Mamata Banerjee recently stirred up a fresh new controversy by accusing her former party colleague Suvendu Adhikari, now adversary in the Nandigram Assembly seat as BJP candidate, of being complicit in the 14 March 2007 violence. Had it not been for the complicity of the ‘father-son duo’ (Suvendu and his father Sisir Adhikari, both in the BJP now), she claimed in the heat of the electoral campaign, the police could not have entered Nandigram. She also asked rhetorically how it came to be that these two were spared by the police? To my mind, the claims seem difficult to sustain, if only because, the CPI(M) was at the height of its power and would have had little to do with these Trinamool Congress leaders. Listening to her speak, it did seem that she was quite rattled. Who would not be – with Amit Shah and central government on one side, the aggressive BJP goons in the state, her erstwhile collaborators now on the BJP side and, to cap it all, the aggressive, misogynist, patriarchal campaign against her from the CPI(M)? One meme by people obviously linked to the CPM, for instance, portrayed her witch-like, with a haggard and wicked expression, which was counter-posed to the young beauteous CPI(M) candidate Meenakshi Mukherjee. The meme describes Meenakshi as the ‘beloved daughter of Bengal’, while Mamata is described as the ‘old hag spinster sister-in-law’. (After a lot of hue and cry, this meme was taken off though the page continues to be on Facebook).Continue reading Nandigram – An Introduction to Political Analysis
Guest post by PRASENJIT BOSE
Far from transparently and decisively resolving the issues which plague the Party and the Left movement in India, the twenty first Congress of the CPI(M) has yielded a schizophrenic outcome. The purported ‘political line’ adopted by the Party Congress and the ‘unanimous’ choice of the new general secretary are quite contradictory, which will only perpetuate the ideological-political incoherence that has gripped the CPI(M) and may further contribute to its organizational disarray.
When the central committee of the CPI(M) met in October 2014 to discuss a medium term ‘review of the political tactical line’ (PTL) in the light of the electoral reverses suffered by the Party, a politbureau (PB) member had moved a dissent note on the document presented by the PB. That note had argued against the very need to review the PTL and had instead held faulty implementation of the political line driven by ‘subjectivism’ of the leadership mainly responsible for the setbacks suffered by the CPI(M), alongside persistent organizational deficiencies. The elevation of the dissident voice within the outgoing politbureau as the new general secretary of the party raises the question whether the ‘review of the political tactical line’ and ‘political resolution’ adopted in the Congress have the support of the majority within the party? Or will the ‘political line’ adopted in the Party Congress give way over time to political opportunism in the name of ‘flexible tactics’, with the CPI(M) joining hands with the discredited, anti-people Congress in the name of fighting the communal, big corporate-backed, reactionary Modi regime? Continue reading CPI(M)’s 21st Congress – A Schizophrenic Outcome: Prasenjit Bose
Guest post by RAVI SINHA
It is with considerable satisfaction and with a mild sense of accomplishment that we arrive at this moment. For those of us who have been a part of this process, it has been an exciting but difficult journey. One little climb is over. After every climb, howsoever small, one gains a view. And a view we have gained.
I speak of satisfaction, and of a sense of accomplishment. But, I also speak of trepidation. I do so because a climb much steeper and far more challenging begins from here.
We have gained a view, admittedly still hazy, but much clearer than the one we had in the valley we come from. Most of the climb, however, lies ahead of us.
Fortunately, it is not like climbing in the mountains. Fortunately, metaphors have their limitations. There, in the mountains, as you gain height, the air gets thinner and climbers begin to drop out. There, it gets lonely at the top.
The terrain of history is different. Climbing has a different meaning in the movement. Here, the air gets thicker as you climb higher. Here, you join others as you gain a clearer view. With clarity comes a higher but broader platform for unity.
