Although just over two years old now, this speech by GN Saibaba of the Revolutionary Democratic Front in Birmingham, England on 15th December, 2007 is a rich source of material on the issue of displacement in India and the growing resistance movement of the people. Land is in many ways the heart of the struggle in large parts of India, and a vast movement of resistance in India and internationally against this displacement and the neoliberal onslaught is an important component of any work on solidarity with India. This speech has been slightly edited.
I am very happy to be here in the Shahid Bhagat Singh Memorial Centre in Birmingham. I am honoured to be given an opportunity to speak to you. First of all I would like to extend revolutionary greetings from the revolutionary masses of India whom I represent from my organisation, the Revolutionary Democratic Front of India.
I am sure you know about many things that are happening in India today. Perhaps in Europe and the western part of the world India is being described as an emerging power and most of the Western countries now praise India. They say that India is developing very well and government after government in European countries and other places like the US and Canada have been saying that India is achieving the highest growth rate in the world. The target is 10% growth rate in India and it is already being propagated that now it is 9 point something. A few months ago there was 8.7 growth rate and now it is 9.7.
India is being projected as a major power in the world today. You also know that in recent times India has many more millionaires than any other country, even more than the US. The US lags behind in its number of millionaires! And you also must have heard about the richest man in the world now, who is not in the US or the Middle East but is in India, that is Mukesh Ambani. The 10% growth rate is the kind of image India is getting today. And also you could see that India is having a very strong economy with the stock exchange index going up and even crossing the 20000 mark.
There are many reasons for which the Indian ruling classes have been projecting India as one of the most glorious countries that has emerged in the world today. There is a lot of what you can call euphoria about India’s growth but I must say it is misinformation about India that is being circulated, ‘Shining India’, ‘Glowing India’ and things like that. But let’s look at the reality today, the reality of India.
You know that India is the second most populated country in the world and also perhaps the largest number of people living below the poverty line in the world today are also from India. You could see that India, according to the UN Human Resources Index, is in 126th position in the world. It is 126th if you look at the Human Resources Index, it is perhaps the lowest almost. What is this contradiction; a country which has 10% growth rate is also at the bottom of the Human Resources Index.
Another thing you could see is that 70% of India’s population, the overwhelming majority, 70% of the population live on 20 Rupees, that is ? of a pound per day. This is what we call subsistence living. It is living which you could say that is not human. But that is 70% of the population today living in that condition. And 70% of the population in India today depends on agriculture, land. They eke out their living just to survive on land. Land is the biggest issue today again.
In 1947 when the British ceremoniously left India, 75% of the population was dependent on agriculture. After more than 60 years 70% are still dependent on agriculture, and the 60 years of so-called development of India has been achieved so only 5% could come out of the agriculture sector and do something else. 70% of the population in India are in the rural areas and even the rest of the 30% of India who live in the urban areas live in slums, most of them live in slums, which are again the villages in the urban spaces. Now if you look at these figures, contrasting figures that are given, where exactly is the 10% growth rate that is there? Or is that the 70% of the people living far below the poverty line defined by the Indian government or even the International agencies.
The Onslaught of Neoliberalism
But with all these impoverished masses of India, there is a big onslaught again, a fresh onslaught by the imperialists, by the local domestic ruling classes. It has been there, the onslaught, it has been attacking for over 60 years, but today it is much more relentless and it can not be compared to what was happening in the last 60 years. But some of these realities have not crossed the borders of India. The realities that I would like to speak about before you today are horrifying.
17 years ago, in 1990, there was a fresh kind of onslaught, that was called liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation, called also neoliberal economic reforms, which is a very misleading term. The neoliberal economic reforms started in the early 1990s, but the Congress government reached its peak today. And over the last 17 years the gap between the poor and the rich has increased enormously and this gap is now unbearable.
And what you could see now is that the present phase is distinguished from the earlier phase of 17 years ago by the ruling classes. The previous 15 years was the first phase of the economic reforms under the aegis of globalisation. But now it is the second phase of economic reforms dictated by the World Bank, IMF and the US. Plans made by the companies like Mackenzie, a US consultant company, and plans made by economic “experts” sitting in the London School of Economics here in Britain. They came up with a huge project called “The Second Economic Reform” or “The Second Generation Reforms” they are called.
I would like to talk about what is “The Second Economic Reform”, “The Second Generation Economic Reforms”. The second phase of economic reforms, they say, is to bring huge amounts of foreign investment into the country. In the last 15 years they have tried to attract foreign investment but very little came. But now billions and billions of foreign investment is coming. Since the speculating capital is flowing in, this speculating capital is contributing a lot to the false figures that have been projected, about the 10% growth rate and things like that.
With the rural speculative capital flowing into India today, in the last 3 years after this present political dispensation took over the power under Manmohan Singh they started the second generation reforms. What they have been doing now, while all earlier rulers of India moved to engage India with the different imperialist forces, is the outright sale of the country. Hurriedly, the rulers are selling the rivers, the lands, forests, minerals, trees, and of course labour at cheap rates. Anybody can come and buy it at the cheapest rates.
