Friday, December 25, 2009

Adivasis and the Maoists: few thoughts from an outsider

Gandhian social worker Himanshu Kumar has recently delivered a talk at the Mumbai Press Club after his NGO Vanvasi Chetna Ashram in south Bastar’s Dantewada was bulldozed by the Chhattisgarh government. Hailed by other NGO associates as their ‘only hope’ in Dantewada, the mainstream media has given wide publicity to this incident and has tried to put up Himanshu Kumar as a worthy victim of a repressive State. In the incisive talk, the Gandhian has expressed his utter discontent about the State sponsored Salwa Judum and has categorically held the State of Chhattisgarh responsible for brutalizing its own people – the adivasis (indigenous people), in the pretext of eliminating the Maoists. He has resentfully spoken about how the State has forcefully evicted the adivasis from their natural habitat in the process of bringing their villages under the Salwa Judum fold and subsequently pushed the displaced villagers into makeshift relief camps – because “the Maoists had support among the adivasis”. Calling the Indian State’s much publicized Operation Green Hunt as an operation to ‘Hunt’ innocent adivasis, he has pointed out that the real intention of the government behind the operation is to lay the adivasi land – the mineral belt of India, to the MNCs. “The State talks of the violence of the Maoists, but it is the State which is violent”, he has thundered. The Maoists, according to this now famous Gandhian, are the one “who supported the adivasis. That is why they regard the Naxalites as their friends.” He is also absolutely doubtless to declare that the awful situation in Chhattisgarh “is because of the State, not because of the Naxalites” where adivasis are held under perpetual fear and all the normal channels of redress are closed to them. The liberated zones, according to him, are actually “part of the State’s strategy” to generate a credible excuse for failure of governance in those areas. He has resentfully asked “how can peace come when you are all the time attacking the adivasis? Then you expect me to tell the Maoists, stop your violence.” (Source)

While Himanshu Kumar’s comments on the recurrent violence in Dantewada might sound like the same ‘chicken or egg’ fallacious argument currently clichéd by numerous discourses related to this subject, his fuming words regarding the repressive Chhattisgarh government and the Salwa Judum campaign cannot be straightaway disregarded. Chhattisgarh’s Dantewada district is literally a Maoist hotbed. To combat the perpetrating violence, the Chhattisgarh government, apart from utilizing the state forces, has also initiated to shape a notorious vigilant force Salwa Judum by arming and training adivasis with guns and ammunition and recruiting them, including their children, as special police officers (SPOs) to fight their own people. This civil militia force is infamous for carrying out mindless atrocities against adivasis on the opposite side. Their activists have been responsible for many illegal activities and crimes including looting and burning villages, gruesome killing of innocents, torture and rape. While this counter-insurgency campaign has been strongly defended by both the centrist Congress and the right-wing BJP as a spontaneous ‘people’s movement’, in reality it has brought extreme suffering on adivasi life and livelihood by pitting adivasis against adivasis, as the executor and the victims, and creating a civil war like condition in the state.

To perceive a crisis which has its origins in socio-economic deprivation and backwardness only as a ‘law and order’ problem is a grave mistake. But the imperious Raman Singh government has precisely chosen to follow this mistaken path. Powered by draconian laws like the Chhattisgarh Public Security Act (CSPSA) and the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) along with an exclusive possession over the legitimate use of forces, the BJP regime in Chhattisgarh has considered that a ruthless counteroffensive is the only solution to the problem. Instead of taking initiatives for a political solution, they started reacting with guns and bullets, went on sponsoring the Salwa Judum campaign and virtually converted Chhattisgarh into a police state which became a futile exercise to tackle the menace and have caused counterproductive effects. The Maoists could easily exploit the adivasis as a profound feeling of neglect, alienation and deprivation had already been settled among them due to the existence of acute poverty, severe inequality in living standards, intense exploitation and lack of economic prospects. The callous approach of the government has further augmented the situation by offering a fertile ground to the Maoists for spreading their red roots deeper into the adivasi heartland. Today the situation of Chhattisgarh has become a predicament from where there seems to be no way out.

* * *

This blazing issue also puts forward several uncomfortable questions. Is it an assuring or a disturbing signal when a Gandhian working among the adivasis in Chhattisgarh for seventeen long years goes “soft on Maoist violence” and eventually starts transforming into a “Maoist Gandhian”? Are the compassionate feelings extended towards the adivasis and the sympathy extended towards the Maoists equivalent to each other? Is it appropriate to severely criticize the state sponsored violence but at the same time praise the Maoists for their efforts “to take on the violence of the ruling classes and its representative state machinery”? Can we overlook the fact that the Maoists have also committed an unlimited number of indescribable atrocities on innocent adivasis by either branding them as Salwa Judum activists or police informers? Is it a morally correct stand to support the cruel Maoists since we hate the brutal Salwa Judum? Should we then also start believing that we “can’t extract morality” when the clash is between “an army of very poor people” and “an army of rich that are corporate-backed”? Can we ignore the daily annihilation program that the Maoists have undertaken to eliminate the poor and ordinary rank and file rival political activists? In which army do these victims belong to? Should we carry the belief that the poor adivasis are fighting their own battle and the Maoists deserve sympathy because they have joined them in their fight as ‘true friends’? Are they really ‘friends’?

* * *

To save their backs from the looming State onslaught, the Maoist leadership has chalked out elaborate plans and projects. They have expedited the work to build several escape corridors through Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Bihar and Jharkhand which includes strategic places to function as transit camps. (Source) With the assistance extended by the ‘useful idiots’ of Trinamool Congress they have now included three Jharkhand bordering districts of Bengal – West Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia in their list. In exchange of the ‘premeditated support’ they have received from the Maoists in places like Nandigram and Lalgarh, the TMC has gleefully agreed to assist them without considering the dangerous ramifications.

Another brilliant plan has recently surfaced. In an interview with The Indian Express, the CPI(Maoist) central committee spokesperson Azad has provided details of their insightful battle strategy against the Central forces and said that “All our plans, policies, strategy and tactics will be based entirely on the active involvement of the vast masses of people in this war of self-defense”. Using the catch-phrase “relying on the sea of people in which we swam like fish”, the spokesperson has further emphasized that “The enemy class cannot decimate us without decimating the entire population in regions we control”. (Emphasis added) This appalling statement about how the ‘entire population in regions we control’ will be used as sacrificial lambs for safeguarding the invaluable lives of the Maoist leaders bares the real face of the so called ‘friends of the adivasis’. There is no lofty revolutionary moral embed with this statement. It is just a declaration of blatant treachery with the plain and simple adivasis who have wholeheartedly trusted them with all their passion and dedication. (Source)

* * *

By living sheltered within the adivasi society, by acting as avengers and rousing the adivasi masses against elite repression, the Maoists have earned much admiration and support from them. They have also made themselves admirable in the eyes of many city-bred bleeding-heart intellectuals and academics who love to visualize them as ‘weapons of the weak’. Though the Maoists pretend as leaders of adivasi freedom, in real sense, they are nothing but an anarchic group with an erroneous ideology. It will be far more accurate to describe them as ‘social bandits’ – using the Eric J. Hobsbawm term. The learned academics may keenly argue that their paramount contribution is overturning a general assumption that the adivasis are only interested in livelihood issues and cannot get politicized. (Source) Here, the distinguished academics can be gently reminded that when the politics of a socio-political movement is fundamentally wrong, everything goes wrong. Instead of leading the adivasis towards socio-political freedom they have pushed then into a far greater danger. Their future is getting devastated almost beyond redemption by the politics of gun championed by the Maoists. They are not really ‘fighters for justice’ but merely another ‘power structure’ within the system. Therefore it will be a systemic blunder to glorify them as ‘revolutionaries’. The ‘strategy of the Protracted Peoples’ War’ is a falsehood. They need this war because war means business!

From many shady sections of our society there is an overwhelming display of compassion for the adivasis today. It is hard to distinguish how much of these compassions are genuine and how much is actually a pose or disguise of the Maoist sympathizers. If their concerns are genuine then they should stop romanticizing the Maoist social bandits as beacons of resistance and instead, start talking against their perilous plots in the same intensity in which they talk about the terrible State repression. They need to condemn both the sides equally for causing immense harm to the hapless adivasis like political and social activist Aruna Roy who has unambiguously expressed that, “anybody who indulges in violence or kills is a murderer, be it a policeman or a tribal person”.

The nonstop disgorgements of aesthetic, academic and theoretical jargon on this topic is incessantly making all of us perplexed. However, it has also made us particularly suspicious about the moral uprightness of some of our learned friends who have cherished to share the repugnant viewpoints of conspicuous Indian dissent Arundhati Roy. While passing a remark on the approaching State-Maoists conflict, the talkative ‘global justice activist’ has said, “You have an army of very poor people being faced down by an army of rich that are corporate-backed…..So you can’t extract morality from the heinous act of violence that each commits against the other”. (Source) Maoist sympathizers like Roy go on talking endlessly about a symbiotic relation between the adivasis and the Maoists. The same has been put in plain words, but differently, by the other Roy, Aruna: “The people have taken to this ideology because there is no alternative, or they see it as their best alternative. If you give them a better alternative, the people will go there.” She further continues, “For the tribals, the truth is that there is no choice, or very little.” (Source)

What is the way out from this gloom and grey? The primary task is to find out the alternative. It should be followed by asserting some tangible steps to facilitate a climate of justice, equality, freedom and peace. It is going to be another big battle; but a special one to fight. Winning this battle will depend upon the combined political will and commitment of the State and its people. But before everything, the Maoists must be separated off from the adivasi life. At the moment this is the most challenging task in front of the country.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Minister Mamata Banerjee and the labyrinth of Singur

In a recent public announcement Union Railways Minister Mamata Banerjee has proclaimed that her ministry is ready to start up the ‘world’s biggest coach factory’ at the abandoned Tata Motors site in Singur “if the state government gives us the land”. As soon as she became Railways Minister for the second time following her most conspicuous success in the 2009 parliamentary polls, she has taken up numerous ‘new’ programmes, floated several ‘innovative’ proposals and started introducing various ‘development’ works. From the typical ‘Kalpataru’ syndrome which has affected many Indian politicians time and again, she is right on her track publicizing ‘big plans’ for Bengal on a regular basis through trusty media bulletins. From the bouncing Railways Minister’s continuous announcements of innumerable Bengal initiatives, it seems that the Bengal voters have at last voted a leader who is capable of satisfying their unfulfilled wishes – just like the mythological wish-fulfilling tree which came out during churning of the ocean. Her railway strategists are doing a commendable job to link her ministerial offerings with the Trinamool party agenda. But the people of Bengal need to be cautioned about one thing. Desiring something from the ‘Kalpataru’ could turn dangerous in the long run because, according to the myth, the tree fulfills all wishes regardless of good or bad outcomes.

