Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Deserted & lumpenised - The cruel irony of Nandigram



Deserted & lumpenised
The cruel irony of Nandigram

Incalculably more damaging than the fact that Nandigram has lost out in Bengal’s dream run to prosperity or that hundreds have been compelled to leave the village is that the hand of government doesn’t exist in a volatile part of the state. Sunday’s flare-up demonstrates that tension rages an inch below the lethally deceptive calm and mayhem a further inch below tension. The CPI-M must acknowledge that two of its supporters would not have fallen to the bullets if the cadres hadn’t ganged up to fire the first volley ostensibly once again to regain lost ground. Retaliation from the Bhumi Uchched Pratirodh Committee (BUPC) was only to be expected. The latest outrage has made a travesty of the Chief Minister’s appeal for all-party talks to restore normalcy. That a gunbattle between two groups of villagers could continue for as long as four hours is a testament to the abysmal collapse of administration in this part of East Midnapore, almost reminiscent of Keshpur. The government with a dead hand has even been deaf to the alarm bells that rang last Friday when a CPI MLA, Mohammad Ilyas, was allegedly assaulted by activists of the BUPC. Clearly, even the minimum security wasn’t in place, far less any Intelligence feedback.
Lumpen elements have come to dominate both the party’s footsoldiers and the ranks of the BUPC. Agent provocateurs are being tacitly condoned. Matters have reached a stage when administrative control over Nandigram is more critical than a political settlement with a built-in fragility. A semblance of law and order must first be restored before the Chief Minister renews his pitch for an all-party meeting. As important as the assurance on shifting the SEZ is the need to rein in the activists on both sides of the divide. Mr Bhattacharjee doesn’t usually react in the immediate aftermath of trouble; thus far the party and the administration have been muted in their response. And once again it remained for the Governor to warn that he is “keeping a close watch on the situation”. A deserted village needs to be back on the rails. And the responsibility is collective, resting as much on the ruling party, the administration as on the opposition. Auburn, the focus of Oliver Goldsmith’s The Deserted Village, was abandoned in the wake of the Industrial Revolution; the cruel irony of Nandigram is that a section of its people has been forced to desert the village without even an industrial shed being erected.