Battle for Bengal

Bengal poll without violence is unthinkable. The ensuing assembly election, to be held in eight phases under the strict surveillance of paramilitary forces is already bloody during the electioneering phase. All contesting parties have lost direction while dancing to the tune set by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). They have no issue other than vaguely talking nonsense about development without asking the moot question -whose development? BJP has long been trying to communalise Bengal polity and they have succeeded to some extent, thanks to political bankruptcy of official left and heterogeneous elements in the so-called secular camp. Rakesh Singh Tikait, the leader of Bharatiya Kisan Union, came all the way from Delhi to Kolkata, to address public gatherings while specifically urging Bengal peasants to support the on-going farmers' movement. For one thing farmers' protests are a turning point for India's Democracy and the world can no longer ignore it. But political parties that are in electoral race do hardly mention peasants' agony and Modi's notorious farm laws that will destroy farming community. Modi has virtually put India on auction. And yet his swan song of development is getting unusual currency. Money coupled with muscle power matters in every election and BJP has selected a soft target in a regional party—Trinamul Congress (TMC)—otherwise plagued by corruption, nepotism and self-seekers. The saffron party's extra-ordinary success in the last parliamentary election has made them bold enough to divide the society on communal lines. The way the members and functionaries of TMC are deserting their parent party, on the eve of polls, only to swell the ranks of saffronites speaks volumes about the hollowness of the party's secular credentials and development rhetoric.

No political party is raising the issue of farmers' agitation in their campaign. An estimated 250 million farmers have been on strike since last September in opposition to three agricultural laws. Now everybody knows the laws are designed to allow big corporations, including foreign multinationals to control market and acquire land. The farmers see this as a struggle for their continued existence. Contained within the many forces involved in the farmers' strike is a potential revolutionary humanism, emerging from India's concrete history that could transcend not just Modi's anti-historic ideology, but also the inhuman law of social and economic oppression.

The left is basically responsible for the rise of BJP in a state of secular and socialist tradition. They never fought the BJP politically. Nor do they seriously campaign against its policy of dividing people on religious-communal lines. In many ways they are no less communal than BJP and Congress while fielding candidates in minority-dominated constituencies. They always remain busy with electoral permutations and combinations, even by compromising with communal forces. The saffron right's totalitarian assault on people's minds is just as important as their physical violence. The absurdity of their historical and mythical claims justifying everything through the Hindutva prism while discarding progressive ideas is actually a demand to surrender rational thinking to the dictates of authority.

The politicians should be ashamed of themselves for stoking the flames of arrogance and ignorance for their narrow partisan gain. And Modi is the worst of them. Modi's Hindutva ideology is a bizarre mix of ancient religion and modern high tech, but its essence remains the same inhuman law of corporate accumulation.

In many ways the farmers' movement is a continuation of last year's workers' general strike. That also involved hundreds of thousands of urban union workers protesting privatisation and demanding relief for those suffering under economic burden caused by COVID-19 induced lockdown. Many rural strikers are urban workers who have been forced to return home to their villages as jobs were lost in the cities.

It is refreshing to see that women are increasingly participating in mass movements. And farmers' movement is no exception. But they do not feature in poll campaigns. 'Even the women donning hijabs are joining the farmers, addressing the gathering and sitting in the protests for days'.


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Vol. 53, No. 40, Apr 4 - 10, 2021