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Mainstream, Vol XLV No 47

"Conflagration Nandigram"

Letter to West Bengal Governor

Wednesday 14 November 2007, by V R Krishna Iyer


Venerable Gopal Gandhi,

I write this letter reluctantly but feel it my duty to request you, as the head of the State of West Bengal, to consider what measures, if any, may taken to see that the people of the State, particularly of Nandigram, enjoy security and liberty. Possession of property, without threat of deprivation in the guise of land acquisition for industrial development, and assuring peaceful co-existence of progressive agriculture and industry with promise of more employment is true rural-urban harmony. Perverted priority for advanced technology inhibiting the peasantry from their traditional agrarian operations is provocative of tension and show-down. Large investments with machine-oriented technology, offers little prospect of new employment. The rich become richer, the poor poorer. Nandigram is a traumatic mix of these confusing conflicts, maybe. This complexity of issues brings into focus the Gandhian vision of advanced agrarian India is the central object of modern development and the reverse reality of villages suffering a setback on account of an aggressive pressure of the technological illusion that foreign-funded profit-hungry, ‘Westoxicated’ Industrial Renaissance is the only salvation from privation for Indian humanity. A magnificient compromise between these two rival views is possible if state violence for land acquisition and terrorism of unruly hostile political elements taking the law into their hands are controlled with social justice as the goal. That is statesmanship through a creative policy revolution.

It is unfortunate that disproportionate emphasis on industrial progress and disorganised political conflict opposing even necessary industrialisation have given rise to human casualties and damage to property in Nandigram and other parts of India. Development is not of things but of Man, as the Cocoyoc Declaration by UN has defined it. The landless and the lawless create havoc in Nagaland making even use of country-bombs. Is bomb-making a cottage industry, menacing peaceful rural life and productive activity? Such a grave bedlam situation arose sometime ago in Nandigram which alerted political parties about escalating tension and terror and eventually generated restorative policies and humanist strategies. I thought, and there are many like me, that a positive resolution will come into play and Nandigram may emerge again as a symbol of developmental statesmanship and peaceful peasant-industrialist amity. That would be a tribute to the State’s political leadership and glory of governance. But alas! I have read in the New Indian Express of October 29, 2007, under the alarming heading “Killing Fields”, the report of a violent eruption in Nandigram resulting in loss of life and revival of political acrimony. Of course, media reports may not always be true or objective or may even be exaggerated and distorted. Nevertheless, media reports are an alarm signal and do demand urgent attention of the State agencies of development as well as of maintenance of law and order.

Responsible people have been upset by “Conflagration Nandigram” re-emerging as ‘survival after death’, as it were. The critical problem remains die-hard. Political polemics has the pollutive potential for creating chaos and letting loose anarchical forces lying latent in society. Whether the claims urged by politicians are just or not, resort to violence should never be even a last refuge. Even otherwise, incisive observers have described India as a functioning anarchy. All the more reason why traumatic tendencies injurious to peaceful public life, which make proclivities of tranquility a lost cause, should be resisted by the State and sensitive parties and right-thinking people.

A constructive process of reconciliation between rival political groups, a humanist perspective which envisions a happy accommodation between industrial and agrarian sectors, and, above all, an awakened public opinion which frowns upon any form of violence in public life which mars activities in public institutions and social centres, and totally rejects bomb culture, the barbarity of explosives must be a unanimous conviction. Maybe, the beginning of a new Nandigram initiative for a brave patriotic Bharat is the desideratum of our time. A High Level Commission, with the co-operation of political parties, may be one method of establishing a democratic Gram Swaraj process. Maybe, there are other alternatives. This country’s politics and economy are not bankrupt yet and it is my conviction that West Bengal should blaze the trail consistently with the constitutional imperatives of a socialist, secular, democratic republic, truly non-aligned and independent of foreign investments and lobbies with imperial intentions. I submit to you, respected Governor, and, through you, the innovative Marxian Chief Minister, to command the resources of the people for constructive ends so as to redeem our historic ‘tryst with destiny’. We are no longer feudal or colonial and must generate a great drive in fulfillment of social justice and distributive development, which is the first promise of our Constitution and the paramount obligation of Swaraj.

With high regards,

Yours sincerely,
- October 31, 2007 V.R. Krishna Iyer

The author, a distinguished former Judge (now retired) of the Supreme Court, was the Law Minister in the first Communist Party-led State Government in Kerala (1957-59).

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