Sunday, March 18, 2007

Stalinist Reign of Terror in West Bengal

Outside West Bengal, few people know the grim political reality of Stalinist de facto One Party Rule in West Bengal, enforced through rigged elections, intimidated polling officials, murdered opponents, and entire districts full of millions of terrorized villagers.

Vir Sanghvi paints a comprehensive and informative picture. If the Communists are not stopped, the rest of India will share the same fate over the coming decades, state by state. Because, elections cannot remove Stalinist mass-murderers from power; only a revolution can, or President's Rule.

And yet, the rest of India is silently watching while Jallian Walla Bagh style massacres are occurring in broad daylight in Nandigram, Singur, and less recently at Kespur (2000-2001), Bantala, among others.

Hindustan Times reports:

The Bengal Paradox
Counterpoint | Vir Sanghvi
March 17, 2007

It is now over a decade since I moved out of Calcutta. But watching the news last week, I felt I was back. As I saw those terrible shots of policemen beating up women in Nandigram, as I read about the massacre of innocent villagers, and as I noted the cold, commissar-like response of Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee to the killings, I remembered what it was like to live in West Bengal.

The following day, as Mamata Banerjee shouted into the TV cameras, as her spokesman Derek O’Brien referred to Buddhadeb as a ‘lunatic’ on TV, and as a Bengal bandh ensured that millions of people were inconvenienced (ambulance drivers were prevented from reaching the sick), I realised how little things had changed.

Like the rest of us, the people of West Bengal get the politicians they deserve. They get the thugs and murderers of the CPM and they get the hysterical, self-destructive opposition of Mamata Banerjee. Small wonder then that while Bengalis prosper all over the world (and in the rest of India), Bengal remains a backwater, always at least a decade behind the rest of the country.

When I first moved to Calcutta in 1986, Jyoti Basu was already India’s longest-serving chief minister and the subject of universal admiration among the middle class — outside of Calcutta. Within the state capital itself, many educated people took an entirely different view.

It wasn’t that they did not admire Basu’s stature — it was the rest of him that they disapproved of. The general view then was that while he was a well-educated bhadralok (unlike the north Indian politicians whom Bengalis love to despise), his reputation outside the state was based on hot air. His credentials as a man of the people were dented by his love of the good life, by the annual trip to London in the summer (always on some pretext; it was never described as a holiday), by his son’s dodgy reputation and by his complete intolerance of dissent.

A couple of years before I moved to Calcutta, Ananda Bazar Patrika, where I worked, had suffered a violent and disastrous strike. The violence had emanated not so much from disgruntled employees as from professional activists affiliated to the CPM. In those days, the group’s Bengali daily was anti-communist and the party had decided that ABP had to be punished. ABP employees were beaten up outside the office and the police determinedly looked the other way — they had orders from the government not to intervene.

But even Jyoti Basu was considered a pro-free speech liberal compared to Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, the classic humour-less, dour communist. When City of Joy was shot in Calcutta during my time there, Jyoti Basu was broadly supportive of the filming. It was Buddhadeb who opposed the decision. His view was not motivated by any sense of literary high-mindedness (I thought, at first, that he might have disapproved of the idiotically sentimental Dominique Lapierre book on which the film was based) but out of a conviction that evil Westerners had arrived to denigrate his city.

It is traditional now to regard the CPM as being the most honest party in India and, given the financial integrity of the current leadership, this is probably accurate. But when I lived in Calcutta, we joked that the M in CPI(M) stood for ‘Marwari’ because so many of the party’s leading lights were clearly in the pay of the city’s dominant business community.

But the corruption worried us less than the violent streak at the centre of the CPM. Like most successful communist parties, the CPM is cadre-based. And like communists everywhere, its cadres cling to the totalitarian view that individuals are less important than The Cause.

Anybody with some experience of rural West Bengal will tell you that the CPM has done an outstanding job in land reform since it came to power in 1977. But they will also admit that the price Bengal has paid for this is to allow the cadres to take over the villages.

In many rural areas, communist cadres dominate everyday life with the same ruthless efficiency demonstrated by the LTTE in northern Sri Lanka. More than the police or the local administration, it is the cadres who wield the real power. They routinely rig elections (though I reckon the CPM would win anyway though perhaps with smaller margins) and impose a reign of terror on the villagers, murdering anyone who dares defy their authority.

In Calcutta we saw the cadres in action when the party required a show of strength. On election day, they would prevent people who were likely to vote for the Opposition from reaching the polling booths. When bandhs were declared, they would ensure that Calcutta shut down.

