NANDIGRAM: THE ROAD TO SOVEREIGNTY OF INDIA
(Paper presented by RDF at the Kolkata Conference Against SEZs
and other Industrial Projects displacing people held on 2nd and 3rd of June, 2007)
Dearest Delegates of the Conference,
This is not perhaps the first attempt by people’s organizations in this country to come together to forge a platform against the question of displacement. And when this effort is on we have in front of us the shocking and gripping accounts of violence and repression from the killing fields of Nandigram—perpetrated by the West Bengal police ably supported by the CPM cadre armed to the teeth. In Singur, one could see the photographs of the same CPM cadre moving in two-wheelers with a red flag and the life size portrait of Ratan Tata trying to ‘educate’ the people about the virtues of the TATAs as the harbinger of industrialization in post-47 India. What was more shocking for the opinionated middle class was the shattering of that myth of a pro-people face of the so-called left front people’s government in West Bengal.
But at this juncture arises the most fundamental question: Is displacement due to development or the development of displacement an inevitable thing like ones own shadow—a necessary evil that has to be lived with when one thinks about development? Or is there a possibility of a development which is free of any form of displacement; any form of violence on the people? Is this phenomenon of displacement due to development a new feature in the trajectory that India followed post-47? These are vital questions we cannot shy away from if we are serious in fighting the question of the four dreaded Ds—Displacement, Destruction, Destitution and Death. The Heart of India is for sale. The spectre of development of displacement is not a phenomenon restricted to West Bengal. The state of Orissa has become a virtual battleground with the giant steel company from South Korea, the Tatas and other big monopolies having investment plans which spell doom for the people of Orissa as the package is a veritable sell out of the valuable resources that makes Orissa one of the richest states in terms of mineral deposits. The neighbouring states of Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh have similar tales to say. The massive dam at Polavaram in Khammam district of Andhra Pradesh, which would displace more than 2,00,000 people—mostly tribals—is certainly the largest ever displacement due to a dam in the history of post-47 India. Besides there are massive projects of bauxite mining, Uranium Projects, Ring Road in Hyderabadand open cast mining which would wreak havoc to the ecological balance of the state. In Chhattisgarh, MoUs worth lakhs of crores of rupees have been signed with various monopolies, international and domestic, eager to
extract all the mineral wealth that the state is abound with. The situation in Jharkhand is no less different. All these states mentioned above are the sources for more than 60 percent of the mineral deposits in India. Besides these minerals are the rich sources of forest wealth. The local tribal people who are the forest dwellers have been asked to move out as they have become stumbling blocks to that hyperbole of excitement of the sensex curves in the stock exchanges of Bombay, Delhi, Calcutta etc. which, please don’t misunderstand are the essential determinants, the sure signs of growth, of India shining.
The Legacy of 1947
Friends, this is the bitter truth of the present phase of Liberalisation, Privatisation and Globalisation of the Indian economy, of the south Asian sub-continent. That today CPM has become the defender of local and foreign monopolies like TATAs and the Salim group fromIndonesia is not a coincidence. Not even a matter of surprise. It is the logical culmination of the trajectory of a development model that was inaugurated in Post-47 India which saw big dams, big industries, as the ‘Temples of Modern India’. From Bhakra to Hirakud and fromNarmada, Tehri to the Polavaram dam to be constructed in Andhra Pradesh the logic has been the same. It is again interesting to note that the Tatas who would never miss a chance to invest in educational
institutions, as part of their commitment to improve academic excellence had taken extra care not to start a college or any other educational institution when it started its steel township in Jamshadpur. And the technology that was brought for the core industry was mainly from the erstwhile Soviet Union doled out as its strategy of division of the world with US imperialism. There was never an effort to develop that technology and further fuse it with the specificities of the Indian economy.
In fact, in 1947, when Nehru went ahead with the Hirakud dam the main plea that he made to the protesting people was the need to sacrifice for the greater common good. And today when the West Bengal chief minister calls on the people of Singur and Nandigram with the promise of prosperity and development he is no different from his predecessor. It is significant that till date not even a single case of displacement due to ‘development’ was successfully addressed from the point of view of rehabilitation. Millions displaced by development since 1947 are still awaiting their rehabilitation speaks volumes about the anti-people nature of development that was being promoted ever since 1947 when the British left the sub-continent. Again, it is not the first time that the people have protested against displacement. Against they being displaced from their lives and livelihood.