Here, a summit is reached when an entire revolutionary class stands united in its resolve to overturn the status quo. Here, a summit is gained when an invincible mass of humanity comes together to bend the course of history. Continue reading A Future for the Left: Ravi Sinha
Sumit Sarkar, Tanika Sarkar, Dilip Simeon, Aseem Srivastava, Amita Baviskar, Amit Sengupta, Nandini Sundar, Satya Sivaraman and others
Nandigram: Punish the guilty, Pay compensation to victims now!
On the third anniversary of the horrific police firing in Nandigram, which occurred on 14 March 2007, we strongly condemn the failure of various state institutions to do justice to the victims and survivors of this violent attack on a peaceful mass movement.
Till date not a single police official, government bureaucrat or CPI (M) politician involved in the wanton massacre of peasants resisting forcible takeover of their land has been prosecuted. At least 14 people were killed in the incident and hundreds injured. Several independent inquiries and tribunals found that more than a dozen women had been sexually assaulted or raped. It is a matter of deep shame for Indian democracy that the men who were responsible for the barbaric violence – including persons in uniform and out of it – continue to roam with impunity.
The Calcutta High Court’s direction to the CBI to inquire into the violence in Nandigram on 14 March and to prosecute those responsible has not been carried out under various pretexts. These include litigation in the Supreme Court against this order, launched by the West Bengal government. That no clear judgment has been pronounced on this important issue till now only serves to lower the credibility of our judicial institutions. In light of the aftermath of the anti-Sikh carnage of 1984, we fear that as time goes on, evidence will be lost and witnesses intimidated. After some years, lip service will be paid to judicial procedure and the criminals will go scot-free. Such a sabotage of justice has happened before in West Bengal.
Continue reading Three Years of Nandigram Firing: An Appeal
Violence has erupted once again. This time in Khejuri – a place in the vicinity of Nandigram, which was the base from where the CPI(M) launched its operation ‘recapture Nandigram’ on 14 March 2007. This was the red fort where the arms were collected and the goons brought in to liberate Nandigram. As one news report had put it:
‘Along with arms and ammunition, CPM flags and helmets of the kind worn by police were seized from the hideout, triggering suspicion that the men had donned uniforms and joined security forces on the day of the firing. Cellphones found on them showed they were in touch with senior CPM leaders, sources said.’
Khejuri is also the place where, just a little over a month ago, violence had flared up again. This time it was followed by the killing of Prasanta Mondol and the alleged rape of his wife. Prasanta Mondol was one of those who had left the CPI(M) two months ago and become one of the important Trinamool Congress (TMC) leaders in Khejuri. The spiral unleashed by that round of violence has continued through till after the election results were out. Continue reading Elementary Aspects of Popular Insurgency in West Bengal
NOTES FROM NANDIGRAM
This is a guest post by RAGHU KARNAD
May 17, 2009
Beauty is all about the details, and these beautiful election results keep parading out sweet new details for our appreciation. What I’m currently delighted about is the voters of Tamluk in West Bengal dispatching their Communist MP, Lakshman Seth.
Seth has been in the Lok Sabha since 1998, stashin’ away the crores and adding fortifications to his eerie headquarters in Haldia. People say he did a good job of developing the Haldia port. Sure enough, if the business of America is business, then the industriousness of Lakshman Seth is directed purely towards industrialization. How come? Seth is also Chairman of the Haldia Development Authority. Because he allegedly gets a cut out of every industrial operation on his turf (what we dissertation-writers call ‘rent-seeking’). There’s a theory that this is why Nandigram was chosen as the site for the Salim plant, and why the resistance was so bitterly punished when the siege fell (but this is just very plausible hearsay).
CLASS STRUGGLES IN TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY INDIA
‘The chief executive officer of a Greater Noida-based gear manufacturing company [Graziano Transmissioni India Pvt Ltd, a subsidiary of an Italian TNC] was lynched to death inside factory premises on Monday, allegedly by a group of dismissed workers.’