It was generally accepted that the police would never intervene if CPM cadres were involved. And sometimes the cops would actually lend a hand. It was in the early 1990s (I think) that Mamata Banerjee learnt this the hard way. During a Calcutta bandh, she was publicly assaulted and so comprehensively thrashed by a police party that she had to spend months in hospital recovering. As journalists and editorialists, we were outraged. But the CPM didn’t give a damn to what the papers said.

Oddly enough, the rest of India — or, at least, educated urban India — never saw the CPM as a party based on violent, totalitarian cadres with a Stalinist intolerance of dissent and opposition. Nobody commented on the corruption. Or on the intrigues that ensured that control of the party remained in the hands of a small band of apparatchiks.

When these commissars — most of whom rarely stood for election — held forth on democracy and the will of the people, they were listened to with a baffling respect. When they complained about the fascist core at the heart of the Sangh Parivar, nobody pointed out that all totalitarian parties — including their own — had such a core. When they spoke about free speech, few people pointed to the CPM’s own mixed record in this regard.

When they treated the machinations and intrigues of Indian politics with lofty disdain, most of us failed to point out that their own party was as full of manipulation and petty feuds. And when they lectured us about the evils of capitalism, we rarely reminded them that Jyoti Basu had repackaged himself as the businessman’s best pal while sipping Scotch with the city’s richer Marwaris.

I thought back to my years in Calcutta when I saw the TV footage of the Nandigram massacre. Anybody who has lived in Calcutta will understand at once what happened. The CPM had tolerated the defiance of the villagers for long enough. If they were unwilling to give up their land for the greater good then they had to be punished. And so, in the finest traditions of global communism, the cadres were despatched on a mission that would have done Joseph Stalin or Mao Tse-Tung proud. They beat up the villagers, murdered a few people and terrorised the area. The tame police force followed and shot the few innocents who continued to protest.

Was Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee responsible? I doubt it. My guess is that the cadres listen to the apparatchiks and not to the chief minister. It is no secret that large chunks of the Politburo would like to see Bhattacharjee go. And so, they don’t really care how much the massacre embarrasses him or whether his position has now become untenable. Elected politicians will come and go. But the grim-faced men who run the cadres will go on forever.

What followed was as sadly predictable. Mamata Banerjee represents one of the great wasted opportunities of Indian politics. There was a time, in the early 1990s, when I thought she had it in her to topple Jyoti Basu and to lead a revolt against the stranglehold of the CPM.

Alas, Mamata has proved to be her own worst enemy. When she should have fought Jyoti Basu, she fought Pranab Mukherjee. When she should have rallied her troops, she quarrelled with her closest aides. When she should have led the Congress, she linked up with the BJP. When she should have stuck by the BJP, she deserted the NDA in the aftermath of the Tehelka sting.

You see her now on TV screeching loudly while her spokespeople destroy their own case with childish abuse. You know that beneath the hysteria lurks the truth. But you know also that this outburst too will fade, that Mamata will soon shoot herself in the foot again and that she will slip back into sulky electoral oblivion. The CPM cadres will continue to rule the villages. And the party’s leaders will once again deliver self-righteous little speeches about how everybody else is wrong and they are right.

What is it about Bengal, I wonder, that ensures that not only does the CPM get away with murder but that all of the Opposition, from Mamata Banerjee to the pathetically inept Congress, always destroys itself?

Nobody I spoke to in all my years in Calcutta had an answer. Or was able to explain why the state voluntarily opted for a one-party system run by a totalitarian cadre.

I call it the Bengal paradox. And until we learn why Bengalis, who shine wherever they go, are so different when they are at home, we will never understand the hold an obsolete 19th-century totalitarian ideology has on a state full of some of India’s most talented and intelligent people.

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Thursday, March 15, 2007

Fascist CPM Government's Reign of Terror in West Bengal: Massacre in Broad Daylight

The CPI(M)-led Left Front Government of West Bengal has stayed in power for over thirty years by brute force. Sometimes they have rigged elections, captured polling booths by force and stuffed ballot boxes with false votes, and sometimes they have simply intimidated (beaten up, and when necessary, murdered) their political opponents out of the elections, especially in rural West Bengal where rule of law exists only for CPI(M) supporters.

Now the Fascist Government is up to a new tactic: they are setting up "Special Economic Zones" in villages where Opposition voters live.

