Tag Archives: West Bengal

Lalgarh, Media and the Maoists: Monobina Gupta


[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
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.”

Continue reading Lalgarh, Media and the Maoists: Monobina Gupta

Are the Tatas not to be blamed for the Singur fiasco at all?

Since even the chief minister of Bengal admits that violence was used in Singur to acquire land against the wishes of farmers who owned and/or worked it, there’s virtually nobody who claims otherwise (except our favourite newspaper).

So the line that goes is that it is the state government which botched it up. If only you had allowed the Tatas to acquire land on its own, if only the land acquistion act didn’t require the Evil State to acquire the land… market forces of demand and supply would have prevailed. Continue reading Are the Tatas not to be blamed for the Singur fiasco at all?

Breakthrough in Singur?

Dear all,

(Adapted from a recent post made on the Reader List)

Kafila has in the past discussed the debacle of Nandigram in West Bengal and more recently, Singur.

For the past several days, a peaceful agitation on the Durgapur expressway near the Tata Motors Factory site in Singur in West Bengal has protested against the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation and the West Bengal Government’s decision not to engage with the demands of the farmers and others who did not voluntarily accept the paltry compensation offered to them by the WBIDC for the loss of their land or their livelihoods.

At the close of last night, the Governor of West Bengal, Gopal Krishna Gandhi announced that a solution acceptable to all (the protesting farmers at Singur and the Government of West Bengal) has been found, and that Ms. Mamata Bannerjee of the Trinamool Congress (one of the key protagonists of the Singur protest) would announce that the agitation at Singur would be suspended.

This is good news, as it demonstrates that hitherto unwilling and insensitive governments that try to ride roughshod over people in the interests of capital can be made on occasion to listen to organized and peaceful  expressions of peoples’ dissent. The CPI(M) led Left Front Government of West Bengal seems to have learnt at least some lessons from the fallout of its earlier shameful and anti-democratic conduct in Nandigram. This is welcome. It can only be hoped that the CPI(M) leadership takes stock,  learns to listen more to people, and indeed to many from amongst their own cadre who have been unhappy about the way in which their party brokered unfair land deals for Capital.

The people of Nandigram had based their struggle on what they had learnt from the earlier phase of the Singur situation. It appears today that the people of Singur have benefited from the restraint shown by a government and ruling party chastened by its mismanagement of the situation in Nandigram. The people of Singur owe their current sense of respite to a great extent to the people of Nandigram and their struggle.

Though it may be premature to call this ‘breakthrough’ a victory for peasants and working people, it is certainly reason to believe that not every struggle conducted by ordinary people over land, resources and livelihood is doomed to failure. This news should raise the hopes of all those committed to protest against unjust land aquisition and transfer moves – be they in Orissa, Haryana, Kerala, Goa, Kashmir or elsewhere.

See a PTI report in the Hindu that gives more details of the agreement.



Singur, Mediotics and an NGO Called Indian Express

[Note: Television was often referred to as the the idiot-box. For very sound reasons. It produced idiocy on a regular basis. It still does. But in these days, this is no longer the monopoly of the televisual media. Newspapers too are doing pretty much the same. Let us call this specific form of media-generated idiocy, rampant among media persons, mediocy and the phenomenon, mediotics. Those affected by it will then be mediots.]

I know that someone will immediately step in to correct me to say that Indian Express is not an NGO. But if one looks at the completely illiterate use of the term made by the Indian media, then anything that is not ‘governmental’ is ‘non-governmental’ and can, hence, be called an NGO. Except that for the large mass of ignoramuses peopling the media i.e. mediots, this is a safe term to describe an animal that you cannot identify. Continue reading Singur, Mediotics and an NGO Called Indian Express

Nuclear Deal, ‘National Interest’ and the Indian Left – PK Sundaram

It is the Indian left’s concurrence, rather than its disagreement, with the idea of a nuclear future (including nuclear weapons) that has made its case weak and inaudible to the larger masses.

Contextualizing the deal

In a charged atmosphere produced by the backers and opponents of the deal both pitching their positions in terms of ‘national interests’, it would be necessary not to lose sight of its broader meanings and implications.

In its essence, the deal is about opening up of the restrictions over nuclear commerce put on India after its 1974 ‘peaceful nuclear tests’. Though initiated and facilitated by the United States, this move will provide India access to international markets in nuclear fuel, material and technology, in accordance to the safeguards and guidelines of the IAEA and the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). While it would imply huge imports from the US, the deal also removes international fetters on nuclear trade with other countries including Russia, China, France and Australia whose corporations would get major business orders from India once the deal comes into effect.

Read the full article here.

Under Development: Singur

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

Fear of the Unfamiliar: Responding to Patnaik – Partho Sarathi Ray

[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.

Continue reading Fear of the Unfamiliar: Responding to Patnaik – Partho Sarathi Ray