Sunday, November 18, 2007

An Open Letter To Prakash Karat

Dear Mr. Karat,

I am writing this to you, fully aware of the fact that you may not find the time to browse through websites to read all that is written about you and your party. But then, I know that some of your partymen follow this site and that they will go through the bother of conveying the contents to you, for whatever it is worth. And let me also remind you that I was one of your fellow traveller at some point.

The provocation to this was your statement, before TV cameras, where you cited Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s mention, recently, that the Maoists pose the biggest threat to India’s internal security. You did that to justify the brutal ways that your party’s Chief Minister, Budhadeb Bhattacharjee adopted to put down the resistance to the idea of a chemical hub in Nandhigram.

Manmohan Singh’s contention (however unfounded it was) did not come as a surprise to me and many others who grew up in the tradition that you too did. The most prominent propagandist that he is of the Liberalisation-Privatisation-Globalisation agenda that he is, it was only natural that he saw the Maoists as a threat to the national security.

In many ways, he is not very different from the likes of Pravin Todagia, L.K.Advani and Narendra Modi who believe that the Muslims are the cause of the nation’s problems. It is not just a matter of coincidence that the BJP and its allies pull all the stops to wage a war against the organized resistance that the Maoists put up against the feudal lords and their cohorts in the hinterlands of Bihar, Jharkhand and Chattisgarh.

But it was certainly shocking to find you endorsing that world view and even leaning on someone like Manmohan Singh. You and your party have been describing his economic policies and the recent Indo-US nuclear deal as nothing but attempts to mortgage the sovereignty of our own nation to the US regime and monopoly capital that it serves. And if one were to use the Marxist categories in this context, I do not find another word than calling it as an act that confirms the comprador character of the Indian capitalist class.

And the parties that serve the interests of this class include the Congress(I), the BJP, the DMK, the ADMK, the Samajwadi Party, BJD, the RJD and all those others who are in power in one State or another and abuse the power to facilitate the loot of this country and its resources by the monopoly capitalists and the political regimes in the West.

And your party has been engaged in mobilizing the workers, peasants and other sections of our people in agitations against the policies initiated by Manmohan Singh (as Finance Minister between 1991 and 1996) and against the Atal Behari Vajpayee regime (between 1998 and 2004). You have underscored, in your party organ, that the defeat of the NDA regime in May 2004 was caused, above all, by the resistance to the LPG agenda it pursued in the same way as the Narasimha Rao-Manmohan Singh regime before.

You and some others in your party have, in the same way, described the SEZs as nothing but a land grab attempt and sent several notes to the Union Commerce Minister Kamal Nath and also raised the reasons behind your opposition to this land grab in your meetings with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his boss, Sonia Gandhi. And your colleague in the Politburo, Brinda Karat, even joined the campaign against the terror unleashed by the Naveen Patnaik regime against those who protested against a land grab in Kalinga Nagar.

You were associated in the campaign against a SEZ in Dadri along with V.P.Singh and in a way knew what it meant to your cadre when those who protested against their land being taken over booked on cooked up charges and thrown into jail by Mulayam Singh’s Government then. You have yourself been ``taken care’’ of by the police, at various points of time when you were a student leader and later on involved in organizing the workers in and around Delhi in your role as the Secretary of the CPI(M) in Delhi.

I need not remind you of the murderous assault on Safdar Hashmi and the fact that it was carried out by men who belonged to the Congress(I). And it is shocking that you are now willing to agree with what he had to say about the Maoists. You are aware that the goons who killed Safdar Hashmi and many others like him do not see any difference between your partymen and the members and associates of the various CPI(ML) groups active in many parts of the country. Like Mao Tse Tung said, the primary contradiction between the oppressed and the oppressor will remain as long as one of the two sides is annihilated.

I know that you have read Mao’s writings many times as well as Karl Marx, Frederick Engels and Vladimir Lenin. And it is shocking that despite this, you are now letting Budhadeb Bhattacharjee do all that he is doing in Nandhigram as well as in other parts of Kolkotta.

I am sure you would have read one of Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai’s ``Rendu Indangazhi’’ where the inseperable bond between the peasant and his land is brought out with such felicity. And that, indeed, is what led to the hundreds of men and women in Nandhigram to resist the idea of setting up a Chemical Hub on their lands. You may dismiss all this as the views of a Narodnik, who according to one of your columns in your party organ were known to romanticize the farm and the farmers.

But then, don’t forget that even Lenin had acknowledged the contribution of the Narodniks to the cause of the revolution in 1917. I hope you will agree with me that the 1905 revolution was one of the important stages in the revolutionary movement’s history and it is un-Marxist to dismiss that as a mere expression of romanticism. And Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin, the greatest film for all times to come was based on this understanding of history.

Well. I hope, even now, that you have the courage to lead your party to indulge in self criticism and ensure that Nandigram is not repeated.

Yours sincerely,
V.Krishna Ananth

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Who are the Maoists???