The Railways Minister's juggernaut

Within a short period of time, Mamata Banerjee has launched many ‘new’ trains, ‘new’ stations, ‘new’ railway line extensions, ‘new’ railway connections, ‘new’ computerized reservation offices through a nonstop inauguration extravaganza and bombarded project after project. To accrue advantageous publicity and score political points over her bête noire CPI(M), she has flagged off old trains in new names, introducing new trains by taking out coaches from existing trains and re-laying foundation stones of old projects which were inaugurated long back. Recently she had laid the foundation stone of the New Jubilee Bridge over river Hooghly in North 24-Parganas, and renamed it as ‘Maitreyee’ bridge. The farcical part is, during her first tenure in 2001 she had laid a foundation stone of this same bridge!

Keeping track on all her Bengal centric projects and promises is not going to be an easy task. Her railway budget has proposed the takeover of the wagon units of Burn Standard and Braithwaite. Both units under the Ministry of Heavy Industries and both are based in Bengal. From the 375 ‘ideal’ stations that her budget has promised to create all over the country, 216 stations are in Bengal alone! Assuring the commuters that the progress of this project will be ‘personally’ monitored by her, she had declared to sanction “Rs 50 lakh to Rs 1 crore for each of these stations”. In presence of representatives from national auto majors, she has inaugurated an automobile logistics hub at Shalimar which will “provide employment to scores of local men and women” and has also chosen Singur for the Rs 3 crore perishable cargo storage unit under the "Kisan Vision" scheme where “Singur’s farmers can store their excess products at this unit free of cost”! It is highly interesting to note the locations of her bombastic projects – most of them are carefully chosen on the merit of their political significance.

Her budget proposal also include the Rs 900 crore project of a new coach factory at the Kanchrapara-Halishahar railway complex in North 24-Parganas, a component factory at Dankuni in Hooghly district, and a high-speed bogie casting unit at Majherhat, South 24-Parganas. Though the same Mamata Banerjee and her party is fervently opposing a power plant at Burdwan district’s Katwa in the pretext of ‘forceful land acquisition’ by the state government, she found no problem to propose a 1000MW power plant at Purulia’s Adra in her budget as it will “create jobs for local tribals” and bring “the tribal people into the mainstream”. Though critics have pointed out that the Railways have to acquire additional land if they truly want to set up the proposed power plant in Adra since they do not possess the full amount of land required for the project.

There are other Bengal projects in her kitty such as extending the Metro rail network to Dakshineswar, Barrackpore and Barasat, connecting Kolkata by a ‘ring-railway network’, and laying new rail lines at Canning, Bakkhali and Nandigram. Her ministry is also thinking to set up new coach factories in Burdwan, Nadia and other Bengal districts. She has also announced that the Railways have planned several industrial projects in the state that would generate ‘employment for lakhs’ and has expressed her desire to revive the jute industry in the state. “There are many closed jute mills in and around Kanchrapara. The jute industry will be revived and there are other plans as well” she has assured. To pour honey into people’s ear she has proclaimed, “Many more industries will be coming up and there is no need for you to leave Bengal.” It occurs awesomely bizarre when we recall that it was this same industry friendly and ‘changed’ Mamata Banerjee who had forced Tata Motors a year ago to shift the Nano plant from Bengal to Gujarat’s Sanand by spearheading the Singur siege.

The myopic Railways Minister has also reached a new low by refusing to invite the state government at her inaugural ceremonies. Relishing her act of disregarding democratic protocols as a fitting response to the ‘high and mighty’ Left Front government, one of the client scribes has gone to the extent of declaring that, “her individual acceptability with the people of the State is more than what the Left Front as a whole”. A highly pretentious statement follows: “the Union Railway Minister has appeared as a titan in State politics” in front of pygmies “like Prakash Karat, Sitaram Yechury, Biman Bose and Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee”. (Source) Her Railways functions have also been converted into TMC party events where invitees are categorically selected according to their loyalty. Mamata Banerjee really gets a sadistic pleasure by publicly ignoring the State government. Over the years, she has induced a new kind of political hatred into the polity which has greatly assisted to lumpenize Bengal’s political culture.

An unconventional Railways Minister!

The talented Railways Minister has also indicated that she does not want to stay restricted into the conventional Railways Minister’s cocoon. In fact, she has attempted to put forward a unique idea; that it requires only one minister to gratify almost every requisite of the voters. Surrounded by film stars and the intellectual glitterati of Kolkata during the flagging off ceremony of the Tollygunge-Garia Bazaar Metro Railway extension, she had announced to set up a 75-bed hospital near Tollygunge in Kolkata, and promised to upgrade the existing South Eastern Railway Hospital into a well-equipped medical college. In the “next two-three years” she had proposed to set up more hospitals, schools, cold storages, flyovers, museums, theatre complexes, stadiums and what not? Her ministry has sanctioned Rs 17 crore for a stadium at Bongaon in North 24 Parganas. “If we get land from the state government” she had said while offering to construct another stadium at Canning in South 24-Parganas and bragged that “we can construct it in seven days”! Scrapping off a similar sports complex project in neighboring Howrah which was approved by the former Railways Minister Nitish Kumar during the NDA regime, the Eastern Railway will now have to spend Rs 57 crore to build an ‘world class’ indoor stadium to Behala, a part of the Railways Minister’s South Calcutta constituency because she simply “does not seem to be interested” in the Howrah project. Instead she has sanctioned Rs.3.5 crore for an amphitheatre there to “develop it as a platform for cultural interaction” and “to nurture cultural activities in our state”. Naming the amphitheatre after theatre personality Sambhu Mitra, she had appointed Sambhu Mitras’s daughter Shaoli Mitra as the chairperson of the advisory committee. Shaoli Mitra is one of her client intellectuals who were in the forefront of Nandigram-Singur agitation demanding a political ‘change’ in Bengal. Mitra also chairs the newly formed Heritage and Cultural Committee of the Railways and draws Rs. 50,000 per month of public money as allowance along with other perks. Many of the Bengali intellectuals considered close to her were also rewarded with plum posts in various Railways committees.

The Basumati fiasco

During her budget speech, Mamata Banerjee had also offered to take over the state-run printing press Basumati Corporation Ltd, a 128-year-old historic publishing house associated with the freedom movement. The corporation is presently a sick unit with an accumulated loss of Rs 100 crore. Mamata Banerjee’s announcement in the Parliament that “if the state government agrees, we will take over Basumati and modernize it” was promptly welcomed by the Bengal government as a “very good proposal” and had generated huge hope among the 200 doomed Basumati employees. The jubilant Bengali media also created a lot of hype around the proposal. But the lofty offer turned into a damp squib and subsequently ended the hope of the employees when the Railway Board wrote to the state government that it will take over the PSU but ‘would not accept the liabilities’. Mamata Banerjee’s Basumati flop show is a premonition of what is really going to happen with her Singur proposal.

The Singur labyrinth

From the day Mamata Banerjee and her friends has forced the Tata’s to leave Singur; the humiliated Bengal government is keenly trying to bring in new investors to ensure industry in the abandoned land. After negotiations with the Chinese automobile manufacturing company First Automobile Works (FAW) failed to materialize, the state government opted for the central government PSU Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd (BHEL) to set up a power plant. Keeping a careful watch on the developments “whether BHEL is really coming” and calling the state government’s initiative a joke, Mamata Banerjee was quick to float her counter proposal of setting up a railway coach factory on the same day the BHEL officials has visited Singur to assess the site. Informing the media that her proposal has already received the blessing of Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, she went on further to disclose that the affectionate Finance Minister “told me to go ahead”. After all, who can dare to oppose a vital Union Minister’s “dreams regarding Singur”? Keeping in mind the present political clout, it would have been a real surprise if the central government PSU had agreed to go ahead with the project on this ‘dream’ site. Inevitably, BHEL refused to go ahead with the project on ‘technical, commercial and environmental grounds’.

To a certain extent Mamata Banerjee was taken aback when the Bengal government agreed to her proposal. The state chief secretary’s announcement before the media that “The state government, in-principle, is agreeable to hand over the entire land at Singur to the Railways for setting up a coach manufacturing factory” caused panic among the TMC think-tank. Receiving instructions from the above, familiar Trinamool face Partha Chaterjee has to plunge in with the musty old demand of returning ‘400 acres’ of land (This figure is a blatant TMC lie. The actual figure is 254.36 acres, where the owners have either refused to accept compensation from the state government or unable to claim the compensation due to legal problems) to the unwilling landowners. Accordingly the Railway Board chairman wrote back to the Bengal government echoing the TMC line that “The railways want to set up a world-class coach factory in Singur on the entire land (600 acres) after returning 400 acres to the unwilling farmers/landowners.” (Emphasis added)

There are enough reasons to be skeptical about the proposal. Mamata Banerjee and her band of cohorts are not so stupid to recognize the fact that once acquired for public purpose, no land can be returned to the original owners until the Land Acquisition Act of 1894 is amended. She knows very well that it will be exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, to keep her promise and return the so called ‘400 acres’ to the unwilling farmers after removing the legal obstacles. In addition to legal problems, it is also impossible to fish out and rescue 600 acres for the coach factory as the disputed lands are scattered in the form of small plots all over the site. They are definitely not stupid but wicked to the core. Their aim is only to recur into the same vicious politics that they had played with Singur just a year ago. For her own interest, the deceitful Railways Minister wants to keep Singur as a labyrinth where the destiny of numerous ordinary people will be captivated.

While answering the question about how the so called 400 acres could be returned, a stupid TMC source has revealed the true intention: “In all probability, the entire rail coach factory project will start rolling post 2011, when we come to power.” This comment shows the sly cunning face of Mamata Banerjee’s Singur initiative. It is neither the coach factory, nor the future of Singur but ‘coming to power’ that is important. This vicious political game will never encourage industry in Singur but simply evoke utter hopelessness and despair.

