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Monday, November 19, 2007

Paying Back in Costly Coins

“All quiet on the western front” seems to be the apt epithet for Nandigram going by the silence in its air which was resonating with gunfire till a few days back. As the apparent tragedy of us all living under a “just” Government settles into our conscience let me digress a bit to vent my then-exasperated-now-consolidated sense of shock and hurt at what happened in Nandigram.

We all know that the brutal retaliation by CPI (M) cadres was prompted by their state of homelessness for the past eleven months. Desperate in their bid to return to home and hearth they organized a clinical purge of the ‘occupying forces’ (read BUPC). Coupled with the complete breakdown of civil administration and the rule of law “something” had to be done from the Govt’s side to restore normalcy in the region. So, going by the ‘stated’ explanation issued from Writer’s Building, owing to the culmination of such serious factors it became imperative for initiation of a calculated and ruthless crackdown. ‘Installation of peace’ was the primary objective. The casualties were all collateral damage.

Point taken. And Rejected.

Any average informed person on the street would pose questions that ‘Alimuddin Street’ might grapple to answer on this issue. The structure of the argument would roughly be in the following format:

  • Even after repeated assurances from the Chief Minister that the chemical hub would be shifted to some other place (Nayachar) the Haldia Development Authority did not withdraw the letter proclaiming land acquisition. Going by the Singur fiasco, no wonder that the farmers had scant trust in mere words. Repealing that letter of intent to acquire lands would have precluded all allegations by the Opposition and vacated the need for putting up resistance to police intervention in Nandigram and adjoining areas.

  • Why is the Govt. hell-bent on industrializing farmlands at all? Food security cannot be relegated while prioritizing industry. Land-reforms being the single largest poll-plank over the years for the Communists it is imperative for them not to embrace industrialization at the cost of agriculture. Such blatant digression from their manifesto equally concerns their partners and detractors. Industry has to come up, plants need to be installed. But, not by being indifferent to the farmers and their livelihood. There are large tracts of unfertile land where plants might emerge and run smoothly. Why isn’t the Govt. putting its foot down on reallocating land to more conducive places in front of the demanding Corporate giants? Commerce cannot take precedence over basic human needs one must acknowledge. And its high time ‘Brand Buddha’ does.

  • The present Chief Minister, a favorite with the city based intelligentsia (not so long ago), was lauded when he headed for ‘Industry Road’ disregarding firm opposition from certain quarters in his own party. In a way ‘Brand Buddha’ enjoyed unanimous support on his progressive policies. But somehow the forward-looking man in him succumbed to misjudgment, insisting on giving away large tracts of fertile land to the obstinacy of TATAs in Singur. Nandigram was even worse. Blood on police’s hands did not simplify matters and pressed with political compulsions in the form of upcoming Panchayat elections he had no choice. The only choice he was left with was a spate of bloody turf-wars to regain lost ground. That’s what he would have us believe. But no Sir. One always has a choice. Especially when one has to decide if to hand over restive parts to the CRPF to call in order or to ascent to a calculated carnage where party cadres rape, loot and ransack at will, only to stamp their authority as the ruling party. The man’s image has been sullied. And though public memory is short, the bloody scarlet of the Red flag might not always evoke images of the Great Revolution from now on. It might just be gory images from Khejuri and Garchakraberia that the 'Hammer and Sickle' would stand for.

  • As news of the orchestrated pogrom filtered out from within the guarded corners of Nandigram the media aired it with an impassioned plea; unprecedented coming from quarters where Left-propensities are far too apparent. Intellectuals organized a historic march in condemnation of Govt. complicity and Kolkata saw the first congregation of its kind where thousands gathered by mere word of mouth; people came to condemn an atrocity, to vent outrage and all rallied under a strictly apolitical banner of ‘Humanity’. As an incredible counter-measure intellectuals sympathetic to the Govt. staged a rally to convey their solidarity and support. Even the Rain Gods couldn’t help but mar their march to shame that day. The CPI (M) in the name of a Peace-Rally organized a show of strength out of hired mobs the next day and' seasoned Marxists' breathed fire on non-conformists. Even the Governor’s non-partisan credentials were questioned. Was that not an act of abject desperation? Was that not prompted by a now permanent sense of power becoming synonymous with tyranny that a party state-secretary had the audacity to publicly question the political orientation of the Governor of the State? And that too because he condemned an act of terror as ‘unlawful and unacceptable’?

Show me a thriving democracy and I will show you a place where power doesn’t rot in the security of permanence.

Photos: Courtesy:,