Thursday, April 5, 2007

Dictatorship of the Partytariat

Sankarshan Thakur on the deep ideological and organisational rot that besets the Left today.

In Lenin’s Tomb, his classic reportage on the slow Soviet meltdown, David Remnick recounts a bunch of Gorbachev-era Young Leninists watching Wall Street at a Communist Party School. Michael Douglas, Charlie Sheen and Slick Money had the auditorium rapt. And when Douglas whirled round at the climax to deliver his killer line for capitalism — “Greed is good” — the class of Leninists went wild. Wall Street wasn’t on the Party School screens as a lesson in what to eschew; it was there as a savvy sermon on what to embrace. Mikhail Gorbachev had injected the system with booster doses of perestroika to shake a dying economy to life. But the side-effects of such doctoring had begun to fast overrun intended results. Everybody sensed the future was closing in on the world’s biggest ideological empire. “Models are out. Dogma is out. Now we can only speak about goals,” a top Communist Party ideologue told Remnick. Almost the first stop on the road to those goals was the unmarked graveside of both the Communist Party and the Soviet Union.

Sankarshan Thakur on the deep ideological and organisational rot that besets the Left today
In Lenin’s Tomb, his classic reportage on the slow Soviet meltdown, David Remnick recounts a bunch of Gorbachev-era Young Leninists watching Wall Street at a Communist Party School. Michael Douglas, Charlie Sheen and Slick Money had the auditorium rapt. And when Douglas whirled round at the climax to deliver his killer line for capitalism — “Greed is good” — the class of Leninists went wild. Wall Street wasn’t on the Party School screens as a lesson in what to eschew; it was there as a savvy sermon on what to embrace. Mikhail Gorbachev had injected the system with booster doses of perestroika to shake a dying economy to life. But the side-effects of such doctoring had begun to fast overrun intended results. Everybody sensed the future was closing in on the world’s biggest ideological empire. “Models are out. Dogma is out. Now we can only speak about goals,” a top Communist Party ideologue told Remnick. Almost the first stop on the road to those goals was the unmarked graveside of both the Communist Party and the Soviet Union.
Imaging: Neelakash Kshetrimayum/K. Satheesh