‘“Around 125 dismissed workers armed with iron rods barged into the factory and went on rampage. They broke computers and machinery and smashed windowpanes. When Lalit tried to pacify them, they assaulted him with rods,” board of director Ramesh Jain told Hindustan Times.’ See report here
‘Companies in the area are known to employ contract labour in large numbers, though the law clearly states that such workers can be used only for non-core functions and not on the shop floor.’ says another report.
They’d never had it so good. Through the 1990s and into the 2000s, the party had gone on. Continue reading Graziano Transmissioni and the Cheer-Leaders of Capital
Tonight is the Night of the Long Knives – or Qatl ki Raat as they say in Hindustani. Indeed, it is not the night of the long knives of Nazi vintage – for that was carried out by Hitler against his own SA (the Nazi paramilitary organization), in one desperate power struggle. This is our very own CPI-M’s equally desperate power struggle – but directed outwards towards the struggling Dalit families in Chengara. Continue reading Qatl ki Raat – Watchout Tomorrow
Guest post by ANANT MARINGANTI
How far is Nandigram from Chengara ? If we take media coverage and internet buzz as indicators, they are on two different planets. The heat generated by Singur and Nandigram was enough to run a chain of mini power plants. All that the families in the Chengara holdout have managed to evoke is a few approving nods from here and there. Here is a partial inventory of reasons why this might be so.
1) Singur and Nandigram are protests against disposession. The bad guys in the two instances are high profile harbingers of neoliberal globalization. No less. Chengara is about staking a claim to a welfare provision that nobody takes seriously anymore. There are no easily identifiable bad guys here.
Red Flags of ‘Consent’/ Black Flags of Freedom and We, the Civil Society
guest post by TRINA NILEENA BANERJEE
(Written in Feb 2008)
The way towards Nandigram in November 2007 was fraught with a spectacle of flags.
I use the word ‘fraught’ deliberately – because as the journey progressed that autumn morning1, this proliferation of flags left me with a sense of mounting fear and apprehension. Continue reading Red and Black
National Commission for Women
4, Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Marg,
Subject: Torture and Rape of Women and Other Incidents in the Land Struggle at Chengara, Kerala
We urge your attention to the following incidents in Chengara, Kerala as they require your urgent intervention.
In the ongoing struggle for land in Chengara, there is escalating violence against the peaceful and democratic protest of the people. Here women are the most affected as they are the targets of brutal attacks by the workers of trade unions affiliated to leading political parties and also other hired henchmen of Harrison Malayalam Ltd. Many women have testified that the attacks happened right in the presence of the police. All these events seem to indicate a total breakdown of the state’s administrative machinery to redress the situation, which makes the intervention of external bodies like yours crucial.
AN APPEAL from the PANCHAMI DALIT FEMINIST COLLECTIVE, Kottayam, to join the march on August 14th, against sexual harassment and human rights violations at the site of the struggle for land at Chengara, Pathanamthitta, Kerala.
[Below is an urgent appeal from Chengara, Kerala, where a land struggle has been on for the past one year. There seems to be a general elite consensus about refusing citizenship to the 7500 landless families that have occupied government land there; more ominously, there seems to be also the determination to punish them. Since early August a road blockade has been going on led by the united front of trade unions defending the right of (eighty) workers in the occupied Chengara plantation. Apparently, there are also ‘criminal elements’- the trade unions and the police, poor things, know nothing of them – who have been violently stopping activists from reaching the settlement.The CPM intellectuals in Kerala are patiently waiting for ‘more and accurate’ information, as they were when some of us approached them proposing a protest around Nandigram last year. Reports of starvation, sickness,and sexual assault are reaching us from Chengara but there is no way we can get there.Now, what is this? A new form of illegal custody? A new form of sexual harassment in custody? On 14 August, dalit activists and organisations are planning a march to Chengara, and hopefully food and medical supplies can be taken there. Please circulate this appeal widely – we have to stop another Nandigram– JD]
A historic land struggle has been unfolding at Chengara in Pathanamthitta district, Kerala, involving about 7500 families, Continue reading Flashpoint Chengara: March Against Blockade Tomorrow
If you are in Kolkata between 27 June and 2 July, you may do well to visit the Seagull Arts and Media Resource Centre, Kolkata, for an exhibition of photographs of Singur. There will also be a panel discussion and a film festival. Continue reading Under Development: Singur
by PRASANTA CHAKRAVARTY
In the wake of the development debates around the nation, one witnesses an interesting array of articles—polemical as well as academic—that takes on headlong issues of political intervention by developing the terms of negotiation and deliberation in a certain direction. And that is the story of growing up—that democracy is the story of pragma, of mature understanding of the contestatory space. These are reminders that politics of good intentions is benign self-deception. Worse: it is apolitical, prophetic, self-indulgent.
