Unfolding Colours Of TMC Rule In Bengal
As Mamata Banerjee completes her first six months in office, the people of West Bengal now have a fairly good idea of the shape of things to come. In a systematic reversal of her poll promises, Mamata Banerjee has now launched a full-scale repressive campaign in Jangalmahal. The joint operation which she claims had been effectively ‘suspended’ to ‘give peace a chance’ has been resumed in full swing. And this is accompanied by Mamata’s own version of ‘Salwa Judum’ complete with recruitment of ‘special police officers’ and a TMC-backed vigilante force in the name of ‘Bhairav Vahini’, a veritable TMC-style replica of the erstwhile CPI(M)-sponsored band of armed storm-troopers known notoriously as ‘harmad vahini’ in West Bengal.
If this looks like the standard format of Operation Greenhunt, the kind of tirade Mamata has launched against Maoists and their sympathisers, trying to whip up a veritable anti-communist witch-hunt, can only remind us of the McCarthy era in the US and Bengal’s own experience of fascist repression in the 1970s. She has described the Maoists as ‘mafia’ and as being more dangerous than terrorists. She and her lieutenants constantly refer to the Maoists as a foreign-backed threat, implicating almost all of India’s neighbours – China, Pakistan, Nepal, all included. And now she has gone to the extent of asking the people to keep tabs on whatever transpires at the Coffee House, Jadavpur University and Basanta Cabin, iconic centres of Kolkata’s cultural identity and Left discourse. Even those who speak in favour of Maoists will not be spared, she has said on record.
Having come to power by riding on the support of the ‘civil society’ and large sections of Bengal’s left-leaning cultural world, this is Mamata Banerjee’s way of paying off her debt! Before elections she had promised to release all political prisoners and settle the grievances of the people of Jangalmahal. Now she has shelved even the truncated list of political prisoners recommended for release by the committee reviewing the issue, and the interlocutors entrusted with the job of facilitating negotiations with the Maoists have been left with no other option but to offer to resign. But while she refuses to release political prisoners, she personally storms the police station in her neighbourhood to get her own ‘TMC boys’ released.
Mamata would of course like to cover her anti-democratic campaign in the characteristic garb of TMC-style populism. But the limits of populism have also started showing. Her surprise visits to hospitals have brought no relief to the helpless people, who continue to suffer, and the conditions of the state’s crumbling healthcare sector continue to deteriorate. Her silence on the issue of corruption has been as eloquent as her shrill campaign against communists. And her threat to pull out of the UPA government at the Centre over the petrol price hike has been exposed to be only sound and fury, signifying nothing. Meanwhile, her government carries out every policy of the Centre that has been snatching away the livelihood and rights of the toiling masses.
Before the elections Mamata Banerjee had shrewdly dropped her original slogan ‘lal hatao’ and made all kinds of pro-Left overtures to broaden her base and neutralise her old anti-Left image. The SUCI, the Maoists and many left-leaning intellectuals fell for this trap and endorsed Mamata as the change that Bengal needed. Now that Mamata has chosen to take on the Maoists, the CPI(M) sees this as vindication of its own stand and would like to egg her on. Both Maoists and the CPI(M) have little concern about the real implications of Mamata’s systematic assault on democracy. Having once again demonstrated their utter political bankruptcy, Maoists would like to pretend it is business as usual by indulging in killings that would only strengthen Mamata’s anti-Maoist campaign, while the CPI(M) would seek to score points by making empty “We-told-you-so” boasts.
Revolutionary communists and committed democrats must never lose sight of the larger picture. Arrests of trade union leaders, attacks on trade union meetings and offices, eviction of sharecroppers and small peasants and agricultural labourers, and factional clashes among rival TMC groups in various parts of Bengal portend a grim situation that calls for consistent vigilance and determined opposition. The CPI(ML) must take all-out initiative at this juncture to defend the people of Bengal and their democratic rights in the face of this systematic assault. All sincere and fighting forces of the Left will have to be mobilised in this battle for defending democracy and rebuilding the Left.