You know what I am trying to describe is also true for many other ex-colonies of the world today. It is true for African countries, Asian countries, Latin American countries. Perhaps “The Second Generation Reforms” have not seen much light with the masses but also many mass resistance movements have already started. In India much before now and in other countries, perhaps. This is one of the reasons why I am here to talk about it today. And very soon this will be true with other countries as well.
Special Economic Zones & Displacement
So as part of this I want to describe the situation which is that millions and millions of Indian people are being displaced from their homes, natural habitats, from their lands, from their living places and livelihoods. The question today is, where will these millions of people go? There is no space on the Earth where they can go. They are being displaced. We have a wide variety of projects that have come with this investment that is basically coming from outside. And all of these projects are displacing people, mainly farmers, landless peasants and even middle classes.
One such big aspect of this displacement as most of you must have heard about is the Special Economic Zones. 500 of them are permitted in India already, these special economic zones which are enclaves, closed enclaves, huge closed enclaves. Each one of them would displace farmers and landless peasantry from their areas. In each one of them, thousands and in some places hundreds of thousands are put together. These 500 Special Economic Zones are export oriented industrial complexes. Put together millions, I mean 1/3 of the 500 Special Economic Zones alone, displace about 10 million people.
It is a huge thing. Special Economic Zones themselves are a huge thing. And the farmers have to lose their fertile lands and they are promised some kind of compensation which would never come true, that is the history of India for the last 60 years. But the peasants are not ready to give up their lands. Because generations after generations have worked on that land and there is no other outlet in India today to go and fall back upon, to live. It is a question of life and death for the peasantry.
This is happening even in a place like Punjab today which has a high productivity in agriculture, which has produced food for millions of people. Perhaps it could feed the entire country from Punjab for years. But the farmers of Punjab are being told agriculture is no longer viable. You have to only commit suicide if you are doing agriculture, leave your lands. 13 Special Economic Zones in Punjab alone are being permitted. Apart from that there are many other projects in Punjab as well. I am talking about Punjab because it is known as the green revolution belt, which has developed more than any other region in the country. But if you see the situation in Punjab, what would be the situation in other more backward regions in the country. Punjab is an indicator, showing the kind of crisis in the Punjab itself.
Coming to the Special Economic Zones more, you wonder that these are called according to a law made in 2005, two years ago. Special Economic Zones in 2005 were called “dimmed foreign territories”. And these dimmed foreign territories are enclaves where many of the laws of India would not be implemented, not applicable at all. There are sets of rules, regulations and laws with special quotes under the control of industrial enterprises which would operate in those areas.
We have now initiated and built up foreign enclaves in our own country and there the workers have no rights. No worker will be employed on permanent basis, only contractual level will happen there and apart from that any industrialist in the world could come and extract the labour power and exploit the labourers to the maximum exchange possible. Apart from that they are also given tax free rights for 5 years, the next 5 years. And after five years ? of the tax would be paid and after that any reinvestment would not have any tax. So the companies all over the world are competing to go there.
Within India the industrial houses which are there are moving, shifting to the Special Economic Zones. Because you are tax free, you have unlimited opportunities to exploit labour and you don’t have to implement Indian laws. So profit maximisation and super profits for the multinational and trans-national companies are ensured for them. Apart from what you are doing, you are taking the land with very cheap rates, and only 50% of the land you use for industry and the rest of 50% of the land is used for real estate, and I mean several hundred times the price of the land would grow and increase and you make money out of it, millions of Rupees, billions of Rupees.
You are displacing the poor farmers, you are taking over the fertile land and you are giving benefits to the monopoly capitalists and you are just throwing the farmers out, just for the sake of it. Now all this happens in the name of industrialisation. The Indian ruling classes, including the so-called communists, the left ‘friends’, the communists, the Marxist CPI, CPM and other parties. They are arguing that India will not be able to survive at this juncture if you don’t industrialise. Industrialisation is the only way, so the farmers have to sacrifice for the national interests.
So you sacrifice for the national interest, which today in India means the interest of all multinational companies. They have argued like the Nobel Laureate in economics, Amartya Sen, who is also trying to convince the people living in India that the Special Economic Zones are going to change the face of India and India would become the superpower house for the Special Economic Zones. And industrialisation is the only solution.
But this industrialisation is not really industrialisation in its root. It is only to expropriate, because all industries were set up here are not really manufacturing industries which employ people. They employ a highly skilled few hundreds. Even a big company could run a technology intensive mechanisation with a few hundreds. Earlier a company which could employ about 70,000 people, is now running with 2000 people. They are not going to give employment.
In any case the millions of people whom you are going to displace from their livelihood, from their land, they are not skilled for your industry. They are not the skilled people for your industry. At most maybe a few hundred people will sweep your floors. Where are these millions of people going to go? Industry, if it includes the people, that is for the people a different industry. This is not the industry you are giving to India, which is not useful for the people at all.
