Thursday, March 8, 2007

Indian Express

Singur drama: Comrade vs Comrade, film vs film

Subrata Nagchoudhury / Bidyut Roy

Kolkata, February 13:
The camera zooms in on Meera Panja, an elderly woman from a farmer’s family in Singur. A voice off-camera asks: “Are you willing to give your land for the car factory?”

She replies: “My land? This is all Buddhadeb’s land. We all survive on Buddhadeb’s earnings. We are like dogs. Like the dogs one keeps at home.”

This is a clip from a 33-minute film called Alhadi Buladi, (The Pampered Bula-di), a roundabout allusion to what could be the Singur woman’s fate if “Buddhadeb goes unchecked” — Buladi is an iconic figure used in state AIDS campaigns as a woman who offers help to victims.

The film could have been dismissed as another Opposition rant against the CPM government except that it’s produced by a former CPM member and is being patronised by a section within the party, reflecting the growing ideological battle within.

Says Immanul Haque, a college teacher in Burdwan and a former party member, who is the man behind the production: “Over 200 copies have been exhausted and we have ordered a second lot.”

Who all have bought or seen this? Immanul replies: “Please do not ask me to name those who have seen this. This is a closely guarded secret.”

No marks for guessing, though.

The CD’s release was timed with that of a a book “Neo-Capitalism — Agriculture versus Industry.” Those present at the function included Debabrata Bandopadhyay, RSP state secretary; Manju Majumdar, CPI state secretary; Kamal Bose of the CPM and a well-known Jyoti Basu loyalist.

Even Biman Bose, the powerful state secretary of the CPM, has had to react. He says the CPM state committee, too, has produced a CD to drive home the message that one has to graduate from agriculture to industry if the state has to prosper. What he does not say is that this “official CD” was made to counter the one produced by Immanul and others.

Titled, Aal Theke Alo, (From Farmland to Industry), this is a 19-minute production, encapsulating the transition. The focus here, too, is Singur and how it brings hope to the state. Though officially produced, it, too, has invited criticism from the anti-Buddhadeb lobby within the party, especially for its “discreet references” that they say downplays the role played by former chief minister Jyoti Basu in the state’s move towards industrialization. A party member, who did not want to be named, says the title implies that agriculture is synonymous with darkness and industry with light.

When told that some in the party are openly praising Alhadi Buladi, Biman Bose said: “Don’t ask me rubbish questions. Once I say the party has no connection with it, that’s the end of the matter. We are launching a massive campaign with the Aal Theke Alo production. We will bring out 350,000 copies of a book about the industrialization process and about 1.2 million leaflets.”

Subhash Chakraborty, a senior member of the party and the perpetual dissenter in Bhattacharjee’s Cabinet, claims he hasn’t seen either film but says he knows what these are about. “I can only tell you, I am not in favour of any rapid industrialization. I am not impressed by the World Bank, IMF-driven paradigms of logistical hub, industrial hub and so forth. This big talk will not fill empty stomachs...I am for a slow, cautious approach.” Chakraborty’s alleged links with realtors in Salt Lake have often been the subject of political controversy.

The CD war is just one dimension of the battle within the CPM. Consider these:

In the 27 mouzas in Nandigram, which were to be notified for a chemical hub, the CPM had about 265 loyal party members who formed the core. Almost half of them have switched over to Committee to Save Land, the opposition group that’s behind the anti-Buddhadeb campaign.

Already five have been expelled while desperate attempts are underway to persuade others to revert back to the fold, says Badal Mondal, a zonal committee member of Nandigram.

In Bhawanipore, too, where the police inspector was killed, of a total of 26 arrests, there are CPI(M) supporters. A bigger number of such party loyalists who had not been arrested are out of their homes. Bhawanipore in Haldia happens to be a stronghold of the CPM under the direct control of Lakshman Seth, the CPM MP and a party strongman.

West Bengal Land Reforms Amendment Bill, 1955, aimed at accelerating growth of industry with necessary changes in land-holding laws, was blocked by the Assembly Select Committee. The amendment sought to lift the ceiling on landholding for “industry, commerce and infrastructure” projects. The LF constituent members present at the Select Committee meeting were vociferously against it. Said a CPM insider: “The Left Front partners at the meeting sounded more virulent and aggressive than the Trinamool or the Congress.”

The State Secretariat meeting on Feb 9 decided to hold the Bill. What it did not officially concede is the resistance within — which forced all India general secretary Prakash Karat to attend the meeting and announce that the Bill would await consensus.