Fact And CPI(M)'s Fiction
By Kavita Krishnan
25 April, 2007
[Kavita Krishnan from
Liberation takes a look at facts about the Nandigram massacre and Communist
Party of India (Marxist) -CPI(M)-sponsored fiction. Quotations from
CPI(M) leaders are from Brinda Karat's 'Behind the Events at Nandigram'
( The Hindu, March 30, 2007), 'Some Issues on Nandigram' also by Brinda
Karat, People's Democracy, Vol. XXXI, No. 13, April 01, 2007, 'Defeat
the politics of Terror' (PD editorial of March 18), CPI(M) Politburo
statement of March 14, 'Singur: Just the Facts Please', Brinda Karat,
( The Hindu, December 13, 2006)].
the events at Nandigram', says Brinda Karat, is no peasant resistance
against corporate land grab. It's not 'bhumi ucched' (eviction from
land) but 'CPI(M) ucched' (evict CPI(M)) that's up, she says. In a series
of articles and statements by the CPI(M) top brass in media as well
as the CPI(M) party organ PD, there is a concerted attempt to serve
up CPI(M)'s version of Nandigram episode. Despite mandatory noises of
'regret' at the loss of lives in police firing, and a promise to 'introspect
about mistakes, 'if any', the arguments being put forth are old, familiar
ones. The firing it is said is regrettable, but it's the gang-up of
Trinamool-Naxalites-Jamaat that really has to take the blame for the
killings, because they attacked the police who were forced to fire to
disperse the crowd. As a result, "in the crossfire that ensued,
as always, innocent people became victims". It's the CPI(M) supporters
who're the victims of a cleansing operation – contrary to the
reports of all independent fact-finding teams. And 'foreign-funded',
US-backed enemies of communists are spreading canards about large-scale
participation of CPI(M) cadre in the March 14 operation, and about sexual
assaults on women.
Let us examine the main arguments
of Brinda Karat and Co., one by one.
"Once the CM Had Assured
No Land Acquisition Without Consent, Why Was the Movement Called Off?"
Brinda Karat argues that
there was no raison d'etre for the continuance of the resistance in
Nandigram since January 9, since the CM had assured that there would
be no land acquisition if the people of Nandigram did not wish it. She
adds, "Indeed he is the only chief minister in the country who
has made such a categorical statement that a condition for land acquisition
must be farmer consent."
After such a principled declaration
by Buddha, why indeed need the movement have continued?
Well, in the first place,
let's ask what price CPI(M)'s 'facts' and 'assurances'? May we draw
Brinda Karat's attention to an article titled 'Singur: Just the Facts
Please' published in her name in The Hindu after the first bout of police-cadre
violence in Singur. In that article she had asserted as 'fact' that
"Of the 997 acres required, the Government has received consent
letters from landowners for 952 acres." Similar declarations had
also been made in an article by no less than the CPI(M) General Secretary
in a PD editorial titled 'Singur: Myth and Reality'.
But an affidavit filed in
response to an order of the Kolkata HC by the WB Government on March
27 records a different reality. In this affidavit, the Bengal government
admitted that land was acquired in Singur under a section of the Land
Acquisition Act 1894 that does not entertain disputes.
It further says that owners
of just 287.5 acres accepted the 10 per cent bonus offered by the government
for agreeing to not move the court. This translates to a little over
30 per cent of the total 997 acres acquired for the Tata small car plant
and ancillary units.
It says compensation cheques
have been collected for just 650 acres till date. And this compensation
does not in any way imply consent, since it is being accepted as a last
resort after the fait-accompli of acquisition. And even this figure
amounts to around 67 per cent, which is still lower than the 96 per
cent claimed by the CPI(M).
All too clearly the lack
of consent presented no hurdle for the CPI(M) to go ahead and deliver
the land into Tata hands. And neither Brinda nor Prakash Karat felt
any qualms about peddling a deliberate falsehood about 'consent' subsequently
disproved by the WB Government's own affidavit! Were the people of Nandigram
wrong then, to continue with their visible and determined dissent that
could not under any circumstances be construed as 'consent'? Had they
not done so, would they have succeeded in preventing the SEZ from coming
up on their lands?
We have repeatedly pointed
out how the much-touted 'compensation package' at Singur inverts the
principles of Operation Barga (which allotted 75% of the agricultural
produce to the sharecropper and only 25% to the absentee landlord),
giving just 25% compensation for sharecroppers. Neither Brinda Karat
nor PD have ever bothered to explain the logic for this reversal.
However, Brinda Karat and
Co. may be right that the motive behind March 14 may not be land grab
– it was instead a cold-blooded act of retribution on the very
people who had been staunch members of the CPI(M) till the other day.
