March 30, 2007


One of the downsides to being on the road in a country far from your own is that you get only a sort of soft-focus idea of events at home. On past travels I would listen to the news on shortwave radio; these days I still carry the little instrument, but mostly I get news off the Web: but whichever way I get it, it always seems slightly remote. I hear the names, I know the gist of what happens, yet somehow constant travel at a remove takes a toll on my ability to fully grasp events.

It's been like that over the last few weeks. So I've been trying to read all I can about some of these events. One, in particular: Nandigram.

And if I was soft-focus appalled when I first heard what happened (think it was in Maryland), I'm simply clear-eyed horrified now that I've caught up.

I won't spell out here what happened in Nandigram earlier this month. It's been written about and discussed over and over again, far more thoroughly than I can manage. I'll point you to just two examples that said things to me.

One, here, is notable not so much because of the contents of the article itself, but for the attempts of a CPI(M) activist and apologist for West Bengal's Left Front Government to explain away -- putting it kindly -- the crimes in Nandigram. (See the comments).

Two, What Happened in Nandigram. This account sent a chill up my spine, with its mention of things like cordoning off the area and "blocking" the media from the "action zone."

And as I read this account, I realized that Nandigram reminded me most of all of that previous horror in West Bengal -- the Morichjhapi massacre of the 1970s, featured in Amitav Ghosh's Hungry Tide. There, it was East Bengal refugees in the Sundarbans who were cordoned off, fired on and the survivors evicted.

What causes a state to turn on its own people? The drunkenness of power. The whole crummy edifice of the Soviet Union eventually crumbled under that very drunkenness. (I first heard that good news on that same little shortwave radio).

Nandigram, and Morichjhapi before Nandigram, serve as horrific reminders of that. No soft-focus.


Kartik said...

Yes. It's been said so many times over now that unfortunately its become just what it was to- a cliche. But power does corrupt.

So badly that you start taking the lives of the very people who gave it to you.

How is this state-sponsored violence different from the horrors committed by Nazi Germany or Stalinist Russia, I'd like to know.

km said...

Come on. We can't possibly violate Godwin's Law with the very first comment :)

//sorry for the flippant, off-topic comment.

Anonymous said...

One of the more disturbing aspects of the Nandigram violence was the reported involvement and co-ordinated participation (with police) of armed CPM cadre in the violence.

Reminded me of the alleged equally close co-operation some right-wing goon squads had with some of the police force in Guj2002 riots.

Non-leftist as I am, Nadigram was still a shocking eye-opener.


Unknown said...

When CPM retook Nandigram, it was labeled illegal and violent by so called intellectuals. Where were they when thousands of CPM supporters where forced out of their villages into refugee camps for the last 11 months? Was that not illegal? Was that not violent?

What has land acquisition got to do with forcing people out of their hearth? Even after CM Buddhadeb Bhattacharya clearly stated that land will not be taken, why did they not allow the people and administration to return to Nandigram? Was that not a violation of the Constitution of India?

The Governor, Dr. Gandhi, had time to visit injured BPUC cadres and Mamata when she was fasting. Ironically, he did not have time to visit the thousands of CPM supporters living as refugees who had been forced out of their homes by TMC-BPUC-Jamiat-Maoist combine. He is clearly biased, and maybe on a secret payroll of some anti-communist entity. He, as governor, has lost his qualification to be the governor because he is clearly biased. He should be impeached.

As for industrialisation, I am all for it. Thousands of educated Bengalis have to go to Mumbai, Chennai and Bangalore to work because there are no suitable jobs in Kolkata. They are also the children of Bengal. The government must provide jobs to them. If they are only going to work for the farmers and ignore the educated class, the educated class will migrate to other states and contribute to the economies of other states and West Bengal will lag behind.

As for the “innocent” people killed in Nandigram, I would object to calling those people “innocent” who hurled bombs at the police and eventually got shot and died. Let us call a spade a spade.

Mamata is hell bent on destroying the economic progress of Bengal. She is trying to sacrifice the interests of the state just to re-surge her sinking political career.

This is from a man who was born and brought up in Bengal, but today has to live outside Bengal because Bengal cannot offer me a job suited to my qualifications. Thousands of people like me are suffering and we want to live in our own state and earn as much as people like us are earning on Mumbai or Bangalore. This can happen only if there is industrialisation.