Displacement is inevitable in the present model of development
The present model of development that was ushered in after the British left the sub-continent in 1947 had little to do with the interests of the vast sections of the people. It was tempered by a strategy that perpetuated dependence on imperialist capital and technology. It is this dependence that left its mirror image in the ‘democratic planning’ of Nehru promoted as the Five Year Plans. This particular model of development left the sub-continent market captive to the needs of imperialist capital and technology. And it is this process that has made displacement inevitable when the state undertakes any form of development activity. The apologists of the so-called Nehruvian model of development cannot any longer close their eyes to this hard reality.
Thus displacement was inevitable in a development0 path which was subservient to the needs of imperialist technology and capital the sole motive of which was the insatiable search of captive markets and profits. In this arrangement, displacement was the only way one could bring in a capital intensive technology that would engulf the local technology and its market; big capital that would eat away the entrepreneurial possibilities of small savings or enterprises. This development induced through capital penetration from outside—mainly foreign capital or domestic comprador capital—will strengthen the edifice of those structures in the economy which would facilitate the process of surplus extraction through such grand projects as green revolution, PL-480, white revolution, garibi hatao, five year plans, all forms of yojanas for employment generation and infrastructure development, health campaigns. All these are geared towards addressing fundamentally the need of the economy to maintain its exploitative dominating structures, hierarchies while at the same doing out crumbs to the poor and the needy.
It is the same development path which would build a Hirakud dam with Japanese technology near Sambhalpur Orissa and when the dam develops a crack will not seek expert opinion from the engineering college that is just 4 km. away but would again run for ‘experts’ fromJapan. It is thus an economy driven by experts, using the same lingua franca alien to the common people and their livelihood. It is the same mentality of the expert who would weigh the stakes of different sections in the economy vis-à-vis their purchasing power, their stakes in the stock market. For these experts, the agrarian crisis that has gripped the economy, the rising spectre of rural impoverishment is hardly a matter of concern as the purchasing power of an IT professional is equivalent to 100 peasants put together. And so peasants really don’t matter. It has led to the destitution of people and destruction of our natural resources. This model of development has been responsible for displacement of crores of people from their land and other sources of livelihood. The aggressive process of globalization and the present policies of the various governments as part of what they say ‘second phase of reforms’ is nothing but a much more ruthless way of furthering the displacement of people.
Any development that perpetuates inequality will bring displacement
What do we mean by displacement? Does it only comprise of the people displaced due to the construction of dams? Of Super highways? Of mining? Of big industries? We have to move beyond the conventional way of looking at displacement. Then only can we find the root cause of the reasons of an economy that promotes displacement as the fundamental principle of its reproduction; its perpetuation; its survival strategy i.e. to benefit a few at the cost of many. In that sense the fundamental necessity of a development that engenders displacement is the common running thread when one talks about Special Economic Zones, dams, mining, super highways, urban beautification, retail marketing by monopolies and so on. Here we have to grasp the point that all these forms of displacement are intertwined so as to reinforce each other in realizing the fundamental axiom of imperialist globalization—that of value and profit maximization. The strategy is to retain all regressive structures within the sub-continent economy that would facilitate and perpetuate this process while weeding out all possibilities within the economy that can generate a dynamic of resistance primarily in the form of development while not ruling out other forms of resistance.
In other words, we have to locate the prime motivating factor of displacement in the matrix of the production relations and productive forces that is the fulcrum of any economy. India is primarily an agrarian economy with vast sections of her people dependent on agriculture. It is the surplus generated in the agrarian sector that is being extracted to run the economy including the so called industrial sector. This has created an economy with huge disparities; wealth getting concentrated at the urban centres and massive impoverisation of the rural sector. This in itself is displacement with a whole lot of people unable to utilize their productive capabilities held as captives under the confines of a skewed market in the rural sector. Thus this development model creates disparities between the urban and rural, between agriculture and industries, big industries and small industries, big capital and small capital, big labour and small labour and finally mental and manual labour. As have been mentioned before there will pockets of ‘growth centres’ while the rest of the regions suffer from lack of opportunities and impoverishment. Men, women, young and old, none are left out of the ambit of this development menace.
