nandigram

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Facing up to Nandigram

By: on 25 Nov 2007

To anyone who has been following Indian news lately, there are, of course, many, many troubling issues when it comes to the disaster at Nandigram. West Bengal, the stronghold for the Communist Party of India (Marxist) for 30-odd years, is in a period of immense turmoil and violent protest, thanks to the CPM's conduct in Nandigram, the incredible levels of police and political corruption in the Rizwanur Rehman/Todi case, and, sadly, due to the furor over extending Taslima Nasreen's visa . I was in India for five weeks and the news was dominated by the Tehelka sting in Gujarat for the first bit and then by the CPM-backed murders, rapes and general mayhem in Nandigram for the second. Even the mainstream corporate media seemed truly appalled, and, between endless plugs for Om Shanti Om, managed to cover the escalating violence and insolent CPM response to any and all questioning with a surprising level of critical awareness. They even poked holes in the CPM's claim that even leftier "Maoists" were behind the violence and that the CPM thugs were only acting in self-defense. The one thing that most media fell short on was examining their own assumptions when describing the CPM. From newspapers, to the evening news, to those now-ubiquitous weekly red-and-white news magazines, the CPM was time and again described as "red", The Left, Communist etc. For the mainstream media to paint such a simplistic black-and-white or, ahem, red-and-white, picture, is to be expected. But when an open letter from Chomsky and "other intellectuals" was printed in The Hindu also continued to identify the CPM with "The Left" and therefore, somehow, as their ideological partners, things really started to seem hopeless.

Chomsky and other intellectuals on Nandigram displays the worst tendencies amongst Western, left-leaning academics. The fact that a group including the likes of Vijay Prashad and Tariq Ali – and Noam Chomsky himself – would author/sign on to such a piece of facile gloss on the Nandigram disaster betrays a good deal of arrogance and a certain degree of naiveté amonst these high-profile career intellectuals. “The balance of forces in the world is such that it would be impetuous to split the Left… This is not the time for division when the basis for division no longer appears to exist” says the open letter. Although what exactly this is supposed to mean is unclear, what is obvious is that Chomsky and co. seem convinced that they share with the CPM a larger, “Leftist,” ideology and therefore cannot betray the CPM by definitively condemning the party for its (widely publicized) atrocities in Nandigram. Why continue to employ labels that clearly do not apply, to a group that consistently embarrasses itself every time it attempts to justify its brutality?

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