Category Archives: Bengal

Krishnanagar Prout UTC

Picture above: A section of the audience enjoying the street theatre performance of Mukta Bhumir Meye ("Daughters of Liberated Land") downtown Krishnanagar during the Prout UTC

(Krishnanagar, 21 December) – A five-day Prout utilisation camp (UTC) was conducted at Krishnanagar in Nadia District, West Bengal from 17 to 21 December. More than 300 students, youth, Prout leaders (BPs, UBPs and various committee members) attended the camp.

A Prout UTC is a multifaceted educational platform oriented towards the all-round progress of participants. Essential activities include meditation, yoga asanas, ideological training, discussions on current issues, and cultural programs. More than 80 youth from Odisha, Tatanagar, Purulia and several districts of West Bengal were initiated into meditation during this UTC.

Highlights included classes by Proutist Universal Secretary General Dada Kalyaneshvaranandajii, and senior Proutists Acarya (Ac.) Dhyaneshananda, Ac. Trayambakeshavarananda, Ac. Raviishananda, Ac. Prasunananda, and Ac. Tanmayananda, Ac Satyasvarupanandajii, Dr. Bhaskar Jena of Baleshvar, Odisha, and Bakul Roy, the Samaj Secretary. 

An impressive procession on 19 December led to a street theatre performance of Ac. Tanmayananda Avadhuta's Mukta Bhumir Meye ("Daughters of Liberated Land") performed by the Lavanya theater group of Kolkata. The Krishnanagar public is culture loving and was present in thousands, so that the artistic proceedings went beyond the time slot formally allotted by the municipal authorities. On 20 december there was a public symposium well attended by intellectuals of Krishnanagar.

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Inspiring songs ahead of UTC opening proceedings

 locals
A Prout UTC places great importance on local resources and culture

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Women being instructed in yoga at the Krishnanagar UTC

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Men being instructed in yoga asanas at the Krishnananda UTC

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Prout procession moving through Krishnanagar during the UTC

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Members of the the Lavanya theater group​ performs Mukta Bhumir Meye ("Daughters of Liberated Land") — street theatre downtown Krishnanagar

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A section of the audience at a public function during the Prout UTC

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The stage during the public symposium

 

10 Points Demand Presented at 6000 Strong Amra Bengali Meet

Photo above: Amra Bengali crowd at Dharmtala, Kolkata

(Kolkata, 19 November 2015) – The socio-economico-cultural movement Amra Bengali (AB) declared the rudimentals of its program platform when presenting a 10 points demand at a public meeting at Dharmtala, downtown Kolkata. The demand included:

  1. Like Marathi, Punjabi, Jats, and Tamils are given respective homelands in the federated structure of India, Bengalis should be given their homeland — Bangalistan.
  2. Bengali language should be used in all official and non-official work all over Bangalistan within and beyond West Bengal.
  3. A Bengali regiment should be reintroduced into the Indian Army, like Maratha, Sikh and Rajput regiments
  4. All Bengali immigrants should be granted Indian nationality without a question mark.
  5. The amendments to citizenship charter that were done in the years 1986 and 2003 need to be cancelled.
  6. The local Bengali youth must be given 100% employment as per Prout.
  7. Block level planning has to be introduced and agro industries and agrico industries have to  be established. Agriculture has to be given the status of industry.
  8. The publication of advertisements and showing of TV serials, cinemas, etc., which are disrespectful to the dignity of women have to be stopped forthwith.
  9. The GTA agreement promoting outsider Nepalis' self-interests has to be rejected forthwith.
  10. In the entire north-east including Manipur-Assam, there is a systematic conspiracy to cancel voting rights of Bengalis and place them in outsiders' camps -this has to be stopped forthwith.

The Members of Bangali Mahila SamajThe AB Mahila (women) Samaj section at Dharmtala, Kolkata. Women form a strong, essential part of the AB movement.

Following the recent election of Mr. Bakul Roy as AB Samaj secretary, the AB movement has resurged throughout Bengal. The 6000 strong gathering at Dharmtala even included representatives from the samaja's border areas including Assam's Silcher, Manipur, Jharkhand, Bihar, Odisha etc.