Plotting the Bengal line

Mamata Banerjee propagandists embedded with the media are asking: why she is blamed for being blatantly partial to her State when she has initiated national projects like spreading the Railways network in Kashmir, launched ladies Special EMU trains connecting metro cities with suburbs and has introduced trains like the Izzat – intended for the poorest of the poor, and the Duronto – India’s ‘fastest’ non-stop trains? Applying Railways Minister’s status for pushing forward the party agenda has been made an established norm in this country by all her predecessors. There is nothing wrong if she is doing the same. To defend Mamata Banerjee’s biased Bengal initiatives, the client scribes has premeditated an aggressive attack on the Marxists, blaming them for deriding “various development works of the railways”. The Railways Minister herself has provided them the tip: “The CPI(M) is constantly conspiring against the railways. If any accident takes place in the railways, they CPI(M) will be solely responsible for that”. Haunted by the CPI(M) specter, the client scribes are cautiously trying to obscure the dark truth. Mamata Banerjee actually cares a damn for the development of the Railways infrastructure throughout India. Her interest on the few national projects is only because they have the potential to generate wide publicity in the national media. Her real interest lies in making the most of the Railways infrastructure projects to mesmerize the Bengal voters for the next one and half years till the 2011 Bengal assembly polls. The ‘privileged’ voters in return will pave her way towards supremacy and make her the Chief Minister. It will also ensure a long-term reverie of the anti-left spin doctors – to end the CPI(M) rule in Bengal.

Who is going to finance the hogwash list of Railways Minister’s ‘inventive’ proposals? Obviously it is the Finance Ministry under Pranab Mukherjee. The Finance Minister has sanctioned Rs 15,800 crore budgetary supports (Rs 5,000 crore more than the Rs 10,800 crore promised in the Interim Budget for 2009-10) for the Indian Railways and has also exempted transport of goods by Indian Railways from service tax. This abrupt exemption is startling when transport of goods in railway containers were already under the service tax net from 2008 and in July this year the Finance Ministry had further proposed to extend the levy of service tax. Pranab Mukherjee’s fishy U-turn again indicates a desperate political ploy. To dislodge the CPI(M) in Bengal, it is a joint venture between the present patriarch of the Bengal Pradesh Congress and the TMC chieftain, under the watchful eyes of the enigmatic Sonia Gandhi. The farsighted Congress president appears to be confident about the return of the prodigal daughter as well as the state of Bengal into her fold.

Our friendly neighborhood Railways Minister is notoriously greedy for power and authority. The parliamentary poll results and its subsequent ambiance have made her so overconfident on winning the 2011 assembly polls that she has valued the Railways Minister job only as a booster for her approaching encounter with the Marxists. By assimilating a five year agenda into one and half year, she wants to exploit her ministerial position and reap maximum advantage from it. Therefore, it has become relatively easy for her to go on ‘gifting’ an endless list of unrealizable projects and promises regardless of any responsibilities about the consequences. On this matter, her conscience is as clean as a white piece of paper. Munawer Tehseem, the Railways Minister’s complaisant media manager from the ministry has recently boasted about how the dynamic minister has “fulfilled 70% of the promises she made in her budget speech in 56 days”. (Source) Unfortunately, the word ‘promise’ has lost its significance long back – particularly if connected with a special brand of Indian politicians turned ministers.

Like the other deceitful and reactionary politicians of this country, Mamata Banerjee is also cut from the same piece of cloth. Hence it is difficult to digest the ongoing cant that she has ‘changed’. How much the myopic vision and short time objectives will help the Railways Minister to grab political power in Bengal will be manifested in the near future. But one thing is for sure. If her cunningly plotted political gamesmanship succeeds, then Bengal will change; but possibly for the worst.


Sources: Unless stated, all news sources used in this post are from the websites of The Hindu, The Times of India, The Indian Express, The Telegraph and DNA.

Image courtesy:

Sunday, December 6, 2009

On democratic delusions and the politics of publicity

The crucial but complex relationship between the public and political parties has been under extreme pressure in recent past due to the lack of an efficient, reliable and dynamic exchange between the two sections. The existing setting was lowering the credibility of politics in general and was looking somewhat ‘risky’ for democratic progress. To come out from this position, it was required to expose and amend the limitations and problematic aspects of the existing form and find out a newer form. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, capitalist lackeys have found an excellent opportunity to popularize the idea that a strategic partnership between democracy and market economy constitutes the favorable conditions essential for economic growth. During the same time, in the year 1991, India has started implementing its liberalization policies. A major shift in the political landscape was also taking place. The country that had tasted only a single-party regime for 25 years since the first general elections in 1952 had started to experience various shades of coalition governance. Since the 1989 general elections, this tendency has found itself a firm foothold. Though the 2009 general elections have given a decisive mandate for the Congress Party, its share of the popular vote in 2009 has increased only by a mere two per cent from the 2004 general elections. The changing situation with its variants has fundamentally distorted the relationship between public and political parties. The political arena has been altered into a keenly competing market where essential marketing mechanisms are allowed to regulate the system for carrying out the ‘right’ message in the ‘right’ place at the ‘right’ time. Some choice marketing phrases like relationship, credibility, loyalty and motivation are frequently being heard from the everyday political talks.

The ruling ideas of every age have always been the ideas of the ruling class. Bourgeois analysts today are spawning lot of hope around a market driven symbiotic model between the public and the political parties. The analysts feel that this model, under an extensive presence of the ‘free’ media, will strengthen and eventually improve the democratic institutions, its representatives and instruments of democracy promotion. Toeing the line, political doctrines are being shaped according to bazaar rules, ideas and strategies. It has also started to significantly regulate and shape opinions of the Indian public.

Though public opinion germinates in the imagination of the public mind, “It is not the consciousness of man that determines their existence,” as Marx has famously said, “but, on the contrary, it is their social existence that determines their consciousness.” Public opinion is the human response to a wide range of feelings that originates from socio-political relations; from the conflicts, choices, ambitions, compromises, purposes and uncertainties of human life. But the image that appears to the human mind from the varied aspects of the social structure can also mislead the people in their dealing with the outer world. This happens if interpretation of that image is shaped into a pattern of mental stereotypes that is influenced by preconceptions and prejudices. All sorts of complex human issues like individual aspirations, economic interests, class views, enmity and hatred, religious and racial prejudices distort the way people see, think and act.

Besides, people’s access to information is always obstructed by the establishment. Having supreme control over the access of facts, the authorities of establishment consciously decide how much the public should know. Facts are circulated in a deceptive way that prevents the public from separating the truth from the myth. On several important issues pertaining to their life, people make up their minds before the facts are verified and defined. In his major work Public Opinion, American political columnist and social critic Walter Lippmann has shown how public opinion is “pieced together out of what others have reported and what we can imagine” and depends upon “what group of facts we shall see, and in what light we shall see”. “The tendency of the casual mind” Lippmann continues, “is to pick out or stumble upon a sample which supports or defies its prejudices, and then to make it the representative of a whole class.”

Public opinions are therefore, rarely spontaneous and mostly subjective. Opinions formed from disingenuous facts mixed with emotions, instincts, and prejudices do not remain just as opinion but transforms into delusion.

Delusions consistently influence the consciousness of the public and deprive them to perceive reality in its true sense. Fences of naïve political perceptions are erected all around the public mind that hinders them to appropriately make right decisions for their own future. It is widely acknowledged that public opinions are the deciding factor in a democracy. But delusion concerning democracy is extremely dangerous in the sense that it can smooth the progress of fascism. By damaging the rational and moral fiber of the public mind, democratic delusions drive them to follow demagogues. Experiences from history have always shown that demagogues have initially secured a following among the petty bourgeoisie and the intelligentsia – the ‘thinking section’ of the society. Their power and influence get reinforced when they further appeal to the emotions, instincts, and prejudices of other sections of the masses through a non-centralized, awkward and discrete manner. Fascism was born in Italy under Benito Mussolini as a political revolution and was blessed by the people for being ‘too good to be true’. The hypnotic and rosy beginning did not take long to turn into disillusionment. Similar delusional behavior of the German public had immensely helped the Nazi Party to grow popular. By mixing actual dangers with imaginary scares, the fascist demagogues have always created an atmosphere where the bewildered masses lose their ability for the constructive use of reason. The mass psyche is weighed down with meandering, invisible, and perplexing facts.


In the recently concluded Maharashtra assembly poll, Raj Thackeray’s three-year-old party Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) has won thirteen seats including six seats in Mumbai alone. From the day of its birth, the MNS and its maverick boss have continuously been in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. In the name of safeguarding Marathi culture and the rights of the Marathi Manoos (Marathi people), the party has earned national fame by instigating assault on North Indian taxi drivers, shopkeepers and hawkers, by beating up North Indian students who appeared for the all-India Railway Recruitment exam. MNS has objected to Chaat Puja celebration of the Bihari people and attacked cinema halls in Mumbai, Thane and Nasik exhibiting Bhojpuri films. (Source) The Indian IT major Infosys had to stall their expansion and shift 3000 of their employees from Pune as MNS supporters attacked on North Indian labourers in the construction site. The reputation of MNS got a huge boost when Raj Thackeray was successful in reinstating the sacked employees of Jet Airways by threatening the management with dare consequences.

MNS maintained its reputation when its newly elected legislators physically assaulted the Samajwadi Party legislator Abu Asim Azmi inside the Maharashtra Assembly House during the swearing in ceremony. Abu Azmi’s offense was that he was taking his oath in Hindi – India’s national language. The MNS legislators later justified their act by proclaiming that Abu Azmi has insulted the ‘Marathi Manoos’ by taking his oath in Hindi.

From the election results, it is apparent that MNS has obtained the consent of a sizeable section of the Maharashtra public. The regional chauvinism of ‘Marathi pride’ propagated by Raj Thackeray and his party and its street-fighting method of politics has favorably captured their imagination.


On 30 December 2006, Mamata Banerjee was on her way to address a rally against the proposed Tata Motors car project at Singur where the state administration, apprehending trouble, had already imposed prohibitory orders. The police stopped her from entering the area, bundled her into a car and brought back to Kolkata. To condemn this ‘barbaric’ incident and register protest against the assault on their supremo, furious Trinamool Congress (TMC) legislators decided to discharge their rage on the Bengal Assembly House. The vandalism that went on inside and outside the House later was unparalleled in the legislative history of Bengal. TMC legislators overturned tables, smashed furniture and microphones off their holders and flung the broken pieces at the ruling Left Front legislators. Six legislators belonging to the Left Front, two staff of the Assembly and two journalists were left injured during the incident. During the extensive vandalism, one TMC legislator was seen ‘busy breaking furniture and jumping from table to table’. Some fetched eggs and chicken legs from the Assembly canteen and hurled them towards treasury benches. One CPI(M) legislator was slapped. Another female legislator of the TMC ‘kept hollering abusive slogans against the chief minister’ and ‘threatened CPI(M) legislators with dire consequences’. (Source)

Two years later following the Bengal Assembly ruckus, this same female legislator, known to have proximity with the TMC chieftain, was once more in the news as the key performer of another unmatched incidence. She had locked at least thirteen policemen including the inspector-in-charge (IC) inside a police station in Nodkhali of South 24 Paraganas district. Much to the delight of the TMC clan, she then frantically went on to hurl abusive and filthy language while threatening the IC in full view of TV cameras. Enthused by their leader, her followers snatched the IC’s badge and manhandled other policemen.