That is, if they suspect you are a supporter of the Opposition Trinamool Congress or the BJP in rural West Bengal, they will simply "acquire" your land, your house, and all your property, in order to build a Tata Motor car factory, or an Indonesian fertilizer factory, or something of the sort. They will pay you a pittance for the land, not the prevailing market rate, and even that pittance will probably never materialize -- you will end up running from pillar to post, filing thousands of applications over the next several decades to get your money. In short, your life will be destroyed, and you and your family will land up on the streets as beggars, rickshaw-pullers, or prostitutes.

The moral of the story: if you don't want to be kicked out of your house and lose everything you have, you better make sure you and everybody else in your village vote for the Left Front in the elections.

The people of Singur and Nandigram are fighting valiantly against this evil Government. They need the support of the rest of us, all over India. We must unite to fight this barbaric Fascists. If not, tomorrow they may decide that your house should be "acquired" for a Tata motor or fertilizer company office.

At least 11 people have been killed in Nandigram according to official figures. Acording to some reports, more than 50 have been killed by the Fascist mass-murderous CPI(M) Government of West Bengal. Several others have been raped and killed in Singur over the past several months. Before India became Independent, the British did this at Jallain Walla Bagh. The Left Front has already done this tens of times over the last 30 years. Is this Independence ? Is this Freedom ?

Let the children of Mother India unite in revenge. Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth. Let no Fascist Left Front "leader" be safe anywhere in India.

We the people of India have been too peaceful for too long, and our corrupt murderer thief liar robber and rapist "leaders" have become too complacent. They think they can get away with anything -- literally get away with 11 murders in broad daylight. They are treating us as animals. If they are to treat us as human beings, not as animals, they must fear us, just a little bit. We must make them fear us.

If Mahatma Gandhi were alive today, he would say the same thing. Being non-violent must not mean being reduced to the status of animals. We are human beings, not goats or sheep to be slaughtered at will for profit.

We must prove this to our "leaders".

Spread this thought around to everybody you know. Let a hundred million voices rise in anger to condemn this Fascist mass-murder in broad daylight. Let some Fascist CPI(M) blood be spilled in revenge. Let Mother India rise to protect her children from the cowardly traitorous murderous thieving tyrants who oppress them.

Vande Mataram ! Jai Hind !

Hindustan Times reports:

11 killed, 40 injured in Nandigram police firing
Sujit Nath and Aloke Banerjee
Nandigram/Kolkata, March 14, 2007

At least 11 people were killed while 40 others were injured after a large contingent of police entered Nandigram in East Midnapore district, opened fire and clashed with local people on Wednesday morning.

Unconfirmed reports put the death toll to more than 20 while the Opposition alleged that more than 50 people had died of police firing.

The Trinamool Congress has called a 12-hour Bangla bandh on Friday, which has been supported by the Congress, BJP and SUCI. Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee demanded resignation of the chief minister and alleged that many bodies had been sunk in the nearby river.

Trouble started at about 8 in the morning when over a 2000-strong police force armed with AK 47 rifles attempted to enter Nandigram, which has been cut off from the rest of the state for over two months now by villagers resisting land acquisition for setting up an SEZ.

The first barricade was put up by women and children who resisted the police from entering the villages. The police fired tear gas shells and then rubber bullets and finally live cartridges. A section of villagers were armed and they retaliated and injured several policemen.

The plan to push in police into the trouble-torn and tense area was chalked out by the CPI(M) top brass last Saturday, insiders told HT. They were under pressure from the East Midnapur unit of the party led by MP Lakshman Seth who felt that the CPI(M) would permanently lose ground in the area unless barricades were removed and normalcy was restored in Nandigram. A large section of the CPI(M) secretariat was also of the same view and felt that the manner villagers were keeping the administration paralysed for over two months was creating a bad precedent.

According to the strategy, the police was asked to remove resistance, enter the villages and 'restore law of the land'. They were to be followed by CPI(M) activists, who would “reinstall civil society” in Nandigram. The Opposition too alleged that armed CPI(M) cadres had mixed with the police, fired upon villagers and then attempted to enter the villages. Another group of party activists cordoned off the entire area checked all vehicles to prevent journalists from entering the scene of violence. Several scribes were beaten up. "We wont allow the media to enter the village. So far you were running the show. Now it is our turn," Lakshman Seth said bluntly.

The opposition members staged a walk out in the assembly. The government also came under heavy criticism from Left Front partners CPI, RSP and the Forward Bloc. An emergency Front meeting has been called on Wednesday. The Chief Minister is expected to give a statement in the state assembly.

