Sunday, 18 November 2007

After Nandigram...

Now that the CPI(M) cadres have recaptured Nandigram after a bloody battle with the BUPC, it appears that the Communists’ veneer of being part of the democratic set up in India has finally worn thin. The BUPC may or may not have been Maoists; the plan to set up a chemicals hub in Nandigram may just be the last straw that broke the camel’s back, as far as the people in rural West Bengal are concerned. After all, the poor have had to live with PDS supplies being siphoned off, evidently by CPI(M) cadres, who have taken over the ration shops in the state. The fact remains that the CPI(M) chose not to use legally constituted means--the police force and the CRPF--to restore state authority in Nandigram, but preferred to use party cadres, so that they would not be seen to lose votes come the state panchayat elections in May 2008.Is this any different from Gujarat in 2002?There, too, the Modi government wanted a "spontaneous" reaction to the deaths of kar sevaks in Godhra--never mind that investigations later revealed that the fire in the kar sevaks’ train carriage was set inside the carriage, not outside. So the word was put out amongst foot soldiers of the VHP and the Bajrang Dal--not very different from what happened in Nandigram.

This has hopefully made a few things clearer to the middle class--that we cannot afford to trust either the parties of the right or the left unless they are willing to actually abide by the Indian constitution, not just pay lip service to it. Secondly, we cannot afford dynasties in party politics. There’s something seriously wrong with the Congress, because of its insistence on anointing the heirs of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, whether or not these heirs show any political promise. Reminds me strongly of Rome under the Caesars--the Republic existed only in name, while the government was actually managed by the Imperator (Emperor) who took the name of Caesar. Let us hope we do not come to such a sorry pass. Thirdly--the setting up of SEZs (special economic zones) in agricultural areas needs to be handled with greater sensitivity. As it is, the poorest people in India, the lower castes and the tribes, do not enjoy rights on the lands they cultivate. Hence the Maoist movements in Chattisgarh and other parts of central India. These people have endured exploitation by the savarna moneylenders, businessmen and government officials--therefore, while the state fights the Maoists, those who wish to do business have to come up with a win-win proposal that will satisfy the needs of the tribals, the poor, the landowners and their bosses in the cities.

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