Over the last few years, TMC and its rumbustious leaders have received effective consent from a considerable section of the general public, media and business bosses, the intelligentsia and bureaucrats. Mamata Banerjee and some other minor TMC leaders have become central ministers with ‘significant’ portfolios. Political astrologers have predicted that TMC is going to rule Bengal following the 2011 assembly votes.


The above two gems from the contemporary history of democratic India are cited here to reveal a blooming political culture that is steadily receiving popular support among the citizens of this country. The hooliganism of MNS workers establishes a fascistic mindset behind the act which has many similarities with the actions of the Trinamool cohorts in Bengal. What encourages Raj Thackeray to supervise the organized hooliganism of MNS activists has also been the pivotal motivation to the awkward and rancorous Mamata Banerjee and her pet ruffians – the ambition to gain quick popularity and votes. Both have perceived that showing little or no respect for the institutions and practices of democracy could also be put into effect as a publicity tool that has the potential to capture the mind and hearts of the ‘stupid’ public and deliver political mileage. The regional bigotry of MNS supremo and the imperious conducts of the Trinamool chieftain, their calculated attempt to take politics away from the democratic framework is therefore a deliberate choice – to obtain publicity.

Publicity is basically a political device which dispenses a massive influence on the society. It systematically works upon mass anxiety and offers a superior alternative to overcome the anxiety. It also works upon emotion. Emotional reactions motivate and guide the people for their future thoughts and actions. It gradually builds up a physiological mechanism or a mind model with the assumptions about what is important in life. This mind model is also attached to various kinds of incentives. Any challenge to this mental status quo faces stern resistance as it threatens the established routine of lives.

In his highly influential work Ways of Seeing, the English art critic John Berger has revealed that, “without publicity capitalism could not survive” because “publicity is the life of this culture.” Publicity needs to be dynamic and must be continually renewed and made up-to-date. It is also closely related with certain ideas about freedom. Berger further observes that publicity is not merely an assembly of competing tactics since all forms of publicity follow a certain logic which confirms and enhances one another. Publicity talks only about the future. It can offer different choices but makes just a single proposal – to transform human lives for a better future, to make them feel good. Publicity helps to put up a mirage by filling the public mind with “glamorous day-dreams” because existing social contradictions “make the individual feel powerless”. The choice of day-dreaming becomes a substitute for political choice. It is this key reason, Berger argued, why publicity remains credible. According to him, “Publicity helps to mask and compensate for all that is undemocratic within society.”

The way people perceive things are influenced by what they know or what they believe. Public opinions are manufactured through gradual, systematic but insidious application of publicity. The manufactured opinions are then set into action to influence and control the courses of the land. The best way to control the minds of people is to control their perceptions. The fundamental purpose of publicity therefore is to manufacture fake realities and deliver them right into the people’s mind. The media, governments, big corporations, reactionary religious and political groups are all hand in glove in this manufacturing process.

Manufacturing of consent, as Walter Lippmann has depicted, is a revolution “infinitely more significant than any shifting of economic power”. He has further explained the design in the following passage:

“Within the life of the generation now in control of affairs, persuasion has become a self-conscious art and a regular organ of popular government. None of us begins to understand the consequences, but it is no daring prophecy to say that the knowledge of how to create consent will alter every political calculation and modify every political premise. Under the impact of propaganda, not necessarily in the sinister meaning of the word alone, the old constants of our thinking have become variables. It is no longer possible, for example, to believe in the original dogma of democracy; that the knowledge needed for the management of human affairs comes up spontaneously from the human heart.”

When a political party gains popular support by encouraging its band of cohorts to callously violate basic democratic principles, when a political party which wishes to acquire its legitimacy through popular votes is found to have no real faith in democratic institutions or democratic practices, it squarely indicates the ineffectuality and fallacy of the democratic system. It also raises serious doubts about the mindset of the people who sanction the craven acts. But whether the people are to be blamed or they are “only a pawn in their game” is the pertinent question here.

In the disguise of democratic freedom, consents will continue to be manufactured in a deliberate way “under the impact of propaganda” to “alter every political calculation and modify every political premise”. The MNS and TMC instances might sound cliché and petty in a wider context. But the stakes caught up in these instances are high and serious. It was therefore necessary to rip the topic to bare its hidden layers.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Debating the Maoist challenge

In the public domain, a frequent argument is taking place to find out whether the extremism of Indian Maoists is an act of terrorism or not. In fact, there is a very thin line which divides the Maoists extremism from other typical forms of terrorism. Mindless mass killing, brutal extermination of detractors and critics, destruction of state property are among the many common features of the terrorist doctrine that fits well with the Maoists ‘revolutionary’ strategy. Maoists, like the terrorist groups cling to a fanatic socio-political and cultural belief, prefer supreme loyalty from their cadres and favor absolute totalitarianism. Both have trained themselves to use sophisticated weaponry and have grown more adapted these days to pathological killing. Both believe in oppositional terror and try to achieve it by intense violence. Where religious terrorism is inspired by religious dogma, Maoist political terror is inspired by a rigid form of political dogma. Both have practiced mastery to cunningly utilize rival mainstream political groups against one another to pursue their goal while the mainstream political groups stupidly think the reverse. Both have grown to be a lucrative media catch and perfected the art to make use of the extreme double standards of the fourth estate. Reluctant to renounce violence from a deliberate choice of applying terror tactics to force political concessions, Maoism in India is incessantly getting synonymous with terrorism.

The gun-cult

To neutralize the strengths of conventional law enforcement forces and capture areas from political parties who have the potential to raise an unyielding challenge to them, Maoists are frequently applying tested terrorist methods of macabre violence. The Maoist guerrilla squads perpetrate ambushes on security force convoys, kidnap and gruesomely assassinate individuals from poorly protected police stations in remote regions, plant booby traps of homemade improvised explosive devices or chic landmines, carry out a programme of individual annihilation of grass-root workers, supporters and sympathizers of rival political parties after terming them ‘class enemies’ or ‘renegades’. Most of their victims, notably, belong to the poor section of the society.

Their petty-bourgeois cheer-leaders and intellectual sympathizers believe that there is nothing wrong in this gun-cult as it is only a ‘consequence of mass anger’ and so cannot be labeled as ‘premeditated terroristic attack’. They consider this politics of terror as a socio-economic phenomenon, created impulsively as a response to a particular social and economic situation. To them, this risky belief seems to be convenient at the moment. However as Bob Dylan has once said “People seldom do what they believe in. They do what is convenient, then repent.”

Democracy at Gun point

A lot has been said about the ‘admirable’ development works that the Maoists have put up in the forests of south Bastar's Dantewada in Chhattisgarh where they are running a parallel government — the Janathana Sarkar (People’s Democratic State). Here, the Maoists have gone all out with their experiment to build a model classless society. The Janathana Sarkar is an elected body but ‘Landlords, anti people hierarchs, stooges of exploiting government and anti revolutionary forces are disqualified to participate in elections.’ As we learn from the lofty Maoist document ‘Policy programe of Janathana Sarkar’ (Source) the People’s Democratic governments have deployed a robust revenue collection system to run their expenses, distributed lands confiscated from landlords to poor and landless peasants. It has formed a forest protection committee to protect the natural livelihood of the tribals, running schools to raise political consciousness and scientific knowledge among the masses. To deliver summary justice to the oppressed masses, people’s courts reinforced with ‘new principles of justice, class line and mass line’ often tries and punishes ‘landlords, hierarchs, heads of the ruling class parties, exploiting government officers, police, paramilitary, military forces, goondas, anarchists, thieves, deceivers, conspirators, police agents’. To successfully control every aspect of the lives and livelihood of the tribal inhabitants and to maintain its absolute authority, the Janathana Sarkars has built up a considerable guerrilla base equipped with sophisticated arms and ammunition.

Elite bleeding-heart Maoist sympathizers have been provided enough space in the liberal bourgeois media to continuously drum on their admiration and paint a romantic picture of the ‘constructive programmes’ of this illegal Maoist governments which is run by the ‘principles of democracy’ where ‘individuals shall be committed to the government, minority to the majority’. They are ecstatic about how the Maoist governance has made the oppressed tribals feel proud of their identity and has brought back their self-respect. How the Maoist gunmen have protected them from the exploitation and harassment by local feudal lords, village chiefs, forest and police personnel, businessman and contractors. How the Maoists have empowered the marginal tribal farmers by teaching them agricultural skill, affiliated tribal families into cooperative farming, organized them to volunteer for digging tanks for irrigating land and breeding fish and has provided primary education and health care facilities to fight illiteracy and endemic diseases like malaria and diarrheoa. Above all, the sympathizers are delighted to describe how the Maoists have reignited the tribals against state sponsored atrocities and endowed them with guns — the ultimate symbol of power. The tribal voice under the Janathana Sarkars, they exclaim, is the real voice of people’s power. Here the voice grows out, literally, from the barrel of gun.

Are the Maoists really interested about the genuine problems of the tribal inhabitants of these regions or they are using the tribals as a pawn in their game? Do the Maoists represent the entire tribal population of these regions? These remain pungent questions which does not have an easy answer. The tribal heartland of India was not really selected by the Maoists because they had any special affection and empathy for the underprivileged tribals. It was a strategic choice for its geographical advantages. To build up a safe base and getting prepared for their so called revolutionary war, the Maoists required a secured hideout for themselves which will be inaccessible to the state security forces. There could be no argument at all that the tribals have remained the most neglected people in India and has encountered endless state apathy during both pre-independence and post-independence time. The tribal regions are among some of the most backward regions of the country. The Maoists have simply exploited the situation by seducing a major section of the inhabitants to achieve their own gory interests. Improvement of tribal life has little significance in the broader context of the Maoist strategy. The secluded tribal lands are important for them as self-sufficient base areas, for consolidating their strength to later expand and unleash ‘protracted People’s War’ against the Indian state and subsequently overthrow it.

What is actually going on inside these jungles? How do we, who live outside the ‘liberated zones’, learn about the effectiveness of these ‘classless’ Maoist governance when much of their functioning inside the jungle hideouts is invisible? Fortunately, we have two important sources of information.