[Political theorist Partha Chatterjee’s work has been the reference point for many contemporary theorizations of politics in India and others parts of the postcolonial world. Chatterjee has recently published an important essay, which we reproduce below. Many friends and colleagues in Kolkata and elsewhere have requested Kafila to provide the forum for this debate, considering the common interest that many of us have in issues raised here. Some reformulations by Chatterjee, especially in the aftermath of Nandigram, call for a more sustained political theoretical reflection. The article also raises issues directly related to questions of rural-to-urban migration that has seen some debate in Kafila lately. – AN]
Economic & Political Weekly
April 19, 2008 [Download PDF]
Democracy and Economic Transformation in India
With the changes in India over the past 25 years, there is now a new dynamic logic that ties the operations of “political society” (comprising the peasantry, artisans and petty producers in the informal sector) with the hegemonic role of the bourgeoisie in “civil society”. This logic is provided by the requirement of reversing the effects of primitive accumulation of capital with activities like anti-poverty programmes. This is a necessary political condition for the continued rapid growth of corporate capital. The state, with its mechanisms of electoral democracy, becomes the field for the political negotiation of demands for the transfer of resources, through fiscal and other means, from the accumulation economy to programmes aimed at providing the livelihood needs of the poor. Electoral democracy makes it unacceptable for the government to leave the marginalised groups without the means of labour and to fend for themselves, since this carries the risk of turning them into the “dangerous classes”.
The first volume of Subaltern Studies was published in 1982. I was part of the editorial group 25 years ago that launched, Continue reading Democracy and Economic Transformation – Partha Chatterjee
[Partho Sarathi Ray writes this response to Prabhat Patnaik. It was first published in Sanhati.]
A spectre is haunting the CPI(M)- the spectre of the People. All the powers of the old Left (or to borrow their term, the “organized Left”) have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise this spectre: Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and Prakash Karat, Prabhat Patnaik and N. Ram, party cadres and state police.
The first step in the process of exorcism is delegitimization. The resistance of the people of Singur and Nandigram has long been attempted to be delegitimized by attributing it to the so-called unholy alliance of the Trinamool Congress, Jamaat and the Maoists. That is familiar terrain, to
brand all opposition as the handiwork of right wing or ultra Left forces, and hence deny it’s political legitimacy. However, what was unfamiliar for the CPI(M) was “so many intellectuals suddenly turn(ing) against the Party with such amazing fury on this issue”. That tens of thousands of common people would accompany these intellectuals, many of them long time fellow-travellers and supporters of the Left Front, out on the streets in a spontaneous show of outrage and protest was something totally unfamiliar to the CPI(M), which has converted “the people” into a fetish. And, Prabhat
Patnaik’s essay seems to have been born out of a fear of this unfamiliar.
[This is my response to the article by Prabhat Patnaik circulating over on the Net. His original article can be read at the end of this response. We have reproduced it in full. – AN]
This piece could be read as a letter addressed to one of my former, esteemed, ideologue-theoreticians. As young students in the 1970s and 1980s, we often went to listen, starry-eyed, to this soft-spoken theorist expound on what we thought were complex issues of our times and come back mesmerized. Yes, Prof Prabhat Patnaik (PP) was one of our idols. Today he fell and smashed himself. And then something strange happened: the broken pieces rearranged themselves to reveal a frightful other face – the face of comrade stalin.