Special Economic Zones they are forming a grid in India. This grid will control the economy of the country in the coming years, not even the Indian rulers will have this amount of control. People will have no power to control their own economy, the grid of industrial houses will control the overall economy of the country. If you think the Special Economic Zones is the biggest problem in India, this is one part of the story.
Mining & Displacement
Large scale mining is also being allowed, agreements have been made with a number of multinational companies in collaboration with Indian companies. The face in front of the people is the Indian company, an Indian name like Lawrence, Tata, Bimba and things like that. But behind them are big multinational companies, monopoly capitalists.
Large scale mining is another aspect of this huge, massive displacement in India today. There are many parts of India, particularly central India and around central India, which are rich with minerals. You say any mineral, metal, and it is available there. Huge deposits of minerals are gathered in these areas. Now thousands of agreements have been made already in the last 25 years with the biggest companies and huge investment is being planned with trillions of Rupees and all of them now want to grab the land beneath which there are rich minerals; aluminum, iron, manganese, gold and so many others.
The Revolutionary Movement that Stands in their Way
These are the areas, with the mining they want to start, where the Japanese, the Germans, the British, the American companies and the French have made agreements to invest. But these are also the areas where the people, for the last 25 years, have been fighting, where there is a revolutionary movement. Perhaps one of the biggest revolutionary movements on the Earth stands there in these areas. It is the objective reality, nobody can deny that this is a consistent revolutionary armed movement that exists in these areas. And these are the very areas these capitalists also want. They want to displace the people, they want to displace the revolutionary areas, and they want to start mining along with big projects to produce tin, to produce aluminum, to produce what not.
Now, there is a deadlock, there is a conflict, a major conflict emerging there in these areas, in central India and around central India, especially in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra. These are the largest states with a lot of indigenous tribal people who have made their own formidable strong revolutionary movement there. These are the heart of India, and the heart of India is in the hands of the revolutionary masses today. If anybody does not see this reality, well, you have the right not to see. One doesn’t have to speak on behalf of the revolutionary movement there if you don’t agree with it. But you see the reality is that there are people there and they have formed a revolutionary movement.
It all started, you know, in the late 1960s. In 1967 in Naxalbari a revolutionary path was paved in India for the first time and the fire of the Naxalbari movement spread all over India in the 1970s. And of course, it also saw many splits. But the decade of the 1980s saw it take root in parts of India. Despite the splits, despite the problems, the masses have been organised in these areas throughout the 1980s and 1990s. I am just briefly telling you because I want to talk about the present situation.
So the 1960s established the revolutionary fire in India, the 1970s saw of course the splits and the problems, but the 1980s is the decade that went to the masses for the consolidation of the revolutionary movement, the masses were organised to establish a revolutionary movement. The 1990s is the decade of unification of revolutionary forces, the real genuine revolutionary forces in India unified with a lot of consolidation. It took a decade to unify. 2000 onwards is the decade of expansion and further consolidation, expansion and spreading to all parts of India.
If you look at the revolutionary map of India you can see what really happened in the 1960s, in the 1970s, in the 1980s, in the 1990s and what is happening today. With this reality, with this history of revolutionary movement now these Industrial Houses and the Indian reactionary ruling classes want to penetrate into these areas and smash the revolutionary resistance and take over the lands. But with four decades of history of this revolution, is it easy for them to break? So you have a larger conflict unfolding before you. This larger conflict, the Indian rulers, the Prime Minister of India present it in a way that you must have seen in Britain, that the Prime Minister of India now says that the biggest threat to the internal security of India is the Naxalites.#
Never before has a Prime Minister of India talked about the Naxalite movement like this. Now he is talking, and he is the Prime Minister who says, I mean, the employee of the World Bank, the pensioner now of the World Bank who rules the country, says the Naxalite movement is the biggest internal security threat. All these 60 years the Indian ruling classes were saying that the biggest security threats for India was from outside, external threats. Suddenly now it has become an internal security threat that is the biggest threat.
And the Prime Minister of India declares that 1/3 of India has gone into the hands of the Naxalites, the Maoists. Out of 600 districts in the country, 167 districts are ruled by the Maoists. That is the language, the facts, and the figures the Prime Minister of India gives us. And why does he give it? He wants to prepare the ground to smash this movement and take the agenda of the “Second Generation Reforms” into these areas. They want to capture these lands, the gold mines everywhere, for the capitalists. And he is preparing the ground to say that these are the terrorists, these are the problem creators by the violence they use, so we, the government, has the right now to smash them.
But the truth is that it is not a simple movement. It is not any violent movement, it is a political movement, that is there in these areas. It is a political movement with alternative politics to the world capitalist system. And it is a movement which challenges the Indian ruling classes with confidence, with great vigour, and it is showing the path to the people. If it is a movement based on some terrorist tactics, yes it is not going to be very difficult for the Indian ruling classes to capture it. But it is a political movement, it is a revolutionary political movement with the ideology of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism as an alternative to the present world order.