The ‘stinking’ dissenters

“The Central task of the Indian revolution … is the seizure of political power. To accomplish this Central task, the Indian people will have to be organized in the people’s army and will have to wipe out the armed forces of the counterrevolutionary Indian state through war and will have to establish, in its place, their own state - the People’s Democratic State” – from the CPI (Maoist) document: Strategy & Tactics of the Indian Revolution.

The first unambiguous source of information is the several fact-finding reports by civil liberties groups and accounts of social activists and NGO organizations mostly comprising the liberal and radical left. This is a special mix of ‘aware and awake’ people who essentially believes that ‘people have a right to defend themselves against state violence’ and certifies Maoist violence as ‘the very last option of a desperate people pushed to the very brink of existence’. These are the people who validate the killing spree of Maoists by citing that ‘Hindu mobs led by the Bajrang Dal and the VHP had killed more people than the Maoists’ and unquestionably believes that the Maoists ‘don’t kill without a good reason’. They feel that the Maoists cannot lay down arms as it will only allow the State to crush them. These are the people who believe that the people's courts of the Maoists ‘only existed because India's courts are out of the reach of ordinary people’ and love to talk persistently about ‘police repression, the arrests, the torture, the killing, the corruption’. These are the people who inform us about how state governments, from an absolute paranoia of the Maoist specter, are branding every dissenter as Maoists and thus pushing activists as well as ordinary people ‘to take up arms and join the Maoists’. These are the aware people who knows about ‘the dangers of trying to extract a simple morality out of individual incidents of heinous violence’. These are the sensitive and concerned citizens of India who turn blind when the Maoists carry out cold blooded murder of CPI(M) activists in Bengal or behead police inspector Francis Induwar in Jharkhand. These are the people who get extremely angry when the Vanvasi Chetana Ashram in Dantewada was demolished by the state forces because this ‘neutral outpost’ had virtually became the base camp of city-bred outsiders to exchange useful information and support with the Maoists but do not get angry at all when the Maoists blow up schools. These are the same group of people who talks about human rights violation during every action of state security forces but maintain absolute silence when the Maoist and their frontal organizations unleash mindless violence on common people.

These Indian dissenters are the champions of the oppressed, who couldn't help looking (and smelling) cheap! These are the people among whom Arundhati Roy has found that ‘a humane heart still beats’. (Source)

‘Maoists are part of the story’

The second source is the reports and features produced by the neo-liberal Indian corporate media. Duty bound daring scribes frequenting into the Maoist heartland bring out titillating news stories. Account of the ascending life of a once timid tribal and now a fearless Maoist guerrilla is described in those stories in graphic detail. During every crisis period in their movement, the Maoist leadership has invited the ‘dear pressmen & TV channel hoisters’ from the ‘democratic and free’ Indian print and electronic media into their ‘liberated zones’. The numerous investigating reports that the journalists carry out later, serves both the Maoists and the media bosses. The Maoists get free publicity which they think elevates their public image. The media gets steady readership that facilitate the manufacturing of public consent. These reports highlight why tribal youths want to join the PGA (People’s Guerrilla Army) and fight against the police. Why the tribal populace think that the Maoists are their only savior. It also helps to generate the myth of the Maoist style ‘development’. It creates a thriller effect in the mind of the readers and viewers as the concept of dissent is always attractive to the petty-bourgeois conscience. A section of the media has developed a generic habit of romanticizing the Maoists. There is a definite reason behind this romanticism. It is not to display their love for the Maoists but principally directed against the mainstream Left, to lower their significance in people’s mind. Thus, the compassionate media puts top Maoist leader couple Kobad and Anuradha Ghandy on a pedestal and asks in a melodramatic voice: how did the daughter of a high profile lawyer of Bombay High Court or the son of a top Glaxo executive come to choose a life of struggle and hardship? (Source) If we accept the media stories as true, we will discover that every Maoist leader was a first-rate student and at the same time ‘extremely aware of what was happening around’. They automatically get radicalized while studying in elite colleges and learn to shed tears for the poor. Responding to the righteous call to fight for the oppressed, they soon become gun carrying revolutionaries.

Vincent Brossel, head of the Asia desk of Reporters Without Borders (RWB) has defended the role of the ‘free’ media concerning the Maoists by saying, “When you have a civil war on terror groups it is the right of the press to cover both sides. The Maoists are part of the story.” (Source) RWB is an international NGO that advocates freedom of the press. The group is reputed for having ‘strong links with Western intelligence agencies and has focussed its energies on countries such as Cuba and Venezuela.’ (Source) RWB is also alleged to be on the payroll of the U.S. State Department. (Source)

There is a lucid pattern in which these stories are woven and planted. In fact, the corporate media serves its own agenda when it purposely turns into a Maoists mouthpiece. The transformation obscures the genuine democratic struggles that are going on in the fields and factories all over India. Mainstream Left parties have always criticized left extremism for dismantling of democratic movements. In this aspect they are absolutely right. The Maoists and the corporate media work hand in glove and share a common understanding to actually demolish the scope of democratic resistance.

To acquire a true picture of alternative system of the Maoists governance, should we then rely on these sources as credible and truthful?

'To live outside the law you must be honest'

At present, these self-styled protectors who boast about safeguarding tribal wealth from ‘capitalist development’ and ‘corporate expansion’ have absolutely monopolized their control over mineral and other natural wealth in the regions they control. They are involved in illegal harvesting like growing poppy crop and smuggling of minerals and forest products through criminal syndicates of the timber and mine mafias. The revenue collection system, disguised as ‘taxes and donations from the people and fines from the anti people elements’, is their main source of income that comes from extorting huge amounts of royalty from the traders, contractors, mining corporates and big industries operating in those regions. While indoctrinating the tribal people against the Indian State, the Maoists at the same time had successfully built up dubious relationships and deceitful understandings with mainstream political parties. In Andhra Pradesh, local politicians have found them handy to secure electoral gains. The same nexus was evident during the Jharkhand assembly election in 2005. Recently in Bengal, the Maoists are working as second fiddle to Mamata Banerjee and her cohorts.

On the eve of Operation Green Hunt — the Indian State’s massive counteroffensive plan against them, the Maoists are feeling the urgent need to forge a strong support base ‘at every level possible’ which includes their ‘honorable’ sympathizers from the intelligentsia as well as mainstream political parties. Their offensive against the ‘brutal’ state forces needs to be carried out ‘in close coordination with, and in support of’ these mainstream sections of the Indian society. The Maoist leaders are definitely not fools but have cunning political brains. They know that to take up ‘wide propaganda exposing state terror and state-sponsored terror’ and evoke sympathy among the broader masses, the help and support from the babble mouth elite sympathizers, the ‘liberal’ media and petty-bourgeois radicals will give them the necessary propaganda mileage. By lending opportunistic ‘tactical’ support to petty-minded political groups to influence petty politics, by inciting an anarchic situation through their murderous politics, they want to divert attention from their surreptitious activities. Bengal is a paradigm case where reactionary political forces like the ‘useful idiots’ of the Trinamool Congress has volunteered to help the Maoists just to pathologically oppose the principal partner of the ruling Left Front — the CPI(M). So, it is not a surprise when we hear the shrewd CPI-Maoist politbureau member Koteshwar Rao a.k.a. Kishanji openly declaring Mamata Banerjee as the next Chief Minister of Bengal! This friendship will immensely help the Maoists to keep an escape corridor open for their ‘brave’ guerrillas to turn their tails and flee from the imminent State offensive.

During the show of might between state forces and the Maoists, the hapless tribals will be caught in the crossfire and left to bear the maximum brunt. Their already wretched life will further get shattered. This is going to be the most disturbing part of the event.

Web Resources:
2. Debasish Chakraborty: Who Are The Maoists Working For?
3. Nirmalangshu Mukherjee: Open Letter to Noam Chomsky
4. V Balachandran: An ideological adversary

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Maoist’s in Lalgarh: the plot unfolds

Lalgarh continues to burn. Over the last few days, there were continuous news of violence, brutal killings and large-scale arson reported from there. The victims of the atrocity were mostly local tribals who were also known to be activists or supporters of the Communist Party of India (Marxist).They were forcefully driven out of their homes and coolly gunned down. Several CPI(M) party offices with houses of local party leaders were selectively targeted, torched and demolished. In front of the CPI(M) party office, the corpse of an agricultural laborer and CPI(M) worker Shalku Soren were seen lying under the sun, draped in a blood spattered sheet, for days. No one from his family has dared to perform his final rites. In the name of ‘people’s resistance’, this unprecedented brutality and vandalism was spearheaded by the Pulishi Santrash Birodhi Janashadharaner Committee or People’s Committee against Police Atrocities (PCPA). At present, state police force along with central forces are jointly engaged in a fierce gun battle with the PCPA activists. It is out in the open now that the PCPA has been shaped, maintained, controlled and strengthened by the Maoists who are leading the Lalgarh resistance from the front.

Lalgarh is situated in West Midnapore district, just 200 km away from Kolkata. In spite of the fact that within a stone’s throw distance of Lalgarh, the Jindal Group has acquired 4500 acres of near-barren land to build up a steel plant at Salboni, there is no credible complain of ‘forceful land grab’ against the Bengal government here. Like Singur and Nandigram, some ‘concerned’ activist groups had habitually opposed the steel project but were unsuccessful to create enough ruckuses as 4200 acres from the notified land was ‘unfortunately’ owned by the government’s State Animal Welfare Board and the rest was purchased directly by Jindal from local landowners through a three tire compensation policy. The ‘Salboni Package’ was complimented all over the country as the best possible model so far for acquiring farmland for industry in India. In Lalgarh, there are no reports that the CPI(M) party men has unleashed a reign of terror on poor and harmless villagers wearing ‘police uniform but with chappals’. Here, no ‘eyewitness account’ has informed us that villagers are brutally murdered by the CPI(M) goons and then ‘put in gunny bags, loaded in trucks and transported to unknown destinations’. There is also no such report about mass raping of women. No witness has testified before a ‘fact finding committee’ that ‘the legs of a small child were torn apart’.

