People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 18

May 18, 2008



What Causes CRPF To Be Angry With Nandigram Voters?

B Prasant

IS it because the huge pre-election hype in the media and amongst the scions of the unprincipled opposition about the ‘Nandigram vote would surely end up by getting annulled,’ had petered out miserably in the face of a determined electorate coming out to exercise their democratic right?

Why are the CRPF, and the media, and the opposition – the line between them has started to merge dangerously into a thin anti-Communist line –disposed to think that every man and woman who came out in massed formations to vote and would not leave post – lathi blows raining down be damned – till the ballot boxes were safely rendered into the strong room, were all potential voters anti-thetical to the opposition combination?

We do not really mind the central police, especially the CRPF being insensitive to trusting the popular mandate of Bengal; but must the so-called political outfits, too, and the media, of course, follow the same suicidal, counter-democratic line? Do they realise the terrible implication of what they had attempted – and failed miserably, shamelessly – to ‘achieve?’

They had tried to upset the poll procedure itself taking shelter behind the armed and helmeted CRPF sepoys who attacked the voters standing patiently in line. Even women were not spared—we personally bear testimony to how young women in particular were singled out to be beaten up till they started to cry miserably and yet, would shout slogans and call for an immediate stoppage of the barbaric berating they suffered from. Being at the receiving end of huge blows from staves as the dull thuds made their thin bodies shake and bend when solid cane lathis that the central forces carry, met but the bones and the skin – but not their unwavering political will.

We can only be deeply, anxiously worried and far from happy at the turn of events that took place in full view of the voters, the corporate media (who rejoiced, chattering happily – no doubt to Kolkata-based bosses, corporate and political – into sophisticated cell phones), and also of the small slice of the independent media who had gone to Nandigram for poll coverage, and not with a disconcertingly aggressive game plan prepared elsewhere. Even a section of them was beaten up by the CRPF – the state government has ordered a high-level inquiry into this other shameful and post-poll incident.

The CRPF has had the temerity to question the political will of the mass of the people of Nandigram. What did they want to prove? Was it that free-and-fair polling would see the CPI (M) emerging gloriously triumphant once the counting started? Why would they regard any win by the CPI(M) at Nandigram as something to be rejected out-of-hand and a veritable disaster?

Then again, why did they choose to arrogate and appoint themselves the censor of political choice and popular preferences? The sight of the officer-in-charge of Nandigram being beaten up with lathis on the forehead and shoulders, and winding up a with a bleeding hand injury as he put up his bare arms to shelter his head from blows that could well prove fatal, (the Telegraph described his wounds as ‘self-inflicted’) and the foul language that poured out of the lips of the CRPF officers as they beat him up – still reverberates in our senses, even seven hours later when we have left Nandigram far behind. The officer’s cry from his heart to the local MLA and the MP to restrain the marauding CRPF before the popular anguish turned into popular rage and mass violence – of which there was a certain possibility – also echoes.

The results of Nandigram elections are blowing in the wind. We deeply sympathise with the BSF personnel who were killed and injured by an IED blast by suspected Maoists and/or Jharkhandis. We remain filled with furious resentment and anxiety over the manner in which we saw the CRPF assault the democratic rights of the people at Nandigram.