Bhattacharya can’t be Deng because this isn’t a totalitarian country; his comrades’ fear is he might yet become Gorbachev, liquidator of an unprecedented 30-year run in power in West Bengal
In the hushed but rasping internal debate over whether Buddhadeb Bhattacharya’s corporate blitz in West Bengal is tearing the CPM away from its essential moorings, many colleagues have been tempted to liken him to Gorbachev — the endgame helmsman, the one who will sink the party in the name of keeping the state afloat. Others think, a little hopefully, he might actually be closer to Deng Xiaoping — he will make the transition to capitalism but keep the party’s hegemony intact. Singur and Nandigram have effectively disabled that comparison. Deng and his heirs are unabashed totalitarians; Bhattacharya’s band, despite their theoretical the-party-is-always-right authoritarianism, must live by the rules of democracy. He can’t put a lid on Nandigram as the Chinese communists might have repeatedly done in inner China. He can’t hope to avert consequences. As CPM general secretary Prakash Karat stuttered in admission post the nerves of Nandigram, “Let the people vote us out.”
Bhattacharya can’t be Deng; the danger his comrades’ fear is he might yet become Gorbachev, liquidator of an unprecedented 30-year run in power in West Bengal. He’s begun to sound too much like Remnick’s collapse-eve Soviet ideologue, he’s terribly bullish on the goals, terribly unconcerned about the route there, and, as Dipankar Bhattacharya of the CPI(ML) puts it, terribly arrogant about his piety. “The CPM represents the deranged Left,” he says. “It is busy throttling peoples’ movements, defrauding trade unions, robbing and killing peasants at the behest of private capitalists.” Further Left, the judgement gets harsher. “The CPM has become a mafia, first it served its own power interests but now it has employed itself for monopoly capital, it is as ruthless and arrogant as Narendra Modi,” says Maoist intellectual Varavara Rao.
The CPM’s long-spanked allies are less harsh, but they too have begun to speak out, as if liberated by the upsurge in Bengal’s heartland. They have long chafed under the CPM monopoly, hectored, stunted, kept to mean corners in the Red Fort. But now, quite suddenly, the outcry has given them tongue. A senior Front member confided: “For decades the CPM has ruled the alliance with an iron fist, smothering dissent, disregarding our demands, but if this alliance means that the people will turn against us, it is too much of a price to pay. We too have a constituency, and if they are irate, we will be forced to listen, the CPM will have to listen. Why should we pay for their mistakes?” The CPI, the Forward Bloc, the rsp, they are gathering in concentric circles upon their core; if that’s to implode, they’ll sink too.
At the core itself exists a confounding deadlock. The CPM is loath to admit the party is riven on the issue. It finds it even tougher to accept that it cannot divine a way out of the spot it has got itself into. It has blood on its hands, it can do little to wash it off. Organisationally and politically, Buddhadeb Bhattacharya looms too large for them to touch, the West Bengal unit too strong and too critical to annoy. Perhaps there was a time the party could have managed this crisis better. It had giants like EMS Namboodiripad, M. Basavapunnaiah, BT Ranadive and P. Sundarayya in the politburo to counsel and curb even the likes of Jyoti Basu; there was the street-smart astuteness of Harkishen Singh Surjeet. In 1978, the powerful Jyoti Basu wanted to align with Morarji Desai; he was overruled by the pantheon. He was overruled again when he had a chance to become prime minister in the political confusions of 1996; he called it a “historic blunder” but lived by the line. Today’s politburo pales in stature and sagacity. Many in the party believe the West Bengal CPM itself is worse managed since Anil Biswas passed away on the eve of the last elections. Biman Basu, his successor, is an old and respected hand but as one party hand put it, “Bimanda doesn’t have the dexterity and patience at crisis management Anilda had, he would have handled this much better”.
But is this merely a management issue for the CPM? Is this merely a case of a rash statement here, a police excess there? Is it merely a lapse in speed and sequencing? Would there be no crisis if Buddhadeb Bhattacharya had prepared the ground with greater patience and consensus? Few, after all, can quarrel with the fundamentals of his position — West Bengal needs industry and investment, that’s what will bring jobs and prosperity, that’s what will stem the economic decay. But that’s not where the quarrel ever was; the quarrel is probably located where the CPM is refusing to look — deep within. Is it right to oppose SEZs in Andhra Pradesh and push them in West Bengal? Is it right to rant against new labour laws in parliament and sneak them in on home turf? Is it right to remain ostrich-like about its ideological schizophrenia? Historian Sumit Sarkar, who has turned lead leftwing critic of the CPM, perhaps has the most apt perspective on the gnaw. “The Left is at a serious turning point, more so because the crisis has erupted in West Bengal, which is its strongest base. For many years, the Left has been in the forefront of opposing the neo-liberalisation project but that whole axis now seems to have broken down with what is happening in Bengal. There is little difference between the economic policies of the bjp, the Congress and the Left today. Communists have committed excesses but they have always been in the defence of a larger socialist ideal, the current excesses are entirely in the defence of private monopoly capital. As a result, there is massive revulsion towards it in its own constituency.”
The central of the many ironies that the CPM has tied itself up in is just that —- a party that proudly wears the badge of Operation Barga, arguably modern India’s most comprehensive land resettlement programme today finds itself the focus of peasant ire. Buddhadeb Bhattacharya might have become a bhadralok posterboy by putting the shine on Kolkata but that’s not where the CPM gets its shine from. Mikhail Gorbachev didn’t care what he’d unleashed could undo him; Prakash Karat does. Gorbachev was never ever his idol.
Source: Tehelka
Mar 31 , 2007

Exclusive Interview with Arundhati Roy

'It’s outright war and both sides are choosing their weapons'

Chhattisgarh. Jharkhand. Bihar. Andhra Pradesh. Signposts of fractures gone too far with too little remedy. Arundhati Roy in conversation with Shoma Chaudhury on the violence rending our heartland.

