Nandigram and CPI(M)'s insensitivity to rural sector

Published: Sunday 15 April 2007

the massacre at Nandigram came as a shock to most. In retrospect, though, it needn't have. cpi(m)'s unrelenting drive to industrialise and urbanise West Bengal has had the makings of a disaster for some time now--it is, perhaps, surprising that it took so long for the lid to be blown off. Massive land acquisition had earlier been undertaken, for instance, north of Kolkata to make way for the Rajarhat township cluster. In the end, that passed off relatively smoothly. Singur was the first indication that things were amiss, before the conflagration at Nandigram.

So, what was the cocktail that made for Nandigram? What seems clear is that there were two groups, for and against industry, the former confined to the cpi(m), the other cutting across party lines. Tamluk cpi(m) mp Lakshman Seth seems to have had a critical role in the assault, angered, if reports are to be believed, by loss of control in the three villages at the epicentre of the showdown. That isn't the main point, however. What is, is that the ruling party seems to have lost it. The unsubtleness of the police/cadre action and the resistance of the villagers is the product of the party's eagerness to sacrifice the interests of the constituency that has kept it in power for three decades. It is no one's case that industrialisation should not happen--but a consultative process must go into allocation of land, something one would have imagined the party was perfectly positioned to do with its vast rural cadre base. It did not, focussing attention afresh, if, indeed, it needed to be, on the countrywide policy on special economic zones. There is more evidence for cpi(m)-people disconnect. The state government has been trying its damnedest to push through a mega nuclear project in Haripur, like Nandigram in East Midnapur. Faced with the prospect of loss of livelihoods, the fishing community in the village is protesting, employing similar tactics blockading their village.

The near unanimity in Haripur has prevented events from spiralling out of control. But where there are schisms, as in Nandigram or Chhattisgarh's Dantewada district where Naxals killed over 50 security personnel and special police officers--a glorified name for peasants mobilised to fight the state's wars, with little equipment and training--the story is remorselessly similar. Its leitmotif is ordinary peasants getting caught between two irresistible forces, which grind axes that have nothing to do with their ultimate well-being.

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