Then why this brutal outrage is surfacing in and around Lalgarh? Is it possible to explain this ‘people’s rage’ by linking it with the ‘thirty two years of massive state repression’? According to a honorable central minister who also happens to be a Trinamool Congress leader, the violence is a spontaneous ‘outburst’ of the oppressed people against the ‘atrocious’ CPM rule. Furthermore, who can disregard that the CPM has a chronic tendency to tag all popular unrests against their dismal rule with the Maoists? Didn’t they try to circulate the same theory during the great Nandigram uprising? Didn’t they do the same in Singur? “Where are the Maoists?” the honorable central minister candidly asked in a recent television debate. Is it not true that the Maoist presence in Bengal is a myth created by the CPM? The honorable minister in all probability was not aware at that time that Maoist leaders have surfaced before the media to claim their robust authority to the movement. The justifying tone of the minister sounds as if he was actually enjoying the brutal killings of the CPI(M) men! He must be in a calculative mood and expecting that Lalgarh will provide some sort of continuity to the electoral and political gains his party has reaped from the very similar episodes of Nandigram.

There are indeed many similarities between Nandigram and Lalgarh. The politics and modus operandi of the agitation is similar. In both the places, rumor and disinformation were spread among locals to agitate and mobilize them. In both the places, a rainbow organization had sprung up rapidly to lead the agitation. In both the places the agitators took over the state administration to establish a free zone. Roads were dug off, several places were blocked by felled trees to resist any further state incursion. In both the places, indigenous weapons brandishing mob emerged as a symbol of the resistance. Both the so-called ‘popular movements’ were backed up by social activists, NGO’s and city dwelling intelligentsia who came on the street to protest the ‘state repression’ and ‘brutal use of force’. In both the places, there were a significant presence of women and children among the agitators who formed the front rank as ‘human shields’ while armed Maoists have positioned themselves in the back layer to instigate police firing. To deliberately create an anti-people image of the CPI(M) and the state government, a deceitful propaganda model was crafted to establish that the state government has particularly targeted the minority Muslims in Nandigram. The same model is applied at Lalgarh where the long oppressed tribals are shown as the victims of state government’s oppression and dispossession. It is now starkly evident that in both the places, the agitation was and is fuelled by a combined force of the right-wing Trinamool and the ultra-left Maoists. In both the places, the CPI(M) party and its workers were the single target.

The answer to the question why Lalgarh has become a killing field of CPI(M) workers is plain and simple. The CPI(M) is the lone target because it is the only party in that area that has the potential to confront and resist the deadly Maoist insurgents. It is the daring local leaders and workers of the CPI(M) who has created the biggest hurdle for the Maoists. They are the only one spoiling the Maoist’s grand design to systemically extend influence in the entire Jangalmahal region of Bengal. These sincere workers who are rooted deep with the daily struggles of the people are the real strength of the CPI(M). The Maoists have understood this strength and therefore has taken up the horrific task to selectively kill individual leaders and workers of the CPI(M) and detach the people from the party by enforcing a reign of terror against them.

The Janashadharaner Committee which is roaming and clumping all over Lalgarh for the past few months were formed as a protest against ‘rampant police atrocity especially on women and school children’ after the state police had raided Lalgarh and its adjacent villages in November, 2008 and detained some locals for having suspected Maoist links. The police action was carried out after the landmine blast on the convoy route of chief minister Buddhadev Bhattacharjee who was returning from Salboni after laying the Jindal steel plant foundation stone. The wire connecting the landmine was found to be originating from Lalgarh. The mastermind behind the attack on the chief minister is suspected to be Maoist action squad leader Sasadhar Mahato, younger brother of the former Trinamool and present PCPA leader Chatradhar Mahato. Along with Maoist sympathizer groups like the Association for the Protection of Democratic Rights (APDR) and Lalgarh Andolon Sanhati Mancha (Solidarity Forum for Lalgarh Movement), the Trinamool Congress had also extended its clandestine support towards the PCPA from its birth and stimulated the ‘unique form of democratic politics’ in Lalgarh against the “government’s long neglect of the tribal people”. Trinamool chieftain Mamata Banerjee was seen several times in the recent past to share the same dais with Chatradhar Mahato. ‘Humanitarian’ NGO groups, social activists and intellectuals with ultra Left undertone were seen to be busy providing moral, intellectual and financial support to the PCPA and ‘steadfastly persevered’ the movement ‘on a path of peaceful show of unity’. The Maoists, who had already set up a strong foothold in the region, were already waiting in the wings. The PCPA incited the tribals for an administration boycott and prevented the police from entering the area. All these developments were happening prior to the Lok Sabha polls. The Left Front government, taken aback by the political consequences of Nandigram were coerced not to take direct action and tried to resolve the crisis through negotiation and talks.

The villages in Lalgarh block could not cast their votes in the Lok Sabha polls due to constant threats from the Maoists. Soon, the area completely went out of hand from the state administration. Lalgarh virtually became a liberated zone of the Maoists. The mainstream media started its systemic propaganda with illustrated stories of people’s resistance and also about how the Maoists have initiated the alternative developmental work inside Lalgarh in the past seven months through their rural governance programme to ‘built at least 50 km of gravel paths, dug tubewells and tanks, rebuilt irrigation canals and are running health centres, with the help of local villagers in Lalgarh. Sporadic killing of CPI(M) leaders and workers were taking place which was made known as ‘people’s upsurge’ against CPI(M) ‘atrocities’.

Just some time after the Lok Sabha election results were out, the situation of Lalgarh erupted with its real face. Planned butchery of CPI(M) local leaders starts. Exciting images of enthusiastic PCPA activists hammering down the house of a CPI(M) leader brick by brick surrounded by drum beating tribals were beamed by TV channels. On June 15, Maoist leader ‘Bikash’ came out into the open to deliver a chilling interview, “On November 2, our plan was to execute Buddhadeb Babu. If West Bengal wants Buddhadeb hanged, who will hang him. It will be us of the People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army.” Standing back facing TV cameras with an AK 47 slung on his shoulder, the real leader of Lalgarh ‘movement’ announced to the literally dumbfound looking journalists, “The ground here is already ready and waiting for us. A child is about to be born and we are playing the role of the nurse who will deliver it”. Next day, in his second media interaction, Bikash also told to the Bengali news channel Star Ananda that “Killings, mass rapes, violence are the doings of Buddhadeb babu’s party. What we are doing is counter-violence.” But Bikash tried to indirectly deny any association with the Trinamool by saying, “Trinamool and CPI(M) are the two sides of the same coin.” At once, Trinamool friendly media picked up this information and propagated repeatedly to invalidate the CPI(M) claim that “Trinamool Congress workers are in cohorts with armed Maoist groups”. Bikash’s identity has been revealed by the Bengal Home Secretary. He is none but Sasadhar Mahato; the younger brother of Chatradhar Mahato.

After Bikash, it was the turn of Koteswar Rao alias Kishanji, the head of CPI(Maoist)’s central military commission and a politburo member in charge of Bengal, Jharkhand and Orissa to address the media. Suspected by the administration to be present at Lalgarh to spearhead the insurgency, Kishanji in his interview with the news channel NDTV has demanded an apology from the Centre and the Bengal government for waging a ‘psychological warfare’ against the tribals. Contrary to the remarks of Bikash on the Trinamool-Maoist connection, Kisanji has meanderingly appealed to the Trinamool chieftain ‘to break her silence’ and repay the Maoist’s contribution in Nandigram by assisting them in Lalgarh. In an earlier interview with the Times of India, Kisanji had spelt out how the Trinamool has armed them to fight in Nandigram. Even Chatradhar Mahato, in a careless moment had acknowledged the same fact.

It seems that the Maoist leaders are finding it increasingly difficult to keep the truth of a Trinamool-Maoist nexus concealed anymore. Earlier, in an inter-party letter, the Maoist leaders had already expressed their desire to “amass all anti-CPM forces in Bengal” and have appealed to their members to “involve the ruling class parties in this anti-CPM project to the maximum extent possible”. In the same letter, the Maoist leaders had asked their comrades to “strengthen relation with the leader who is leading the Singur movement from the front”. Fearing that her carefully veiled truth is getting uncovered by the ‘block-head’ Maoists, Trinamool chieftain Mamata Banerjee has promptly distanced herself and her party from the Lalgarh movement. Impatient to ‘portray a statesman-like attitude’, she has worriedly responded on the issue by saying, “I don’t support that (the Lalgarh violence). It is our collective duty to maintain law and order”. She has announced that two years ago her party has ‘expelled’ Chatradhar and made a wild claim that the Maoist’s are in fact a CPM plant to prevent the growing Trinamool influence in Bengal. “Buddhadev himself is the Maoist” was her reply to the CPI(M) allegation! (For a recent update on the Trinamool-Maoists nexus, see Maoist leader names TMC, Mahashweta as allies)

In Lalgarh, the Maoists have again made it clear why they are no different than any terrorist group. But till they were working covertly under the PCPA banner, their linkage with the PCPA could not be believably proved by the administration. It was easy for the Maoist backers to romanticize the Lalgarh movement in every possible way and candidly support the movement through sympathy soaked media coverage and armament-logistic-legal-financial helps. But by coming out in the open to face the media and announcing their leadership role in Nandigram and Lalgarh, the Maoist leaders have placed them on the horns of a dilemma. The avid sympathizers are showing signs of frustration that the consequences of this ‘stupid’ revelation of ‘hegemonic power’ can derail their well crafted plans. Now, when the truth about Maoists presence in Lalgarh cannot be dismissed anymore, a section of the sympathizers are trying their best to project the Lalgarh violence as a result of the growing discordance between the Maoist central leadership and ‘grassroots Maoists’ and harshly criticized the Maoist leadership as a ‘threat to the various democratic mass movements’. (Source) Their prime concern now is to justify that the Lalgarh movement is basically a ‘non-violent struggles of the people against unjust development policies in the state’ that is suddenly hijacked by the ‘self styled warriors against the state’. Can we humbly ask the ‘democratic mass movement’ propagators why they have waited so long to raise their voice to oppose the Maoists role in the Lalgarh resistance? Following the same logic, will they then condemn the so called Nandigram resistance also?

There is another section that is continuing to shield the Maoists by saying, “…the Maoists are rightly concerned about the objective historical necessity of the moment. This has prompted them to boycott elections and more ruinously adopt the exclusive path of protracted war. It is true that Maoists do not necessarily enjoy staying underground, and it is the brutality of the state that initially forced them into the forests.” (Source) Off course, this dogmatic section does not face any dilemma. Through their intellectual jargon and twisted facts, they are keen to establish that the mindless violence in Lalgarh was “…a spontaneous outburst of popular anger which has resulted in the torching of a CPI(M) party office.” (Source) They have condemned sending in paramilitary forces into the area and guaranteed continual support to the ‘historic in form and content’ movement in ‘every possible way’. They are supporters of mindless killings and completely blinded by the concept of armed uprising.