There is an atmosphere of growing violence across the country. How do you read the signs? In what context should it be read?

You don’t have to be a genius to read the signs. We have a growing middle class, reared on a diet of radical consumerism and aggressive greed. Unlike industrialising Western countries, which had colonies from which to plunder resources and generate slave labour to feed this process, we have to colonise ourselves, our own nether parts. We’ve begun to eat our own limbs. The greed that is being generated (and marketed as a value interchangeable with nationalism) can only be sated by grabbing land, water and resources from the vulnerable. What we’re witnessing is the most successful secessionist struggle ever waged in independent India — the secession of the middle and upper classes from the rest of the country. It’s a vertical secession, not a lateral one. They’re fighting for the right to merge with the world’s elite somewhere up there in the stratosphere. They’ve managed to commandeer the resources, the coal, the minerals, the bauxite, the water and electricity. Now they want the land to make more cars, more bombs, more mines — supertoys for the new supercitizens of the new superpower. So it’s outright war, and people on both sides are choosing their weapons. The government and the corporations reach for structural adjustment, the World Bank, the ADB, FDI, friendly court orders, friendly policy makers, help from the ‘friendly’ corporate media and a police force that will ram all this down people’s throats. Those who want to resist this process have, until now, reached for dharnas, hunger strikes, satyagraha, the courts and what they thought was friendly media. But now more and more are reaching for guns. Will the violence grow? If the ‘growth rate’ and the Sensex are going to be the only barometers the government uses to measure progress and the well-being of people, then of course it will. How do I read the signs? It isn’t hard to read sky-writing. What it says up there, in big letters, is this: the shit has hit the fan, folks.

You once remarked that though you may not resort to violence yourself, you think it has become immoral to condemn it, given the circumstances in the country. Can you elaborate on this view?

I’d be a liability as a guerrilla! I doubt I used the word ‘immoral’ — morality is an elusive business, as changeable as the weather. What I feel is this: non-violent movements have knocked at the door of every democratic institution in this country for decades, and have been spurned and humiliated. Look at the Bhopal gas victims, the Narmada Bachao Andolan. The nba had a lot going for it — high-profile leadership, media coverage, more resources than any other mass movement. What went wrong? People are bound to want to rethink strategy. When Sonia Gandhi begins to promote satyagraha at the World Economic Forum in Davos, it’s time for us to sit up and think. For example, is mass civil disobedience possible within the structure of a democratic nation state? Is it possible in the age of disinformation and corporate-controlled mass media? Are hunger strikes umbilically linked to celebrity politics? Would anybody care if the people of Nangla Machhi or Bhatti mines went on a hunger strike? Irom Sharmila has been on a hunger strike for six years. That should be a lesson to many of us. I’ve always felt that it’s ironic that hunger strikes are used as a political weapon in a land where most people go hungry anyway. We are in a different time and place now. Up against a different, more complex adversary. We’ve entered the era of NGOs — or should I say the era of paltu shers — in which mass action can be a treacherous business. We have demonstrations which are funded, we have sponsored dharnas and social forums which make militant postures but never follow up on what they preach. We have all kinds of ‘virtual’ resistance. Meetings against SEZs sponsored by the biggest promoters of SEZs. Awards and grants for environmental activism and community action given by corporations responsible for devastating whole ecosystems. Vedanta, a company mining bauxite in the forests of Orissa, wants to start a university. The Tatas have two charitable trusts that directly and indirectly fund activists and mass movements across the country. Could that be why Singur has drawn so much less flak than Nandigram? Of course the Tatas and Birlas funded Gandhi too — maybe he was our first NGO. But now we have NGOs who make a lot of noise, write a lot of reports, but whom the sarkar is more than comfortable with. How do we make sense of all this? The place is crawling with professional diffusers of real political action. ‘Virtual’ resistance has become something of a liability.

