Anj – – Nandigram

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Below you will find the response to Chomsky, Zinn, Tariq Ali, … as well as their original letter. Moreover, one of the initial signatories has written a short note withdrawing her initial support for the letter.
Dear All – I urge u to read this and the last post to get an
understanding of the situation concerning Nandigram. Thanks to Pervaiz
for this. Bests Anjali
Response to Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn et al on
We (the undersigned) read with growing dismay the
statement signed by Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn and
others advising those opposing the CPI(M)’s
pro-capitalist policies in West Bengal not to “split
the Left” in the face of American imperialism. We
believe that for some of the signatories, their
distance from events in India has resulted in their
falling prey to a CPI(M) public relations coup and
that they may have signed the statement without fully
realising the import of it and what it means here in
India, not just in Bengal .
We cannot believe that many of the signatories whom we
know personally, and whose work we respect, share the
values of the CPI(M) – to “share similar values” with
the party today is to stand for unbridled capitalist
development, nuclear energy at the cost of both
ecological concerns and mass displacement of people
(the planned nuclear plant at Haripur, West Bengal),
and the Stalinist arrogance that the party knows what
“the people” need better than the people themselves.
Moreover, the violence that has been perpetrated by
CPI(M) cadres to browbeat the peasants into
submission, including time-tested weapons like rape,
demonstrate that this “Left” shares little with the
Left ideals that we cherish.
Over the last decade, the policies of the Left Front
government in West Bengal have become virtually
indistinguishable from those of other parties
committed to the neoliberal agenda. Indeed, “the
important experiments
undertaken in the State” – the land reforms referred
to in the statement – are being rapidly reversed.
According to figures provided by the West Bengal state
secretary for land reforms, over the past five years
there has been a massive increase of landless peasants
in the state due to government acquisition of land
cheaply for handing over to corporations and
developing posh upper class neighbourhoods.
We urge our friends to take very seriously the fact
that all over the country, democratic rights groups,
activists and intellectuals of impeccable democratic
credentials have come out in full support of the
Nandigram struggle.
The statement reiterates the CPI(M)’s claim that
“there will be no chemical hub” in Nandigram, but this
assurance is itself deliberately misleading. This is
the explanation repeatedly offered by CPI(M) for the
first round of resistance in Nandigram – that people
reacted to a baseless rumour that there would be land
acquisitions in the area. In fact, as the Chief
Minister himself conceded in the State Assembly, it
was no rumour but a notification issued by the Haldia
Development Authority on January 2, 2007 indicating
the approximate size and location of the projected
SEZ, which
triggered the turmoil.
The major factor shaping popular reaction to the
notification was Singur. Singur was the chronicle of
the fate foretold for Nandigram. There, land was
acquired in most cases without the consent of
peasant-owners and at gun-point (terrorizing people
is one way of obtaining their consent), under the
colonial Land Acquisition Act (1894). That land is now
under the control of the industrial house of the
Tatas, cordoned off and policed by the state police
of West Bengal. The dispossessed villagers are lost to
history. A fortunate few among them will become wage
slaves of the Tatas on
the land on which they were once owners.
While the CPM-led West Bengal government has announced
that it will not go ahead with the chemical hub
without the consent of the people of Nandigram, it has
not announced any plans of withdrawing its commitment
to the
neo-liberal development model. It has not announced
the shelving of plans to create Special Economic
Zones. It has not withdrawn its invitation to Dow
Chemicals (formerly known as Union Carbide, the
corporation responsible
for tens of thousands of deaths in Bhopal) to invest
in West Bengal. In other words, there are many more
Nandigrams waiting to happen.
In any case, the reason for the recently renewed
violence in Nandigram has been widely established to
have nothing to do with the rumour or otherwise of a
chemical hub. Print and visual media, independent
reports, the Governor of West Bengal (Gopal Gandhi)
and the State Home Secretary’s police intelligence all
establish that this round of violence was initiated
by the CPI(M) to re-establish its control in the area.
We all have seen TV coverage of unarmed villagers
barricaded behind walls of rubble, while policemen
train their guns on them.
With the plans it has for the future, regaining
control over Nandigram is vital for the CPI(M) to
reassure its corporate partners that it is in complete
control of the situation and that any kind of
resistance will be comprehensively crushed. The
euphemism for this in the free marketplace is
‘creating a good investment climate’.
The anti-Taslima Nasreen angle that has recently been
linked to the Nandigram struggle against land
acquisition is disturbing to all of us. However, we
should remember that it is largely Muslim peasants who
are being dispossessed by land acquisitions all over
the state. There is a general crisis of confidence of
the Muslim community vis-à-vis the Left Front
government, inaugurated by the current Chief
Minister’s aggressive campaign to “clean up”
madarsas, followed by the revelation of the Sachar
Committee that Muslim employment in government jobs in
West Bengal is among the lowest in the country. While
we condemn the attempts to utilize this discontent
and channelize it in sectarian ways, we feel very
strongly that it would be unfortunate if the entire
anger of the community were to be mobilized by
communal and sectarian tendencies within it. Such a
situation would be inevitable if all Left forces were
seen to be backing the CPI(M).
