Remembering Comrades in West Bengal
I left West Bengal in the year 2004. 8 years later, when I write up something about that very Bengal, it probably will not sound very realistic. But I never felt that I lost touch of where I belong to. Actually, it’s my ultimate alma-mater and I search for my soul in the lights of what I learnt there.
Writing on politics was never on my priority list. But some recent events forced me to do so. The recent conditions in West Bengal after the “Paribartan” indicates a lot of ground to improve. The law and order situation reminds us why we can’t dream of any modernization right now. After the Singur setback, we lost hope for any manufacturing industry in our province.
Yet I believe that “Paribartan” is good for West Bengal. Not probably because the deteriorating rule-of-law, but since we ended a monopoly. A stability with monopoly, especially a long-lasting one, is more harmful than a competitive instability. The former changes mindset of people, sometimes permanently, and forces people to adapt to malpractices. The latter causes loses due to instability, but makes up offering more choices to people. More often than not, the recovery from a monopoly is violent and often negates the so-called benefits of “stability”. Every action, after all, will leave some reactions. Be it the East European communists or the African dictators – the monopolistic regimes were uprooted differently but their removal led to a period of instability.
Communists in West Bengal ran a monopoly, not only in the Govt., but in every section of society. Let me start with some instances of violence. I grew up in Burdwan hearing about the Sainbari Murder (more gruesome account) where a couple of the main accused served the Communist Govt for long term. The trial could not be completed as the Left Front government withdrew the case after coming to power in 1977. In 2011 when Probe Panel was re-established, however, Leftists accused it on political vendetta. That was not a sporadic incident. The comrades took recourse to violence over-and-over from time-to-time when they were in power and subsequently justified it. The Marichjhapi Massacre, Bijon Setu Massacre, Muluk Massacre, Nanoor Massacre to Choto Angaria – none is less shameful than anything happening in recent days. For the last two cases, the CPM members were convicted but the party shamelessly defended them and appealed the verdicts. In case of top leaders such as Sushanta Ghosh, they mixed threat with violence against the victims. The climax was the violence in Nandigram.
That was just the account of violence. The de-industrialization of Bengal during the last couple of decades in West Bengal was noticeable. In the name of worker protection, how the capital was pushed out of the West Bengal – is successfully shown in a paper presented by Timothy Besley at London School of Economics. The same time when China successfully industrialized with massive labor migration from rural areas, Basu’s communist party took all opportunities away from villagers and provided them with an unsustainable stability. There were none to challenge our Comrades when they took English away from schools.
Once industry was out of Bengal, the only available job was that of Govt. Comrades filled up all of the positions from their ranked cadres, sometimes based on party affiliation. Based on their long standing monopoly, everyone was soon aware that they have to join, support or show affiliation towards comrades in order to secure a decent future, except a few “genius”-es. The Bengali middle class, searching for stability and non-accountability in a Govt. job, distanced themselves from the opposition Congress and later the TMC. Congress and TMC filled their positions with goons or “left-overs”, who are causing havoc today. To garner a full political party with an ideology and direction is a task that Mamata Banerjee is dealing with. She may prove to be no better than comrades, but we can wait and watch.
When stability becomes monopoly, the consequences are long-lasting. The changes that the comrades brought about in West Bengal will be felt in decades following them. The “Paribartan” was required as we needed to break the monopoly. It was needed since there are people who doesn’t subscribe to some certain fraction of people, needed some voice. If it doesn’t work, comrades will be back. It may happen in 10 years or in 5 years. But not with their monopoly. Neither with an assumption of mandate in every election. Bengal wants Leftists, either in opposition or in the Govt. But Bengal doesn’t want monopolists. People have won. Monopolists are defeated. That’s “Paribartan” !!