There was a time when mass movements looked to the courts for justice. The courts have rained down a series of judgements that are so unjust, so insulting to the poor in the language they use, they take your breath away. A recent Supreme Court judgement, allowing the Vasant Kunj Mall to resume construction though it didn’t have the requisite clearances, said in so many words that the questions of corporations indulging in malpractice does not arise! In the ERA of corporate globalisation, corporate land-grab, in the ERA of Enron and Monsanto, Halliburton and Bechtel, that’s a loaded thing to say. It exposes the ideological heart of the most powerful institution in this country. The judiciary, along with the corporate press, is now seen as the lynchpin of the neo-liberal project.
In a climate like this, when people feel that they are being worn down, exhausted by these interminable ‘democratic’ processes, only to be eventually humiliated, what are they supposed to do? Of course it isn’t as though the only options are binary — violence versus non-violence. There are political parties that believe in armed struggle but only as one part of their overall political strategy. Political workers in these struggles have been dealt with brutally, killed, beaten, imprisoned under false charges. People are fully aware that to take to arms is to call down upon yourself the myriad forms of the violence of the Indian State. The minute armed struggle becomes a strategy, your whole world shrinks and the colours fade to black and white. But when people decide to take that step because every other option has ended in despair, should we condemn them? Does anyone believe that if the people of Nandigram had held a dharna and sung songs, the West Bengal government would have backed down? We are living in times when to be ineffective is to support the status quo (which no doubt suits some of us). And being effective comes at a terrible price. I find it hard to condemn people who are prepared to pay that price.

You have been travelling a lot on the ground — can you give us a sense of the trouble spots you have been to? Can you outline a few of the combat lines in these places?

Huge question — what can I say? The military occupation of Kashmir, neo-fascism in Gujarat, civil war in Chhattisgarh, mncs raping Orissa, the submergence of hundreds of villages in the Narmada Valley, people living on the edge of absolute starvation, the devastation of forest land, the Bhopal victims living to see the West Bengal government re-wooing Union Carbide — now calling itself Dow Chemicals — in Nandigram. I haven’t been recently to Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, but we know about the almost hundred thousand farmers who have killed themselves. We know about the fake encounters and the terrible repression in Andhra Pradesh. Each of these places has its own particular history, economy, ecology. None is amenable to easy analysis. And yet there is connecting tissue, there are huge international cultural and economic pressures being brought to bear on them. How can I not mention the Hindutva project, spreading its poison sub-cutaneously, waiting to erupt once again? I’d say the biggest indictment of all is that we are still a country, a culture, a society which continues to nurture and practice the notion of untouchability. While our economists number-crunch and boast about the growth rate, a million people — human scavengers — earn their living carrying several kilos of other people’s shit on their heads every day. And if they didn’t carry shit on their heads they would starve to death. Some f***ing superpower this.

How does one view the recent State and police violence in Bengal?

No different from police and State violence anywhere else — including the issue of hypocrisy and doublespeak so perfected by all political parties including the mainstream Left. Are Communist bullets different from capitalist ones? Odd things are happening. It snowed in Saudi Arabia. Owls are out in broad daylight. The Chinese government tabled a bill sanctioning the right to private property. I don’t know if all of this has to do with climate change. The Chinese Communists are turning out to be the biggest capitalists of the 21st century. Why should we expect our own parliamentary Left to be any different? Nandigram and Singur are clear signals. It makes you wonder — is the last stop of every revolution advanced capitalism? Think about it — the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution, the Chinese Revolution, the Vietnam War, the anti-apartheid struggle, the supposedly Gandhian freedom struggle in India… what’s the last station they all pull in at? Is this the end of imagination?

The Maoist attack in Bijapur — the death of 55 policemen. Are the rebels only the flip side of the State?