It was an act of collective punishment, in keeping with the promise
Benoy Konar made in January: "We'll surround them and make their
life hell." Tanika Sarkar, in her moving and disturbing narration
of her visit to Nandigram after the carnage, recounts how villager after
villager repeats the threats they receive: "Cross over and join
the CPI(M) camp, or else we'll cut you to pieces".
But the victims of March
14 were left in no doubt of the nature of the 'crime' which had brought
such punishment onto their heads. According to Tanika Sarkar, women
who show the marks of sexual assault and beatings all over their bodies
said that their attackers in police uniform (referred to interchangeably
by the villagers as prashasan, cadre and police) accompanied the violence
with abuse – "Saali, jomi debi na? Jomi rakhbi? " (Bitch,
won't hand over your land? You'll keep your land will you?"
Not Peaceful, not Democratic"
The CPI(M) PB statement states clearly: "It is regrettable that
lives have been lost in police firing. But the organised elements who
utilised bombs and pipe guns on the police have to take the blame."
So the CPI(M)'s 'introspection' about 'mistakes' leads it to the same
'blame the outsider' conclusion! Brinda Karat and other party leaders
have referred to the Nandigram struggle as an a bid to 'cleanse' Nandigram
of CPI(M) supporters. It is claimed that 2500-3000 such supporters have
been driven out, turned into refugees and subjected to terror. What
about their human rights, she asks? She adds that "shockingly and
sickeningly", reports by Left intellectuals have not referred to
this crime against hapless CPI(M) people, who are also poor peasants
just like the victims of police firing. Surely the police had a responsibility
to curb the "lawlessness and anarchy", restore order and ensure
these refugees could return?
No fact-finding report, even
the one by Medha Patkar, has referred to the Nandigram struggle as a
'peaceful' one. The Nandigram mass was an organised and experienced
Left mass, which had witnessed the Singur developments and learnt from
them. In Singur, they had seen police and CPI(M) cadres employ terror
and succeed in grabbing land. So at the very first sign of land grab
(the HDA notification) they lost no time in ensuring that Singur could
not be repeated. They quite openly cut roads to prevent police entry,
chased out CPI(M) cadres who were terrorising the movement locally,
and organised night-watch and crude arms to keep at bay the regular
assaults and bombings from the CPI(M) camp in Khejuri.
The question to be asked
is: do such tactics amount to "lawlessness and anarchy", or
do they fall under the rubric of a democratic movement?
Eminent Leftist historians
have vouched for the fact that the tactics used by the Nandigram peasants
are all classic strategies used during the Tebhaga movement and the
freedom struggle of which Nandigram was a major centre. History records
that Nandigram and Tamluk subdivisions had formed the Tamralipta Jatiya
Sarkar, or Tamralipta National Government in 1942, with people evicting
the British from the area digging trenches to keep police out, and 'liberating'
the area for months. If the movement of the peasants of Nandigram against
forcible land acquisition is 'anarchy and lawlessness', so too must
CPI(M) term the Quit India Movement, Tebhaga movement and the Telengana
movement to be 'anarchy and lawlessness'!
CPI(M) has been fond of throwing
out the accusation that Nandigram was being turned into a 'Liberated
Zone' by the anti-SEZ protestors. Well, comrades, can you tell us what
is an SEZ - if not a Liberated Zone where corporates are free to loot,
levy taxes, enjoy massive subsidies, take over the functions of a municipality,
and enjoy impunity from many laws of the land?! If people conduct a
'Quit India' struggle against such a Liberated Zone where they lose
all their freedoms, how can any Communist, or any democratic individual,
Further, according to the
values and standards of the Left, can there be any equivalence between
the might of the State's repressive arm and the cadres of a privileged
and dominant ruling party working in close co-ordination with the State
machinery, and the 'violence' incurred in the course of the resistance
of poor and desperate peasantry?
What of the people in the
CPI(M) refugee camps? By all accounts, these camps continue to function
as base camps for the CPI(M)'s war against the anti-land-grab forces.
Villagers told Tanika Sarkar that the terror is far from over; every
night there is a rain of bombs from the CPI(M) base at Khejuri. But
it is true that the CPI(M) base, whatever remains of it, are in fact
poor peasants too. Brinda Karat asks, "Who gains from this division
of the poor, from their feelings of insecurity, loss of livelihood?"
Well, comrade, isn't the answer staring in our faces? The corporates
stand to gain land, and the CPI(M), their lost dominance, by pitting
one section of the poor against another.
"Nandigram's Poor: Innocent
Villagers 'Instigated' by Anti-CPI(M) Gang-up through False Fears of
We would like to remind Brinda
Karat that on March 14, and before too, she and other leaders had claimed
that "outsiders" were responsible for the violence, while
Nandigram's own people were all for the SEZ and for the CPI(M). Yechury
even on March 14, had declared in a press conference that "Outsiders,
frustrated by the lack of support from local peasantry in their bid
to whip up false fear of land grab, had attacked the police, necessitating
Subsequently, however, the
CPI(M) has had to admit that CPI(M) supporters had in fact deserted
the party and joined the struggle fearing land grab.