The CPI(M)’s justification to post CRPF in and around Nandigram was that the Maoists had entrenched themselves there. This is not different from the positions taken by a Nitish Kumar in Bihar, Madhu Kora in Jharkhand, Raman Singh in Chattisgarh and Y.S.Rajashekar Reddy in Andhra Pradesh. In many ways, this is the same as the argument by the Zionist regime in Israel, in defence of its armed onslaught and manslaughter, in the Palestinian settlements; we all know and some will agree that the Zionist regime’s armed onslaught is to facilitate forced occupation of Palestinian homes by Israelis.

The CPI(M) regime in West Bengal are now guilty of the same crime as the Zionists. The violence by the party’s cadre, aided by the state, against the people of Nandigram and the justification that it was necessary after the Maoists had entrenched themselves in the villages is the same as the Israel’s regime bulldozing Palestinian homes and shooting at children and justifying all that on grounds that the Hamas is now entrenched there.

It is a different matter that the CPI(M) continues to celebrate the Chinese regime (and Mao continues to remain the deity of that regime despite zeal with which it is adopting capitalism) to deny the Tibetans of their right to nationhood.

As is the case of the new generation leaders of the CPC, those in the CPI(M) too seem to have reduced all those books to mere show-pieces than read them and internalize some of the thoughts. And that is, indeed, evident from their attitude towards the Maoists and the fact that it is the same as that of the BJP, the Congress(I) and the amoral Madhu Kora. Be that as it may. It will make some sense, at this stage, to delve into the short history of the Maoists in India.

When the CPI(M) teamed up with the Bangla Congress to join the Ajoy Mukherjee Government on March 2, 1967, it seemed to herald a new era in the political scape of West Bengal. The Bangla Congress leader, Ajoy Mukherjee became the Chief Minister and Jyoti Basu Deputy Chief Minister holding charge of the Home portfolio. Hari Krishna Konar, veteran leader of the peasant movement became Minister for Land and Land Revenue.

And on March 18, just 16 days after the new Government took over, the CPI(M) leaders of the Silliguri sub-division held a conference of the peasants in the region. One of the prominent leaders of that event was Charu Mazumdar and he belonged to the CPI(M) at that time. The conference gave a call for ending monopoly ownership of land by the landlords, redistribution of land through peasants’ committees and arming the peasants to destroy the resistance of landlords to any such mobilization.

In a couple of months after that, Konar, in an interview to Ganashakthi (the CPI-M’s Bengali organ) said: ``The development of peasants’ initiatives and the advance of organized force would pave the way for further progress’’. The veteran Kisan leader’s statement, incidentally, was not very different from the call at the Silliguri conference. Konar had valid reasons to speak in the manner as he did. The Minister pointed out that benami transfers (that the landlords effected to circumvent the laws) and stay orders had scuttled redistribution of 121 thousand acres of land, identified as surplus by the Government. The extent of such land increased to 200 thousand acres by September 1969.

In the 30 months between March 1967 and September 1969, the United Front Government had collapsed once and reconstructed again after another election to the State assembly. And from what appeared to be an innocuous conference (that the Silliguri gathering on March 18, 1967), a movement had taken shape across West Bengal, in the Telengana region of Andhra Pradesh, in Tamil Nadu and in Kerala to realize the demand put forth in Silliguri and on the lines that were formulated at the conference.

Charu Mazumdar’s thoughts that sheer economism, that he accused the CPI(M) of having got stuck with, was not enough to liberate the landless and the small peasant came to be shared by a number of others in the CPI(M). They were, however, in a minority in the party and hence expelled. All this laid the basis for the foundation of a new party and that came to be known as the CPI(ML); even while the committed themselves to Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin (as did the CPI-M), Charu Mazumdar and his comrades insisted that Mao Tse Tung’s thoughts were far too relevant to the Indian condition more than anyone else’s.

They insisted that the feudal vestiges remained strong in the Indian reality and that our industrial houses were unwilling to launch the battle against these vestiges. And they were also of the opinion that the industrial class (the bourgeoisie) was inclined to compromise with foreign monopoly capital than confront it; they came to describe the capitalists class in India as comprador. And committed to the Marxist principles that they were, they identified their task as being anti-feudal and anti-imperialist.

It was in this context that a clash broke out between the police and armed villagers near Silliguri on May 23, 1967; the police was sent there to arrest some of the local leaders and Jyoti Basu was the Home Minister. A constable, Sonam Wangdi was killed in the clashes and on May 25, a huge posse of armed policemen sent to Pradjote in Naxalbari, opened fire on the villagers killing nine including six women and two children. This was just the beginning and the Sidhartha Sankar Ray regime (1972-77) when the regime went about shooting down Naxalites but also members of the CPI(M) across West Bengal.

The CPI(M)’s attitude towards the Naxalites (as Charu Mazumdar and his comrades were identified and this happened because the initial stirrings of the movement happened in Naxalbari village in North Bengal) was one of antagonism and this in turn led them, while in power, to unleash the police against the leaders as well as against the hapless people. The violent reaction by the Buddhadeb regime against those leading the struggle against indiscriminate land alienation in the name of development in Nandigram is just one more instance of this.