How can the rebels be the flip side of the State? Would anybody say that those who fought against apartheid — however brutal their methods — were the flip side of the State? What about those who fought the French in Algeria? Or those who fought the Nazis? Or those who fought colonial regimes? Or those who are fighting the US occupation of Iraq? Are they the flip side of the State? This facile new report-driven ‘human rights’ discourse, this meaningless condemnation game that we are all forced to play, makes politicians of us all and leaches the real politics out of everything. However pristine we would like to be, however hard we polish our halos, the tragedy is that we have run out of pristine choices. There is a civil war in Chhattisgarh sponsored, created by the Chhattisgarh government, which is publicly pursing the Bush doctrine: if you’re not with us, you are with the terrorists. The lynchpin of this war, apart from the formal security forces, is the Salva Judum — a government-backed militia of ordinary people forced to take up arms, forced to become spos (special police officers). The Indian State has tried this in Kashmir, in Manipur, in Nagaland. Tens of thousands have been killed, hundreds of thousands tortured, thousands have disappeared. Any banana republic would be proud of this record. Now the government wants to import these failed strategies into the heartland. Thousands of adivasis have been forcibly moved off their mineral-rich lands into police camps. Hundreds of villages have been forcibly evacuated. Those lands, rich in iron-ore, are being eyed by corporations like the Tatas and Essar. mous have been signed, but no one knows what they say. Land acquisition has begun. This kind of thing happened in countries like Colombia — one of the most devastated countries in the world. While everybody’s eyes are fixed on the spiralling violence between government-backed militias and guerrilla squads, multinational corporations quietly make off with the mineral wealth. That’s the little piece of theatre being scripted for us in Chhattisgarh.
Of course it’s horrible that 55 policemen were killed. But they’re as much the victims of government policy as anybody else. For the government and the corporations they’re just cannon fodder — there’s plenty more where they came from. Crocodile tears will be shed, prim TV anchors will hector us for a while and then more supplies of fodder will be arranged. For the Maoist guerrillas, the police and spos they killed were the armed personnel of the Indian State, the main, hands-on perpetrators of repression, torture, custodial killings, false encounters. They’re not innocent civilians — if such a thing exists — by any stretch of imagination.

I have no doubt that the Maoists can be agents of terror and coercion too. I have no doubt they have committed unspeakable atrocities. I have no doubt they cannot lay claim to undisputed support from local people — but who can? Still, no guerrilla army can survive without local support. That’s a logistical impossibility. And the support for Maoists is growing, not diminshing. That says something. People have no choice but to align themselves on the side of whoever they think is less worse.

But to equate a resistance movement fighting against enormous injustice with the government which enforces that injustice is absurd. The government has slammed the door in the face of every attempt at non-violent resistance. When people take to arms, there is going to be all kinds of violence — revolutionary, lumpen and outright criminal. The government is responsible for the monstrous situations it creates.

‘Naxals’, ‘Maoists’, ‘outsiders’: these are terms being very loosely used these days.

‘Outsiders’ is a generic accusation used in the early stages of repression by governments who have begun to believe their own publicity and can’t imagine that their own people have risen up against them. That’s the stage the CPM is at now in Bengal, though some would say repression in Bengal is not new, it has only moved into higher gear. In any case, what’s an outsider? Who decides the borders? Are they village boundaries? Tehsil? Block? District? State? Is narrow regional and ethnic politics the new Communist mantra? About Naxals and Maoists — well… India is about to become a police state in which everybody who disagrees with what’s going on risks being called a terrorist. Islamic terrorists have to be Islamic — so that’s not good enough to cover most of us. They need a bigger catchment area. So leaving the definition loose, undefined, is effective strategy, because the time is not far off when we’ll all be called Maoists or Naxalites, terrorists or terrorist sympathisers, and shut down by people who don’t really know or care who Maoists or Naxalites are. In villages, of course, that has begun — thousands of people are being held in jails across the country, loosely charged with being terrorists trying to overthrow the state. Who are the real Naxalites and Maoists? I’m not an authority on the subject, but here’s a very rudimentary potted history.