Brinda Karat will have to
answer: is it really credible that this mass of people, who had voted
CPI(M) or CPI to power in election after election, had more faith in
discredited Mamata and the organisationally weak Naxalites who had no
local base, rather than in the assurances of their own MP, MLA, and
local CPI(M) leaders? How come they turned against their own party and
chased them out, on the 'instigation' of those whom they had never before
given the time of day? Does the CPI(M) version sound remotely plausible
- that this CPI(M) stronghold was tamely led astray and agreed to view
the CPI(M) as an enemy, on some false and baseless fears whipped up
by a tremendously weak Opposition?
The answer is self-evident:
they were forced to lose faith in the CPI(M) because its cadres and
leaders, instead of asking their opinion and respecting it, had declared
the decision to ride rough-shod over their refusal to give up land.
Overnight, CPI(M) forces had turned into a menacing and organized army,
agents of corporates who threatened them to give up land or face eviction
by force. "Consent…or else" was the message –
but the Left training of the mass kicked in, and they chose the tools
of resistance that generations of struggle had taught them.
"False Claims of Sexual
Violence; Police Fired Due to Provocation "
In other words, was March
14 a mistake or a massacre?
Brinda Karat has taken issue
with several fact-finding reports including that of the CPI(ML) team;
and has advised that concocting tales of sexual assault will harm the
credibility of the women's movement demand that women's own statements
be accepted as evidence in the absence of any other evidence.
Brinda Karat must be asked
a question in return. She is a Rajya Sabha MP, and has been the leader
of a highly respected women's organisation.
The CPI(ML) report relies
very little on hearsay – and more on the clear evidence of those
who lay injured in hospitals, whose injuries have been recorded medically,
and who can definitely be taken to have been on the spot on March 14.
In that report, it is mentioned that one woman in Tamluk Hospital who
has indeed filed a complaint of rape, has one breast lacerated with
a sharp weapon. In SSKM Hospital, too, there is yet another woman whose
buttocks are hanging, having been nearly severed by a chopper.
Why does Brinda Karat remain
silent on these injuries – clear evidence that the attack on March
14 was not merely somewhat excessive 'firing' by a provoked police?
Why has she not bothered to go and see for herself if these reports
of chopper injuries on private parts of women is indeed true or not,
and whether these women could be helped to file complaints and pursue
Again, the clear medical
evidence recorded by a large team of doctors from Kolkata is that 70%
to 80% of the patients in four camps they set up two weeks after the
massacre, have had serious eye problems since March 14 – caused
by some substance in the tear gas. Eye irritation caused by ordinary
tear gas does not last so long – and certainly cannot cause loss
of eyesight. Whereas several people in Nandigram have lost much of their
vision due to exposure to the tear gas. Again, this is something Brinda
Karat is silent on, and certainly has not bothered to go herself and
If there is any iota of truth
in the CPI(M) accusations that their supporter was raped – it
is highly condemnable, abhorrent and indefensible, and must be punished.
But it cannot be used as a reason to deny the clear evidence of a planned
state-sponsored carnage on March 14, or of large-scale sexual violence
on women of the anti-land grab movement.
Brinda Karat expresses pious
outrage at the 'cynical' way in which women and children were placed
in the front row. Did these women suffer chopper injuries on breast
and buttocks because they happened to be in placed in the front row,
comrade? How come Comrade Brinda never says a word of condemnation for
the fact that the police were not deterred by the presence of women
and children, and police and her party's cadre indulged in sexual assaults
accompanied by abuse?
Were children torn apart
and killed? Describing one woman who lies in hospital, crying inconsolably
because she says a child was torn from her arms and killed before her
eyes, Tanika Sarkar said "One can only hope that such heart-rending
accounts of children being beaten to death, drowned or chopped up are
some sort of collective hallucination, and the children are actually
safe. But one fears these accounts are true."
The statement by pro-CPI(M)
intellectuals had said the West Bengal Government would pay compensation
to those affected by the Nandigram attacks. One wonders how come not
a single one of Brinda's articles on Nandigram mentions a word about
compensation for those who've lost their loved ones, their eyesight,
their organs? These are agrarian labourers and marginal farmers, how
can they afford blindness; how are their families surviving while earning
men and women are forced to do long hospital stints?
