Thursday, February 15, 2007


Violence has only one antidote: counter-violence. In this context, the actions of the police at Singur on Saturday had one major flaw. They were woefully inadequate. Bleeding heart radicals may find such a statement to be too harsh, but the facts speak otherwise. The police were victims of an unprovoked attack by a bunch of hoodlums who have taken cover under the umbrella of an antiquated and discredited ideology called Maoism. The vast majority of the people who attacked the police on Saturday were not inhabitants of the affected villages in Singur. They were outsiders who had come in with a pre-meditated plan to provoke violence and cause disruption. The police posted in Singur to protect government officials and workers who were carrying out the fencing, were utterly unprepared to meet the attack that was launched by self-styled Maoists. One reason for the unpreparedness was the fact that they had been ordered by the chief minister, Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, not to carry rifles. Mr Bhattacharjee must decide whether he is the chief minister of West Bengal committed to industrialization or he is a closet Gandhian, and, therefore, coy about using state power to suppress Maoists. The menace of Maoist violence is not new to West Bengal. When it had first surfaced in the late Sixties and early Seventies, it was eradicated through counter-violence. Mr Bhattacharjee must learn from that experience and nip the present movement in the bud before Maoist weeds strangle the hundred flowers of West Bengal.
West Bengal is poised at what is arguably the most critical phase of its history. If Mr
Bhattacharjee’s efforts to bring investment to the state fail, the people of West Bengal can begin to prepare for their own mass funeral. Bengalis have a congenital propensity to scupper their own best prospects. This is the only charitable explanation that is possible for the opposition being expressed to the setting up of a car factory in Singur. This also explains why people like Ms Medha Patkar and Mr Rajnath Singh, instead of opposing the taking away of land from farmers in Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh, flock to West Bengal.
Mr Bhattacharjee, because he is committed to the economic development of West Bengal, must be ruing his party’s track record on violence and disruption. The bandh call on December 14 is looming over him. A left-sponsored bandh, like the violence in Singur, can only send out the worst possible signals to potential investors. Mr Bhattacharjee must quell violence with a strong hand. He must at the same time convince the Centre of Indian Trade Unions that a bandh is not possible on December 14, and if it does happen, the state administration will oppose it without any qualms. Mr Bhattacharjee must demonstrate that he is the chief minister of West Bengal and not the chief minister of the Communist Party of India (Marxist).