The Communist Party of India, the CPI, was formed in 1925. The CPI (M), or what we now call the CPM — the Communist Party Marxist — split from the CPI in 1964 and formed a separate party. Both, of course, were parliamentary political parties. In 1967, the CPM, along with a splinter group of the Congress, came to power in West Bengal. At the time there was massive unrest among the peasantry starving in the countryside. Local CPM leaders — Kanu Sanyal and Charu Mazumdar — led a peasant uprising in the district of Naxalbari which is where the term Naxalites comes from. In 1969, the government fell and the Congress came back to power under Siddhartha Shankar Ray. The Naxalite uprising was mercilessly crushed — Mahasweta Devi has written powerfully about this time. In 1969, the CPI (ML) — Marxist Leninist — split from the CPM. A few years later, around 1971, the CPI (ML) devolved into several parties: the CPM-ML (Liberation), largely centred in Bihar; the CPM-ML (New Democracy), functioning for the most part out of Andhra Pradesh and Bihar; the CPM-ML (Class Struggle) mainly in Bengal. These parties have been generically baptised ‘Naxalites’. They see themselves as Marxist Leninist, not strictly speaking Maoist. They believe in elections, mass action and — when absolutely pushed to the wall or attacked — armed struggle. The MCC — the Maoist Communist Centre, at the time mostly operating in Bihar — was formed in 1968. The PW, People’s War, operational for the most part in Andhra Pradesh, was formed in 1980. Recently, in 2004, the MCC and the pw merged to form the CPI (Maoist) They believe in outright armed struggle and the overthrowing of the State. They don’t participate in elections. This is the party that is fighting the guerrilla war in Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand.

The Indian State and media largely view the Maoists as an “internal security” threat. Is this the way to look at them?

I’m sure the Maoists would be flattered to be viewed in this way.

The Maoists want to bring down the State. Given the autocratic ideology they take their inspiration from, what alternative would they set up? Wouldn’t their regime be an exploitative, autocratic, violent one as well? Isn’t their action already exploitative of ordinary people? Do they really have the support of ordinary people?

I think it’s important for us to acknowledge that both Mao and Stalin are dubious heroes with murderous pasts. Tens of millions of people were killed under their regimes. Apart from what happened in China and the Soviet Union, Pol Pot, with the support of the Chinese Communist Party (while the West looked discreetly away), wiped out two million people in Cambodia and brought millions of people to the brink of extinction from disease and starvation. Can we pretend that China’s cultural revolution didn’t happen? Or that millions of people in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe were not victims of labour camps, torture chambers, the network of spies and informers, the secret police. The history of these regimes is just as dark as the history of Western imperialism, except for the fact that they had a shorter life-span. We cannot condemn the occupation of Iraq, Palestine and Kashmir while we remain silent about Tibet and Chechnya. I would imagine that for the Maoists, the Naxalites, as well as the mainstream Left, being honest about the past is important to strengthen people’s faith in the future. One hopes the past will not be repeated, but denying that it ever happened doesn’t help inspire confidence… Nevertheless, the Maoists in Nepal have waged a brave and successful struggle against the monarchy. Right now, in India, the Maoists and the various Marxist-Leninist groups are leading the fight against immense injustice here. They are fighting not just the State, but feudal landlords and their armed militias. They are the only people who are making a dent. And I admire that. It may well be that when they come to power, they will, as you say, be brutal, unjust and autocratic, or even worse than the present government. Maybe, but I’m not prepared to assume that in advance. If they are, we’ll have to fight them too. And most likely someone like myself will be the first person they’ll string up from the nearest tree — but right now, it is important to acknowledge that they are bearing the brunt of being at the forefront of resistance. Many of us are in a position where we are beginning to align ourselves on the side of those who we know have no place for us in their religious or ideological imagination. It’s true that everybody changes radically when they come to power — look at Mandela’s anc. Corrupt, capitalist, bowing to the imf, driving the poor out of their homes — honouring Suharto, the killer of hundreds of thousands of Indonesian Communists, with South Africa’s highest civilian award. Who would have thought it could happen? But does this mean South Africans should have backed away from the struggle against apartheid? Or that they should regret it now? Does it mean Algeria should have remained a French colony, that Kashmiris, Iraqis and Palestinians should accept military occupation? That people whose dignity is being assaulted should give up the fight because they can’t find saints to lead them into battle?