After a chorus on Bangalistan by Spandanik (the cultural forum of Proutists samajas), representatives delivered power-packed lectures. Samaj worker Sadhan Purakayastha of Silcher informed the gathering how Bengalees are being subjugated in Silcher and Manipur area where an open campaign has been launched to oust Bengalees who have lived in this area for decades. Shri Tarapada Biswas (the Asst. AB Samaj Secretary), Bikash Biswas (Movement Sachiv) spoke very well. Also speakers from Tripura and Manipur were very effective. Sister Sagarika of Bangla Mahila (Women) Samaj was very strong in her elaboration of exploitation by pseudo culture.

The Rarh area speakers vividly pointed out how Rarh area is the starting point of human civilization and how the people there are being exploited for ages. They pointed out that Prout's propounder Shri Prabhat Rainjan Sarkar has appealed to humanity at large to help Rarh to come up. But it is clear now that the Rarh itself has to rise up and fight the exploiters.

Singing and Saluting BangalistanSinging the hymn of Bangalistan at Dharmtala, Kolkata

The daisRepresentatives addressing the meet at Dharmtala, Kolkata

Successful PROUT Field Effort in Midnapur, WB

Picture above: The PROUT Parikrama at Goaltor village, Midnapur District, West Bengal

(PROUT Globe) – A four-day Prout Parikrama ("moving around") in Midnapur district of West Bengal was held to promote Prout in this significant cadre-producing district. The Parikrama started on 12th October from the Kerani tala Ananda Marga School campus. A motorcade of five four-wheelers and a bus carrying Proutists were led by 30 motorcycles. More than 50.000 leaflets were distributed. More than 130 proutists travelled together in this four-day Parikrama. Shri Asit Dutta, Proutist Universal Bhukti Pradhan of Midnapur, led the Parikrama on its first day to Chandara village, Dhedua, Baita, Basantpur, Beltikri, Kurkutshol, Binpur, Belpahari and finally Shilda. A public meeting was held at every village. 

On the following day the Parikrama moved to Ergoda, Parihati, Dahijuri, Zargram town, Palaidanga, Kultikri, Kharipara, Kulbani and ended at Dvipa village. The most important meetings were held at Kharipara and Dvipa villages where proutists in the hundreds joined.

After staying overnight at Dvipa, the Parikrama moved to Keshiari, Hatigaria, Pratibandh, Khajra, Kharagpur town, Debra, Panshkura, Mechogram, Khukurdah, Dashpur, Ghatal, Khirpai town, Neradeul, Keshpur, Anandapur, Godapiashal, Shalbani, ending the day at Chandrakona Road. The most important meetings were held at Chandrakona Road and at Ghatal. 

On its final day the Parikrama moved on to Goaltor, Patashol, Kadoshol, Ramgarh, lalgarh, Pirakata and reached Midnapur early in the afternoon. The best response the Parikrama got was from Goaltor villagers who offered several acres of land to promote Potato farming according to the Proutist system of integrated farming. the local outfit of Proutist Universal Farmers Federation is now planning to take advantage of this offer and start farming in the area. 

In Midnapur, a thousand Proutists joined the Parikrama and took out a procession that moved through the main thoroughfares of Midnapur. The rally converted into a public meeting at the Vidyasagar Institute. Main speakers included Ac. Raviishananda Avadhuta, Ac. Dhyaneshananda Avadhuta, Asim Das, Ac. Saomyashubhananda Avadhuta, Avadhutika A. Rupatiita and Asit Dutta. Rajiv Manna presented the Welcome speech. The Anandam Gosthi sang proutist songs from Prabhat Samgiita. Several hundreds non-proutists attended the meeting.

Midnapur rally
The rally in Midnapur

Midnapur meeting
Meeting in Midnapur

On way to Kharipara
On way to Kharipara

Patasol village
At Patasol village

Palaidanga village
At Palaidanga village

UPSF/UPYF Conference At Agartala

(Agartala, 2 August 2015) – A state level Universal Proutist Students Federation (UPSF) UPSF and Universal Proutist Youth Federation (UPYF) conference was held at Agartala, Tripura from 31st July to 2nd August. The conference was attended by more than 200 students from the state.
 
The classes on Prout were given by Ac. Kalyaneshvarnanda Avadhuta, Ac. Raviishananda Avadhuta, Shri Shubhendu Ghosh, Shri Danesh Pal and Shri Jawahar Saha. There was debate as well as an ex-tempo speech competition.
 