The party leadership seems undeterred doing this. They seem unfazed over the prospect of being consigned to the same bin as Madhu Kora, Rama Singh and Nitish Kumar. The difference is that the others do not pretend to celebrate Mao Tse Tung as does the CPI(M).

(P.S. I do possess all the five volumes of Mao Tse Tung Collected Works; and they were gifted to me, several years ago, by Prakash Karat)

Friday, November 02, 2007

Emerging undemocratic options (this was published in ET, op-ed, November 3, 2007)

The political drama now unfolding in Bangalore and some scenes enacted in New Delhi clearly belongs to the theatre of the absurd. And if anyone were to be asked to judge the best actor in this drama, he will have a serious problems deciding between H D Deve Gowda, B S Yediyurappa and Rameswar Thakur. But then, it will be appropriate to leave this to weekly newsmagazines for their year-end issues. One is familiar with publications bringing out special issues listing out the bad guys in our national life in the past few years.

There are, however, some serious concerns that have arisen from the events in Karnataka in the past few weeks. And these concerns fall under the moral and the constitutional frames. Let us recall, in brief, the context to the present drama.

The May 2004 elections resulted in a hung assembly with the BJP securing 79 seats, the Congress winning 65 seats and the Janata Dal(S) emerging victorious in 58 constituencies. Thereafter, the Congress and the Janata Dal(S) formed a post-poll coalition declaring secularism to be their creed to form the state government. This brand of secularism had helped Deve Gowda become the prime minister in May 1996. And secularism was once again useful for Gowda in Karnataka.

He seemed to have thought that Siddaramaiah, whom he appointed as deputy chief minister in Karnataka will remain his subordinate for ever. This was not happening. Sidaramaiah began asserting himself. And Gowda then propped up his son H D Kumarasamy to chart another course. And the son did that by leading his party MLAs out of the Congress-JD(S) coalition and setting up another coalition with the BJP.

Father Gowda first acted innocent. He even claimed that the son had betrayed him. But those who knew Gowda refused to buy all that and they were proved right in due course. Gowda is on top of the band of political leaders of our times who do not make a virtue of ideology and consistency. He owes his rise in public life — from being a civil contractor attached to the Congress to becoming the prime minister — to the series of brazen and opportunist moves and the infirmities in the democratic edifice.

Gowda could do all this only because others in the political arena were willing to play ball with him. The Congress, for instance, obliged him in Karnataka (in May 2004) because that was the only way it could wield power in the state. And the BJP did that in January 2005 only because it helped its own men wield power.

The BJP did not have any issue with the fact that the `S’ in the Janata Dal(S) stood for `secular’ and it was added to the party’s name only in order to differentiate itself from another Janata Dal faction (called the Janata Dal — United) then a part of the NDA. All that mattered to L K Advani and his followers was that it would make Yediyurappa the deputy chief minister, some other leaders as ministers. And through them, the party could appoint some of its loyalists as chairmen of various boards and corporations and thus ensure that the party’s resources are shored up before the next election.

There was this unity of purpose between the Congress and the Janata Dal(S) between May 2004 and December 2005; and thereafter between the Janata Dal(S) and the BJP until last month. This sense of purpose persists even now and that is the force behind the acts by all these parties. For the Congress, this objective will be served best with central rule than any fresh arrangement with the Janata Dal(S).

A rapproachement between the Congress and the JD(S) was on the cards and the fact is that it was shot down by the Congress. The party leaders seemed to have realised that governor Rameswar Thakur, whose bone marrows will smell of the Congress, is best suited to do this. And that seemed to have made Gowda rethink on the BJP and then all the drama that is still unfolding. All this points to two dimensions of the issue; the constitutional and the ethical. Insofar as the Constitution goes, governor Rameswar Thakur is clearly at fault and the inordinate delay on his part to invite Yediyurappa after the Janata Dal(S) legislature party informed him of their decision to support the BJP staked its claim.

Governor Thakur has no business mulling over Gowda’s letter that the assembly be dissolved because Gowda has no locus standi; and also because Kumarasamy had lost his majority in the assembly when he resigned as chief minister. The constitutional position is that the governor is bound by the advise of a chief minister only as long as he commands a majority and Kumarasamy submitted his resignation only after the BJP legislature party informed the governor of its decision to withdraw support.

Yediyurappa’s claim may be amoral and unethical considerations. But then, the governor’s job is to ensure the constitutional scheme of things. Ethics and moral concerns are outside the scope of things as such. It is another matter that the manner in which the events are unfolding in Bangalore is cause for concern.

One would have allowed these to rest by reposing faith on the electorate and arguing that the amoral lot in the political establishment will be punished by the people as and when assembly elections are held. But then, this too is a difficult proposition and an escapist position given the fact that the choice before the people, as and when elections are held, will be restricted to choosing one of the three amoral and unethical political formations. That they will be forced to chose between the Janata Dal(S), the Congress and the BJP in Karnataka is bound to make those who insist on parliamentary democracy being the best option worried.

This harsh reality is recipe to undemocratic options emerging as a way out and that will be disastrous.