Is there a communication breakdown in our society?


Mar 31 , 2007

Source: Tehelka

I want to become a Maoist - V P Singh's shocking confession

Friday, September 08, 2006

Braving relentless dialysis, frail but resolute, the Mandal Messiah VP Singh has taken on the might of the corporate-political nexus on behalf of displaced farmers in the Hindi heartland and across the country. By brazenly operating in favour of private companies and by openly bulldozing peaceful public dissent, social consensus and people’s aspirations, the establishment is pushing the people to a precipice of no-return. In such unjust circumstances, why shouldn’t the armed struggle of the Maoists spread in the deep hinterland? India is sitting on a volcano of social unrest and economic conflict, he says, which is bound to explode if the politics of liberalisation pushes the people into exile and condemnation.

Q. What makes you so upset about the Dadri Power Project? Don’t you think that UP desperately needs power?

Singh: I am all for power. The country needs it. However, the Dadri issue is not about power. The issue is the model of development. One is the inclusive model where everyone participates in the larger benefits. There is also this model of development where only some people pay the price and suffer. In India, we want a model where everyone has a share in the benefits.We have trumpeted that we have introduced market economy but the first principle of market economy is that the buyer and seller should have the freedom to buy and sell. The choice has to be there whether one sells or not, buys or not, and the price is the price which is negotiated and settled. That is the market price. Now if you deny the buyer or seller the right to exercise his choice whether to buy or sell and instead of negotiating the price there is government intervention which settles the price, where is this market economy?

This is exactly what is happening in Dadri.

Singh: This is happening all over the country, not just in Dadri, sometimes in the name of hi-tech cities, sometimes in the name of Special Economic Zones (SEZs). All the states and all the chief ministers are doing it, and this includes other companies also and not just Reliance. If you are going to have an economy which is skewed in favour of the rich, then it is all a bogus market. Consider the build-up of a project.Land is needed. So are machinery, concrete, cement and steel, among others. When it comes to the farmers’ land, everyone puts up a precise question: “Don’t you want development?” Why is this question not put to the Birlas and Tatas? By the same principle, Tata Steel and Birla Cement should also be acquired. Why doesn’t the UP government acquire electricity at the rate it wants to, instead of signing the deal with Reliance? Everybody dictates to the government the price it wants for its product, only the farmer is dictated by the government. This is injustice.Prime agricultural land close to one lakh acre has been taken by the UP government and another one lakh acre by all the other states. Why can’t they set up these projects in the uncultivable lands? For example, take Annapara. It is uncultivable. Besides, when you take land in the villages of western UP, Haryana or Punjab, there are about 20 to 25% landless labourers dependent upon agricultural activities. When that activity ceases, where will they go?The adjoining villages are already hard-pressed. If they come to the city, their homes are bulldozed. If you take the whole map of India, we are heading towards a major socio-political crisis. The way people are being displaced, who can stop the arrival of Maoism?

Q. But why target only Dadri and not others?

Singh: That is the problem of VP Singh. You hang him. Just because VP is this you can’t hang the farmers and labourers. This is not the issue of an individual. I am raising the issue all over the country. As for Dadri, I am associated with it for more than one year. I discussed the matter with Mulayam Singh Yadav even before the Jan Morcha was revived. When farmers came to me I promised to stand by them. In my physical condition, it is the easiest place to go. In Haryana, a public meeting was held, which was addressed by Raj Babbar. I took up the issue in Pune also where Infosys has taken 3,500 acre in one village. Villagers protested and were fired upon. I went there and took a stand. I said, “Put my jhuggi here, I will go for dialysis to Bombay but will not budge from here.” Thankfully, Sharad Pawar and Vilasrao Deshmukh reconsidered the issue and cancelled the acquisition. How can you say we are not taking up the issue?

Q. Did you raise it with the Prime Minister?

Singh: I wrote to the Prime Minister but got no response from him. I also spoke to Mulayam Singh Yadav about it. He said that he would address the matter after the block elections in the state. But six months have gone by and nothing has happened.

