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Mamata's task: To stop the politics of revenge

Tathagata Bhattacharya |

Updated: May 10, 2011, 10:40 AM IST
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Mamata's task: To stop the politics of revenge
A new govt will have to take Bengal out of the spiral of retributive violence.

New Delhi: "Terror is the quickest way to new society," scribbled Joseph Stalin in a book right beside a certain passage of Karl Marx.

The CPI(M)'s Alimuddin Street leadership may feel that actions by their armed cadres in Nanoor, Nandigram and Netai are the perfect forms of tribute to the Georgian whom the Bengal Marxists draw their inspiration of intolerance from.

The do or die slogan of "Hoy Bampantha noy mrityu (Either the Left Way or death)," raised by their tallest leader, seems to have been interpreted as "Embrace Left or die" by the party's gunmen. Who knows? May be this was the intended communication.

CPI(M)'s terror is theoretically far from revolutionary terror in the sense that it has been unleashed as a last ditch attempt to preserve status quo, its victims are invariably the impoverished and the powerless. There are countless other points where one can counter the nomenclature of the leading partner of the Left Front and can bring out its counter-revolutionary attributes. But the state of West Bengal faces a bigger predicament than deciding on the politics of the ruling party - to emerge out of the spiral of bloodshed it is caught in.

At a time when instances of caste massacres in Bihar and UP are referred to in the past tense (that too by nearly a decade), West Bengal garners headlines all across the country for recording more number of political killings than the rest of the country put together.

Thirty four years of continuous rule have allowed the CPI(M) to politicise the daily lives of the people of West Bengal, specially those who live in the state's villages and small towns. Right from the village to block level, from the districts to Writers Building,' the bureaucracy has been co-opted.

The police administration, health system and education system have been infected to the point where party affiliation decides whether one has access to the services they offer. Emboldened by their leaders comments like "Us and Them" and "Tit for tat," grassroot cadres of CPI(M) mastered the art of social and economic exclusion of people who did not vote for them. This was the bedrock of intolerance that armed cadres would draw their sustenance from.

During my days as a reporter in West Bengal, I have seen people starve to death. They were not eligible for the then recently launched Food for Work programme for they did not have the BPL cards. And there was no way they could get the same. After all, they were not enlisted supporters or sympathisers of the ruling Front. To any sane person, conversant with the modern notions of morality and ethics, this should be as unacceptable as the bloodbaths in Netai and Nandigram.

One can't help but also fault the state's leading Opposition party, not so much for contributing to the numbers but rather more for perpetuating a culture of politics around violent deaths. Every dead body is paraded. The village boy who had no locus standi while he was alive suddenly becomes the poster boy of change. A deeply divided media and a more bitterly torn apart intelligentsia keep mum on these acts of gross incivility.

Intolerance of dissent and new ideas has been the hallmark of the 34 years of left Front rule in West Bengal. It is up to the Opposition to decide whether they want to continue the tradition.

The change that is required in West Bengal is not merely in the form of a new dispensation. The state should witness a new kind of political leadership which believes in compassionate understanding and inclusive development. Right from the late 1960s to 2010, we have seen enough of violence. Our psyche has possibly been wounded beyond repair. But still, the people of West Bengal will appreciate a healing touch.

In this regard, two things should worry us. In case reports of a marriage of convenience between CPI(Maoists) and the Trinamool Congress are true, how does the latter reconcile with the former's politics of annihilation and violence? Only the most ignorant will contest that there has been a closing of ranks between all anti-CPI(M) forces over the last four years.

Journalists would be aware of the active cooperation between Trinamool, Maoists, Congress and even some left Front constituents in Nandigram and Junglemahal. While it is right now pleased with its catch, fishing in troubled waters can prove worrisome for Trinamool Congress, specially if it rides the anti-incumbency wave to power.

Union home minister P Chidambaram's stern missive to the West Bengal chief minister, sent little over a month back, may have led some people in the state to believe that the Centre has finally taken note of the atrocities committed by CPI(M)-backed armed groups. However, to a seasoned journalist or political observer, such optimism is misplaced.

The Congress-led Centre woke up for sure. But that was rightly timed with the state Assembly polls. When trouble broke out in Singur-Nandigram and acts of gross violation of human rights by the same goons were being widely reported, several Central ministers stood by Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee's war cry for industrialisation and forcible acquisition of land. Of course, the United Progressive Alliance was then surviving on the Left lifeline. The Congress was interested in unseating the Left, it smelt blood and has gone for the kill.

It is not the political parties that will change the fortunes of Bengal. It is up to the people to effect the same. However, people's expectations from the Trinamool Congress and its leader, Mamata Banerjee, are sky-high. That way, the onus falls on her to secure the transition from a politics of violence to a politics of progress.

The passage of Marx, next to which Stalin had scribbled his words, states: "There is only one way to shorten and ease the convulsions of the old society and the bloody birth pangs of the new - revolutionary terror."

To me, born in 1977 and raised in West Bengal, an impending defeat of the Left Front in the Assembly polls tantamounts to nothing short of beginning of a new order. However, I think Mamata Banerjee will find it hard to prove Karl Marx wrong.

First Published: May 10, 2011, 10:40 AM IST
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