It is just a matter of days before the state and central joint forces will flush out the Maoists from Lalgarh. The real test for the state government will start from here. Instead of banning the Maoists, confronting them through political and administrative means seems to be the right solution. The government has to address the genuine grievances of the extremely poor and underprivileged section of the region with a compassionate determination. They must also remain extremely alert about the evil designs that will continue to proliferate in the coming days.

Image Courtesy:,

Friday, June 12, 2009

Cyclone Aila, its aftermath and a biased discussion about an ‘unbiased’ media

Sitting distanced from Bengal and following the sui generis coverage of the Cyclone Aila after effects in the Bengali TV channels is a fascinating experience. The tragic incidence has emerged as the prime media story of the moment, promptly filling the void created by the just concluded Lok Sabha polls. The cyclone that hit the Bengal coast on Monday, 25th of May has left a massive trail of destruction in different parts of the state. The scale of destruction and the suffering of the effected people were unprecedented. As per official reports, 137 people have lost their lives in the catastrophe. Nearly two lakh others were left homeless. While the worst hit districts were South and North 24-Paraganas in South Bengal, Cyclone Aila has also left its disastrous impact in the North Bengal districts particularly in Darjeeling Hills where at least 28 people have lost their lives. In Kolkata, three people were killed when huge trees fell on buses, cars and auto-rickshaws, roads were blocked, many electric poles were keeled over snapping overhead wires. In several parts of the city, power and water supply were severely disrupted.

The days after

In the Sunderbans delta zone, gigantic waves caused by the cyclone have destroyed around 400 kilometers of embankments in Sagar, Pathapratima, Basanti, Gosaba, Sandeshkhali and Hingalgunj, flooding hundreds of the villages. 54 major and smaller islands and the lives of over 40 lakh of its inhabitants were severely affected in these areas. The floods has razed or damaged countless houses, washed away seeds and killed the livestock. Brackish water entering farmlands has ruined crops and wiped out all stocks of freshwater fish and shrimp. Village after village lay submerged. Affected people are living with acute shortage of drinking water, food and shelter. Fears of an outbreak of waterborne enteric diseases loomed large as rotten carcasses of farm animals were floating in the surrounding rivers and creeks. According to experts, Sunderbans has never been hit by such a destructive storm in the last three decades.

The world's largest independent conservation organization World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) was working in Mousuni Island of the Sunderbans for quite some time in partnership with WWF (Netherlands), Hewlett Packard and GTZ to increase the adaptive capacities of the inhabitants from cyclones and tidal surges. By taking up climate adaptation strategies and infrastructural facilities to protect the island's inhabitants, WWF (India) had also set up a Climate Adaptation Centre here, with an electronic Early Warning System to warn villagers of oncoming disasters. Cyclone Aila’s wrath has washed away the entire work done by WWF (India) in Mousuni.

Apart from the human tragedy, the cyclone and subsequent floods has badly affected the mangrove forests of Sunderbans and presumably caused a sizable damage to its animal life by sweeping away a large number of highly endangered Bengal tigers, crocodiles, wild boars and spotted deer. It will take several weeks to assess the actual extent of the damage only after the water level recedes from the area. Alarm bells are ringed by environmental activist groups. A Greenpeace spokesperson has expressed caution that “the destruction caused by Aila was in consonance with the predictions made by scientists, who had warned that storms would become more frequent and more damaging due to climate change.” The spokesperson has also said that, “…domestically, India must take ambitious action to curtail emissions of carbon dioxide (the main greenhouse gas which is causing climate change), by adopting mandatory, ambitious energy efficiency and renewable energy targets, and creating fiscal incentives for the same”. (Source)

The response

The Bengal government’s response to the cyclone devastation was gradual. To gear up the relief and rehabilitation work, chief minister Buddhadev Bhattacharjee immediately deployed five ministers in the affected areas. Relief operations delayed to start as local communication systems were found to be paralyzed and many areas inaccessible by the impact of the cyclone. The army and Border Security Force personals were called in for carrying out rescue operations and air dropping of food packets in the inaccessible terrains. The government set up over 100 relief camps to temporarily shelter 50,000 effected people. While at the ground level rescue and relief efforts gradually gathered its momentum, it was almost inevitable that there will be administrative shortcomings in reaching adequate relief to certain remote areas as the scale of the disaster was massive and the numbers of victims were countless. The administrative loopholes in relief distribution remained a matter of grave concern to the government and have swelled harsh criticism from different quarters. Even as the state finance ministry sanctioned 61 crore rupees for relief operations, the funds available with the state government were grossly inadequate to cope up with the situation. Stressing the need for a centre-state joint effort to tackle the damage, the state government has urged for 1,000 crore rupees central assistance from the Natural Calamity Contingency Fund and also has demanded for declaring the disaster as a national calamity. The chief minister has also appealed to all political parties to rise above narrow politics and work hand in hand to provide relief to the distressed people.

But where the main opposition party is Trinamool Congress and the main opposition leader is no other but the ‘famous lady’, the country’s newly appointed Railway minister, the lofty call was expected to fall on deaf ears. How can her party work along with the CPI(M), the obnoxious ‘Stalinist’ party she had recently thrashed in the polls and won 19 parliament seats from the state? And who’s Buddhadev Bhattacharjee anyway? Didn’t the poll verdict confirm that the people have wholeheartedly supported her adamant approach of going up against everything the present government does? Eyeing the 2011 assembly polls, she has immediately tapped the popular grievances to blast off the state government for ‘nonexistence’ of any disaster management system throughout the 32 years of ‘misrule’. As if elsewhere in India, disaster management systems are working splendidly. She seemed, or pretended, to be unaware that the term Disaster Management System was introduced into the country’s administrative terminology barely seventeen years ago; fifteen years after Left Front came to power in Bengal.

Alleging the state government for careless utilization of central funds, she has demanded that the centre should not assist the Bengal government in relief and rehabilitation. On the pretext that no relief was reaching the affected people, she floated her alternative ‘PM to DM’ proposal: central relief should be directly handed over to the Panchayats bypassing the state government. As the Panchayats in most of the affected areas of South Bengal are advantageously under Trinamool’s control, the raison d'être behind her alternative proposal was targeted to reap maximum political advantage through relief distribution. Quite naturally she was upset when central finance minister Pranab Mukherjee met Buddhadev Bhattacharjee to discuss on the cyclone relief issue. As her alternative proposal was annulled by the central ministry, her party leaders and workers remained by and large aloof from any relief work. Instead, local Trinamool leaders were more interested and active to create obstacles in the ongoing relief and rehabilitation work and together with the friendly journalists were busy plotting effective plans to disrepute the government. Only after relief materials reached the affected areas from the Railway ministry, Trinamool leaders have jumped into their business.

The ugly media circus

Cyclone Aila has once again uncovered the ruthless anti-CPI(M) face of the mainstream media establishment in general, and the Anandabazar Patrika group (ABP) in particular. Setting a new low in journalistic sensationalism, the ABP group reporters are full of activity to spread disinformation based on half-truth evidences, primarily targeted against Buddhadev Bhattacharjee and his party. The carefully manufactured news items were selective in nature but regardless of validity, were supported by facts that cannot be easily separated from the fabrications and were presented in a ‘hit and run’ way – by making a brief attack and then dashing off from it without answering the subsequent response. To associate disinformation with authority and point up its trustworthiness, the news channels continuously ‘inventing’ exciting news and presenting them through the lingo of their own ‘experts’. Star Ananda, the ABP group’s ‘unbiased’ 24 hour news channel is an undisputed leader in this aspect. Brushing aside all journalistic ethics (if such a thing really exists), the channel has even started name calling and ridiculing rival news channel 24 Ghanta which do not follow their prescribed line of reporting. After all, 24 Ghanta is the ‘CPM’s channel’ stupid!

During Buddhadev Bhattacharjee’s visit in Aila hit Basanti, ABP group journalists had manufactured the sensational ‘imprisonment’ story. A group of local relief distribution workers were shown as ‘forcibly caged’ into a shed ‘against their wish’ for nearly two hours by overactive police and administration who had considered them as a ‘threat to Mr. Bhattacharjee’s safety’. An editorial in ABP group’s English daily The Telegraph had further articulated that the actual reason behind the imprisonment was to prevent them from “…confronting Mr. Bhattacharjee with their version of the truth of how relief operations were being mishandled in the area.” (Source) Star Ananda made it a major piece, uninterruptedly telecasted the ‘cage’ image for hours and promptly arranged a lengthy discussion on the topic. Surprisingly, the ‘cage’ was so tightly locked and guarded that the channel’s cameramen were allowed to enter inside and shoot this sensational footage of captivity for the viewers!

When the chief minister visited the cyclone effected Hingalgunj of North 24 Paraganas, he had to face ‘the wrath of the victims’ who had also ‘heckled and jeered’ him for inadequate supply of relief. The ‘hungry and angry cyclone victims’ shouted at the chief minister, “You are an inefficient chief minister. You deserve a garland of shoes. What have you done for the development of the Sunderbans in the last five years?” The angry ‘villagers’ asked the chief minister during an interactive session why a poor country like Bangladesh can build concrete embankments and the state government had failed to do so despite enjoying uninterrupted power for more than three decades. What the ‘angry villagers’ didn’t know was that ‘concrete embankments’ had feebly failed to protect Bangladesh from the devastating wrath of Aila. In fact, the condition of the Bangladesh Aila victims was so bad that Heather Blackwell, the NGO group Oxfam's Bangladesh representative called it a ‘humanitarian crisis’.

The ‘furious cyclone victims’ then heckled and abused the 75 years old local CPI(M) legislator Gopal Gayen at the Madanmohan Vidyapith relief camp and smeared his face with mud. The next day, the mud spattered face of the legislator was published in newspapers all over the country decorated by an incredible caption: ‘How does it feel?’ Not a single line were published anywhere by the worshippers of democracy condemning the attack on a senior legislator whose own house, situated in one of the worst affected areas was lying submerged for days. (Source)

Inspired by their homemade propaganda, a columnist of The Telegraph wrote, “The people were angry with not just the administration’s rather casual response to the human suffering, but also with the long years of official indifference to their plight.” (Emphasis added) The columnist continued, “Such anger erupting in the Sunderbans and in the chief minister’s presence can only mean how it is extending beyond ideological or partisan confines.” (Emphasis added) The columnist finally delivers his real message, “But the change in Bengal is noticeable…Bhattacharjee and the CPM are now less popular with the rural masses…” (Emphasis added) (Source) Buddhadev Bhattacharjee’s visit was termed by Star Ananda as a ‘VIP Picnic’. The media brotherhood roared in accordance: if the security of a chief minister becomes more important than relief distribution, if distribution workers are kept caged, then there is no need for the chief minister to visit the affected areas. Let him sit home. His visits are hindering the relief process. Amazingly, enlightenment struck the ABP group to raise the ‘VIP Picnic’ issue only after the ‘famous lady’ and three Trinamool central ministers had finished their respective visits to the cyclone hit areas. When the ‘conscience keeper’ Bengal Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi later visited the humble victims of Sandeshkhali, the same media reported about an ‘altogether different public mood’. Cyclone victims who has lost all that they possessed gave the Bengal Governor a ‘warm welcome’, little girls strewed flower petals before him. A shaken Governor was seen to amiably ask a woman in tears ‘if the child in her lap had eaten’. The reporting has turned Sandeshkhali into an almost surreal land, inhabited by surreal people who in the midst of agony can magnanimously strew flowers on their illustrious guest!