Now the conflict is there and many of the Indian newspapers and magazines call it a civil war. No doubt it is a civil war, but it is fought by the people against their own rulers. It is not a civil war of two groups clashing among themselves. A civil war could be a very misleading term. Yes it is a civil war in a different sense, in a revolutionary sense, that the most deprived people of the country have joined together against the oppressor reactionary rulers, who combine and join hands with the monopoly capitalists of the world, the imperialists.
Two Clashes: Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand
So now the use rights for these minerals have been signed, some of them 3 years ago, some of them 2 years ago. But none of the companies could go to these areas to establish their mines. They want a base from which to penetrate into these areas. Whenever there is an attempt by a company supported by the paramilitary forces there is a big clash. I would like to tell you about two important clashes that are taking place in a major way in this context of displacement. These are two areas, one is Chhattisgarh and the other is Jharkhand.
About one and half years ago in Chhattisgarh, where the movement is very strong, three companies signed agreements with the government; one is Tata, another is Esar, the third is Mittal. Mital, which sits in London, is Lakhshi Mital. They have signed a number of agreements, an understanding to mine and also to build vast steel plants in the area called Buster in Chhattisgarh. About 1000 villages have been marked and they want to move in there to mine. But this is the area where the movement for 25 years has built up the revolutionary movement where alternative people’s governments are working. For years the people haven’t paid taxes to the government there, they pay taxes to the revolutionary government. And these are the villages they want to move in to. And the land has been redistributed there, using the revolutionary government papers and documents and not those of the government of India.
These are the villages that they want to move in to. One and half years ago, the exact date I forgot, in Mumbai there was a meeting held on how to go there, that was the agenda of the meeting. Some US strategists were called in for that meeting. The Mumbai consulate of the US organised it. They went to these areas, to Raipur, the capital of Chhattisgarh state, the US strategists from the White House, and there was a big human cry that came out. Everybody protested that the US was directly interfering in Indian affairs. But they hid this meeting where Tata, Esar, Mittal and all the big industrial houses were in attendance. The ruling reactionary parties, Congress and BJP, both were also there, and some of them proposed that the Indian military should enter this area. Some of them proposed that aerial bombing should be done. And the rest of them opposed this, saying that it will create a big problem you fight with your own people, with your army, and that will benefit the Maoists much more.
Right-wing Death Squads Against the People
Now they have come up with a plan. The plan was, they would create a vigilante group taking the criminal elements in the area and outside and give them paramilitary regular military training. And they called KPS Gill, who created havoc in Punjab killing thousands of people, a brutal police officer, to guide this. KPS Gill, the retired police officer who was known for his notorious mass killing in Punjab, was appointed as the advisor to the government of Chhattisgarh to look after this creation of the vigilante group.
A vigilante group was also created in Salwa Judum, which in English literally means Purification Hunt. This is very important development which should be known because there is a whole lot of history that is involved in this process of operation. This Purification Hunt of Salwa Judum, which started one and a half years ago in the area has to do with the present US policy of “Low intensity Warfare”. This is the strategy that the US has been importing into many other countries that people have been revolting against. The “Low Intensity Warfare” strategy of the US is to divide people, create vigilante groups, create intelligence networks among the people there by dividing them, and penetrate into the areas and smash the resistance without fighting military war. They want to do this in such a way that it could be better than a military war.
This “Low Intensity Warfare” started one and half years ago by Salwa Judum, in this area, the formidable revolutionary force of the country, attacked 642 villages. Continuous for one and half years, these 642 villages in the Bastar area are the same areas for which the memorandum of understanding or the agreements were signed for mining. The companies pumped crores of rupees into this, as well as the state allocations of their budgets. They created a lumpen group, but the lumpen group also could not be sent here.
Very interestingly, Chhattisgarh is now ruled by the BJP, the right wing political party. But the vigilante group is led by the leader of the opposition, that is the Congress leader, who is called Mahendra Karma. He is a local tribal leader who has amassed much wealth and he is leading this Purification Hunt, who operates quite openly, and though he belongs to the opposition Party, the government is supplying everything.
So for one and a half years of attack on these villages, these 642 villages, all of them with revolutionary masses, even visitors including international journalists, lawyers and human right activists, several teams went and reported what happened there, what is happening there. 350,000 people live in these 642 villages. The villages after continuous attacks, torture, burning down, killing, raping took place, they fought, the people fought along with the Maoists.
Finally what they did was that 60,000 people were brought to the roadside national highways. They were camped, made to stay in these makeshift camps along with paramilitary forces. Another 50,000 people refused to come to this side and they went to the Maoists. Most of them are women, children and old people. And many of the youth joined directly the Maoist armed movement. And some went to other areas like Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and other places. These villages were vacated. Yes, they could vacate these villages, 642, but around there the movement is still there and very strong.
