As close to 8.5 lakh voters spread over 35 Assembly constituencies go to vote today in the last phase of Bengal’s elections, the line from the famous jatra Nabab Siraj-Ud-Doula from which the title of this post is extracted, haunts. The original ‘jatra pala’, written by Sachin Sengupta was staged in 1938 had a dialogue that announced the dark clouds collecting at Bengal’s horizons. The lines ‘Banglar akashe aaj durjoger ghanaghata/ Taar shyamal prantore rakter alpona’ have since resounded in the many iterations of the play, over the decades. The figures of Siraj-Ud-Daula and the traitor Mir Jafar have generally become part of Bengal’s political vocabulary but this time round the sense of Bengal being under attack from ‘outsiders’ has been pervasive. Along with that other episode of political folklore – repeated attacks by the borgis or the plunderous cavalrymen of the Maratha Empire, on Bengal has been recalled often. The attacks by the borgis were followed, only a few years later, by the Battle of Plassey (Palashi), in which Siraj-Ud-Daula was defeated after Robert Clive bribed Mir Jafar, his army commander, to betray the Nawab.
This time round too, it is widely believed, the aggression by ‘outsiders’ cannot and will not succeed but for the Mir Jafar’s who collaborate with the aggressors.
As the news of the killings of four youth in Sitalkuchi in Cooch Behar district by the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) came in on 10 April, reactions of horror and anger became evident all around. This reaction among politically informed sections was only natural, for anybody with a little bit of common intelligence will tell you that the BJP is making an all out bid to capture power in the state. And anyone who has watched the Modi-Shah duo in action over the past few years, does not need to be told what this means. It is always ‘Heads I win; Tails you lose’ with them. It doesn’t matter what dirty trick you have to play, all is fair in this game of capturing power with them. They will form the government, no matter who wins but first, every effort has to be made to ‘win’ by any means. And that means by ANY means, ranging from killing people by engineering violent communal incidents to buying off opposition parties’ winning legislators. Despite the full battery of BJP’s star campaigners ranging from Narendra Modi and Shah to Yogi Adityanath making repeated visits to the state, their rallies have seen very low turnout and in some instances meetings had to be cancelled. So the desperation is growing. The first four of the unprecedented eight rounds in the state’s elections were to be in the areas where TMC is relatively weak. But even in these areas the reports were not very encouraging for the BJP. Thus, every child in Bengal could see what these killings meant. Except the CPI-M that is.
Soon the story of the killings was being given a typically BJP IT Cell spin: a mob of Muslim TMC people surrounded the CISF and tried to snatch their rifles. This was followed by identical tweets by a range of people describing how they could not sleep all night because of the sounds of the explosion of bombs, suggesting that things had been going on all night – and the CISF action in the morning was therefore, only justified.
Seasoned CPI-M stalwarts on Twitter apparently neither saw those tweets or more likely, jumped at them to immediately amplify the BJP narrative of provocation by TMC (Muslim mob is often implied). It is certainly not possible that anybody with a little bit of common sense would not have immediately seen this copy paste job for what it was – a BJP IT Cell operation. The CPI-M leaders and their social media warriors went on, willfully, to reinforce the ‘provocation’ narrative that was being circulated by the BJP.
Meanwhile, many people including poll analysts and former bureaucrats started asking that if there really was an irate mob attacking the CISF party, where was the footage? Was there any video evidence? No such question crossed the CPI-M leaders’ minds and from all appearances, from Biman Bose to Mohd Salim (and the pathetic Sujan Chakrabarty) pushed ahead with not-so-subtle ways of relaying the BJP narrative and indeed, it was not difficult to discern that they were in fact, gloating.
This public statement is for immediate release. Please see the names of the signatories at the end.
The news of continuous violence on a daily basis coming from West Bengal is deeply disturbing. Journalists have been attacked by the members of the ruling party, school teachers are being asked to prove their loyalty to the new ruling dispensation failing which they are being barred from doing their duty and are made target of systematic physical violence.