Such a development path despite all its pretensions of being democratic, socialist or what not cannot but hide itself from being complicit to the horrors of displacement and dispossession. The imperialist capital that enters the economy of the sub-continent is not in search of creating jobs, prosperity, livelihoods for the vast sections of the masses. Its need is to expand relentlessly. To expand and expand is the rule of the game. The moment it ceases to expand it ceases to be capitalism and imperialism in the present context. Its need is to maximize the profits. Without this, the purpose of imperialist globalization or imperialism and the structures that reproduce it at the local level is meaningless.
Today this development model has reached a flash point from where the only way out for it is through a violent restructure of the existing economy in favour of a much more brutal exploitation of the people and the resources. This crisis to restructure—for profit and value maximization— within the existing semi-feudal and semi-colonial mode of production, the only way of survival and reproduction of this mode of production can be ensured through the violent maximization of value and profit for the imperialist capital and their local agents.
Integrated Struggle against Displacement of all Kinds is the Need of the Hour
The enormity of the crisis that is gripping the ruling classes is getting manifested in various forms. The initial inference is the readiness of the state and its various arms to break the law of the land. The manner in which the repressive machinery of the state is being mobilised to brow beat the people into submission by violating constitutional guarantees and other norms and procedures of a democratic polity speak volumes about the need of the ruling class to some how go ahead with these policies. At the same time the state is also enacting new laws to clamp down all forms of dissent. The state is tying to divide the people fighting against various forms of displacement.
The struggles against various kinds of displacement should be integrated taking into consideration the underlying commonality of the issue that is confronting the various sections fighting against displacement. This can only ensure a mighty stream of struggle that can ensure an alternative not only as empty slogan but also as a reality. The people in their local areas have been building valiant struggles all over India against various projects displacing millions of people from their local habitats. These projects have been either under way or are in pipeline through MoUs signed by the Union Government or state governments. The variety of projects that have been planned
to massively uproot the people include Special Economic Zones, mega projects, super highways and other infrastructure schemes, big dams, urban renewal and beautification, corporate agriculture, national parks and sanctuaries, etc.
These struggles waged at the local areas of displacement which erupt at different spells of time are being crushed by the governments using the police and paramilitary forces along with local goons, ruling party henchmen, and the good old divide and rule tactics of the firm involved in the project. A network of people’s struggles at all India level, or let us say the sub-continent level, is the need of the hour so that these diverse grass-root movements are expanded by collectively
facing the onslaught of state repression.
A separate front of people’s movements solely against SEZs will divide the anti-displacement movement, which has to be knitted across the country. SEZs are part of the large plan of the imperialist forces and the Indian ruling classes to take ahead the so-called second phase reforms as part of the Globalization process. It is the unmitigated and unprecedented loot of all our natural resources on a massive scale.
Hence our efforts to build an all India front of hundreds of peoples movements that have been fighting against SEZs, or big dams or superhighways or large scale mining or urban displacement should be brought together under a single umbrella, without which it is easier for the ruling governments to suppress these movements. At the same time, we should at this juncture focus our attention on building a people’s resistance movement against SEZs. But this movement should also target the entire agenda of imperialist globalisation and its ideology. The resistance should be planned in such a way that we challenge the present model of development and in the process simultaneously we should be able place an alternative model of development.
A formidable resistance is possible across the country if all the genuine resistance movements against displacement can be brought together without any narrow-minded short term benefits for any individuals or organizations involved in this process. The broadest and lofty goal of this process should be to build boundless resistance and solidarity among the fighting forces as it is clear for all of us that the Indian rulers and their imperialist masters 00000are determined to use the highest repressive mechanism to suppress the movements against land acquisition and implementation of their projects.
We, the genuine fighting forces, should not divide among ourselves into separate fronts. There is not much time left for us. There should be only a single front of people’s organisations against all kinds of displacement whether it is through SEZs or Urban beautification or mining or big dams and hydel projects or national parks and super high ways. A separate front against SEZs and industrial projects would necessitate different fronts on other kinds of displacement. Since the nature of displacement and the larger issues related to it are the same here a united front of people’s forces against all kinds of displacement would inspire everyone to make a formidable resistance movement.