But it is not a simple story of vacating the villages, there is a big war still continuing. People are coming back and the attacks are coming, flash attacks are coming and going back from the paramilitary and these vigilante groups. The fact remains that none of these companies could enter that area. Not only today people have moved back defying these attacks, some of the people are returning and the resistance is there very much, never could be even slowed down. Despite that these villages have been vacated, people remain there and go there and the revolutionary militia has taken only tactical retreat, only to go there the next day, every day almost. So there is no possibility for these companies, they could not see so far any possibility to move there.
Similarly in Jharkhand, two vigilante groups were created on the power of the same kind of thing. They continuously attack the important areas of revolutionary areas in Jharkhand. But of course they could do also no impact there, as well. But what happened there in Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and other areas is a constant, continuous fight and it is the biggest class struggle, because of the monopoly bourgeoisie. The comprador bourgeoisie are directly involved in the fighting with the masses, the peasants and the workers.
To the mainstream media this intense class struggle is portrayed in a different language. Of course, some of them call it civil war, some of them call it, I don’t know, military actions and some of them say that both sides are fighting but the common people are suffering. This is the kind of language that is being employed by the bourgeoisie to belittle the revolutionary movement so that it will not be understood by the people outside those areas. There is a huge misinformation campaign that the mainstream media always resorts to. But the people in India know, despite this continuous misinformation campaign portraying it as a kind of wholly military attack.
Some people are being killed this side, some people are being killed that side. The Maoists ambushed the paramilitary. These are shown by the media as a kind of killings. This is not simple killings. This is a movement which is a revolutionary movement, it is a class struggle, and this class struggle is linked at the international level. Because the monopoly capitalist, the monopoly bourgeoisie is also directly involved in that. It is an international class struggle almost. It is not just pinned down there into the villages. These villages, these peasants, these revolutionary masses have to fight with the imperialists along with their allies in our own country.
Now it is the responsibility of the democratic minded people like us, progressive minded people, to bring the facts out and show to the international community, to the people who are waging class struggle in other countries, look! This is a formidable class struggle, our own class is doing this, achieving this, let’s join hands and defeat this misinformation campaign. Now this becomes the responsibility for all of us. Sitting in London, in Birmingham here, if we think we belong to the working class and the working class ideology, what is our responsibility? Our responsibility is to take the message of the working class of one country to another country and show the realities and how the class struggle is developing there. In fact, I am talking about the displacement movement there, I am telling you about the realities there.
Dams and Displacement
Now to come back to the main thread of what I am trying to say, the mining project is proposing to displace millions of people and incidentally the majority of these millions of people are revolutionary masses in these revolutionary areas. Foreign companies couldn’t do anything, but they have been held bent down doing that. This will now, in the coming years lead to much more major conflict and class struggle.
Coming to the third aspect of displacement in India, let’s talk about big dams. There are many big dams, they are planned. From the North Eastern region to the foothills of the Himalayas to the Southern parts, there are many major dams already planned. Of course, whatever is being planned in India has to be done only with foreign investment. Because in a big way you are now allowing in foreign investment that is multinational companies, the monopoly houses, the monopoly bourgeoisie to enter and take over the country. I would like to talk about one such big project because there are hundreds of projects again.
It is unimaginable the way in which this displacement is going to happen, it involves several millions of people. One such project I would like to present to you is Polavaram project. The second largest river in the country is Godavari which flows from Central India, Maharashtra, to the Southern part and meets Upper Bengal It is true that 80% of waters of this river is still not utilised and goes to waste in the sea. And now a major project which will be the biggest in Asia is planned on this river. We know that the world has experienced that such major projects, hydro-electric and irrigation projects, create lots of problems, environmental problems, and play with the lives of other people. And from 1947 to now, we have been facing these big projects. Bhakra-Nangal in Punjab displaced many people who are not rehabilitated even now.
The most uneven development took place because of the biggest projects. There are always alternative methods, but these are never followed, to benefit the maximum number of people using the river waters the alternative method are never followed. Even now it is the same thing. This Polavaram project on the river Godavari would directly displace in the submerged area 200,000 tribals and indirectly 700,000 tribals, which means a schedule area, the designated schedule area in the constitution of India. In the constitution of India there is a special status for these areas where indigenous people live. According to the constitution of India the government of India also has no right to handle these areas. Only the local people have the right to do. But violating the constitution of India they are going to build this project. The plans are made, not started, but they are going to start. This is one example I am giving you. This is the third aspect that I am talking about regarding displacement.
Infrastructure Corridors, Urban Renewal, Eco-Tourism and Displacement
The fourth aspect of displacement is the large infrastructure corridors that are coming to India. They are planned and some of them have already started. Infrastructural corridor projects aim to facilitate industrialisation, to facilitate the free inflow of capital, to facilitate the industrialists to come and settle down and earn your profit and take it away with ease, without much difficulty. These are called infrastructural corridor projects, which include power industry, industrial townships and airports, because you don’t want to fly back to Mumbai to fly out of India. These infrastructural corridor projects are being carried out in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal and many places, again displacing millions of people.
