Searching For A Model?

Bhangor: Continuing Conflict

Arup Majumdar

Despite extreme violence, the Bhangor Resistance Committee owns most of the seats it fought in the recently held Panchayet election. Arrest of their leader Alik Chakraborty proved to be counter-productive, opening an opportunity for the protesters to bring the masses of affected Bhangor villagers on the street, both here and elsewhere in the country. All leftist forces (as considered by pepole) from Maoists to CPM are with the Bhangor movement.

The principal organiser leading the Bhangor anti-Power Grid agitation the CPI-ML, Red Star has started issuing call to organise Bhangor type of movement everywhere—this is a trend in ML tradition from the very beginning. To organise naxalite type of movement, to organise Dandakaranya type of movement everywhere and so on. Its effect is disastrous and it can't be otherwise in India plauged by extreme diversities from region to region.

Singur, Lalgarh, Nandigram movements were the first powerful mass movements in the recent past of West Bengal, organised by the naxalite forces. Though there were basic differences in those three movements, but certain common chords were also there. During that time only, the Maoists for the first time, decided to organise mass movements in Bengal. It was one of the important common factors. Then their State organisation under the leadership of very young overenthusiastic Sudip Chongdar had no earlier experience of organising sizeable mass movements. Though it was a bold decision by those but they were not humble enough to consider themselves as learners. There were many other forces also organising the movement in Singur and Nandigram. All these struggles were in true sense, experiments in the laboratory of rural Bengal.

Those movements were initially advancing as they were supposed to be, at a slow pace. But the impatient leadership wanted to advance those movements much faster than their potential and ultimately failed. The immature understanding of the ground reality led to the disaster.

Like most other ML organisations, after lot of unity—split—unity—split—CPI(ML) Red Star was formed. No doubt they got few good committed organisers in West Bengal, who had some experience also of organising mass movements. They took up the case of Bhangor people. The grievances of the people in that region were genuine. There are obviously powerful arguments against forming such power grid. Though there are opposite arguments also. They were organising the movement correctly facing courageously the odds against the movement.

But every political organisation has its own internal problems, local requirements as well as requirements in other places. Red Star's principal base is in Kerala. A vertical split took place there and only a section of the original organisation is with Red Star. The other part known as CPI (ML) Red Flag is possibly bigger in size. In Kerala, unlike in other places, this was the first significant split, after that of K Venu's, insignificant split. The majority of the previous Kerala State committee is with Red Flag. For obvious reasons, there is pressure on Red Star leadership to prove among the masses and cadres the necessity of the split for building up movements and prove their 'correct line'. The present Red Flag leadership consists of most of the important organisers of Kerala. Red Flag is working with the Left Front there, which was one of the reasons of their split.

One may consider that all these have no visible connection with the ongoing Bhangor movement. But it's better to know the case history in detail for a proper diagnosis.

Red Flag won a few panchayet / municipality seats in Kerala. In Maha-rashtra also they won one or two seats. Red Star is lagging behind, having almost the same political line. The contradiction is mainly organisational, not political in essence. So Red Star has the urgency to prove their credibility also, principally in Kerala. Most of the cadres in Kerala are almost equally inclined to both these organisations. Sometimes even in Facebook one can see the contradictions of these two groups.

Bhangor was a strong peasant base of CPM. Even when CPM lost miserably, Rezzak Molla got elected from this constituency. But afterwards he compelled CPM to expel him from the party and in due course he joined Trinomul. In this region Trinomul's powerful leader Arabul Islam is also having his interest and dreams. So there is a sharp contradiction between Arabul and Rezzak Molla. CPM is also trying to regain its lost strength there. In this situation Red Star started organising the masses in the power-grid affected locality.

Like in any other movement, here also the entire Naxalite fraternity joined hands. The movement was advancing in its own pace but in due course Red Star joined hands with CPM.

Now the question arises why they joined hands with discredited CPM? If it was for the advancement of the Bhangor movement? The answer is simply NO. Is it for their organisational advancement in Bengal? Again the answer is no. Then why? It is for their All India perspective, having special emphasis on Kerala. Their dream is to make a greater left unity excluding those forces that are practising armed struggle, principally, the Maoists.

One more question arises, why they joined panchayet election in the name of the Bhangor Resistance Committee. Is it for the advancement of the struggle? No. It is for implementing their political line and making the ties with CPM stronger. Here they are not using their party organisation's name but everywhere else they are using principally their party banner to encash the fruits of this movement.

If, all these are unique practices?

Certainly not. These are the usual practices in Indian politics. People are participating in mass movements for a cause known to them, facing torture, going to jail and even getting killed. They are actually doing all these things for another cause, development of a party, known only to a few. Naxalbari movement was basically different. Everyone was very much aware of the cause even before joining the movement.

Now Bhangor movement is continuing. Few became martyrs, few are in jail but the movement is continuing. What's the future? One possibility is the TMC government will go on with the making of power grid using repressive measures. By hook or crook they will try to compel the elected committee leaders to join TMC. In that situation the struggle may also continue in some form or other. Along with the development of Red Star, CPM will also try to reorganise its forces.

If government puts this programme in cold storage for the time being, then it will not be easy to continue this movement. Obviously there will be new issues to crop up every now and then and likewise the political circle will concentrate on that new issue. Actually in almost all the instances these forces are engaging themselves to react on the actions of the government.

Is there any possibility of changing the political scenario due to Bhangor movement? The answer is simply no. Though Bhangor shows that it can bring in CPM to Maoist side by side in the same rally but neither CPM nor Red Star will openly unite with the Maoists as it was done by Mamata Banerjee on the earlier occasion to change the Left Front rule. Now there are three forces in the political arena of Bengal. TMC, BJP and the LEFT as a whole.  During previous change in Bengal there were continuous different mass movements and powerful peculiar combination of mass and guerilla forces in Lalgarh and Jangolmahal.

The political significance of Bhangor movement has already been exhausted fully. It brought the Naxalite forces closure to CPM but CPM has not moved and cannot move an inch towards Left. It's just cunningly utilising the opportunity to sustain its out and out rightist line and trying to regain people's support.

"Bhangor" failed to use this opportunity to establish that the entire development models of India are anti-people, pro-imperialist. It failed to establish that Singur, Nandigram and Bhangor are nothing but different aspects of the same development model. The political leadership of Bhangor movement failed to initiate an All India Platform against the development model of Indian rulers. This is supposed to be one of the principal political struggles between Left and Right; this can draw a clear line of demarcation between pro-people and anti-people politics. They failed to unite with principally those forces who are leading those movements.

Why they failed?

It is simply due to their political understanding of so-called left unity. Their dream is not to make a Naxalbari but to establish the party like that of a struggling party of the sixties without any explicit specific direction. That's why they are inclined to CPM type of parties and trying to maintain safe distance from Maoist type of parties.

Bhangor gives the struggling masses of Bengal an opportunity to express their dissatisfaction, anger against the government and the system. It may also help the movements to come in near future to get stronger using the experiences. Every movement can play a limited role in course of changing society and Bhangor surely can claim its share in the history of mass movements in Bengal. Bhangor presents the alternate model of development, rather forcefully, the point at issue is how to unite those forces that are for alternate model of development, not imperialist model of development.

Vol. 51, No.1, Jul 8 - 14, 2018