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Nandigram: A Tale of Developmental Violence

contribution to this volume, he demonstrates a tangible shift away from the histories of the 19th century, which sought to instil in Hindus, a pride in their shared past. Instead, contemporary Hindu histories see the past as a monumental, epic struggle between the forces of good and evil, of Hindu and Muslim, and as a tool to recapture state power.

BOOK REVIEWEconomic & Political Weekly EPW september 13, 200831contribution to this volume, he demonstrates a tangible shift away from the histories of the 19th century, which sought to instil in Hindus, a pride in their shared past. Instead, contemporary Hindu histories see the past as a monumental, epic struggle between the forces of good and evil, of Hindu and Muslim, and as a tool to recapture state power. The great value of The Oxford India Hinduism Readeris its departure from the chronological approach to the teaching and study of Hinduism. The detailed in-troduction provides a solid overview – both methodological and practical – of the central issues that concern the study of Hinduism. As Vasudha Dalmia aptly points out, in most introductory books on Hindu-ism the period of the reform movements is presented as the final phase in the devel-opment of this particular religious tradi-tion. However as we well know, Hinduism continues to change and develop (as any religious tradition is wont to do) under the new frames of immigration and globalisa-tion. What these many essays reveal are the twin, competing forces of centralisation and decentralisation that colour people’s understanding of their and other’s reli-gious traditions. Rich in content about particular aspects of Hinduism, as well as presenting a range of methodological approaches to the study of the subject,The Oxford India Hinduism Reader,a merging of two previous volumes, is an ideal intro-ductory undergraduate text, not only for the study of Hinduism, but also for the study of religion in general. Email: nacciyar@gmail.comNandigram: A Tale of Developmental ViolenceArup Kumar SenThe concept of “development” has a long history. In his entry on development inThe Development Dictionary edited by Wolfang Sachs (1992), the eminent de-professionalised intellec-tual, Gustavo Esteva, wrote the obituary of development in the process of interro-gation of its long journey. He argued that the “metaphor of development gave global hegemony to a purely western genealogy of history, robbing people of different cul-tures of the opportunity to define the forms of their social life”. In the develop-ment discourse, argued Esteva, the indus-trial mode of production became the defi-nition of the terminal stage of a unilinear way of social evolution.There is an intimate connection be-tween development and violence. In the early 1990s, Claude Alvares wrote the story of developmental violence in India as part of a project on science and violence carried out by Ashis Nandy. He argued that the past three decades have seen develop-ment become war and that governments from the south have teamed up with inter-national financial institutions to slaughter their own folk. In the forward march of neoliberal globalisation in India in the first decade of the 21st century, we have noticed an escalation of violence against people and destruction of their subsist-ence lifestyles. The recent state-sponsored violence in Nandigram should be situated in the above perspective.Outburst of ViolenceAfter a landslide victory in the assembly election in 2006, the Left Front govern-ment under the hegemonic leadership of Communist Party of India (Marxist) – CPI(M) vigorously pursued the policy of inviting big capital to West Bengal. The government adopted coercive methods to acquire around 1,000 acres of fertile agricultural land in Singur in the Hooghly district for the Tata group. The group has erected a factory in the acquired land for manufacturing low-cost cars. The “success story” in Singur was followed by ruthless state violence in Nandigram for acquiring agricultural land for a special economic zone (SEZ) project. The book under review is based on the Report of the People’s Tribunal on Nandi-gram (May 26-28) held especially in the context of state terror in Nandigram from March 14, 2007 onwards. The people’s tribu-nal was chaired by justice S N Bhargava, former chief justice, Sikkim High Court. The book has updated the contents of the report to include major incidents in Nandi-gram up to December 2007.The fact-finding report on Nandigram has situated the story of people’s resist-ance and state violence in the light of the socio-political profile of the region. The area earmarked for land acquisition as part of the proposedSEZ project is inhab-ited by mostly Muslims and lower caste Hindus. The CPI(M) controlled five out of six panchayats in the affected area before the last panchayat elections. The major focus of the report was to document the state terror in Nandigram during March 14-16, 2007. In the after-math of the state-sponsored violence in Nandigram, the eminent historian, Tanika Sarkar, rightly warned that “the true story of the terror at Nandigram between March14 and March 16 will probably nev-er be disclosed in its fullness”. Reading some of the testimonies of victims and eyewitnesses cited in the report fills one “with a sense of cold horror”.Subrata Sarkar submitted to the tribunal a copy of the March 14-16 case register ofNandigram block hospital. The case register shows 26 bullet injuries of which 15 or 16 were in the upper part of the body including head, chest and abdomen. A significant number of bullet wounds seemed to have been caused by firing from the back while the crowd was running away. The brutality of the massacre was accom-panied by violation of basic medical norms in the treatment of the injured in different government hospitals. After scrutiny of several discharge certificates issued by the local hospitals in Nandigram and Tamluk, the tribunal found that almost in all cases there was not a single mention of injuries being caused by bullets. A definite tendency of hiding facts was noticed.Nandigram: What Really Happened?(Based on the Report of the People’s Tribunal on Nandigram); Daanish Books, Delhi, 2007; pp xviii + 102, Rs 175.