And you have another category which is called “Urban Renewal and Beautification”. According to this “Urban Renewal and Beautification” project in all the cities, they want to build cities modelled on European cities. They don’t want the slums to be in the cities. In all the cities the population living in slums constitutes the majority of the city. Now they want to send these slum dwellers, workers, an unorganised sector, out of cities, to the outskirts of the cities. This is another major displacement, which has already started in many other cities. The slum dwellers in India are the people who have not made it in the rural areas, because they were displaced from there, because there was no livelihood there, because the land is still in the hands of a few. Now they are going to be displaced again from the cities. Bit if you go back and settle down in the outskirts of the city, just to go into the city to work and go back again, your wages are not enough to travel. So you cannot come back and work in the cities.
And there is still another kind of displacement. They have plans for a number of National Parks, Sanctuaries, and Eco-Tourism projects. They are called Eco-Tourism projects. In the rural areas, in sea resorts and in forest areas these are planned in a big way in private entrepreneurship, in the hands of entrepreneurs. That is also going to displace millions of people.
Resistance in Nandigram
Now how many millions of people are going to be displaced and where will they go? There is no plan and nothing is there. Let them die! Go to the dogs! They want to take away their land, forest, minerals and wealth. It is the sale of the country. India has progressed from mortgaging its resources to their outright sale. This is progress, this is the growth we have seen for years. Now if this is the case, if this is the story, that is one thing, but what is important now is that all these millions of people are not ready to give up their lands and livelihood and move out of their habitat, they are fighting. They are fighting in a big way. None of them, not a single acre of land has been given so far at any place.
I am sure you have heard about Nandigram. You must have heard about Nandigram as well as other struggles in Orissa and the bauxite mining area in Andhra Pradesh. In hundreds and hundreds of places, struggles are coming up, people’s resistance is building up. In some places the resistance is already formidable. In the areas in which the revolutionary forces are not strong, are not present, the people have started building their own resistance in their own way. And Nandigram today in West Bengal stands as a symbol for all these resistance movements against displacement.
It is true that outside India in the mainstream media Nandigram has come up, but all other movements have not been projected as Nandigram. Actually, there are several hundred Nandigrams in India today. The reason why Nandigram has been projected is that there are certain specific conditions and specific aspects of it. Let’s go and see what has happened in Nandigram, what is happening in Nandigram, why it has become a symbolic struggle?
It is almost like Naxalbari, the only difference is Naxalbari has a vision, it started as a political ideological movement. But Nandigram has started as a simple resistance movement, but it has not stayed there and that is important. Nandigram is in West Bengal, where there are so-called communists, the CPI(M) and a left-wing government, which also supports the central government, the union government. Without this there would have been no central government of this dispensation who speak a mouthful of anti-imperialist slogans but every day in the government secretariat they invite the US officials for discussion. This is the left-wing government which has allowed a joint exercise of the US Government and the government of India near Calcutta.
This left-wing government announced the construction of Special Economic Zones in Nandigram block 1 and Nandigram block 2, consisting of an area of 23 villages. It was announced on 28 December 2006 that a Special Economic Zone has been permitted by the central government and they are going to acquire land in Nandigram. They say that in the notification from 3rd January 2007 the land acquisition will start. So on 3rd January the people of Nandigram gathered before the local Land Revenue Office and shouted slogans that they are not ready to give up their lands and they don’t want a Special Economic Zone and they wanted to resist and they wanted to burn the office records.
The police fired on the masses and three people were killed and several people injured on 3rd January. After the firing, they went back to their villages and started organising themselves. What they did was that they announced that they are not going to allow this to happen. They started cutting the roads to prevent the land officers to come and make the survey of the land. The first thing that has to be done is survey the land they wanted, to prevent that from the next day onwards. They knew that from the 4th January the team of people would come, so they cut off all the roads.
They cut off the communications and they held meetings in the villages and said that whoever is opposing the land acquisition would remain there, whoever supported the ruling CPI(M) for land acquisition will have to leave. So most of the CPI(M) cadres and leaders announced publicly that they are not for the acquisition of the land and they resigned from their party and they joined hands with the masses. A few of them resisted this, they wanted to do whatever their party said and they were thrown out of the villages, it is true. And then clashes started.
Clashes started between CPI(M) workers in that area and all those who joined together. The people of Nandigram have also said that people here don’t belong to any party, that they have to forget about all their parties and they formed a group which formed a committee. Everyone who is fighting this has to be in one committee. One organisation, and no parties, no organisations. So each village united there.
A few people who had benefited from the CPI(M) for a long time were the elite already, because 30 years of CPI(M) created a kind of Social Fascist force in every village. These belong to the Social Fascist section, they were forced to leave the Nandigram villages and their houses were burnt, that is true, by the people and they captured their property and distributed it also. That is also true.