An all India level united resistance struggle should be initiated by bringing together all struggles against all kinds of displacement, though we can gather the largest support possible by focusing on SEZs at the beginning. The integrated movement against displacement of people from their natural habitats due to the large scale intrusion of the Industrial monopolies of the imperialist countries should have certain clear demands before the people of the country. Some of the points of immediate interest are:
1. The Special Economic Zones regime should be done away with by repealing the SEZs Act, 2005. Wherever land is acquired should be returned back to the farmers with adequate
compensation for the period of time the land is held away from the farmers.
2. The Land Acquisition Act, 1894 should be repealed. The concept of ‘eminent domain’, which gives unlimited power to the rulers to exercise control over people and their resources should end.
3. No big dams should be built. The river-interlinking project should not be taken up. Only small scale irrigation projects which do not displace the people and impact the environment adversely should be built after proper consultation with the people.
4. No mining projects should be opened without proper evaluation of the use of minerals underneath for the use of people in the country. Mining of minerals should not be given to
any monopoly company–foreign or domestic. Large scale mining which displaces local people and degrades environment should not be taken up.
5. The displacement of people in the urban areas in the name of beautification and restructuring the cities and towns should be immediately stopped.
NGOs and the diffusion of People’s Movements
Any development or any aspiration of the people to build a different world–a new world–a world free of exploitation and inequalities, off the beaten track of ‘development’ followed by this semifeudal, semi-colonial state subservient to the needs of imperialism is met with violent response from the state. For an alternate model of development, an alternate model of values, ethics and morality implies total negation of legitimacy of the existing state apparatus, its rule of law which is but a justification of its necessity to exploit, dominate, breeds inequality, unevenness–islands of prosperity and oceans of misery, destitution and devastation.
It is in this juncture that the need for a militant, uncompromising resistance becomes inevitable. And it is precisely this aspect that is missing in the orientation of NGOs and hence the politics of NGO-isation. What at best NGOs does is, to put it crudely, build a consensus towards the legitimacy or primacy of the existing state and its legal etiquette. In other words it builds a consensus towards the existing model of development.
In a scenario where it is difficult for the state to tap the rich surplus abounding the rural economy due to skewed markets and production relations NGOs become handy tools to reach out to the rural population. This process is facilitated through projects of ‘capacity building’, ‘self help groups’, ‘empowerment’ of various kinds which become easy ways to tap the surplus generation in the rural markets. Thus NGOs instead of breaking the fetters that are holding back the productive capabilities of the rural masses will instead strengthen it by maintaining the hierarchy of the society which is the basis for exploitation and domination. The recent relief works in the tsunami effected areas of Tamilnadu or the earthquake effected areas ofGujarat are striking examples.
One need to study deeply into the various ‘development’ initiatives undertaken by NGOs in the North East, Jammu & Kashmir as well as the various tribal belts in Central India. Any attempt at a united struggle should also take a serious note of the penetration of imperialist agencies in different forms directly or indirectly in the name of ‘capacity building’, ‘conflict resolution’, ‘institution building’ or ‘facilitating good governance’ ‘participatory democracy’ which are quite often facilitated through Non Governmental Organisations heavily funded by imperialist agencies. NGO-isation of the people’s movements is a common phenomenon in all parts of our country today. We should take extreme care in checking this phenomenon. Otherwise the entire effort of bringing together various grass-roots movements will become counter productive. The pacifist world outlook of the agencies under the guise of people’s organisations could smash a movement like Nandigram in no time.
For the NGO’s, the militant movements like Kalinganagar, Singur, andigram or Polavaram are the fields for study and projects for earning enormous amounts of money or shaping fighting forces into fine-tuned elite activists who are made to turn away from their own people and their struggles. The movements are diffused by co-opting sections of the youth from the same displaced people as agents of imperialists through projects of ‘capacity building’ with the so-called modern institutions of ‘good governance’.
Displacement and Rehabilitation Policies
The uncompromising principle of our fight should have at its centre the slogan of ‘a big NO to displacement’. Similarly, a big NO to rehabilitation packages, however progressive it may sound. No compensation whatever the magnitude it maybe should be acceptable for all of us. The total rejection of displacement-and-rehabilitation frame should be the central motto of such resistance movement.
However, we should demand for the just and proper rehabilitation of all those millions of families and people who have been displaced since 1947 as a result of mining, mega-projects, dams, industries, etc. Displacement as a concept should be removed from the notion of development.
