People's Democracy

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


No. 43

November 02, 2008


Signs Of Growing Mass Base  Of CPI(M) In Hooghly

B Prasant

DURING our recent week-end day-trips to parts of Hooghly where the forces of reaction had gained an amorphous if momentary front when the Singur impasse was at its nadir, we could discern how the tide has changed, for the better, for the people, for the exploited masses – the women of backward castes and the tribal people among them.

The first whistle-stop tour found us in the company of local CPI(M) MLA Bharati Mukherjee and being literally welcomed into the folds by the AIDWA units of remote villages of Haripal (abutting and overlapping Singur) assembly segment by a flourish of slogans and waving of large Red banners. The occasion was the blood donation camp that the AIDWA organised at deep inside the rural stretches of Hooghly’s agricultural belt. Long lines of women accompanied by their children had formed by the time Bharati officially inaugurated the programme.

Balai Sanbui the veteran AIKS leader was present. Balaida, moving lightly into his graying 80s and yet full of vigour, spoke of the time when he and his comrades had to distribute flood relief in the area after a heavy shower during the rains – such were the conditions of the naabi or immersible and supremely fertile agricultural land plots that dot the whole of east and south Hooghly. That was in the 1960s and 1970s.

He recalled how he had to row around in large flat-bottomed metal tumblers (little more than giant sized haandis) for most of the year on the very spot where the blood donation camp was held. The Panchayati raj under the LF government had brought in the change – the instruments of change having been massive work of land filling by the gram panchayats and the labour of love given by dedicated workers of the CPI(M), the AIKS, and the AIDWA.

Bharati Mukherjee was always being spoken to by the women of the village about this problem or that which they faced in their struggle for a better living, and the trick to gain her attention among the merry sound waves going around her was to hold her hand and give that quick but gentle bit of tug.

Bharati, a lawyer and a women’s rights activist of note would put on a smile and jot down the crux of the myriads of issue broached. Her cell phone number appeared in great demand for the teen-aged girls so that they could keep in direct touch with their representative even when their favourite MLA was in Kolkata. What struck us as important was the sprightly manner the large contingent of the village’s ordinarily shy and reticent women had come out in their simplistic fineries for the occasion under AIDWA’s banner.

The blood donation camp was followed by the distribution of a lot of saris and dhotis to the poorest of the poor, identified by the local AIDWA, and much to the discomfort of the orderly thinking of the organisers, a pile of the clothing -- a fairly large pile too -- remained on the dais as there were not many takers – a sign that left us filled with the comforting warmth of knowledge that poverty was fast receding away from at least this part of rural Bengal.

The next stop for the bustling MLA was a football match – organised by the west Narayanpur Adivasis Susaur gaoonta (rural locale) in the Baahirkhand GP of Haripal, again abutting Singur. There were eight teams in full gear comprising entirely of adivasi boys who were taking part in the tourney, to see which almost the entire population of the surrounding villages, men, women, and children, had descended on the full-sized soft-grass football pitch (beautifully maintained, too) near the Haripal railway station.

By the time, the finals saw the highly-motivated Gurap club snatch victory from the Saagen gaoonta club by a single goal, the pitch had taken the garb of a festival occasion. The mandatory speeches that preceded distribution of prizes, glittering cups, were secondary to the great enthusiasm of the people who milled around the field, singing, beating large kettle drums, piping out traditional tunes, and generally having a merry time. The meet was organised by the local unit of the CPI(M) and the Party-run Gram Panchayat. The entire west Narayanpur village comprises 95 per cent adivasis.