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Lest we forget – 10 years of ‘Operation Sunrise’ in Nandigram

“The ardour of Deepavali has been dampened in the whole state by the events in Nandigram. Several villages in Nandigram are oscillating from the deepest gloom to panic. Even as of 4pm this day, I have received phone calls from responsible persons in Nandigram saying that several huts are ablaze.

Large numbers of villagers have taken refuge in the local high school in Nandigram, bereft of food and personal security. At the time of writing, the most accurate description for Nandigram is the one used by our Home Secretary, namely, it has become a “war zone”. No government or society can allow a war zone to exist without immediate and effective action.”

These ominous words by then Governor of West Bengal, Gopal Krishna Gandhi, on November 9, 2007 are an indication of the large-scale horror and violence unleashed by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) in Nandigram. Ten years later, the Governor’s words still ring in our ears, reminding of the anarchist, dictatorial regime that once ruled Bengal.

 

The historic protest march in Kolkata on November 14, 2007

 

Nandigram had been on the boil since January, 2007, when the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee led government decided to set up a chemical hub in Nandigram and wanted to forcibly acquire land there. The same party, which was against SEZ elsewhere in India, was vocally supporting an SEZ for a private Indonesian company. Farmers reused to part with their land and the Party unleashed its harmad goons.

Things escalated when police opened fire on protesting farmers on March 14, 2007, killing 14 (official figures; villagers allege hundreds were killed and thrown into a nearby river). Villagers started fleeing their homes and for months, Nandigram became a ‘muktanchal’ (free zone) for CPI(M) cadres. By the end of October, 2007 when the villagers started returning home, the harmads launched a ‘recapture’ spree that led to unprecedented violence.

“Nandigram has become a slaughter house with blood being shed every day. CPM might be at the helm of affairs but the state still belongs to us,” said National Award winning director Aparna Sen, who along with the likes of Rituparno Ghosh, Bratya Basu, Kaushik Sen, Bibhas Chakraborty and other intellectuals boycotted the ongoing Kolkata Film Festival.

There was a outpouring of public anger, which led to a ‘maha michil’ on November 14 in the heart of Kolkata, decrying the barbaric violence by CPI(M) in Nandigram.

The 34 years of Leftist rule in Bengal is marred by unbridled violence. From Marichjhanpi to Memari, Sainbari to Singur, Nandigram to Netai, Nanoor to Keshpur – the comrades left no stone unturned to ensure there is no political opposition to them. Thousands of people have been slaughtered to keep communism alive in Bengal.

They say a nation cannot progress unless you take lessons from history. As Bengal stares at new political formulations in coming days, it is all the more essential to remember the bloodied past and the cost at which ‘Poriborton’ came in 2011.

India’s Opposition needs to reinvent itself for 2019

Image Source: Livemint

Like in the United States of America they have the mid-term polls to gauge the mood of the Nation halfway through the term of the President, India had Assembly polls in five States for 609 seats. Coincidentally, the Modi Govt has completed half its term already. The massive victory for BJP in the largest State of the country – Uttar Pradesh – will surely boost the morale of the ruling party. The Opposition clearly needs to face the mirror, for 2019 is barely 24 months away.

A lot of opinions have emerged on the victory of BJP in UP, most praising Modi-Shah duo for riding their party towards a stupendous win. Of course, praise is due for them for getting their caste arithmetic and social-engineering right. One must not also forget that BJP currently is a rehabilitation centre for the disgruntled leaders from other parties. Personal charismas of local candidates may have helped too.

Those who think development agenda won the BJP this election will be living in fool’s paradise. From the shamshan-kabristan remark to the ‘Mandir Wahi Banayenge’ rants or the diatribe of the likes of Sakshi Maharaj against Muslims clearly gave away the BJP’s intentions. As a friend wrote on Twitter, the Muslim vote was fractured between BSPand SP, while the Hindu vote, cutting across castes went en-bloc to BJP.

I for one was hoping for a win for the SP (and I say SP not SP-Congress alliance because the Congress virtually non-existent in the political map of India at present and the alliance was an illogical decision on Akhilesh Yadav’s part; an alliance with Mayawati would have been more fruitful). Could sabotage by the old guard be a reason for the shocking defeat? Akhilesh clearly enjoys huge popularity among the people but it didn’t translate into votes. Only organisational weakness is to blame for it.

After this verdict, Modi’s position as the leader of the country is consolidated further. So, the Opposition must reinvent its strategy. Currently there is no face to challenge Modi on the national scale. The Congress must get off the high horse it is sitting on and take all parties on board for a rainbow coalition against the BJP. Criticism of Modi is not enough to dislodge him from 7, Racecourse Road. The Opposition needs to present a credible alternative.

The elections post 2014 have thrown up one interesting factoid. Modi is not invincible. States where there have been strong leaders have rejected the BJP – be it Bengal, Bihar or Delhi. Direct contests between Congress and BJP have obviously led to BJP’s victory; credibility of the Congress is at an all-time low and only a change of guard can bolster the party’s image.

A major factor that played its role in the elections is the complete collapse of the Opposition. Rewind to the turbulent times between 2010 and 2013 – BJP would hit the streets on issues all and sundry. Have we seen any such mass-scale protests by the Indian Opposition parties on the issue of demonetisation? I remember only Mamata Banerjee holding multi-city protests! Sharing memes on digital media is an important communication tool. But to make the masses understand the alternative is a different ball-game altogether.

Two years is a long time in politics. All is not lost yet. The right strategy and the perfect leadership can turn things around. In politics, you should never write anyone off. Remember, in 2004 Mamata Banerjee was the lone MP from Trinamool. Now Trinamool is the fourth largest party in Lok Sabha with 34 MPs.

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