On November 14, 2007 top ranking intellectuals, writers, play-wrights, poets and artists of Bengal like Mrinal Sen, Suchitra Bhattacharya, Joy Goswami, Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay, Gautam Ghosh, Aparna Sen, Purnodas Baul, Anjan Datta and many other, marched in silent procession in Kolkata to protest against fascist type violent action in Nandigram by the armed cadre of the ruling CPM. About 10,000 common men and women of the State also joined the unprecedented rally to express their solidarity with intellectuals and to display their anger and disgust against the handling of problems by the government, elected democratically by the people of West Bengal.
As in democracy such fascist type aggression is unwarranted, the spontaneous protest of the intellectuals and common people was widely supported by the media. The people were more angry and concerned when the Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya and head of the ruling party Biman Basu openly supported the violent action of their comrades and divided the people of Nandigram as ?we? and ?they?. Glorifying fascist action of the cadre to reoccupy Nandigram from the occupation of opposition forces, Chief Minister arrogantly declared, ?They have been paid back in their own coin?. But as Chief Minister of the State he is responsible for the well-being of all sections of the people. While taking oath as the Chief Minister, he had declared, ?Without fear and discriminating attachment or malice I will act righteously towards all sections of the people as per Constitution and law?. Such solemn pledge should have refrained him from dividing the people of Nandigram as ?we? and ?they?, when as per Constitution, he is equally responsible for all contending people.
To impartial political analysts both the government and the opposition are to be held responsible for the present fiasco in Nandigram. The imbroglio could have been avoided if the Government would have considered the following measures: (1) After assessing the mind of the people, totally against the acquisition of high-yielding agricultural land, the administration should have selected only the barren and low yielding land for the proposed project. (2) As per the demand of the investor if the high yielding agricultural land of Nandigram itself was imperative and unavoidable then affected peasants should have been thoroughly assured about an adequate and attractive compensation for the loss of their land. (3) In course of personal contact, the top leaders should have explained to the people that in all the countries of the world for progress of the nation and to provide employment to the ever-increasing population, industries have been built-up only on agricultural land. By agreeing to give their land for an industry, the affected peasants not only benefited themselves but also ensured getting employment to thousands of young men and women for many generations to come. The peasants of Nandigram also should have been convincingly explained that number of persons in a family, over the years, grew heavily, but the quantity of the ancestral land remained the same. No such expected measures were considered by the government. There the ruling party failed miserably. The leaders only announced the project sitting at Kolkata and expected the bureaucrats and the party cadre to implement the same.
In democracy, the opposition party is not only to oppose all the moves of the government. Since industrialisation is imperative for the progress of a nation, the Trinamul Congress, the main opposition party in Bengal, should have extended constructive support to the ruling party, insisting on more benefits to the affected peasants. On the contrary, the opposition in a militant manner, closing the door for negotiations, tried to convince the peasantry of Singur and Nandigram that acquisition of their land would benefit only the big industrialists. The plight of the peasants will worsen. Facing total debacle in the last general elections and loosing the battle in Singur, where Tatas are all set to build-up a factory to make mini-cars for common people, the Trinamul Congress entered Nandigram to prevent acquisition of land for the Chemical Hub. Since many people there were not totally convinced about their secured future after agreeing to give-up their land for the project, Trinamool Congress could easily gain some ground to build-up a strong resistance against the proposed Hub. With the hesitant and reluctant peasants, they formed Bhoomi Uchchhed Protirodh Committee to resist acquisition of land. The Naxals and the Maoists who believe power flows from the barrel of guns grabbed the fluid situation of the area and agitated the opposition to hold guns to baffle the government move of dislodging peasants from their ancestral land.
Nandigram soon became a hot-spot of militant agitation. Assessing the mind of the people the left front government promptly declared that no land requisition would be carried out in Nandigram. Another area will be selected for the proposed Chemical Hub. Accordingly, a new land Naya Char has also been selected. But, as a responsible opposition party, Trinamool Congress did not instantly dissolve the Bhoomi Uchchhed Protirodh Committee, which stood only to resist acquisition of land for the Hub in Nandigram. They preferred to continue the agitation under the banner of the same committee, only to get some political mileage before the Panchayat election in the area. The militant-agitation of the party, could divide the peasantry of Nandigram in two factions. One faction supported the government and the other group, the bigger one, rallied behind the Bhoomi Uchchhed Protirodh Committee, fearing the loosing of their land in future-move of the government.
It is assuring that the Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya ultimately admitted that the action of CPM cadre, violently recapturing Nandigram had sullied the image of the government. The incident, he said, was an administrative and political failure of the left front regime. Coming close to offering a apology the Chief Minister also regretted his remark that those opposing CPM in Nandigram have been ?paid back in their own coin?. He declared that he ?should not have said that?.
(The author can be contacted at 408/B, Paramount 44, Lokhandwala Complex, Andheri (West), Mumbai-400 053.)