Since Patnaik has referred to all critics of the CPM as “anti-Left intellectuals”, and has also specifically referred to the letter signed by some of us (including me), I think it would not be wrong to assume that the entire article is also addressed, among thousands of others, to me (though I may be pardoned for assuming that a nacheez like me should even exist on his radar!). Since all those who had signed the statement may have their own responses to PP – and some might not legitimately wish to stoop to the level this once-saintly figure has – I must speak for myself here.
Sometime ago, former West Bengal finance minister and marxist economist Ashok Mitra had written a piece on the happenings in Nandigram. It appeared in Ananda Bazar Patrika and was subsequently translated into English and widely circulated. In that piece, Mitra had suggested “prominent economist and party comrade of the stature of Prabhat Patnaik is hounded” by the party leadership in Alimuddin Street. In a way, we sort of knew it; rather, we hoped it would be true. An intellectual like Prof Patnaik cannot possibly be a cog in the stalinist machine, even though he may have stepped in to sign dubious statements not so long ago. We had assumed that given the political history of stalinist Marxism with intellectuals who were maligned, denigrated, humiliated and finally put before the firing squad, Patnaik had made his ‘existential choice’ a la Georg Lukacs. Lukacs, one of the most brilliant philosophical minds, decided to remain in the ranks (the ‘camp of the people’, in Patnaik’s words) and become the voice of stalinism for decades thereafter. Need we recall the whole list of such people – intellectuals – who were thus repeatedly destroyed? And do we need to tell you that so far only fascism or Nazism has been able to compete with the communist record.
[We have received this second statement by Noam Chomsky, Tariq Ali and other signatories of the earlier letter on Nandigram. As will be evident, in this letter the authors have made some clarifications in response to the reactions they received from a range of people in India.
However, in the meantime, there has been a misrepresentation of what we thought was a private response from Prof Chomsky to the signatories of the statement issued by some of us (See the post Response to Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn et al on Nandigram). For instance, see the comment by Hindol Bhattacharya on the above post. Regarding that comment, we must clarify one point here: Prof Chomsky’s letter to us explained the situation in which he had felt compelled to issue the first statement, his explanation being that an earlier private email correspondence with some individual supporter of the ‘opposition’ had extracted one part of that correspondence and it was ‘used as a slogan in demos’. The person concerned could probably better clarify this situation, which is indeed unfortunate. We refrained from publicizing Prof Chomsky’s response to us, given this previous misuse by somebody of his private correspondence.
However, Mr Bhattacharya has now produced an extract from another mail (private? public? we do not know) supposedly from Prof Chomsky which runs thus:
“The statement that you saw has been grossly misinterpreted by segments of the Indian left. As those who responded know, but didn’t say, the statement was issued after members of the opposition took a phrase from a letter of mine expressing concern but saying that I did not know enough to support them, and manipulating it into a statement of support. The statement that I and others signed was in part a reaction to this misrepresentation.”
This is truly astonishing, for he wrote to us AFTER we sent him our response – as a response to our response. The charge therefore of “our knowing but not saying” is entirely unfounded. There are several different voices raising questions about the CPM – it is simply convenient to conflate all of them as “the opposition”.
The new statement by Chomsky et al is published below:]
We are taken aback by a widespread reaction to a statement we made with the best of intentions, imploring a restoration of unity among the left forces in India –a reaction that seems to assume that such an appeal to overcome divisions among the left could only amount to supporting a very specific section of the CPM in West Bengal. Our statement did not lend support to the CPM’s actions in Nandigram or its recent economic policies in West Bengal, nor was that our intention. On the contrary, we asserted, in solidarity with its Left critics both inside and outside the party, that we found them tragically wrong. Our hope was that Left critics would view their task as one of putting pressure on the CPM in West Bengal to correct and improve its policies and its habits of governance, rather than dismiss it wholesale as an unredeemable party. We felt that we could hope for such a thing, of such a return to the laudable traditions of a party that once brought extensive land reforms to the state of West Bengal and that had kept communal tensions in abeyance for decades in that state. This, rather than any exculpation of its various recent policies and actions, is what we intended by our hopes for ‘unity’ among the left forces.