Q. The basic allegation is that there was no competitive bidding for the Dadri project.

Singh: Yes, there was no competitive bidding. I have raised the issue with several people and no one has denied this. Even in defence deals there is bidding. Is this not corruption and favouritism? Straightaway, this is a case of corruption. You pick up a party and give the project without competitive bidding. Who are you to do that? Rs 2, as the price, has been announced. It is not only a farmers’ issue but also involves the consumers. Didn’t the Enron deal break on the supply tariff issue? This is a scandal bigger than Enron.More so, 60% of the cost of acquisition that Reliance should have borne is being borne by the state government derived from people’s money. The Gram Samaj land has been given for a song at Rs 100 per acre per year. Why? We don’t know if there is any clause whereby a deadline for the project has been fixed. We were told two years. Two years have passed. Is there a penalty clause? If there is, has it been applied and if not why is it not there? The amount of land that has been acquired is much more than what is required. The electricity that will be generated will not be for UP alone. It will go to Haryana, Delhi, Punjab, Rajasthan. This tomtomming that it is only for UP is a farce.

Q. There is a belief that the farmers agitating in Dadri are trying to extract a better price for their land which is far in excess of the agreed rate.

Singh: The farmers have been given the price of Rs 150 per square yard in Dadri. The same land without any development has been valued at Rs 5,700 per square yard by Reliance and it is demanding a loan from the bank on the basis of this assessment. My thesis is that the rate at which you have valued the land for the bank appraisal should be the real value of the land. If it is not, then you are cheating the bank. And if it is the real value, then you are cheating the farmers. One of them is being cheated.

Q. How do you analyse the entire economic process undertaken by Mulayam Singh in collaboration with big industrial houses?

Singh: He has created an economic oligarchy. UP has been virtually handed over to this group of people. When he speaks about the Uttar Pradesh Development Council (UPDC), why are only industrialists its members? Why aren’t there farmers in it?

Q. Mulayam Singh Yadav is quite perturbed. He says that you are doing this at the behest of the Congress.

Singh: Then he can get me hanged in a park or some corner of Lucknow for whatever I am doing. But is that an argument to deny the farmers the legitimate price of their land? He engages in personal allegations and then defends them, and the main issue is lost. I know his tactics. The issue is more important than VP Singh.Special Economic Zones (SEZs) are sprouting all over the country. Those who promote them claim that they will create lakhs of jobs and there will be universal progress and development.Why call it a market economy then? Stop it. A farmer as the owner of his land does not have the choice to decide the terms at which he will part with his property. Give me one advocate of liberalisation who can defend it? That is why this whole thing is a hoax. If you refuse to listen to the people who are affected today and if you send the police tomorrow, they will take to arms. And wherever they have taken up arms you have not been able to handle it.

Q. There have been massive protests in Kalinga Nagar in Orissa against the acquisition of land. It has been almost one year and the roads are still blocked. They are ordinary people but are being branded as Maoists by the corporate sector and the government.

Singh: Yes. I want to become a Maoist if this is the model of development. But I can’t at this age.


Human Rights Report on Gaur Carnage is Nepal's first Human Rights news website run by Informal Sector Service Center (INSEC), which is well recognized among national and international community and mass media for the information related to Human Rights in Nepal. has representatives in all 75 districts of the country. They send news stories regarding incidents and situations of violations of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law as well as various aspects of Human Rights movement in Nepal. In addition to representatives, it receives information from five INSEC Regional Offices from Eastern to Far Western regions and widespread network of INSEC. Also, it gets information through Fact-finding Missions being conducted by INSEC from time to time on the incidents of Human Rights violation. The website, as an explicit account of Human Rights in Nepal, has been providing information as fastest as possible and contributing in protection and promotion of Human Rights and raising the awareness. INSEC has the following Fact Finding Report on 'Gaur' Incident that happened at Rice Mills Ground, Gaur Municipality-5 in Rautahat district on 21 March 2007. Please click here to read the report.

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