The dual danger-1

The dual danger~I
Dr Sandeep Pandey

I was in Kolkata on 14 February 2007, to attend a meeting of the Anti-Nuclear Forum organised against the proposed nuclear power plant at Haripur in East Midnapore. Not as much in the news as Singur and Nandigram, Haripur had also thrown up a challenge to the Left Front government. Officials from the Atomic Energy Commission were not allowed to visit the area for inspection by the local people.

Shyamali Mitra, an artist, who spoke at the meeting in Kolkata talked about the state having become fascist in West Bengal. It was a jolt to me. I could not visualise a Left party or government as fascist. So far, I had associated the idea of fascism only with Right-wing politics.

But people in Kolkata were talking about a government with fascist tendencies. We were told that the proceedings of every citizens’ meeting was reported to the government. Punitive action was taken by the CPI-M cadres against anybody seen as acting against the interest of the party. Trina
mul Congress activists were facing oppression at the hands of CPI-M cadres.

I returned from Kolkata with a feeling that my state UP or probably Bihar too, even with their highly publicised state of lawlessness, provide more democratic space for dissent than West Bengal. Not too long ago, Mulayam Singh Yadav’s police also lathicharged the farmers whose land was being taken away for a SEZ in Dadri where Reliance was supposed to set up a power plant. When Mulayam Singh faced bitter criticism for his anti-farmer stance, he decided to put things in cold storage. But the overconfident West Bengal government persisted with their project in Nandigram.

We saw a face of Left fascism as we had never expected to see. Even though only 14 people were killed on 14 March and about 30 went missing, which is much smaller compared to the figures of Gujarat after the Narendra Modi patronised violence in 2002, one cannot but help compare the two unfortunate incidents. Whereas in Gujarat the police turned a blind eye while the Hindutva brigade went on the rampage, killing and raping Muslim citizens, in West Bengal the police was directly used to fire upon people and CPI-M cadres were reportedly wearing police uniform and firing alongside. A CBI investigation had revealed some police helmets along with the CPI-M flag and literature at one place. Did we hear of any RSS or BJP worker wearing a police uniform and killing a Muslim in Gujarat?

The idea of fascism is associated with a group which has a sectarian thinking and doesn’t believe in democracy. It thinks of itself as superior to others. The Right-wing Hindutva group clearly fits the definition. It is unfortunate that they have used the freedom and flexibility offered by Indian democracy to capture political power through the backdoor.

Kalyan Singh, reneging on his promise given to the nation just before the Babari Masjid demolition, has also demonstrated that they have scant regard for the Constitution. Ideally, no party or group believing in sectarian ideology (catering to only one segment of the population at the cost of other) should be allowed to operate in a democracy. However, for the time being the Hindutva brigade gets to use emotional, nationalist and religious issues, which are potentially explosive, to further its politics.

The CPI-M, also by its actions, has increasingly begun to fit the description of a fascist force. They have come to believe in the infallibility of their ideology, so much so that they do not care about any other viewpoint. They did not feel the need to undertake a democratic consultative process with the people either in Singur or in Nandigram before deciding on the projects which were proposed there.

It remains mysterious why, going against the proposed National Rehabilitation Policy which suggests that developmental projects should be initiated at places which will either cause no displacement or minimum possible displacement, projects were conceived in Singur and Nandigram which are agriculturally very fertile lands and would have resulted in very painful and large scale displacements. Although the Chief Minister, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has accepted the mistake of his government in Nandigram, we are still waiting for an apology from him, just like we are waiting for an apology from the US government for using nuclear bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki and from the BJP for what it did in Gujarat. Only Sonia Gandhi has apologised for the Operation Bluestar.

Moreover, in Kerala, we saw how blatantly disregarding the opinion of their Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan, the CPI-M party decided to get the cabinet approval by ‘consensus’ for an ADB loan. The party seems to be losing its tolerance for democracy. This is why it is now betraying fascist tendencies.

The people of India now face the dual danger of fascism ~ one from the Right and another from the Left and they’ll have to confront both.

On 22 March Medha Patkar and 61 other activists belonging to Action-2007 ~ a forum against the anti-people policies of the government ~ went to the Planning Commission and were lathicharged and arrested. The Deputy Chairman, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, has sent a message to those who protested against the arrest of Medha Patkar, saying that these activists had arrived unannounced without a prior appointment and had forced their way into the Yojana Bhawan. They were first politely requested to disperse but they continued to create disturbance. The security personnel informed the local police and the police took action as they thought fit.

If Montek Singh Ahluwalia were to put himself in the position of people of Singur, Nandigram, Dadri or any of the places where development projects or SEZs are being imposed unannounced, he would face the same set of grievances against the government as he has expressed against Medha Patkar and the activists. And this is when the Yojana Bhawan is not even his permanent home and the activists were not taking away his land or causing a threat to his job.

The cold logic of development combined with the fascist attitude of governments is resulting in insensitivity towards the people, in whose name exist the political parties as well as the Planning Commission.

(To be concluded)

The Statesman
Sunday, 2 December 2007

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