What the intellectuals of the CPI(M) are writing about these attacks on their cadres is not true, it is the attack on these Social Fascist elements brought by CPI(M) to these villages, which is true in the rest of Bengal also. It is an attack on these Social Fascist reactionary forces of the CPI(M) in the villages, it is already a class struggle there. But the intellectuals of the CPI(M) sit in the University of Delhi where I work, and Jawaharlal Nehru university, and propagate their ideologies, intellectual ideologies, writing article after article to mislead the world, maybe you must have also read some of them.
They were saying that the first attack came from the people. It is a shame to say that people attacked them, you can’t say this, if you say a particular party attacked it is a different thing. It is true, people attacked them. It is already a formidable class struggle. Because for the first time in Bengal the villages got the confidence through attacking the social forces because all the villages say the CPI(M) terrorises the people, keeping them in their grip.
And what could the revisionists could do? If you go to any village of West Bengal, you will see because I have several times went there. Whenever I tried to go to a village in West Bengal the first thing they do, CPI(M) cadres come and ask who are you? And why are you coming here? They would not allow me to enter that village. If anybody wants a job in West Bengal you have to be a CPI(M) cadre. If you want a ration card you have to be a CPI(M) card holder.
They created a network and such a social force creating a certain small elite force giving benefits to them. It is a network of Social Fascism that they created. For the first time in West Bengal after 30 years of CPI(M) fascist rule the people got the courage to burn down the houses of the enemy classes. It is a very select few, it is not everyone. They don’t attack all the people. What the ideologues of the CPI(M) are writing is falsehood. It is not that it was done by the people. Out of 23 villages, only 150 people of the elite class were driven away from Nandigram. That is true, but the chief of West Bengal says that the people of Nandigram attacked our cadres so we have the right to attack them back.
They were not attacked by the people. The CPI(M) says it was 2000 cadres who were driven out. The Home Minister says it is only 1000, the officials say it is only 700, but the actual figure is 150, and all of them had cars, and all of them had huge buildings, all of them are the richest people in the area. Yes, of course they were thrown out. Because if they were there they could not build a resistance, these are the class enemies, they belong to the enemy class.
And now between 3rd January and 13th March, Nandigram became completely independent, it was like a liberated zone of the people. They allowed only schools, they allowed only essential services, and the police were driven away from these areas. The police, the CPI(M), the rest of the administration is not allowed inside. All of them have their own committees and they were doing every administration job. The people themselves and several thousand youth were protecting the villages from attacks by the CPI(M) from outside.
>From all four sides the CPI(M) continued to attack, throwing hand grenades, firing with sophisticated weapons from the border of the villages, day in and day out they attacked. And of course they attacked all the time, but the West Bengal government declared police actions to integrate Nandigram from the rest of the villages of the state. That is the language. Because there was no administration, law and they have a problem, there is violence. These Nandigram villages have been separated from the state administration. The state wanted to take police action to join them together again.
What was announced on the 12th March was that there would be police action on 14th March. But there was no police action, there was an action on the people of Nandigram 14th March they attacked. But it was 1500 CPI(M) cadre goons who attacked using sophisticated weapons with the elite paramilitary force assisting them. Where they were attacked, people were killed, women were raped, they were burnt, the stomach of a pregnant woman was cut open and the baby was taken out and burnt. Several cases happened. It was similar in nature to the actions of the right-wing fascist forces in Gujarat in 2002, in the Post Godhra incident.
The 14th March was the biggest massacre that happened there. And this is in no way different from the war that the fascist RSS, BJP and other forces carried out in Gujarat and other places. Now one has to see how could the CPI(M), which calls itself a Communist Party, do this to its own cadres and the people too. Well, 4 members of the parliament were leading the field with their cadres. It was not done by some sections of CPI(M) cadres. It was led on the ground in the field by 4 sitting parliamentary MPs of the CPI(M), which means that it was planned at the highest stage. The top leadership of the country of the CPI(M) planned it, pumped money into it, organised the people, trained the people, held camps and sent that to the leadership and members of the parliament.
All their names are already there, the 14th March massacre has happened. Yes, several hundred people were killed, their bodies were taken away, their dead bodies were not shown publicly and remained there unannounced, children were killed, women were raped. On 15th March people again took back the villages into their own hands. 24 hours it took, the people took back the villages into their hands. On 16th March I went there. I could see that the police were running away, and villages were captured back by the people. The people who were still bleeding were organising this. They didn’t go to hospitals. That is how it has become a symbolic struggle today.
And from 16th March, after only two days, it was in the hands of the people. From the 16th March onwards to the 5th of November again it was in the hands of the people. There was a social boycott by the state, by the CPI(M), and this time the people were cut off again for all these months from many areas and of course the CPI(M) cadres who are around this area with arms, they stopped the supplies into Nandigram.
