People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
December 09, 2007
BRINDA KARAT ON NANDIGRAM IN RAJYA SABHA
'Don't Make Women Hostages
In Your Politics'
The following is the edited version of Brinda Karat's speech on Nandigram made in Rajya Sabha on November 22, 2007.
WE have listened with great attention to the views of the members on Nandigram. Concern has been expressed from all sections of the house on the need for normalising the situation. I do not want to repeat the points made by my colleague who spoke earlier. At the outset, on behalf of my Party, I would like to assure the members of the house that steps will be further taken for the restoration of peace in Nandigram, about rehabilitation of all those who have suffered regardless of political persuasion, provision of relief and also punishment of all those guilty of crimes. This is not an empty assurance because the state government has already started taking these steps. The issue of payment of compensation is also being taken up by the state government.
We have been told to introspect on Nandigram. I do not want to go into the issue of how much different political parties have learnt from their past deeds, for example how much the BJP who has lectured us here has learned from Gujarat, of course there are no comparisons and in any case we have a different political culture in our Party. Whatever developments take place we study what was right in our approach, what was not or what were the weaknesses so as to make the necessary corrections. This is a continuous process for us. I would also like to assure all those concerned that there is no question of displaying arrogance. There has never been any arrogance and there never will be because the development of the people and their interests is at the center of our politics.
The second point I would like to make and I am saying this with deep regret is that the way the issue of rape or sexual abuse of women has been raised in this debate is insulting to women and a trivialisation of the issue. I strongly object to it. We may have and do have our political differences and sometimes we use strong words but I am sure you will agree it has been the tradition of parliament that issues concerning women have not been used as a weapon in the course of political disputes. Please don’t make women an instrument of your politics….to score political points and I say this for every political party. Today we are in a situation where women are the most vulnerable section in this country. The number of cases of violence against women is growing. But if we who are supposed to be giving leadership in this country’s politics start using women to score political points then I am afraid it will be extremely damaging for political standards and for the dignity of women. The way charges have been leveled of gangrapes, thousands of women raped I would like to ask those leaders who are making these charges if what you are saying is true what efforts have you made to get FIRs registered?…
I have been associated with the women’s movement for many years. I know that if a woman is raped then we do not give up our efforts to get the FIR registered. After the police firing of March 14, four women complained of rape and their complaints were immediately registered. If the cases are being delayed it is because the BUPC did not allow any policemen into the area to make enquiries. But not a single woman has said that her complaint was not registered. Can you specifically mention any such cases leave alone thousands? And if so what did you do to get the cases registered? Some people are casting incorrect aspersions on the Women’s Commission that they did not go. They do not know that both the National as well as the State Women’s Commissions had visited Nandigram and have submitted their reports. Check your facts before making false allegations. These are the people who said that children were torn apart, children were killed and buried, that hundreds were missing. Who is missing? I challenge them to give lists of the hundreds they say are missing. Even in the earlier High Court petition from the BUPC they charged that there were missing people but then later of the 27 they claimed were missing all of them were traced. I appeal to you with folded hands do not use the name of women and children in your false politically motivated propaganada. I want to reiterate what the West Bengal government has said that in every single case where a woman complains of sexual assault, of rape, not only will the case be registered but every step will be taken to punish the guilty.
The organisation and movement I work with among women knows that in cases of rape it is sometimes difficult to prove the charges. For example a poor adivasi woman who cannot access justice, who cannot immediately reach the police thana to get her medical report done, sometimes she can go only after two or three days, then there may not be medical evidence to corroborate rape. You all know about the Mathura rape case and the big movement which resulted from that. The main issue is that if there is no consent from the woman, then that will be considered rape. We have fought for it to protect women’s rights, we have said that medical evidence should not be the only proof accepted. This is the demand of women’s movements and I reiterate that demand even today. But if political parties or a political organisation to fulfil a narrow partisan aim, uses the vulnerability of women to level false charges of rape against a political opponent, it will weaken and destroy the credibility of the just demand of women’s organizations. Please do not do it. Please do not have double standards. When Kakoli Giri was raped and her son took her in an unconscious state to the thana and her medical report confirmed rape, why did the BUPC protect the criminals who committed the crime? Why did they not allow the Women’s Commission team to visit the area.. When the Womens commission went to enquire into this incident, the BUPC people told them that they could not go there and that this was all a farce. If the perpetrators are ‘our’people, ‘our’ supporters, then we will protect them. Sir, this culture of ‘ours’ and ‘theirs’ cannot be our culture… Please don’t make women hostages in your politics. Please don’t do it…..
I have listened very carefully to Madani. I regret his feeling of hurt but I would like to assure him that when a particular group of fundamentalists is given a religious label it is not the religion that is being criticised…No religion is fundamentalist but some people commit crimes in the name of religion and they are called fundamentalists. I would like to remove all misunderstandings on this score. We are against all forms of fundamentalism in the name of religion.
