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Nandigram, Khammam and CPI(M)’s Double Standards

Posted by Indian Vanguard on August 21, 2007

Khammam – 8 peasants struggling for land killed in police firing

Response of Congress Government of AP:

  • Firing ‘unfortunate’;
  • Judicial enquiry underway;
  • Blames ‘naxalite’ participation in rally and ‘provocation by the protestors’
  • Chief Minister need not resign

Nandigram: 14 peasants struggling for land killed in firing by police and CPI(M) cadres

Response of CPI(M) Government of W Bengal:

  • Firing ‘unfortunate’;
  • Judicial enquiry underway;
  • Blames ‘naxalite’ participation in protest and ‘provocation by the protestors’
  • Chief Minister need not resign

The massacre of peasants at Nandigram on March 14 had evoked an explosion of outrage among the Left intelligentsia. Many intellectuals broke ranks with the CPI(M) after Nandigram, choosing to side with the valiant struggle of the Nandirgam peasantry. Intellectuals close to the CPI(M), however, had issued a statement that had expressed pain and anguish at the incident while continuing to assert faith in the progressive intentions and democratic credentials of the CPI(M)-led LF Government in
West Bengal. Many of these intellectuals , supporters of CPI(M), are teachers at JNU – like Prof. Prabhat Patnaik, Utsa Patnaik, Jayati Ghosh and others.

Of course, this statement, while expressing pain at the loss of life and injuries of the Nandigram victims, had stopped short of expressing solidarity with the Nandigram peasants’ struggle to defend their land. One can’t but help contrasting this with the excellent statement signed by many of the selfsame intellectuals in the wake of the Khammam firing. That statement unstintedly expresses “our total solidarity with the mass upsurge of the poor for land”. Is a mass upsurge of peasantry for land to be recognised as such only when led by one’s own party?

But what is to be appreciated is that these intellectuals loyal to the CPI(M), in their statement on Nandigram, had been confident that the CPI(M)-led Government of West Bengal genuinely regretted the firing and was committed to ensuring justice for the victims.

Their statement declared that ” nobody belonging to the Left would ever justify repressive action against peasants and workers who are the basic classes of the Left“, had termed the “tragedy at Nandigram” to be “an entirely unanticipated, unjustified and unfortunate turn of events “, and had confidently claimed that “the state government has committed itself to recompensing the families of the victims“. In view of the state government’s efforts, these supporters of CPI(M) had then appealed for some closure so as “not to let the wounds of Nandigram become festering sores.”

Has the CPI(M) lived up to this confidence reposed in it by its own loyalists?

Consider the following statements made by senior CPI(M) leaders following the Khammam firing:

At Khamman, the situation had not warranted police firing…Only some brickbats had been thrown. But, at Nandigram, the police were forced to open fire” – CPI(M) PB Member and former WB Chief Minister Jyoti Basu, Hindu, July 31

“The CPI-M is not at all ashamed of the Nandigram incident and the question of giving compensation to families of those killed in police firing on 14 March or taking action against police officials doesn’t ariseAt the best we can offer some pity.” – CPI-M Central Committee member Benoy Konar (Statesman July 31) (emphasis ours)

“(At Nandigram) it was a revolt against the state and an elected government’s authority. In Andhra, we did not wage any armed struggle against the government, but launched a people’s movement asking it to fulfil its electoral promise of land reforms.” – Konar, Telegraph, July 31

Is the Nandigram firing really “unjustified” according to the CPI(M)? Clearly not. The CPI(M), in fact, is belying the confidence of its supporters that “nobody on the Left would ever justify” police firing of workers and peasants. In exactly the same manner as AP Chief Minister YSR and the Congress are justifying the Khammam firing by claiming ‘provocation’ and ‘violence’ by ‘Naxalites’, CPI(M)’s topmost leaders (including the veteran Jyoti Basu) continue to claim that the police firing at Nandigram was required, necessary.

Is the CPI(M)-led Government accepting the responsibility for compensation to those who lost loved ones, livelihoods (being unable to work due to severe and debilitating injuries including widespread loss of eyesight), and homes as a result of the repression? Far from it, CPI(M) leaders are saying that the question of paying compensation or punishing even police officials does not arise. To add insult to injury, they have the temerity to “at best” offer a grudging “pity”.

Comrade Basu and Konar, weren’t the martyrs of Nandigram also CPI(M) cadres, comrades of the Khammam martyrs, until the threat of land grab by the CPI(M) Government? Weren’t the peasants of Nandigram inspired by the legacy of the Left-led Tebhaga movement just as those at Khammam were inspired by the legacy of the Left-led Telengana movement? At Khammam peasants were asking the Government to implement land reforms; at Nandigram, they were demanding that the Government keep its promise of ‘land to the tiller’, and stop handing over poor peasants’ lands to corporate houses.

Isn’t CPI(M)’s crude and callous justification of the Nandigram firing an insult –not just to the martyrs of Nandigram – but also to the martyrs of Khammam, and to the expectations of its own most loyal supporters among the intellectuals?

For a discussion of the deep discomfort of CPI(M) intellectuals over Nandigram, and CPI(M)’s own total refusal to address their concerns, see

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