Friday, November 23, 2007

Oh, Kolkata!

There is much irony in the surprising denouement. It was not the Trinamool Congress, the bete noire of the Left in the state that is involved in Wednesday’s serious and violent turn in Kolkata. It is not the Maoists who are throwing down the gauntlet to the reactionary Left Establishment. Nor is it the marginal Left radical group, the Socialist Unity Centre of India (SUCI). The clash on Wednesday was between the police and members of the protesting All India Minority Forum (AIMF). The Left has always prided itself on its pro-minority, including right-wing Muslim groups, stand and policy. It is now the reactionary Muslim groups who have turned hostile. It is a dangerous situation.

In a sense, the situation in Kolkata on Wednesday is a throwback to the ugly, violent city of the 1970s, when the Naxalites unleashed violence, and the state government of the time with help from orthodox Leftists now in power, have brutally crushed them. There is a clear hint now that violence of those days which had become a fading memory in Kolkata is back with a vengeance as it were. It seems to be the beginning of the end for the long reign of the Left Front in West Bengal.

The debate in Lok Sabha even as the situation was worsening in Kolkata seemed to follow the predictable pattern, where debating points were scored from all sides. The BJP spared no ammunition in castigating the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government. The Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Janata Dal (U) supported the Left Front and pointed to the anomalies in the ground situation. And the Congress was forced into discreet silence. It also degenerated into Gujarat 2002 riots versus Nandigram 2007 terror and violence as though each served to extenuate the moral and legal guilt of one with the failure of the other. It has to be stated clearly that the 2002 state-sponsored pogrom against the Muslims remains an indelible black mark for the Modi government and for the Vajpayee-led NDA government at Centre at the time. The Left front government in Kolkata on its part just cannot distance itself from the terrorism of the CPI-M cadre in Nandigram as Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee tried to do.

The trouble in Nandigram and in Kolkata is no more a mere law-and-order problem. It stems from a deeper social and political discontent. The communists are playing the proverbial ostrich, refusing to recognize the ramifications of the problem. It is not just about locating a SEZ in Nandigram or in Singur. People somehow are not willing any more to accept the tyranny of the CPI-M cadres who have become a law unto themselves. Either the Marxists rein in the arrogant party cadres, or the people in the state will throw them out. They must remember 1989. The communist regimes in East Europe crumbled like a pack of cards. It is not wise to ignore history.

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