Very interesting is what the people announced. The wisdom of the people, you could say that if there are no supplies from the cities, we can still survive. We can do it on our own, because this area is a very rich area, and the people have been habituated to live with the subsistence economy. They have abundant fish, abundant water, abundant crops, everything they can grow and they survived. And if soap is not coming, they can make soap, if matches are not coming, they can make matches. For 8 months it was a self-reliant, self-dependent Nandigram. And they showed the way.
But you could see that between the 5th November and 12th November, in a week, again they were attacked. One of the largest attacks came by the end of 12th November, people began to see that the resistance in Nandigram was broken and the people held two camps and outside. And it looked like a very sad story, 10 months of self resistance was broken and the paramilitary and police returned there and the West Bengal government announced the recapture of Nandigram.
But the truth is that today the resistance in Nandigram is not broken. It gathered back within days. The first time it took 2 days, it took more than a week next time. And another thing is that in January there were no Maoists there, but under the open invitation of the people, Maoists went there later on. And it became a formidable struggle of the Maoists by November. It was an open invitation of the people, and they went there. They were only 50 kilometers away from the area expanding from the other side.
Nandigram people went and brought them there, and the government of India says we had to resort to this because Maoists are there. But it was not the Maoists who created the violence, it was the official government, which perpetrate violence against them. It was only resistance, only retaliation that took place. People would say that the people of Nandigram are fighting with arms. They have to fight with arms because there is no other way for them to reply to Social Fascism. Social Fascism could only be fought with arms, because Social Fascists have arms in their hands. If one says fighting with arms is wrong, if you fight with hands it is suicidal for the masses. I mean, the masses resisted this propaganda and they took up their own arms. Nandigram is an armed struggle, no doubt. It has to be armed struggle, there is no other way for them.
Building a Vast Resistance Movement against Displacement
But now to sum up what I have been trying to say. There are many other things of course, but perhaps we may bring these out as part of questions, if there are any. What I would like to say today is that there is a vast resistance movement against displacement. The people, millions of people, I mean, who have been targeted are displaced. But the resistance is growing and the resistance is formidable, and this is not only the resistance of the general masses but this is combined with the revolutionary resistance. So the integration of the general resistance everywhere and the revolutionary resistance is a growing trend in India.
I would like to appeal to you and say that this is a movement which is to be looked at very carefully, which is to be assisted, and which is to be given solidarity too. It is a vast movement, and as part of this vast movement some of us went all around the country and built a large United Front of anti-displacement forces, which is called the Anti-Displacement Front. As part of this what we say is that we are not against development, we are not against industrialisation, but we have to look at what kind of development and what kind of industrialisation. That is the main question and we have given an alternative model to this industrialisation process in the documents of our own first conference on 22nd and 23rd March this year, in Ranchi, Jharkhand, where 56 movements are surrounded by a huge displacement area.
People from all over the country came, all the movements came and we formed this organisation, a large umbrella organisation with hundreds such movements so far, and others are still joining. And of course, some of the most prominent people in the country have also joined, like Arundhati Roy and others. This organisation is spearheading the movement and at the all-India level, and each movement is building resistance inside the areas. It is a network, it is a big kind of movement that has spread all over. Many of the areas like Nandigram have been a model, now people are saying that we will be Nandigram everywhere.
For this movement, I appeal to you, to the international community here, people of Indian origin here, people of Turkish origin and many other places are here. This is an essentially anti-imperialist movement which is also combined with the anti-feudal movement. The land question immediately brings in the anti-feudal aspect of the movement. The capital that is playing havoc brings immediately the anti-imperialist aspect of the movement. So this is a basic struggle. The basic struggle of the Indian masses, the anti-feudal, anti-imperialist struggle is combined with the anti-displacement movement. The core of it is anti-feudal anti-imperialist struggle. The essential nature of the movement is anti-feudal, anti-imperialist.
This anti-imperialist, anti-feudal movement also requires to be understood by the people, the working class in the world. And we would like to take this movement to the comrades outside with the same class ideology. We would want your help to take this movement, to give a helping hand to this movement, to give political and moral support to this movement from the working class of every country, of people of Indian origin, of any origin.
The simple thing is the working class of the world has to support this movement. If you talk about it, that is a support, if you raise this issue in every country, in your country, that is a support. So the appeal to you is for all of you to come and visit the areas, whenever there is a possibility. If there is a possibility for you to initiate a campaign here, please do initiate it. And if there is a possibility to send support, relief, please do it. Whatever the way, we will be happy. We will be happy if you raise the issue itself. If you support us, your movement, our movement, the anti-imperialist movement is one. Whatever may be the possibility, this is the way in which we can work together on international issues. It is going to be one of the biggest issues in India and it is also a decisive factor for the destination of the Indian revolutionary movement. That is the stage which we have reached with this massive displacement.
The anti-displacement movement is a class struggle. People from the lowest social rank are trying to defend their rights, trying to defend their livelihood and conditions against the oppressor classes. It is a class struggle, it is an anti-imperialist struggle, an anti-feudal struggle. But in essence it is a class struggle. So I would appeal to you all to discuss how we could take it up at the international level.