Some friends here have expressed concern about the rights of the poor to land in West Bengal. Many allegations have been made that the CPI(M) is moving away from its own agenda. Please make no mistake about it, today in the whole country on the issue of land reform, on the issue of land distribution, West Bengal is number one, it has the best record. Someone said that we have taken away one lakh hectares for industries. This is preposterous, the truth is that these are only proposals. …As far as compensation and consent (for land acquisition) is concerned, I can say with pride that it is only in West Bengal that the issue of consent, the issue of consultation with those affected takes place with such transparency. West Bengal is the only government and I challenge you to show me the record of BJP or Congress governments, who has protected the interests of the share-croppers, agricultural workers and Womens SHGs in compensation packages and for alternative schemes of employment. As far as the so-called land acquisition notice in Nandigram is concerned, I have it here with me. What is written in it? That there is a proposal and in that proposal such-and-such villages will be affected. The concerned Standing Committee of the West Bengal assembly in which all opposition parties, TMC, Congress are represented were party to this proposal. But there was no decision taken. The notice was issued because there was a false propaganda campaign unleashed in the area. Leaflets were distributed saying that temples and mosques would be destroyed, graveyards would be demolished. Our government has been in power in West Bengal for 30 years – there has never been such a step taken by it in all these years. Not a single place of religious worship can be touched leave alone destroyed in West Bengal because of the commitment of the West Bengal government. Yet they indulged in this false propaganda. I agree that there was a gap, we could not counter the lies but what happened on January 3? The minister Priyaranjan Das Munshi has said many things of what he saw when he went there. He is a central minister, did he find out the details?.Sushma Swaraj ji has asked me why I have not visited Nandigram. She is an MP from Madhya Pradesh and she has been able to visit Nandigram three times without any problem. But Sameeran Bibi the elected sarpanch in Nandigram could not go there for eleven months. Why is this? Because on January 3 and onwards a concerted attack was made on CPI(M) supporters. The Panchayat Office was burned – this mahajot political alliance there burned the office and all its records. Sameeran Bibi, the elected sarpanch, was attacked. She was dragged out by her hair and turned out of the place. More than 100 homes were burned and looted that day. In the area 4 panchayat offices were destroyed and, using arms, elected unarmed panchayat members were driven out, thiousands were driven out…. did the leaders who visited Nandigram not see all this?
The minister has mentioned Saleem. I do not know which Saleem he is referring to but in the police records one Saleem is mentioned. He was killed and his body was found near Bhangberiya Bridge, 10 km away from his home. This bridge is near the place where those fleeing Nandigram were taking shelter in a relief camp. This camp was attacked with arms and he was killed in that conflict. The poor people were driven out with arms, because they did not accept the BUPC dictates.
Sir, you are a very senior member. I want to ask you can such charges be made against a chief minister who is not here in the house to defend himself? I want to tell this house, we are proud of him, he is the only chief minister in the country who has said that if the people do not consent for a particular project he will not have that project there. Sir, you come from Maharashtra. I ask you, you know about the big struggle in Raigarh against land acquisition, huge rallies have been held. But did the rallyists attack and burn the Congress office, did they drive out the Congress panchayat members and if the rallyists had done it, what would you have done? Would not the police been called? But in Nandigram this is what the opposition did. I want to tell you that it is the West Bengal chief minister because of his commitment to democracy, he tried to find a political solution, he called the opposition parties not once but again and again for talks but the TMC leadership refused. We talk about democracy, we talk about governance, but how are differences to be resolved if you even refuse to come for talks and on the other hand you say no police or no administration officials can even enter the area, the area is “liberated.” It has greatly saddened me that our politics today is so partisan in such a narrow manner that today the BJP and a central Congress minister, I do not blame the whole Congress party, but the speech of the central minister who used such soft language against them, the BJP and the Congress are one in a soft approach to the so-called left extremists if it suits their political interests. Those who lost the elections, if in the name of liberated areas they want to establish their dictatorship, it cannot be tolerated.
I want to ask the house, is it proper for a central minister to make statements on CRPF. The West Bengal government had made a request, the home minister told the other house that it was not possible to send the CRPF because of other reasons like elections etc. But can a central minister make a statement that the CRPF will not be sent to Bengal? What is the agenda? If a Congressman makes such a statement for political reasons it can be understood but if a central minister does it what are the implications? Can it be accepted? Can a central minister use words such as 'State sponsored massacre'? Should he speak such a language? I also want to know what is the role of representatives of foreign countries? Can the US main representative in Kolkata call people and start discussing with them about domestic issues? Can they call somebody from the TMC and start talking about Nandigram? Is it permissible? Have they informed the state government? Have they informed the central government? What is the position? What is their interest? There is a political gangup against the CPI(M) and Left in Bengal. They cannot tolerate our position on many issues.
Some people have used the name Nandigram along with Godhra and Gujarat. It is clear from our discussions here that the situation in Nandigram is becoming normal, there are about 300 people in the camp. It is our commitment with the help of all those concerned that they should go back to their homes. Today in Gujarat 30,000 people are still displaced. On the major massacres against minorities no cases have been filed. Compensation for the plunder and loot of Muslims, that the whole country witnessed is yet to be given. I want to say to those who use the name of Gujarat in the context of the tragic incidents in Nandigram which were caused because of a political conspiracy, please do not trivialise the suffering and trauma that the minorities of Gujarat have faced.
In conclusion I would like to say again, there is no question of “our” poor and “their” poor, “us” and “them”.The West Bengal government, the CPI(M) and our Left partners are committed to ensuring that peace is restored in Nandigram and the rights of the poor are defended.