This is why at this critical juncture it is crucial to
articulate a Left position that is simultaneously
against forcible land acquisition in Nandigram and
for the right of Tasleema Nasreen to live, write and
speak freely in India .
History has shown us that internal dissent is
invariably silenced by dominant forces claiming that a
bigger enemy is at the gate. Iraq and Iran are not
the only targets of that bigger enemy. The struggle
against SEZ’s and corporate globalization is an
intrinsic part of the struggle against US imperialism.
We urge our fellow travellers among the signatories to
that statement, not to treat the “Left” as
homogeneous, for there are many different tendencies
which claim that mantle, as indeed you will recognize
if you look at the names on your own statement.
Mahashweta Devi
Arundhati Roy
Sumit Sarkar
Uma Chakravarty
Tanika Sarkar
Moinak Biswas
Kaushik Ghosh
Saroj Giri
Sourin Bhattacharya
Nirmalangshu Mukherji
Sibaji Bandyopadhyay
Swapan Chakravorty
Rajarshi Dasgupta
Anand Chakravarty
Shuddhabrata Sengupta
Nivedita Menon
Aditya Nigam
Anjalika Sagar
Dear Friends, thank you for getting in touch. Please
see my response and feel free to distribute if you
All good wishes, solidarity,
Susan George
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To my friends in India:
Without wishing to place responsibility on anyone but
myself, I want to apologise for having signed the
common letter concerning Nandigram and hereby withdraw
my signature. I signed because the statement seemed
reasonable, recognised that the signatories “could not
say anything definitive”, seemed compatible with
principles like left unity and non-violence which I
try to uphold and, above all, had been previously
signed by people I greatly admire and respect. Due to
a certain urgency, I gave my name without consulting
friends in India, particularly the two Indian Fellows
of the Transnational Institute, Praful Bidwai and
Achin Vanaik, as I ought normally to have done.
Now I have received further information from Indians
who have regretted my signature and, while exercising
great comradely restraint towards me personally, have
pointed to the recent tragic events in Nandigram as
unequivocally the responsibility of the CPI[M]. All
the communications sent to me blame the government,
but having consulted other signatories, I learn that
some of them have received thanks and letters of
support, also from India.
While my instinct is quite naturally to side with
those who have written to me personally, particularly
my TNI comrades, I regret above all that I was
presumptuous enough to comment, however mildly, on a
situation I was not, and am not, in any position to
judge. I hope my Indian friends will forgive this
presumption and accept my regrets for having signed a
letter which has been used politically in India in
ways I cannot condone and do not approve.
In solidarity,
Susan George
Text of Chomsky et al’s Statement
To Our Friends in Bengal.
News travels to us that events in West Bengal have
overtaken the optimism that some of us have
experienced during trips to the state. We are
concerned about the rancor that has divided the public
space, created what appear to be unbridgeable gaps
between people who share similar values. It is this
that distresses us. We hear from people on both sides
of this chasm, and we are trying to make some sense of
the events and the dynamics. Obviously, our distance
prevents us from saying anything definitive. We
continue to trust that the people of Bengal will not
allow their differences on some issues to tear apart
the important experiments undertaken in the state
(land reforms, local self-government) .
We send our fullest solidarity to the peasants who
have been forcibly dispossessed. We understand that
the government has promised not to build a chemical
hub in the area around Nandigram. We understand that
those who had been dispossessed by the violence are
now being allowed back to their homes, without
recrimination. We understand that there is now talk of
reconciliation. This is what we favor.
The balance of forces in the world is such that it
would be impetuous to split the left. We are faced
with a world power that has demolished one state
(Iraq) and is now threatening another (Iran). This is
not the time for division when the basis of division
no longer appears to exist.
Noam Chomsky, author, Failed States: The Abuse of
Power and the Assult on Democracy.
Tariq Ali, author, Pirates of the Caribbean: Axis of
Hope and editor, New Left Review.
Howard Zinn, author, A Power Governments Cannot
Susan George, author, Another World is Possible if,
and Fellow, Transnational Institute.
Victoria Brittain, co-author, Enemy Combatant: A
British Muslim’s Journey to Guantanamo and Back,
former editor, Guardian.
Walden Bello, author, Dilemmas of Domination. The
Unmaking of the American Empire, and Chair, Akbayan,
the fastest growing party in the Philippines.
Mahmood Mamdani, author, Good Muslim, Bad Muslim:
America, The Cold War and the Roots of Terror.
Akeel Bilgrami, author, Politics and the Moral
Psychology of Identity.
Richard Falk, author, The Costs of War: International
Law, the UN and World Order After Iraq.
Jean Bricmont, author, Humanitarian Imperialism: Using
Human Rights to Sell War.
Michael Albert, author, Parecon: Life After
Capitalism, and editor, ZNET.
Stephen Shalom, author, Imperial Alibis: Rationalizing
US Intervention After the Cold War.
Charles Derber, author, People Before Profit. The New
Globalization in an Age of Terror, Big Money and
Economic Crisis.
Vijay Prashad, author, The Darker Nations: A People’s
History of the Third World