BRINDA KARAT, when interviewed recently by Karan Thapar, who played the 'Devil's Advocate', revealed the ugliness that lies beneath her fair skin. To refresh everyone's memory, it was Brinda Karat, who in the run up to the State- sponsored civil war on Nanidgram, had called for a dose of "dum dum dawai" or mob lynching. When asked about the rape of a woman in Nandigram by CPM cadres, she talked of some stringent action against the culprits. By stringent action against the culprit, she was not referring to the action that would be taken against the rapists but the action that would be taken against the doctor who examined the victim!
Events in Nandigram and Kolkata over the past year (and especially in the last fortnight) reveal much about the conflicting conceptions of the rule of law and governance in contemporary India. The ruling CPM party in West Bengal clearly believes that Nandigram is an issue over which it has the final say and upon which other institutions of governance have no standing to comment. In recent days, the CPM is reported to have asked the Parliament to stay away from the issue because it is a 'State subject'. CPM considers Nandigram its own property. Its party cadres have taken control of the land by forcing the villagers to toe their line; the common man's land would remain with the CPM and they would hand over the land to industries that are planning to set up SEZs here. What an irony! The left parties always talked about people's rights. Now they are snatching it by force. This is hypocrisy and fascism on the part of Karat.
I quote from Barkha Dutt's article which was recently published in 'Hindustan Times'. Here are excerpts from Dutt's piece: "This time the violence has unfolded behind a veil of intrigue and secrecy. Unlike in March, when an entire country watched horrified as police guns pummelled unarmed villagers with bullets and bulldozed their way through Nandigram, this week Marxist foot soldiers made sure that blockades and threats and the stealth of the night would keep them protected from public gaze. But, as horror stories managed to breakthrough the shroud of silence - bone chilling stories of rape, plunder and murder - the West Bengal chief minister gave away the game himself. With the transparent aggression that marks a man with a guilty conscience, he flared up in rare anger and told journalists that the protestors in Nandigram had been "paid back in their own coin."
Background: The Nandigram SEZ controversy, which led to the Nandigram massacre, started when the West Bengal government decided that the Salim Group of Indonesia would set up a chemical hub under the SEZ provisions, at Nandigram, a rural area in the district of Purba Medinipur. The villagers took over the administration of the area and all the roads to the villages were cut off. The administration was directed to break the Bhumi Ucched Protirodh Committee's (BUPC)resistance at Nandigram and a massive operation with at least 3,000policemen was launched on March 14, 2007. However, prior information of the impending action had leaked out to the BUPC which amassed a crowd of roughly 2,000 villagers at the entry points to Nandigram with women and children lining up in front. In the resulting mayhem, at least 14 people were killed.
Industrialisation versus livelihood is a subject of intense debate. Ina democracy, such debates should be sorted out by persuasion. If the government thinks an SEZ in Nandigram is in the larger interest of the State, it should convince the protesters to see reason. The use of force will send the wrong message. The police over-reacted by opening fire and killing people who no doubt were indulging in stone throwing and other violent activities. Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee should defuse the explosive situation which is threatening to go out of control.
The major problem has been the total failure of the police network and police support for the ruling party activists. Presently, a large number of Nandigram residents have been forced to live in camps. The Trinamool Congress and the ruling communist parties are blaming each other for this problem; however, the biggest casualty is the village community of Nandigram; these people have been victimized in their own country by their own government.
Democracy and human rights are nowhere visible at Nandigram. Media persons are not allowed; opposition leaders are heckled and police personnel stay away. This is the situation in a part of the world's largest democracy. Human right activists have compared the Nandigram violence to Gujarat riots.
Is Nandigram 2007 similar to Gujarat 2002? Such comparisons are not realistic. Every crime is horrifying in its own way. Yet there is something outrageous about the way in which the CPM is trying to evade responsibility for the blunder it committed in Nandigram. The ones who were pointing guns at the culprits behind Gujarat violence now find themselves in the "same nappy." The so-called "communal forces" are now targeting the so-called "secular forces" for sweeping the crime under the carpet. Ironically, the majority of the victims are from a minority community. It seems that the vote bank doesn't matter here for the Congress; or for some other reason, the Congress has refrained from answering questions on Nandigram.
If the BJP's Narendra Modi who responds to riots within 48 hours is called a "Modern Day Nero", what title will the sanctimonious conscience-keepers confer on this chief minister of Bengal who has slept over the complete breakdown of government and constitution in Nandigram? If spontaneous riots and mob hysteria in Gujarat are termed a holocaust by our lame duck Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, why is he at a loss for words to describe the pre-meditated acts of war in Nanidgram that have been waged with the active connivance of the Police and the CPI-M?
The Congress president Sonia Gandhi has been taking us for a ride with her sweet-talks on minorities. The next time the Congress brings upthe Sachar Report and the Prime Minister talks about equity for Muslims as reasons to seek votes, we should remind them of that one word that never crossed their lips - Nandigram!
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