Politics of terror and ineffectual opposition

Politics of terror and ineffectual opposition

Trouble for the Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) has compounded. Add to this the peasant politics of Bhatta-Parsaul, cases of rapes, murders and the recent custodial death in a Lucknow jail of Yogendra Singh Sachan, deputy chief medical officer in the state’s family welfare department. Despite these, if Mayawati remains unfazed, it’s because of the TINA (there is no alternative) factor that she enjoys in the face of an ineffectual opposition.

Though the opposition parties trained their guns on her, the lack of a consistent campaign has helped Mayawati breathe easy. Let’s examine the emerging political milieu of Uttar Pradesh in the backdrop of unending terror in Bhatta-Parsaul.

The two villages Bhatta and Parsaul are, indeed, the state’s Singur and Nandigram. Like its distant cousins in West Bengal, Bhatta-Parsaul is a product of the emergence of the aggressive market economy (read liberalization and globalization) of the post-1990s.

Almost coercive land acquisition had resulted in displacement, torture and suffering—all in the garb of development. Similarly, another farmers’ struggle against land acquisition took place in Tappal, near Aligarh, which remained localized. So the question is: will the struggle by farmers in Bhatta, Parsaul, Mutaina and Achhepur also remain isolated in these four villages? Is there no future for peasant struggle in Uttar Pradesh?

The political will is conspicuous by its acute absence.

It appears there is little possibility of the people of Bhatta-Parsaul finding a political leader like the people of Singur-Nandigram, who found Mamata Banerjee. Neither Ajit Singh, whose Jat belt Bhatta-Parsaul is part of, nor Mulayam Singh, who is known as dhartiputra (son of the soil), seem to have taken up the cause in true earnestness.

The Congress party’s young turk Rahul Gandhi, whose intervention strengthened the struggle of the farmers of Bhatta-Parsaul and who played an important role in liberating the people from terror and oppression, too, failed to carry out a constant campaign. There were sudden spurts, small bursts of mercurial temper that died down soon. Rajnath Singh of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), who calls himself the leader of the grass roots, also could not be heard. It seems that the Congress and the BJP, which are more or less urban parties, failed to understand rural India. It seemed that no political leader has the gumption to travel through the villages of the state in the blazing heat of May and June to help convert the smaller and isolated strife into a major struggle, addressing the felt need of a meaningful peasant politics. No political party or politicians from among the weak opposition could help raise the decibel against land acquisition.

The Communists, who are known for their empathy with peasant struggles, are also indifferent to the plight of the affected farmers. No signs of intervention by intellectuals, writers, social scientists, cultural activists such as those of West Bengal, who joined the fray and lifted the issue of land acquisition in Singur-Nandigram from that of a local or a regional issue into a national one. In Uttar Pradesh, unfortunately, the issues of coercive land acquisition and peasant politics have not acquired even regional dimension. As a result, the firepower of this hugely potential political issue has died down.

The myopic and faction-ridden opposition has missed the bus of electoral gains that it could have capitalized in 2012 assembly polls. Meanwhile, the Mayawati government has announced it would transform Bhatta and Parsaul into model villages, taking the wind out of the opposition’s sail and embalming the deep hurt of affected farmers.

The politics of terror unleashed in Bhatta-Parsaul is the result of the absence and failure of electable political forces. A Congress spokesperson said Anna Hazare, NGOs and civil societies are not “electable", implying that politicians are. Cut off from reality, the “absent-present" attitude of the near-dead five-star opposition of Uttar Pradesh, together with the growing oppression of the state for strengthening the market, has reduced villagers to helplessness.

The farmers of these villages are not demanding more money as compensation. Their wish is far greater—a community habitat and a livelihood that has perpetuity. They are worried the land on which they are now living, scattered around the apartments, built on the farmland acquired from them, will be converted into slums.

It appeared that the state and the bureaucracy were not curbing protests of villagers, but fighting dreaded terrorists.

Although actual human carnage did not take place, setting their mango trees afire carried the hidden message they should be silent or the entire village would be set ablaze. That is why the shadow of terror still lurks in everyday lives of the villagers.

It is said that the ruling power has no caste or religion, and so the oppression perpetrated by the ruling power, too, is free from caste or religion considerations. But while the police beat up the Jats and the Brahmins in Bhatta-Parsaul, it spared the Jatavs living in the village. However, this does not imply the Jatavs are happy with the incident. They are as terrorized by the events as members of other castes; and they are also demanding a better value for their land.

A team of social scientists, including this columnist, from G.B Pant Social Science Institute, on our return train journey from Bhatta-Parsaul, met Brinda Karat, leader of the Communist Party of India (Marxist). While discussing the issue, she commented the villagers of Uttar Pradesh, including Bhatta-Parsaul, are so divided that nothing much can be done for them.

She might be reminded that although harmony that existed in these villages before terror was unleashed seems to have been shattered in its aftermath, the common angst has unified all villagers. Each person, irrespective of his or her caste, is worried about economic security after the land acquisition, and each of them wants all those arrested to return to their homes and villages. Each and every one of them wants the preservation of their collective habitat.

Is the opposition in Uttar Pradesh listening?

Badri Narayan is professor, GB Pant Social Science Institute, Allahabad

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