On the evidence of the use
of a huge number of bullets not usually used by police, of firing above
waist level (to kill rather than to rather than to disperse), of the
arrests of ten CPI(M) men in a brick kiln with police uniforms and a
stockpile of ammunition – both Brinda Karat and PD offer no explanation
except to promise that a proper probe, preferably by the judiciary rather
than by CBI, will reveal the truth. Meanwhile, inexplicably, the CBI
findings have been suppressed and the hearing on it delayed by the High
"Those who oppose SEZs
and support the struggles of Singur and Nandigram are 'anti-industry'"
A whole section of Left economists
and intellectuals who have been very close to the CPI(M) have raised
serious questions about the WB Government's commitment to industrialisation
and employment generation.
Would Brinda and the PD care
to answer or explain:
They speak of 'facts', why
are they silent on the details of the Tata deal at Singur – details
that the WB Government tried to suppress as a 'trade secret' until forced
to reveal them in court?
Has Brinda Karat happened
to read an article in ('Santa Claus Visit the Tatas', Telegraph, 30
March 2007 ) by Ashok Mitra, former Finance Minister of West Bengal
in CPI(M)'s own LF Government? We quote from the article:
"…The Tatas are,
of course, rolling in money. Only a couple of months ago, they invested
a sum roughly the equivalent of Rs 50,000 crore to take command of a
giant international steel complex. To persuade this fabulously rich
group to start a modest-sized car factory here, the state government
has already spent something around Rs 150 crore to acquire close to
1,000 acres of land. …the Tatas have been handed over this entire
tract of land on a ninety-year lease without any down payment at all.
... the government is, really and truly, making a free gift to the Tatas
of the land in Singur.
…The state government
is, in addition, offering the Tata group a gift coupon in the way of
a loan worth Rs 200 crore carrying a nominal interest of only 1 per
cent (as against the rate currently charged by the banks of at least
10 per cent); …the entire proceeds for the first ten years of
the value-added tax on the sale of this precious car in West Bengal
are proposed to be handed back to the Tatas, again at a nominal interest
of only 1 per cent. …
All told, therefore, the
Tatas are being offered the allure of around Rs 850 crore by the state
Finally, Mitra asks: "Does
it not appear obscene that a state government, carrying a burden of
debt of more than Rs 150,000 crore and with a countless number of problems,
would offer a freebie of Rs 850 crore to an industrial group which has
made an outlay of over Rs 50,000 crore only the other day to satisfy
their expansionary ego overseas?"
Does Brinda Karat or the
PD have an answer? Has Ashok Mitra also turned 'anti-industry' according
We also quote from an article
by Prof. Tanika Sarkar in Hardnews:
West Bengal ) were allowed to die away, leaving about 50, 000 dead factories
and the virtual collapse of the jute industry. …While factories
remained closed, half the annual funds under the NREGA (Rural Employment
Guarantee scheme) were sent back untouched. We may say that the history
(of the LF Government) shows no concern for promoting real industrialisation,
or for public concerns, nor for employment generation. What flourished
with tender government nurture had been upper middle class luxuries
and corporate profits…"
Prof. Tanika's article goes
on to say how in the mid-90s, huge tracts of highly cultivated land
were taken over by the Jyoti Basu Government at New Rajarhat near Kolkata.
No industry was set up on this land – instead what came up were
'Vedic Villages' for the super rich, set up by corporate groups. Various
observers report that in these complexes, each house boasts of a swimming
pool, and there are massive water sports complexes!
Why was this land from not
used for productive industry? Why were the poor evicted from fertile
land in vain? Wouldn't a fraction of the Tata freebie of 850 crores
have been enough free locked industrial land for fresh industries?
"US Anti-Communist Conspiracy
and Maoist Plot"
Finally, Brinda Karat tries
to make for the lack of answers to glaring questions, by falling back
on the good old standby of alleging sinister conspiracies and a 'foreign'
hand. She claims that the "sea route through the Bay of Bengal
is being used by the Maoists to come into Nandigram". Once they
land, will they use the Imperius Curse to hex the CPI(M)'s supporters
into turning into Naxalites, comrade? Better allow fantasy to remain
in the pages of Harry Potter rather than insulting people's intelligence
with tall tales!
Brinda Karat also alleges
a US conspiracy angle, saying a US official met with "a leader
of the minority community". This may sound like stuff and nonsense,
but the attempt to demonise the minority community by suggesting it
is 'anti-national' is dangerous.
And if meeting a US official makes one anti-communist and anti-CPI(M),
what do we make of Buddhadeb Bhattacharya? On March 7 Buddha was praised
by no less than the US Consul General in Kolkata, Henry V. Jardine,
for embracing the doctrine that capital has no colour. And is it coincidence
that on April 14, exactly a month after the Nandigram massacre, the
Bush administration has invited Buddha to pay an official visit to the
US? Issuing the public invitation, United States Trade Representative
Susan Schwab said "We would like to hear about the political and
development aspects of his success". Surely Bush is not interested
in CPI(M)'s success in revolutionary struggles and expanding communism
– it's Buddha's success in wooing capital and putting down protest
that he wants to hear about!
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