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'Buddhadeb is against farmers and the poor'
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March 21, 2007

In Nandigram, the hotspot where people are agitating against West Bengal government's plan to create a Special Economic Zone, around 60 per cent of the population is Muslim.

The area is a symbol of communal harmony and is proud of its role in the national freedom struggle. The Communist Party of India-Marxist here fought for right of tillers and poor and always had political power in local structures.

This is the land of Khudiram Bose and Matangini Hazra from where the Ganaunnayan Janadhikar Sangram Committee, an alliance of 22 peoples' organisations including Jamaitul-e-Ulema-Hind, National Alliance of People's Movements, Hindu Muslim Friendship and others are fighting against proposed SEZs.

The alliance was formed in 2004 when 5,000 acres of land, mostly belonging to Muslim farmers was to be acquired for Salim Industries in Bhangad, on the outskirts of Kolkata.

Maulana Mahmood Madani, 39, general secretary of the Jamiat-ul-Ulema-e-Hind is providing leadership to the movement by activating Muslims in the area to fight against Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee's policies and politics.

Madani is also a Rajya Sabha Member from Ajit Singh's Rashtriya Lok Dal and is a member of the supreme body of All India Muslim Personal Law Board.

Maulana Madani claims that Jamait-ul has around one million members in West Bengal and around 10 million members all over India, including 10,000 Ulemas in their 1,700 centres.'s Managing Editor Sheela Bhatt met him to ask him what the religious organisation is doing in the middle of a fierce economic battle of modern India. Here is what he said:

We knew Jamait-ul-Ulema-e-Hind as a religious organisation. Why is your organisation in forefront of the Nandigram movement against SEZs in West Bengal?

Our basic constitution is meant for religious people but ours is not merely a religious organisation. During the freedom movement, Maulana Husain Ahmad Madani's struggle was based on the issues concerning the political economy. He was my grandfather and founder of the Jamiat-ul. His written arguments and essays were based on economic concepts.

He first pointed out that how Britishers have ruined India's economy. When Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was talking of political independence, Maulana Madani was the only leader who talked about economic freedom from British. In his biography in a chapter on independence more than 70 per cent of the stuff is on India's economic problems under British rule.

Why have you joined the grassroots battle in Nandigram against the government?

It is the demand of the moment. Time is such that we should stand up. Our state unit in West Bengal took part in the Singur agitation, before it could cool down the Nandigram issue erupted. Here we are better organised than Singur. The movement came in hands of Jamait-ul people. We are not against SEZ but there are some problems.

SEZs are going to hurt the honour of Hindustanis. The implementation of SEZ will be different. The local government and police will not be able to interfere. Even if someone launches an FIR then the inquiry will not be conducted by the local police. SEZs have been kept safe from ongoing procedures. We want SEZ promoters to give partnership to farmers. Give farmers a share of their company in proportion to their land. If our government wants to build atomic reactors or schools on farmers' land we don't agitate against the acquisition under the Land Acquisition Act. We have some problems against the Act but we will never oppose such things.

But here a small group is making money at the cost of a large group, we are against such businesses. We follow Gandhiji's thinking on the issue.

Thousands of acres of land are unused because it is wasteland or where huge industries have been closed down. I asked CPI-M leader Sitaram Yechury why is his party not giving that land to farmers.

It's a very unusual to see Muslim organisations fighting with the Left parties which are considered political allies on many serious matters. How do you find CPI-M on the opposite side?

I don't like it. I just don't like it. We are ready to talk to them. I am unable to grasp what is behind their moves. We believe that in the past and even now Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee is not following the party line on many issues. I have demanded that the CPI-M leadership in New Delhi remove Buddhadeb.

Do you think police firing is a reason enough for the chief minister of a state to resign?

Yes, it is the issue that warrants his resignation and if the CPI-M is not ready to remove Buddhadeb then the Centre should impose Article 356 in West Bengal.

Have any members of the Jamiat-ul died in the firing?


What exactly happened in Nadigram?

People are flaunting all kind of theories. It is stupid to say that Naxalites were present in the villages and they triggered violence. After all, the CPI-M is the supporter of the Naxalites. Why would they kill people? The violence happened in Nandigram because the CPI-M cadre and police ganged up against its own people. Even on the next day they didn't allow outsiders to enter Nandigram.

What will be the fate of SEZ issue?

It is going on a dangerous path. It will not be limited to Bengal, it will spread all over India.

All said and done Budhdhadeb has a mandate of people to rule.

He doesn't have mandate, his party has it. He wants to uproot farmers and the poor to help industries. We are not against industries or SEZ. Have industries but only on wastelands. We are against Buddhadeb's style.

Is it because he is liked by Bharatiya Janata Party leaders like L K Advani and Arun Jaitely? He has cracked down on illegal madrassas, is that the reason behind your struggle?  

I knew you will ask this question. On Tuesday in the Rajya Sabha I heard the slogan: 'Buddhadeb hatyara hai, Sonia Gandhi ko pyara hai'. (Buddhadeb is a killer who is adored by Sonia Gandhi). These days he is close to Sonia Gandhi. I am not against him because he is liked by BJP but because Buddhadeb is against farmers and the poor.

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