuclear Plant

‘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.”

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Law, Primitive Accumulation and the CPM

Reading Marx in Singur

Marx opens his discussion of primitive accumulation, in the last section of Capital, Vol.I, by asserting that the origins of capitalist private property lie in ‘conquest, enslavement, robbery, murder’, even though, ‘(i)n the tender annals of Political Economy, the idyllic reigns from time immemorial.’

He further remarks that,

“The process…that clears the way for the capitalist system, can be none other than the process that takes away from the labourer the possession of the means of production; a process that transforms, on the one hand, the social means of subsistence and of production into capital, on the other, the immediate producers into wage-labourers.

He goes onto add that the so-called primitive accumulation is nothing else than the historical process of divorcing the producer from the means of production. Marx acknowledges that the process also embodies, alongside this enslavement and robbery, ‘their [the serfs’] emancipation from serfdom and from the fetters of the guilds.’ However, unlike his later day followers, he is not content to see only one side of this process. He pours scorn over ‘our bourgeois historians’ for whom ‘this side [the emancipatory side] alone exists’. In other words, even when he sees the emancipatory dimensions of Progress and Development, his moral revulsion against the violence and injustice of this process remains apparent. It is for this reason that, contrary to the somewhat uncritically celebratory tone of the Communist Manifesto, Marx is indignant: “…this history, the history of their expropriation, is written in the annals of mankind in letters of blood and fire.”

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Medha Patkar on Singur and the Subversion of Truth

[A few days ago, CPM leader Brinda Karat wrote a piece entitled “The Truth of Singur” – a somewhat sanitized version of which was published in The Hindu. In the uncensored version circulating on email, she claimed quite unabashedly, that while her party stood with the peasants, workers and sharecroppers of Singur, Ms Roy (the reference here to the demonstration at the CPM office should not be missed) “is in the companyof Ms Mamata Banerjee, George Fernandes and Rajnath Singh and a 19-party alliance led by them (Krishi Jami Raksha Committee – KJRC) and has supported their campaign of anti-communist calumny.” The problem of course is that “anti-communist calumny” here is only a displaced effect of the struggle against the Tatas and in other contexts, Reliance and others – in short, corporate robbery of peasants’ land. If the communists have decided to stand with the corporations in West Bengal then it should be the CPM’s problem – not Ms Roy’s or Ms Patkar’s (about whose “political acumen” too, Brinda K is contemptuous). Parenthetically, we might refer to the extremely sexist, patriarchal and patronizing statement of her politburo colleague Biman Bose who reportedly said that “Mamata is behaving like an adamant little girl”. And presumably criticizing that would be indulging in “anti-communist calumny” as well, Ms Karat? Meanwhile, why forget that Buddhadeb Bhattacharya also made “communist” statements like saying that Medha Patkar is an outsider who just keeps going to different places creating trouble. Would you have been able to form a single union anywhere in a single place without “outsiders” ? This is the language used by the real anti-communists – to attack political activists by calling them “outsiders” is precisely anti-communist calumny. It just happens to be used by communists in this case! Apart from the matter of Singur, the fact is that Ms Brinda K’s piece confines itself to  the issue of compensation – a whole host of other issues that arise here are left unanswered. How can she or Biman babu for that matter, answer them? Medha’s response to the West Bengal government’s report raises, once again, all the issues that we need to keep in mind. – AN]

SINGUR: Looking Back, Looking Forward

Medha Patkar

Today when the world celebrates the 58th anniversary of the UN Charter of Human Rights as the International Human Rights Day, the people of Singur or Narmada or Raigad (Maharashtra), Dadri-Bajada (UP) cannot. They cannot be out of struggle for survival, for dignity, for life even for a moment to be able to breathe freedom and enjoy rights not just as citizens but as human beings.

The struggle of people of Singur continues at various fronts, ranging from the fasting group of women and men in Singur area itself to the one in Kolkata, from the everyday small and large actions by the representatives of various people’s organisations to the solidarity fora of the academics. It has gone beyond the heated Metropolis to the various districts of North & South Bengal since the voice raised from Singur is echoed in other places, why battlegrounds, and has
also effected other mass movements against similar onslaught of the corporatised State as in Midnapur district (against 2 SEZs & 1 Nuclear power plant). The prolonged violation of human rights and postponement of free, fair and informed dialogue on Singur is startling. A dialogue with a large alliance and network of people’s organisations, beyond electoral political allies or opponents of the West Bengal Government, could have been possible by now but for the over confident attitude and arrogance expressed by the West Bengal Government. The lack of initiative coming from anyone of the Left Front allies towards taking a serious cognizance and an urgent resolution through a decisive dialogue is certainly shocking.

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CPM In the Service of Capital

The cynicism of power, if you will, has got the so-called Left. In a sense, this is not very new – communists in power have always been diabolic to say the least. But this one takes the cake – pressed as it is in the service of capital. How else does one explain Sitaram Yechury’s insinuation that the entire struggle against forcible land acquisition in Singur, is motivated by corporate rivalry. How else can one read his statement that “There may be some whose interests would be hurt when the Rs 1 lakh car comes out. It is for the media to find out who could be behind all this”…There is of course a sense of deja vu in this cynical attempt to de-legitimize all opposition – such were the fairy stories fed to gullible followers about the soviet empire until one day, lo and behold! it vanished from the face of the earth.

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