There is an alternative version of this rousing incident that came from Ganashakti, the CPI(M) mouthpiece. (Source: June 4, 2009 Issue) According to Ganashakti, the basic plan to heckle the chief minister was hatched by the ABP reporters. Blessed by their management, the reporters joined with local Trinamool leaders in a neighborhood club ‘Tarun Sangha’ in the early hours of that eventful day and fine-tuned their plan. Hingalgunj became their perfect executing ground as the area is considered to be a Trinamool Congress stronghold. The Trinamool leaders were taught how to stage a ‘media friendly’ demonstration in front of the chief minister, in the crudest way possible, involving women armed with brooms and shoes. The news and images will then be publicized as ‘public fury against the chief minister’. The Trinamool leaders perfectly acted according to the ABP authored script and helped to manufacture the breaking news: ‘Struck by Aila, survivors jeer Buddha, call him inefficient CM’.

The CPI(M) mouthpiece’s version could have been easily dismissed as a cliché CPM style defense under severe media criticism. But this time the daily has struck directly to produce an authoritative proof to support their claim. Ganashakti published an image of the chief minister’s interactive session in the Madanmohan Vidyapith relief camp and convincingly identified five ‘cyclone victim villagers’ – all of them were local Trinamool leaders. Throughout the incident, this gang of five was the most invective protesters who had flung ‘hard questions’ before the chief minister. None of them were cyclone victims; none of them were living in relief camp, none of them were hungry. The attack on CPI(M) legislator Gopal Gayen was also perpetrated by the same group. But no matter what evidence or logical arguments are offered, it is CPM manufactured news after all. A piece of news is considered 'credible' only when it appears in the ‘unbiased’ media.

Why the ABP group has gone berserk to involve itself into such a depraved act? In their own words, the initiative was undertaken to ‘provoke a widespread eruption of popular rage’ against the ‘impotent’ state government administration. (Source) The key intention behind this media circus was to act as proxy to the ‘famous lady’ who was away from the epicenter to attend her ministerial obligations in New Delhi. While the Trinamool chieftain and her henchmen were too busy celebrating their portfolios, their media friends has taken up the task to counteract the positive impact of the chief minister’s visit by any means. It was therefore their moral obligation to establish that the chief minister was sternly discarded by the cyclone affected people. They have realized that this out of the blue situation has provided them a wonderful chance to intensely exploit public resentment against the ruling Left Front and the CPI(M). Systematically they are trying to build-up an atmosphere of discontent and sustain it till 2011, for the final assault. Beating the Stalinists in Bengal is no more a pipedream. In any case, the Stalinists are in the verge of losing their power and the glory!

A concealed truth

The all out media surge against the Left, particularly against the CPI(M) obviously lead to the suspicion that the media might be working hand in glove for a much greater plan designed by their imperialist bosses. Remember the former US Ambassador Ellsworth Bunker’s testimony about how the Central Intelligence Agency had carried out a clandestine operation to topple the democratically elected Communist government in Kerala? Howard B Schaffer, the author of Bunker’s biography Ellsworth Bunker: Global Troubleshooter, Vietnam Hawk, has disclosed in the book that, “…the election results rang alarm bells in Washington. This apparently involved agency funding for political demonstrations organized by the Congress party and other opposition groups that were designed to create a law and order situation.” Sounds familiar? Former US ambassador to India Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s autobiography A Dangerous Place has further revealed how agency funds were poured in to help the Congress Party in Kerala and Bengal to cut off the communists who were clear favorites in the elections.

Successive US governments have a long history of extensively using the CIA to interfere in the internal political matters of various countries if considered detrimental to the US interests. Do we have to believe that the continuous eruptions of mayhem, lawlessness and violence in Bengal are spontaneous events? In the current global state of affairs, it is impossible for the US to remain impassive about a strategically important country like India. Only a stupid will believe that the US has signed the Indo-US nuclear deal to solve India’s power crisis! In their notorious intelligence game, one of the most efficient devices is the journalists who can serve the US interests under an institutional cover – the Fourth Estate.

Former Washington Post reporter, the legendary Watergate journalist Carl Bernstein had exposed in his Rolling Stone cover story ‘The CIA and the Media’ how journalists had secretly carried out assignments for the Central Intelligence Agency. Bernstein wrote, “Journalists provided a full range of clandestine services – from simple intelligence gathering to serving as go‑betweens with spies in Communist countries. Reporters shared their notebooks with the CIA. Editors shared their staffs. Some of the journalists were Pulitzer Prize winners, distinguished reporters … who found that their association with the Agency helped their work… and, the smallest category, full‑time CIA employees masquerading as journalists abroad. In many instances, CIA documents show, journalists were engaged to perform tasks for the CIA with the consent of the managements of America’s leading news organizations.” (Source)

Do the journalists go on working for the CIA on their own? According to Bernstein, “…contrary to the notion that the CIA insidiously infiltrated the journalistic community, there is ample evidence that America’s leading publishers and news executives allowed themselves and their organizations to become handmaidens to the intelligence services.” What about the ‘opinion maker’ columnists? Bernstein writes, “…a dozen well known columnists and broadcast commentators whose relationships with the CIA go far beyond those normally maintained between reporters and their sources. They are referred to at the Agency as ‘known assets’ and can be counted on to perform a variety of undercover tasks.”

Bernstein continues, “In the field, journalists were used to help recruit and handle foreigners as agents; to acquire and evaluate information, and to plant false information with officials of foreign governments.” Bernstein further elaborates, “…During the past twenty-five years, the Agency has secretly bankrolled numerous foreign press services, periodicals and newspapers – both English and foreign language – which provided excellent cover for CIA operatives.” (Emphasis added) The CIA is believed to have directly owned of subsidized “…more than fifty newspapers, news services, radio stations, periodicals and other communications facilities, most of them overseas. These were used for propaganda efforts, or even as cover for operations. Another dozen foreign news organizations were infiltrated by paid CIA agents.”

However, in response to public disclosure of CIA’s use of journalists in undercover operations, the agency has scaled down the program but continued “to ‘welcome’ the voluntary, unpaid cooperation of journalists”.

Daniel Brandt, founder of NameBase, the web-based cross-indexed database of names that focuses on individuals involved in the international intelligence community once asked, “How can one distinguish between news and propaganda when the overlaps and interlocks are so pervasive?” According to Brandt, “…the collapse of socialism and the centralization of domestic and transnational media, suggest that the CIA now has everything well in hand”

We wrap up the section with a wise Daniel Brandt comment: “…the larger problem is that the media is owned by the ruling class. With the increased media centralization of the last twenty years, their lock on the masses is now so complete that when they maintain an appearance of objectivity, it's only out of habit.” (Source)

Disaster Management: the Indian way

Any policy is best judged by how well it is implemented on ground. The Government of India had incepted the Natural Disaster Management Program (NDMP) in 1992-93 following the devastating Latur earthquake to suggest a long-term strategy for managing natural disasters in the country. As a guideline the NDMP had also provided a long list of necessary institutional and legislative measures for the national, state and district levels to follow. In 1999, soon after the devastating cyclone in Orissa, another high powered committee on disaster management plans was constituted to prepare a comprehensive model for management of disasters. But the 2001 Gujarat earthquake has brought out in open several inadequacies in the country’s disaster management system. The 2004 tsunami catastrophe has proved again that the system in fact does not exist beyond the government files. As a consequence of the tsunami, on 11 January 2005, another high power committee was constituted by the central government to draft the Disaster Management Bill to start a multi dimensional endeavour involving various scientific, engineering and social processes. The draft bill became the National Disaster Management Act after being passed by Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha and signed by the President of India on 23 December 2005. The Cabinet Committee on Management of Natural calamities and The National Disaster Response force was constituted on the same year. The 2008 Kosi floods in Bihar once more exposed the serious weaknesses in the government machinery and confirmed that disaster management system in India has turned into a disaster by itself. Neither the central nor the state governments have any clue on how the system is supposed to work.

Disaster Management Programs require multi-disciplinary and pro-active approach involving a number of departments and agencies spanning across all sectors. After every disaster strikes, limitations of the government machinery, its top-down approach and lack of determination to mitigate the impact of natural calamities comes into open. Our governments have learned little from experiences of the past disasters. Neither have they realized that costs of disaster mitigation are far more economical than spending crores on relief and rehabilitation.


It is beyond any doubt that in a natural disaster of extreme magnitude, where properties and lives of countless people are devastated, anger against the government administration is nothing unusual. If the Aila affected people in Bengal are demonstrating their anger against the authorities, they have enough reasons to do so. But it is also true that in a country like India, timely and evenly supplying relief material to each and every effected area or person is virtually impossible. Even a utopian administration cannot succeed in this task. There will be certain places where supply of relief will fall short to satisfy the real need. Therefore it is quite easy to find out stories of anger, frustration and deprivation in a situation like this. We are not saying this to cover up some of the genuine administrative lapses of the Bengal government’s but trying to view the situation from a realistic point of view. The point is – what are then the alternatives? Running a parallel administration while ignoring a democratically elected government? Purposefully defaming a sincere and concerned chief minister by questioning his motives and blowing the opposition leader out of proportion? Bringing out cliché allegations based on minor matter or element of the facts, focusing on side issues and fabricating them to an absurd level? Claiming every effort of the Bengal government as irrelevant and demanding for the impossible? Insisting on immediate disaster management solutions in a country where political cynicism, bureaucratic lassitude and corruption formidably rule the roost?

None of the above alternatives have any ability to bring smile on the face of the Cyclone Aila victims. It can only reinforce the farce of Indian democracy once more. Judicious preventive measures with community initiatives are the real answer to the problem, not the post-disaster relief and rehabilitation.