Displacement is an exclusivist principle which is central to the present model of development. Any policy of rehabilitation is used only to divide the people who oppose the imposition of sacrifice on them for the benefit of others who benefit from the projects. For example, after 1947, there has been no project or dam where at least a sizeable population is rehabilitated. Rehabilitation is an impossible scheme, no matter whatever the progressive nature of the rehabilitation package/policy is, in this model of development. We must understand that rehabilitation means throwing some crumbs of leftovers. We should also realise that no just rehabilitation can ever be made possible.
Alternative Model of Development
An alternative model of development can be built only by smashing the present model of development which is inspired by the colonial world order and in turn serves it. An alternative model of development is a people-centred model based on a self-reliant economy which is free from all kinds of imperialist influences and pressures. It must smash the feudal structures that are still in vogue in our country and it should rise from its death knell. This model basically addresses the well-being of the people and serves their interests. A people-oriented model of development allows the natural resources of the country to be used in a limited way for the needs of the masses of people, not for surplus generation for the capitalists and imperialists or for extravagant business of a handful of elite class or for creating a consumerist market.
An alternative model of development could be built as part of the resistant movement of the people to the present exploitative model of imperialist development. The resistance struggle of the people against the present model of development cannot be seen in isolation from what the people’s struggle should build in the course of it.
The SEZ policy has to be totally reversed. In the place of the present exploitative regime, indigenous industry that generates employment and displaces none from their natural habitats should be developed. Not only protecting labour rights should be the policy while building the indigenous industry be pursued, but the industry should be run and managed by the workers themselves. This kind of an alternative model of development is possible only when we start from below by depending and developing agriculture sector through distributing land to the landless peasants. The agro-based industry which serves the purpose of absorbing the agrarian produce and surplus labour from the rural sector should be developed. This model should develop with an
aim to drive towards ‘community ownership and individual right to use land and industry’. Land should not be allowed to concentrate in the hands of a few nor should it be allocated to build large and mega industrial complexes. The infrastructure projects should in fact concentrate on building people’s health care and education systems instead of building super high ways or mega malls.
Protection of environment, developing regeneration methods of natural resources should be integral part of this alternative developmental model. Industry and business that aims at super profits could never address this question. It’s only by smashing the concept of surplus generation in the hands of a few people that one can build towards environmental regeneration. People take the decision-making power into their hands in this developmental model. Reproduction of everlasting methods of equitable distribution of resources and produces should be ensured.
We cannot fight effectively against the present model of development without also simultaneously projecting an alternative model of development which should gradually take concrete shape in the hands of the struggling people. This in turn is possible only by the people’s organizations with vast experience of working among the peoples’ resistance movements to come up with a model to be placed before the people. As part of the united resistance movement on a short term basis, people’s sectors of production should be built like the soviets in the revolutionary Russia. The gains of the resistance movements should be turned into at least partial successes by consolidating into people’s sectors. However, one should be extremely careful not to fall into the reformist mould and these small projects of alternative models of development should be protected as part of continuation of the resistance movement further till imperialists and their local agents are removed from power.
Towards a United Struggle
We should all work together to build a resistance movement to put an end to the present developmental model, the sole purpose of which has been opening up of our natural resources to the imperialist monopolies and exploitation of our labour resources at cheapest possible rates and opening up of our market for the MNCs goods. We should hold this developmental model for the perpetuation of inequalities of unprecedented proportions in our society.
Nandigram has become an icon. It is a dynamic icon, a living symbol, of the struggling masses of India. It is like Naxalbari. Like Naxalbari sprouted everywhere in India. Like Naxalbari which challenged the mighty Indian dalal state in the world. It challenges the so-called left rule in West Bengal. It tore apart the pretensions of the so-called socialist, secular democracy, the largest democracy in the world.
And it challenges the Indian Parliamentary democracy. It may not carry all the ideological overtones of Naxalbari with it. It may not have reverberated with all that Naxalbari stood for. Nevertheless Nandigram promises all that Naxalbari gave us. Nandigram has evolved as the model of peoples’ resistance against displacement of people across the country today from their local habitats whether it is through SEZs, big mining projects, big dams, big industrial complexes and urban displacement in vast proportions.
Let us take Nandigram to our hearts.
And our deeds. Because it is anti-imperialist; anti-feudal. Because it tells us to sacrifice our lives and our comforts and professions and makes us realize it is the stepping stone to fight for all freedoms of life.
G N Saibaba
Revolutionary Democratic Front (RDF)