Dr Sandeep Pandey
Unfortunately, much blood has flowed in Nandigram this year accompanied by rape and humiliation of many women. Members of families are separated, not knowing whether the separated ones are alive or dead.
At the last count ten to twelve thousand families are scattered, mostly living with their relatives, after the CPI-M activists armed to the teeth stormed Nandigram, accompanied by wanted criminals like Tapan Ghosh, Sukur Ali and Salim Laskar.
This time they did not even feel the need for taking the police along with them. The CPI-M) has regressed into a more fascist force and has displayed political arrogance not seen since the time when Indira Gandhi imposed the emergency. Important party functionaries do not like the interference of the High Court or the Governor in their attempts to terrorise the society into subjugation.
It was expected that after the decision to withdraw the SEZ, the Chief Minister would apologise for the March action. However, as it turns out now, he allowed his cadres to gain muscle power to retaliate with a vengeance. That he had lost both political and administrative control over Nandigram was something which had become a matter of prestige for his government and the party. But we must remember that Midnapore, along with Ballia in UP and Satara in Maharashtra, had responded to the call of ‘Quit India’ given in 1942 by the Congress convention in Mumbai. It had liberated itself from British rule. The British recaptured the three areas later.
As the CPM-led Left Front government had lost its credibility in the area and did not have the face to carry out a negotiated settlement of the dispute, it had to engineer a recapture in much the same way as the British would have done by bringing in an army.
But let us accept the fact that the CPI-M cadres who were forced to leave the area were the ones who had been threatening people to agree to give up their land for the proposed SEZ and were involved in beating, killing and raping the people of Nandigram.
Rather than trying to resolve the dispute by bringing the culprits to book, the Chief Minister supported the policy of paying back the ordinary villagers ‘in the same coin.’ It has been alleged that Maoists had infiltrated the area. And as proof, some arms and Maoist literature published in Telugu was shown to be confiscated.
The common sense question that comes to mind is: What relevance can Telugu literature, believed to have been published 20 years ago, have in West Bengal? There is no other proof of Maoist presence in the area. But the Chief Minister’s statement implies that violence was used in response to violence. Can a democratically-elected CM justify the use of violence by a non-state actor?
The fact of the matter is that violence was used on both occasions, March and November, by the CPI-M cadres. The violence unleashed by the Bhumi Uchched Pratirodh Committee, the organisation formed by villagers to resist the land takeover by the government, was in self defence. The CPI-M cadres had the backing of the government whereas the villagers associated with BUPC had to fend for themselves.
The police is believed to have looked the other way while the CPI-M cadres accompanied by the hooligans went on the rampage, in a manner reminiscent of Gujarat 2002.
The targeting of women by the CPI-M cadres is simply beyond comprehension. It is not clear what ‘coin was being paid back’ when women, some of them pregnant, were raped. Unofficial figures put the number of rape cases at more than 100. Even after the CRPF has entered the area, news about one or two rapes everyday continues to filter in.
Brinda Karat says that no rape has taken place in Nandigram. Either she is completely unaware of the ground realities or her transformation into an opportunist politician is complete. In a culturally more advanced state like West Bengal the indulgence of the CPI-M cadres, who are supposed to be sensitive, ideologically groomed and prepared to fight all manner of injustice, crimes against women has come as the most shocking aspect of the Nandigram violence. The All India Democratic Women’s Association, the women’s organisation associated with the party, will now fund it difficult to raise its voice against injustice to women.
Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee should resign taking moral responsibility for the manner in which women have been made victims by his party cadres. But that is not going to happen. Neither will the UPA government dismiss him.
The turn of the events has resulted in a very unholy alliance between the UPA and Left Front. The Congress has decided to ignore the incidents in Nandigram in exchange for the much sought after support of the CPI-M and its allies on the Indo-US Nuclear Deal.
Immediately after the Nandigram recapture the Left Front gave its approval to the UPA government to proceed with its negotiations with the IAEA. Thus the two political groups, for their respective vested interests, are completely jeopardising the people’s interest.
The West Bengal government has given rise to a constitutional crisis by subverting the democratic functioning of the state and virtually handing over of the state to its party cadres. It has also created a political crisis for the people of this country.
Post-Nandigram, the Left parties have been bracketed with parties that rely on criminalisation of politics to win elections and are fascist in their thinking. With the essential character of all parties, from the political spectrum of the Right to the Left, having become anti-people and anti-democratic what choice do the people have in this democracy? Is it the end of democracy as we know it? Or is the civil society’s protest in West Bengal, backed by large number of common people, intellectuals, artists, writers and social activists going to provide a solution?
3 December 2007