October 23, 2010

Dangerous Repeat of History

By Prabir Purkayastha,

Newsclick, 13th August, 2010

History is repeating itself in West Bengal, with Maoists, the Trinamool and the Congress doing what they had done in the late 60's and early 70's. And it will not be history repeating itself, first time as a tragedy, the second time as a farce. This time around, it will be a much bigger tragedy.

The modus is identical to the pattern set 40 years back. Use the ultra-left to attack the left, giving all political cover and implicit state support. The Congress then, and its splinter Trinamool now has combined forces at the ground level. And the game is to physically liquidate the CPI(M) cadre so that what this combine cannot do ideologically, they can try and do physically.

For me personally, it is a sense of complete deja vu. I remember my student days, when we were personally targeted for “liquidation” as “class enemies”. Killing class enemies was supposed to be the “festival” for the Maoists. And anybody that did not share their views and was active in politics, especially in the CPI(M), was a class enemy.

The pattern of killings are exactly what they are now – you could be killed any time any place. People are killed at tea shops, dragged out of their houses and “executed”, with their bodies left on the road. Local activists, area level leaders, party sympathisers, it did not matter then and it does not matter now. They “target”, track and kill, preferably under cover of darkness and while the “target is alone. Specifically choose soft targets – they are easier to kill. With this terror, the Maoists hope that the bulk of CPI(M) supporters will leave the area, making this CPI(M) free.

How can people who claim that they are making the revolution, target individual activists for assassination? This can be done only if you first de-humanise your opponents. So all CPI(M) activists are “agents” by definition. After that, joining hands with Trinamool or Congress to fight the CPI(M) is simple. Old slogans of enemies' enemy can then be pulled out for this purpose. But all this requires forgetting the fundamental tenets of marxism, which opposes individual terrorism and calls for mass action and mass politics. This mindless glorification of violence – individual and anonymous violence, this killing of CPI(M) activists and others, is what it always been – a hall mark of lumpen politics.

What Mamata Bannerjee has done through her rally in Lalgarh is to cloak this politics of individual assassination with central protection. The areas where the Maoists had been beaten back by the people, saw the police escorting the leaders and the supporters of the People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCAPA) into the rally. The hope was that through this, they would “recapture” these areas and drive the CPI(M) out. The rally was ostensibly called by “apolitical” forum called Santras Birodhi Mancha (Anti-Atrocities Platform), which allowed Mamta and Trinamool to claim that they were not in league with the Maoists. Unfortunately for them, the Maoist and PCPA banners far outnumbered the Trinamool flags, making clear that this was a rally of the Maoists held under the protection of Trinamool and therefore the UPA Government.

The UPA Government is quite happy to condemn Maoists for their violence and run with Mamata and her politics of murder. Mr. Chidambaram had informed the Rajya Sabha that the inquiry by the CBI into the Jnaneswari Express derailment killing more than 150, had revealed that the railway track was damaged by the PCPA, the frontal organisation of the Maoists and the main support for Lalgarh rally. It is symbolic of the Mamata brand of poltics that she can be the Rail Minister and yet consort with those who derail trains. Manoj Mahato and Asit Mahato – both wanted for the derailment of Jnaneswari Express, were openly mobilising for Mamata's so-called “apolitical” rally. And if there was any doubt left of the meaning of the rally, it became quite clear from the speeches – it was a meeting geared for next year's elections. The call from the podium was defeat the CPI(M) –from Medha Patkar to Mamata.

Medha Patkar and Agnivesh are of course “apolitical”. We have to grant that they are truly apolitical and do not know what it means to be “apolitical” and simultaneously ask for the ouster of the CPI(M) in Bengal. More than 250 CPI(M) cadre have been killed in the last 6 months alone. If there are any doubts where this section of “civil” society is going, it has become crystal clear now. They will be with fascist forces in Bengal in the coming period. They and the human rights “intellectuals” from Kolkata are clear – any method to get rid of the CPI(M) in Bengal is OK: human rights obviously do not apply to the CPI(M) cadre.

The violence of Naxalites combined with murderous gangs of the Congress was the hall-mark of the early 70's. The Congress used the state machinery and its lumpen cadre after the Naxalites first did their job. This was in clearing large parts of urban areas of CPI(M)'s cadre. Individual killings led to people vacating different areas to seek shelter somewhere else. Getting people to leave their homes under threat of liquidation was the first step. Once this was done, the Congress stepped in with its lumpen cadre drawn largely from the underworld. This was the Youth Congress and the Chatra Parishad – the youth and student wing of the Congress. Lest we forget, Mamata Bannerjee was a youth leader then and very much a part of these murderous attacks. The Naxalite groups were liquidated by the Congress, once their utility was over. This was the period of semi-fascist terror , which ended with the Congress finally being thrown out of the centre and Bengal, post-emergency.

It is important to note how the CPI(M) handled the post-emergency scenario. There were no reprisals. All police cases, even those including the murders of CPI(M) cadre were also dropped as a part of a general amnesty. This was well before South Africa's experiment with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Effectively, the CPI(M) carried out what it felt was needed – to break the cycle of violence by not using state power even to prosecute those who had killed its cadre.

What is the game plan of Mamata and the Congress? Mamata's game plan is clear and has been so for quite some time. She stands for physical liquidation of the CPI(M) and allying with any force who agrees to this game plan. Not surprising that the Maoists and Mamata/Trinamool are on the same side. They have the same objective and the same methods. Except one is openly fascist, the other calls itself “revolutionary”.

Why is a section of the civil society so happy to go along with these forces? Here again, there are different reasons for different people. For some, they would like to be identified with the “polemic” of revolution. If the current model of development is leaving the major sections of the people out, the middle class expresses its own alienation through calls for revolution. Others have always been wary of the organised left – for them joining hands with the Left during BJP rule -- was very much against their grain. Currently, their deep anti-CPI(M) antipathy is ruling their political direction. Co-existing with Trinamool, giving her a “radical” cover, all of it hide their real feelings – deep hatred of the CPI(M).

The Congress is playing the most devious game in Bengal. Their agenda is to use Trinamool and the Maoists to physically eliminate the CPI(M) from large parts of Bengal. Once this happens, they calculate Mamata will self-destruct within a short-time. It is then that the Congress will enter and pick up the pieces in Bengal.

The problem in all this is to believe that West Bengal is an island unto itself and all this will not have any impact in the rest of the country. That we can have a Railway Minister who is hand in gloves with forces who kill innocent people and derail trains. That we can have semi fascist forces in collusion with Maoists who do not recognise the writ of the state. Who have attacked all development activities in areas they control while levying “taxes” on the illegal mining Mafia, for example in Jahrakhand and Chattisgarh. That this will not spill over to other areas under the patronage of the Trinamool and the UPA Government. All this is gambling with the future of our country.

For Mamata, the issue is clear, she wants to rule in Bengal, even if for a short duration. Her limited aim is to liquidate CPI(M), she could not care less for its implications for the larger polity. It is the Congress, which claims to have a larger and longer term agenda which will have to answer for what happens to the country and the people in West Bengal

Those who believe that CPI(M) can be liquidated in Bengal are living in a fool's paradise. The Semi-fascist terror of the 70's did not finish the CPI(M), nor will their progenies today. Politics of assassination and individual violence has a limited shelf life. Let us see how long this combine lasts. Meanwhile let us hope that they will not do irreparable damage to the country.

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