BOOK REVIEWseptember 13, 2008 EPW Economic & Political Weekly32The report categorically gave the verdict that the West Bengal government, parti-cularly the district administration, engaged police forces along with armed ruling party hooligans on March 14, 2007 to “teach a lesson” to the poor villagers in Nandigram. A disturbingly large number of cases of sexual violence by both police and armed ruling party cadre against women were noted in the report. The conclusive recommendation of the report was that in order to prevent a recurrence of the inci-dents of March 14, 2007 in any form the West Bengal government should make a solemn declaration that force would not be used against the local people for the “so-called restoration of law and order and control of administration”.November ViolenceThe CPI(M)-led government of West Bengal did not listen to any sane voice. In early November 2007, thousands of CPI(M) cadre including allegedly hired goons invaded the villages under opposition control and recaptured them by brute force. The tale of November violence has found entry in the book under review. The Calcutta High Court judgment on the March 14 police firing (November 16, 2007) and the governor’s statement (November 9) have been re-printed in the book. The Report of an Inde-pendent Citizens’ Team from Kolkata on thestate of affairs in Nandigram (Novem-ber 30) is also reprinted in this volume.The recent happenings in Nandigram testify that the ideology-based politics of the dominant Left in West Bengal has been transformed into politics of govern-ance and that violence plays a major role in this politics. In connection with the last panchayat elections held in May 2008, West Bengal witnessed major incidents of violence in many districts. Moreover, the dominant Left blatantly used the adminis-trative machinery in order to retain their power. It was reported in the media that the judiciary issued a showcause notice to the officer-in-charge of the Nandigram po-lice station for allegations of torture of po-litical workers belonging to opposition parties inside the lock-up. The superin-tendent of the Haldia subdivisional hospi-tal had also been served such notice for not sending proper reports regarding the nature of injuries of such workers.The coercive land acquisition strategy of the Left Front government has sown the seeds of counter-violence. Very recently, the local resistance in Singur has taken a violent turn. After the physical assault on one of the working engineers of the Tata factory, the workers got scared and many of them started deserting the factory site. The current situation in Nandigram is more alarming. Two local committee secretaries of the CPI(M) in Nandigram were shot by the gunmen on two consecutive days, with one dead and the other fighting for life. It should be mentioned in this connection that the CPI(M)was completely routed in both Singur and Nandigram in the last panchay-at elections. No one knows as to whether popular justice in West Bengal will be ex-pressed in the language of counter-violence in the coming days. But, it is high time to interrogate the language of development, which the dominant Left in West Bengal has inherited from the neoliberal “right”.Email: arupksen@gmail.comBooks ReceivedBabu S, Sutheeshna, Sitikantha Mishra and Bivraj Bhushan Parida (2008):Tourism Development Revisited: Concepts, Issues and Paradigms, Response Books, New Delhi, pp 363, price not indicated.Bailey, Paul (2007): Censoring Sexuality: Poulenc’s Priest, Seagull Books, Oxford and