Police said that entry inside the Nandigram had become necessary because there was no law and order in the area and the police needed to gain access. The Director General of Police, AB Vohra said that 14 policemen were injured including an additional SP.

The sudden raid came as a surprise for the villagers as they started running here and there to maintain a safe distance. It was a horrific sight as armed policemen were seen dragging villagers out of their houses and beating them.
“It is like a war. I don’t know where my family members are. I never expected such an attack from the policemen,” Saber, one of the villagers of Gorchakraberia said.

Around 10 am the entire area turned into a battlefield. “I can see every were bodies are scattered all over paddy field smeared with blood. Those who were injured are screaming for help but instead of providing any aid policemen were seen kicking them with their boots,” Ehsan one of the local villagers told Hindustan Times over telephone.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Civilized World Waking up to Pakistani Duplicity on Islamic Terrorism

There is an old saying: you can fool all of the people some of the time, some of the people all the time, but not all the people all the time.

Pakistan has been practising Islamic terrorism against India for several decades now. For decades, it fooled the gullible West into thinking of the Radical Islamic genocidal attacks on the minority Hindu Pandits of Kashmir as a "freedom struggle". Of course, the fact that the victims were Hindus helped a lot; the Christian-majority West tends to forget its humanitarian values when Christian lives are not at stake.

The Times of India reports:

'Divide Pak' ads came from cable company, says CNN
[13 Mar, 2007 0950hrs ISTTIMES NEWS NETWORK]

WASHINGTON: CNN has disowned an advertisement that calls for disintegration of Pakistan into several smaller countries being shown in the Washington DC area saying ''some local cable operators may have accepted the advert to run in their own airtime.''

The ad, which typically appears during the morning news hour on the channel which broadcasts CNN in the Washington metro area, promotes a book by a Syed Jamaluddin titled, Divide Pakistan to Eliminate Terrorism .

A male voice in a British accent says Pakistan and its intelligence agency are promoting chaos around the world and “seek to take terrorism to new heights.” He credits Jamaluddin with ''courageously exposing the truth.''

The ad has sent Pakistani circles into a tizzy after the Daily Times verbatim reproduced the story first reported in The Times of India .

On Monday, a CNN spokesperson called ToI to say the ad was placed by the cable company which could buy airtime between CNN programs to market any message. What’s undeniable is that the ads continue to appear on Channel 62, which broadcasts CNN in the Maryland area for subscribers to Comcast.

At a time of heightened attention to Afghanistan and Pakistan and multiple congressional hearing, the ads reflect poorly on Islamabad’s already dubious reputation as an ally in the war on terrorism.

But then the unknown and untraceable Syed Jamaluddin is not the only one raising awkward questions about Pakistan’s role in international terrorism.

In a stunning rebuke, former Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto on Monday obliquely accused the country’s military and intelligence of promoting a terrorist agenda.

''Why is it that all terrorist plots -- from the September 11 attacks, to Madrid, to London, to Mumbai -- seem to have roots in Islamabad?'' Bhutto asked in a Washington Post op-ed, before answering, ''Pakistan's military and intelligence services have, for decades, used religious parties for recruits. Political madrassas -- religious schools that preach terrorism by perverting the faith of Islam -- have spread by the tens of thousands.''

Bhutto also accused the Musharraf regime of strategically helping the US only when international criticism of the terrorists' presence becomes strident. She cited the arrest of Mullah Obaidullah Akhund, a top Taliban strategist, by Pakistani authorities late last month as a case in point.

''The timing, right on the heels of American and British pleas for renewed toughness, is too convenient. Akhund was arrested solely to keep Western governments at bay,'' she wrote.

Her charges may well be right and Pakistan may have suckered Washington more than that. A Swiss daily reported on Sunday that Akhund, who is Taliban’s former defence minister, was freed two days after his reported capture by Pakistani security forces.

The Swiss weekly SonntagsBlick said one of its reporters spoke to Akhund on February 28 unhindered in an Islamic school in the southwestern city of Quetta.

''The news is not true,'' AP reported SonntagsBlick as writing. ''The world press reported: top-Taliban imprisoned. At the same time he was sitting with a SonntagsBlick reporter having coffee.''

The report broadly conforms to previous episodes where Pakistani extremists and terrorists are merely quarantined by Islamabad as state guests when the heat is on and then set free when world attention turns away.


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