Dead in Status Quo

Left is a dirty word while political right enjoys popular support everywhere across the world. Not that India is the only democracy where Right is doing well, notwithstanding their obnoxious ideological mix. Support for a presidential candidate like Donald Trump in America doesn’t come from 1%—the rich and powerful. Ironically most of his support comes from significant sections of the middle class and labour despite his vicious xenophobia, racism and anti-immigrant tirade. He stands for union-busting, automation, rather robotisation, globalisation and in short aggressive empire building which means more war tragedies in the Middle East and elsewhere. Trump’s embrace of torture and genocidal ‘carpet bombing’ are not just rhetoric and yet ordinary Americans who don’t belong to the mighty 1% look reluctant to rally behind the slogan—‘Stop Trump!’ People are fed up with Democrats and Liberals, though American foreign policy remains unchanged despite periodic change in ruling arrangement.

Nearer home the saffron march towards making India a citadel of right reaction, has gained tremendous impetus after their ascent to power in the troubled north-eastern state of Assam. And Left is again nowhere in the dismal political scenario while their new found ally Congress has literally lost the national status, particularly after the Assam poll debacle.

In Assam the issue was mainly migrants—illegal migrants from Bangladesh. The perceived threat by the ‘foreigners’ to the Assamese identity played the trick to mobilise the poor subalterns in favour of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). With BJP firmly in the saddle communal polarisation will get further strengthened in this state that witnesses frequent communal riots. The newly elected Chief Minister Sarbanand Sonowal with his chequered role in the anti-foreigners agitation in the yester years, has vowed to eradicate the menace of infiltration in two years. In other words he has just pressed the panic button for thousands of migrants who may be declared stateless. And it was a clear message to the right wingers to further polarise people on communal lines as the so-called ‘foreigners’ who have settled in the valley for generations, since the days of British, are muslims. If they resort to large scale deportation, a human catastrophe can hardly be avoided.

Migration from North Bengal to Assam has historical roots. In the yester years, it was economic migration and in some cases forced migration as the British planters required cheap labour to reclaim land and clear forests. And even today it is economic migration. The fact is that economic migration doesn’t take place in vacuum and it is unavoidable for an economy, developed or developing alike, to grow. Migrant labour plays a crucial role for sustaining and maintaining the economy everywhere. All metros in India depend heavily on migrant labour for menial jobs—civic life will collapse without them.

After Assam West Bengal is the state where the BJP finds furtile ground to make a case out of ‘infiltrations’, —Bangladeshi infiltrations. In every election their poll manifesto doesn’t fail to highlight the danger of infiltration and how demography of border districts is changing alarmingly in favour of illegal migrants, mostly muslims who may soon acquire the status of majority in some pockets. Some charges are true. But not all charges are true. Conservancy service in fringe towns and suburbs around Kolkata metropolis will collapse like a pack of cards, if Bangladeshis withdraw their labour. The authorities know it and the middle class households who depend on their service know it. Also, political parties allow this system to continue because they cannot offer any better alternative. So they have adopted the normal course—just make them a vote bank by issuing dozens of identity proofs and keeping them as docile as possible through the subtle threat of deportation and joblessness.

Economic migration cannot be checked by barbed wires and erecting walls along the border. And the foreigners issue in Assam cannot be resolved by forced deportation—it will create more problems with international ramifications, instead of resolving them. Two years into the Modi regime the toilers in this biggest showpiece of democracy suffer the effects of saffron rule in unemployment, farm suicides, fall in real wages, precariousness of jobs in every sector, formal and informal, and the stress of everyday life. In case of migrants the position of Left doesn’t differ from that of the powers that be. As a result the official Left is losing relevance to a large segment of population while many of the oppressed are actually repeating the reactionary ideas of their oppressors. So Trump in America and Modi in India are happy persons.

Whether they admit it or not Left resilience is a thing of the past. As for the far left they too live in the past, because for the present they are largely irrelevant to the downtrodden and future doesn’t exist for them. They are yet to get rid of ideological disorder they have been in since the seventies. In the Indian context sporadic outburst here and there is no answer to the saffron surge. Arab Spring has long been transformed into its opposite—counter revolution. ‘Occupy Wall Street’ that galvanised young generations across the world has already become a footnote in history page. Talking aimlessly about people and people’s initiatives without showing any responsibility and desire to lead the masses in their millions makes little sense. After all this passivity cannot deliver. No doubt the elements of new society are emerging in all sorts of unexpected and unrelated places. What is missing is unity of these movements to reach their logical conclusion. The objective reality deserves action as discontent is seething across the country. From this soil have sprung both revolt and reaction. If the forces of revolt seeking radical changes remain passive and refuse to break the status quo, the forces of reaction will rise as the saffronties are rising taking advantage of misconception the subalterns nurse.

Vol. 48, No. 49, Jun 12 - 18, 2016