Calcutta, pp 147, price not indicated. Banerjee-Dube, Ishita and Johannes Beltz (eds) (2008): Popular Religion and Ascetic Practices: New Studies on Mahima Dharma, Manohar Pub-lishers, New Delhi, pp 253, Rs 695.Carrin, Marine and Harald Tambs-Lyche (eds) (2008): People of the Jangal: Reformulating Identities and Adaptations in Crisis, Manohar Publishers, Delhi, pp 302, Rs 750.Chatterji, Joya (2008):The Spoils of Partition: Bengal and India, 1947-1967, Cambridge University Press, New Delhi, pp 342, Rs 795. Dharmadhikary, Shripad (2008):The World Bank as a Knowledge Producer, Manthan Adhyayan Kendra, Badwani, pp xvi + 80, Rs 100. Dhavan, Rajeev (2008): Reserved! How Parliament Debated Reservations, 1995-2007,Rupa & Co, Delhi, pp xviii + 319, Rs 395.D’Souza, Errol (2008):Macroeconomics, Pearson Educa-tion, New Delhi, pp xxx + 482, price not indicated.French, Philip and Julian Petley (2008): Censoring the Moving Image, Seagull Books, London and Calcutta, pp 122, price not indicated.Hussain, Monirul (2008):Interrogating Development: State, Displacement and Popular Resistance in North East India,Sage Publications, New Delhi, pp 175, Rs 270.Joshi, Sushma and Ajit Baral (eds) (2008): New Nepal, New Voices: An Anthology, Rupa & Co, New Delhi, pp 188, Rs 195.Koshy, Susan and R Radhakrishnan (eds) (2008): Transnational South Asians: The Making of a Neo-Diaspora,Oxford University Press, New Delhi, pp vi + 378, Rs 695.Malhotra, S K (2008): Next Economics: Simple, Assump-tionless, Falsifiable, Shakuntala Devi Memorial Trust, New Delhi, pp vii + 644, price not indicated.Marjit, Sugata (ed) (2008):India Macroeconomics Annual 2007, Sage Publications, New Delhi, pp 175, Rs 495.Mukherjee, Aditya, Mridula Mukherjee and Sucheta Mahajan (2008):RSS, School Texts and the Murder of Mahatma Gandhi,Sage Publications, New Delhi, pp 112, Rs 195. Palsetia, Jesse S (2008): The Parsis of India: Preserva-tion of Identity in Bombay City, Manohar Publishers, New Delhi, pp xii + 368, Rs 750.RIS (2008): Trinity of the South: Potential of India-Brazil-SouthAfrica (IBSA) Partnership,Academic Foundation,New Delhi in association with Re-searchand Information System for Developing Countries, New Delhi, pp 202, Rs 795.Saith, Ashwani, M Vijayabaskar and V Gayathri (eds) (2008):ICTs and Indian Social Change: Diffusion, Poverty, Governance,Sage Publications, New Delhi, pp 418, Rs 750.Sanyal, Kalyan (2007): Rethinking Capitalist Develop-ment: Primitive Accumulation, Governmentality and Post-colonial Capitalism,Routledge, New Delhi, pp x + 275, Rs 595. Shetty, P K, Ajay Parida and M S Swaminathan (2008): Biosecurity,National Institute of Advanced Studies and M S Swaminathan Research Foundation, pp x + 255, price not indicated.Tadjbakhsh, Shahrbanou and Anuradha M Chenoy (2008): Human Security: Concepts and Implica-tions,Routledge, London, pp 273, Rs 495.Terada, Yoshitaka (2008): Music and Society in South Asia: Perspectives from Japan (Senri Ethnological Studies 71),National Museum of Ethnology, Osaka, pp 284, price not indicated.Thomas, Pradip Ninan (2008): Strong Religion, Zealous Media: Christian Fundamentalism and Communication in India, Sage Publications, Delhi, pp xvii + 205, Rs 495.UN (2008):World Economic Situation and Prospects, Academic Foundation, New Delhi, on behalf of the United Nations, pp xxii + 170, Rs 595.Vaid, K N (2008): The Unforgettable Decade (1938-1948): The Struggle for Freedom in Faridkot State – A Per-sonal Account, Centre Point, Mumbai, pp 85, Rs 200.

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