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Home > News > Specials

The Rediff Special/ Paranjoy Guha Thakurta

'Political culture of violence continues in Bengal': Karat

May 02, 2007

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Is the Communist Party of India-Marxist willing to acknowledge that its cadres were involved in the violent incidents in Nandigram that resulted in the deaths of at least 14 people on March 14? What CPI-M General Secretary Prakash Karat concedes is that a "political culture and practice" of violence continues in a state that has been ruled by the CPI-M-led Left Front continuously for the last three decades.

Karat's statement came during an exclusive interview with this correspondent lasting over 50 minutes that was broadcast on the Lok Sabha television channel.

A verbatim excerpt from this section of the interview:

If in Singur, you really had the support of the people over there, why then did you need to impose Section 144? Why did the police have to intervene? I mean this was the issue...

Because bombs are used. The reality of Bengal is that bombs are thrown, pipe guns are used and I am not saying...

Your political opponents are saying that your party is also responsible...

Maybe. Whichever party, the police intervenes because of that´┐Ż

You are saying yourself that your party also had bombs and pipe guns and...

I am saying that there is a political culture and practice in Bengal. You can't ignore that. That's what happened in Nandigram. The fourteen people who have died. Why don't people mention how many have died in police firing and how many have died due to non- police firing?

This is being inquired (into) by the Central Bureau of Investigation...

That's why we can't tell the truth, because the CBI has been handed over the thing. Our charge and the counter-charge is that we say that it was those people who were prepared when the police came, who fired, who threw bombs on the police and people died...

Okay, the counter-argument is that the police fired, fired above the torso, above... their shoulders...

No. no. The charges are that the CPI-M went with the police... We didn't have to go. If we had to go with our own strength, we could have gone. The party decided we should not intervene. It should be left to the police. That is why we are being accused...


While drawing a distinction between the events in Singur and Nandigram, Karat said that in Singur land was acquired voluntarily whereas in Nandigram, no land was sought to be acquired. The party and the state government "made mistakes" because "we couldn't understand the ground situation."

"We couldn't understand the depth of the fears about the land being taken away and when the police went in, we didn't expect this sort of confrontation and clashes," he said.

The CPI-M general secretary added that the events of March 14 should not be seen in isolation but were a consequence of what happened in the Nandigram area from January 3 onwards. "There was a political struggle going on," he said, adding that the anti-CPI-M forces should have declared "victory" after the state government categorically stated that it would not acquire land for a chemicals manufacturing SEZ if the local people did not want it. One incident of police firing could not symbolise or become an expression of the entire record of the Left Front government, he argued.

He recalled that the first Communist state government in India that was elected in 1957 in Kerala had been toppled after a series of incidents of police firing in the state. At that time, it was said that the Communists were conducting a "liberation struggle" by attacking police stations and a campaign was started against the party for allegedly killing people. "So today Nandigram is to be declared a liberated area and we cannot enter Nandigram," he said.

Karat said there was nothing wrong in doing business with Indonesia's Selim group merely because the anti-Communist Suharto regime had supported the business conglomerate. "By that consideration, no multinational company from the United States should be investing anywhere in India because most of them have been associated with anti-Communist regimes..." He said the "real issue" was that the Left Front was currently being accused by the same people who had earlier said that it had "driven all capital from Bengal" of being "partial" towards any corporate group that wanted to invest in the state.

He added that Medha Patkar was opposed to the establishment of any industrial project in West Bengal and that individuals like historian Sumit Sarkar have "always been opposed to the CPI-M." "There's the Left and there's the Left," Karat said, when asked why many traditionally Left individuals had turned against his party after Singur and Nandigram.

During the wide-ranging interview, Karat disagreed with the view that government intervention was not desirable when land is being acquired for setting up industrial ventures. The intervention of the State was necessary to ensure that farmers received a fair deal and were not left to the mercy of real estate sharks. He said his party was in the process of preparing a detailed note opposing the entry of the entire organised sector -- and not just multinationals like Walmart -- in retail trade.

Karat was of the view that there was considerable political space in the country for a third "alternative" -- he preferred this term to "front" -- that was opposed to both the Congress and the BJP. He said it was incorrect to believe the CPI-M had exercised considerable influence on the economic policies of the UPA government, except on issues that required Parliamentary approval. On hindsight, it was correct on the part of the party not to have joined the government, he believed, because that could have been a major destabilising factor.

"You can't have a revolution by being in a minority in the government," he said.

On Uttar Pradesh, Karat said that while the CPI-M was not willing to "turn a blind eye to whatever the Samajwadi Party is doing", it was at the same time aware of the fact that as a major secular party, the SP had played an important role in defeating the BJP in the 2004 Lok Sabha election and would not, therefore, join an "anti-SP bandwagon".

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