People suspected of affiliation with the CPM are facing extortion threats and cases have been reported where they have been denied access to the means of their livelihood. Legitimate oppositional politics is not tolerated. Not only are ordinary members of the CPM being attacked, even senior leaders are not spared . Recently an ex-MLA of the CPM along with another leader was killed in a mob-violence led by the members of the ruling Trinamul Congress. Processions are not allowed. There have been incidents of intimidation by the ruling party to the supporters of the recent bandh call given by different trade unions. Continue reading Stop the Cycle of Revenge and Violence in West Bengal→
Text of statement by Jairus Banaji, Sukumar Muralidharan, Dilip Simeon, Satya Sivaraman and Rohini Hensmanendorsed by 224 others.
In a minor replay of 1989 and the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Indian media have been gloating at the defeat of the Left Front in West Bengal especially and have repeatedly suggested that this signals the ‘end of the Left in India’. Even at the best of times our news channels tend to avoid serious analyses of the underlying trends within the country, since they have transformed the news itself into a form of entertainment on models surpassed only by the U.S. news networks.
For its part the CPI(M) leadership has been at pains to minimise the significance of the defeat (in Bengal especially) and said that it would be wrong to write off the Left. For them ‘the Left’ means the Left Fronts in Bengal and Kerala and of course chiefly the CPI(M) itself. They stress the fact that they still retain a considerable vote share, just over 40% in West Bengal for example, and there is indeed some truth in this claim.
[As this report is filed, reports have come in that the CPI-M has finally managed to enter Lalgarh and hold its first public meeting since 2 November 2008, when the police first arrested seven young students from Lalgarh, sparking off a revolt. No machine guns were fired, no mines were blasted – even though we are supposed to believe that the area is a ‘liberated area’ of the Maoists. See our earlier report, written soon after the revolt began. Even as we post this, more reports – mostly from West Bengal government and police sources, are being suddenly being published of ‘unrest’ spreading to ‘more Maoist areas’, and an atmosphere is sought to be created for an eventual justification of government and party sponsored violence.]
Assembly in Lalgarh – Armed Maoists? Photo: courtesy sanhati.com
For five months now Lalgarh has been practicing a unique form of democratic politics. To the ruling CPI-M in West Bengal and the big media however, it has been nothing but a Maoist-sponsored agitation with portents of Maoist style violence. Except Bengal media, national print and television, have by and large kept Lalgarh out of their ambit of coverage. If at all news has trickled in, it has come tagged with ‘Maoists’ and ‘violence’; as if tribals in this forgotten part of Medinipur, the past five months, have been stocking up arms and laying ambushes to wage a war against the state.
A front-page article in the Times of India (TOI) today (April 22, 2009) sticks to this format describing Lalgarh as “Nandigram II, a liberated zone” where an explosive situation is building up with elections scheduled for April 30 and the Pulishi Santrash Birodhi Janashadharaner Committee (People’s Committee against Police Atrocities) refusing to allow the police to enter Lalgarh. “The police can’t enter here. Nor are other government officials welcome. This has been the situation for the last six months.”
[Guest post by MONOBINA GUPTA. As things begin to change on the ground in West Bengal, the irresponsible attempts by both the Maoists and the Trinamool Congress, to take over and ‘represent’ the popular discontent, in order to legitimize their own brand/s of politics, can only benefit the CPI-M. The alternative to the CPI-M, it might appear, are the Maoists – a sure put off , even for large sections supporting the Singur and Nandigram struggles. AN]
A deadly ambush executed by Maoists earlier this month has given the badgered West Bengal chief minister a god-sent opportunity to deflect attention from the burgeoning resistance in Nandigram-Singur to the more chilling phenomenon of ‘red terror.’
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? Continue reading The red mongoose in solemn procession: Samkutty Pattomkary→