We realize now that it is perhaps not possible to expect the Left critics of the CPM to overcome the deep disappointment, indeed hostility, they have come to feel towards it, unless the CPM itself takes some initiative against that sense of disappointment. We hope that the CPM in West Bengal will show the largeness of mind to take such an initiative by restoring the morale as well as the welfare of the dispossessed people of Nandigram through the humane governance of their region, so that the left forces can then unite and focus on the more fundamental issues that confront the Left as a whole, in particular focus on the task of providing with just and imaginative measures an alternative to neo-liberal capitalism that has caused so much suffering to the poor and working people in India.
Michael Albert, Tariq Ali, Akeel Bilgrami, Victoria Brittain, Noam Chomsky, Charles Derber, Stephen Shalom
Arundhati Roy articulated in her interview last night on IBN7, the deep suspicions of the “deep state” that many of us have harboured in our collective anti-national (and now apparently anti-left) bosom. How convenient that the violent anti-Tasleema protests have deflected the anger of the left-secular folks from Nandigram to Islamic fundamentalism. Arundhati responded to a question about whether she was claiming there was a conspiracy, by saying, quite correctly, that there doesn’t need to be anything as crude as that. But we know, people on the street know – there’s something way too convenient in the timing. Or, as she put it elsewhere, quoting a Hindi film song, “yeh public sab jaanti hai.”
Imagine my disappointment as a political theorist to discover that we don’t need to make any intellectual forays into the complex ways in which states “see” and “do”. There was a conspiracy, and it worked out like the the script of a bad street play, in which the villains mutter and grimace and do bad things in the dark of the night, while the good folk get all confused by the sudden transformation of their peaceful locality by dawn. (Life is in fact a bad street play, a realization I came to long ago).
As we have been discussing both Nandigram and the situation that Taslima Nasreen has found herself over the last few weeks, I thought that it might be interesting to listen in on a conversation that Karan Thapar has had with the writer Arundhati Roy that takes on both these questions. This interview was broadcast today on CNN IBN.
Transcript of Arundhati Roy interviewed on the treatment of Taslima Nasreen by Karan Thapar on ‘Devil’s Advocate’, broadcast this evening on CNN-IBN
The transcript was published on Sun, Dec 02, 2007 at 20:32, on the IBNlive.com website
A video of the interview is also available on the website.
Hello and welcome to Devil’s Advocate. How do India’s leading authors respond to the treatment given to Taslima Nasreen over the last 14 days? That’s the key issue I shall explore today with Booker Prize- winning novelist Arundhati Roy.
Karan Thapar: Arundhati Roy, let me start with that question. How do you respond to the way Taslima Nasreen has been treated for almost 14 days now?
Arundhati Roy: Well, it is actually almost 14 years but right now it is only 14 days and I respond with dismay but not surprise because I see it as a part of a larger script where everybody is saying their lines and exchanging parts.
In Wolfgang Becker’s film Good Bye Lenin set in East Germany at the time of the fall of the Berlin Wall, a young boy tries to protect his invalid mother from the shock of learning about the transformation that has overtaken their country. When despite his elaborate deception, she manages to see a television programme showing thousands of cheering Germans at the remnants of the wall, he tells her that the capitalist west has fallen, that refugees from West Berlin are pouring into the East, and that East Germany has welcomed them with open arms. And she believes him.
Thing is, there was no historical inevitability to the fall of communism. The story the boy tells his mother in Good Bye Lenin could well have been the way things went in history, but for the self-destructiveness of Stalinism – its hubris, its fetishization of a certain notion of industrialization and progress, its anti-democratic core, its contempt for the “people” it claimed to represent (or rather, the people it claimed to be.)