Until Nandigram happened…

Published: July 1, 2009 - 13:15 Updated: July 1, 2015 - 17:08

Albert Camus would say that it's the human condition which creates the recipe for rebellion: rebellion is a priori in the human condition. It's just that the suffocation and stagnation of years of passive acceptance takes a long time to unwind and historical change is slow and tedious and needs intense resilience and ability to grasp time's turning point. It's just that it all gets bottled up in an alienated quagmire of self-flagellation and self-defeat, unable to elevate the self, dramatise, motivate, etherise, forever half empty, as if in perpetual insomnia, rising inside and in the silent collective, like a wave of hidden storm and slow fog, and scorching summer winds waiting to erupt but just about choking the throat, the arid soliloquy becoming a whistle in the dark, the darkness becoming eternal.

It's like unable to run or chase or scream or speak out in a bad dream in bad faith. The inner-self Calcutta was like that before 2007. That is, before the outrage of Nandigram shook Bengal and India.

Indeed, the CPM and its 'tailist parties' had completely crushed the eternal spirit of this great city of rebellion, liberation, imagination and creative renaissance; three decades of stagnation by the 'occupied forces' like a song decimated by its own monotonous repetition, a dead slogan without fire or belief, a poem which will never be written. It killed the instinct to rebel.

This was the status quo of the political economy of conformism laced with power's vicious trappings with not an iota of possibility or hope in this zone of immense possibilities. In this twilight zone, everything returned to the same place after the vicious circle ended, to start its circularity of condemnation once again, where all roads led to the CPM's unilateral school of thought where only one flower bloomed, the party flower, a carnivorous flower which must consume all living ideas, contradictions, dynamics of change, young dreams and dreamers, and angst, anger, alienation in this compulsive anti-utopia. This is a zone of absolute totality where most youngsters chose the easy path to complete acceptance of the establishment and the party's centralised democracy, and all the answers it gave.

This is because they avoided the tortuous process of self discovery or complex knowledge systems, including the infinite humanism and aesthetics of Marxism, because no questions were asked. If you are with the party all the answers are already stated, your jobs will be fixed, your life and visions will be fixed, your future will be fixed, even relationships, in this organised nexus of pseudo well-being and mutual admiration clubs where there is no Kafkasque nightmare, or waking up in the night to an idea which can make you ill.

This was the state which gave the finest minds, bravest revolutionaries of the freedom movement, classical cinema and epic literature, and music and dance which moved in a rhythmic symphony of intrinsic sense and sensitivity. This was also the zone of social and political transformations - from Raja Rammohun Roy to Vivekananda to Tagore, and the search for an utopia where the mind is without fear was a real search.

In the last three decades, some of the finest minds in contemporary Bengal, including the young, rotted in closed rooms without windows and ventilators, unable to reach out to the rainbows of rebellion in words and letters, though Kazi Nazrul's fiery songs, Jibanondo's Banalata Sen and Sukanto's Runner still reverberated in the old bylanes of the Mahanagar. In the College Street people would still look for Pablo Neruda, and in the ghettos young filmmakers would still screen Bicycle Thieves. And yet, as writer Nabarun Bhattacharya would tell this reporter, "They are occupying all spaces for the fat cats. Tomorrow, if I want to walk alone in a park, either they will question me, or ask me to pay a fee, or fine me."

Most artists and intellectuals chose to remain silent or toed the CPM line. Bengali cinema and literature declined, except for the resilience of greats like the indomitable Mahashweta Devi.

Until Nandigram happened. The proletariat of Nandigram showed the way. And a volcano of repressed energy and outrage entered the bylanes of Calcutta and beyond. A million coalitions of creative and political change made the streets luminescent. Words acquired meaning, meaning became action, graffiti became art, poetry became a narrative and the world had already changed. As George Orwell's protagonist wrote in his diary in 1984: "If there is hope, it lies in the proles."

This is precisely what the ossified conformists of the CPM would never understand. Because they can neither interpret the world anymore, nor change it. Because philosophers have only interpreted the world, the point is to change it.


This story is from print issue of HardNews