On 21 July 2008, the ‘progressive and radical’ singer Kabir Suman made a speech in a public meeting of Mamata Banerjee. Kabir Suman is one of her new found friends after the Singur-Nandigram debacle in West Bengal. After acclaiming the Nandigram resistance in his speech, Kabir Suman declared that West Bengal has turned into a fascist state where the ruling party CPM has muted all democratic voices. According to him, the CPM is a killer party because they ‘kill three in retaliation to one’. “Once I felt proud to be a leftist, a Marxist. Today the same thought directs me to kick my own ass,” he emotionally proclaimed.
Lot of people, otherwise aloof from any political discourse had actively involved themselves in the Nandigram debate. Many words are still flooding the Internet sites on the pros and cons of the events happened in Nandigram, a rural locality in the East Midnapur district of West Bengal. A notice put up by a local government body on January 2007 instigated the subsequent bloody armed resistance against a proposed chemical hub. After the Singur movement failed to evoke enough appeal from the general public, courtesy to Mamata Banerjee’s highly publicized ‘fasting before public’ farce, the anti land acquisition groups were searching for another opportunity to explore. Nandigram provided them an appropriate ground. An overconfident government and its needlessly hasty methods contributed enough ammunition for these groups to infiltrate deep into the local villager’s minds by exploiting their sensitiveness towards the land. Even though on 11 March, the government announced that no land would be taken over at Nandigram and declared to abandon its plan of the proposed chemical hub, the agitation continued as it had already gained its momentum. After the police firing on 14 March claiming 14 innocent lives, Nandigram became a symbol of anti-industrialization protest in India. In the recently held panchayat polls, Trinamul Congress has achieved a sweeping victory in East Midnapur district, particularly in Nandigram. Previously, this area was dominated by the CPIM.
Kabir Suman’s proclamation could be evaluated on these circumstances. Throughout the Nandigram agitation, a chunk of prominent intellectuals and artists was proactive in supporting the Nandigram agitation. Famous faces, many of them earlier known to be CPIM sympathizers suddenly did a volte-face and openly went against the party on the issue. Many abuses were hurdled towards the Chief Minister Buddhadev Bhattacharya. His government and his party was branded as a neo-liberal tyrant, and accused as hypocrites for purposely distancing themselves from the Marxist way. Notably, there was a fine difference between the agitating artist-intellectuals on one issue: should they protest along with Mamata Banerjee or not. Kabir Suman was among the most vocal artists who along with some former naxalites were in favor of participating the agitation along with Mamata Banerjee and her party the Trinamul Congress (TMC).
The deliberate position of these artist-intellectuals and former naxalites for associating with TMC came from their apparent commitment with the Maoist (1) political line pursued in West Bengal to ‘prolifically use the different contradiction among the enemy in the bitter political battle’. This course of action was undertaken by the People’s War faction in the early years of 2000-2001 during the infamous Keshpur-Garbeta events. Who is this enemy they are indicating at? The ultimate enemy of the Maoists in West Bengal is the CPIM. To fight the CPIM, anybody who can provide support and assistance is a friend of the Maoists. It can be Trinamul today, could be Congress, BJP or any other political outfit tomorrow. The ‘contradiction among the enemy’ is to be exploited in theory and practise, all for the sake of the great people’s war! In the continuing murders of political workers in West Bengal by the Maoists, all their victims are CPIM workers. From January 2001 to June 2008 the Maoists have murdered forty eight CPIM workers. Only in the past three months (from March to May 2008), nine CPIM workers were killed by the Maoists. No other political party workers in West Bengal are attacked or murdered by them. During the Nandigram clamor, Kabir Suman had publicly appealed to “kill 3 CPM everyday”.
From the beginning of the agitation, the WB government claimed about the Maoist presence in Nandigram which was strongly denied by Mamata Banerjee, the sympathetic artist-intellectuals and also by a section of the media. After the recent arrest of the hardcore Maoist leader Somen (an alias; real name, Himadri Sen Roy), and recently revealed Maoist inner party documents give ample proofs to confirm the allegation. In an article in CPI (Maoist) organ Biplabi Yug, Somen wrote that his outfit had formed the front line in the Nandigram land war. “We were in Nandigram right from the beginning… we are in Nandigram and we will continue to remain in Nandigram” he wrote in his article. A Maoist document ‘The anti SEZ historical struggle of Nandigram’, has claimed that, “Many people are trying to call the Nandigram people’s struggle simply as another mass movement. They also believe that the movement continued for eleven long months entirely unarmed...but the real truth is, the resistance sustained only because of the presence of the armed militia.” The document also said that, “At the beginning, (people of Nandigram) followed the Trinamul leadership of Bhumi Ucched Protirodh Committee but from July onwards they continued their struggle under our leadership and plan.”
Let us come back to Kabir Suman and his proclamation about ‘fascist’ West Bengal. Is it not a wonder how he continues to publicly utter those seditious words in a fascist state without being hounded by the ‘fascist’ government or the ‘killer party’ CPIM? On the contrary, we do remember that this progressive was once summoned by Lalbazar police headquarters in Kolkata and cautioned because he was repeatedly abusing a popular actor of Bengali cinema in vulgar words through telephone. This incident happened long before the Nandigram events.
Who really cares if Kabir Suman is a Marxist or opportunist? Perhaps Mamata Banerjee does; because she might have discovered many resemblances with him. Kabir Suman’s radicalism was exposed when he had converted to Islam (he was Suman Chatterjee before) just to marry a Bangladeshi Muslim singer after abandoning his German wife. It is a pity that many people including the present blogger still regards him as a pioneer in modern Bengali music as a prolific songwriter, composer and singer.
1. Two splinter naxalite groups, the CPI(ML)-People’s War and Maoist Communist Centre (MCC) have merged to form the notorious group CPI(Maoist) on September 2004.