Asana, Koushiki and Tandav classes were given by DS dada, Ac. Shantashubhananda Avadhuta. Organizational class was taken by Ac. Satyanisthananda Avadhuta. There was a rally and 3 hour meeting at the central place in downtown Agartala.
 
Three state level committees were formed: Proutist Universal (PU) State Committee (Shri Goutam Ghosh is Secretary), UPYF Committee (Shri Prabir Debnath is the secretary) and UPSF committee (Shri Sourabh Pratim Sarma is the secretary).
 
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Marginalized Communities of West Bengal: Their Lives, Their Exploitation, Their Future

Garda Ghista (December 2007)

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A Bengali tiger

Introduction

India is a land of tremendous diversity, as reflected in its multiethnic and multiracial population, which together forms one culture having infinite variations. According to Shrii Prabhat R Sarkar,

Bengal was the home of both the Mongolian and the Dravidian populations, the Dravidians being more widespread in the southwestern areas and the Mongolians in the northeastern areas. Some groups of Austrics lived in the western parts. In the southeastern parts of Bengal, the Mongolians held an overwhelming majority over the Dravidians. The Chakmas, Tripuris, Bodos, Kochas, Kiratas, and Chuaras of the Mongolian population; the Kaevarttas, Bagdis, Dules, Shavaras, Kurmis, Mahatas, and Kherias of the Dravidian population; and the Santhaliis, Baoriis, Mála Páháriis [(Mála or Málo)], etc., of the predominantly Austric population, were the original Bengalees.[1]

Thus we see that West Bengal is a stunning example of racial and cultural variations and blendings. A study of marginalized groups in West Bengal reveals that the ancient indigenous Dravidian communities have been economically and culturally exploited for centuries, and continue to be so today. One clear manifestation of that exploitation was the resulting explosion called the Santal Rebellion of 1855-56. Other communities also rebelled. However, the strangulating exploitation by capitalists did not end. Today, it takes the form of economic globalization, i.e., global capitalism, evidenced by the recent revolt in Nandigram in Medinipur District. The CPI(M) government of West Bengal brutally crushed Dalit villagers fighting to retain their lands, which the state government had handed over to megacorporations such as, Tata Groups and Salim Group of Indonesia, by designating those lands as SEZs or Special Economic Zones. As repeatedly happens all over India, nothing was done for the hundreds of thousands of villagers who would be displaced from those lands, nor was anything said about rehabilitation, reparations and compensation, or the offering of new lands of equal value in another location. Since Partition in 1948 and the separation of West Bengal from East Bengal (now Bangladesh), West Bengal has a rather odd physical shape, with a large round conglomeration in the southern region which tapers into a thin strip leading to its northeastern most districts of Jalpaiguri and Cooch Behar.

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Scheduled Castes and Tribes of West Bengal

The term “tribe’ has various meanings globally, including ‘nation’, ‘society’ and ‘race’. In India, however, the term has a different meaning. The three characteristics of a tribe in India are (1) a group of people who are culturally and geographically isolated from the rest of society, (2) the social structure of the group is non-hierarchical and egalitarian, and (3) the community is invariably economically deprived.[2] While western anthropologists have tended to categorize tribes as having the same language, culture and name, in fact these attributes can vary substantially within one tribe. Cultural boundaries of tribes in India cannot be so clearly defined. Since 1971 many tribes have moved from a tribal society to a ‘jati’ or caste society based on occupation. The system becomes more complex as caste is then further interwoven with class, again due to occupation.

While some authors have maintained that caste is no longer a large issue in Bengal, this author would maintain that caste and not class continues to be a strong cultural issue and continues to be the prime reason for extreme economic deprivation, cultural isolation and lynching deaths. Caste remains the overriding factor. While a few pockets of tribals remain in the forests of Bengal, particularly near the Nepalese and Bhutanese borders, and lead their original lives from one century ago, a large majority of tribals, for reasons of economic survival, have moved towards villages and towns and become shudras or day laborers.

According to Sekhar Bandyopadhyay, the “Sanskritizing” or Hinduizing of the middle peasant castes took place in the 1920s and 1930s, which involved a handful of prominent Dalit leaders who had once fought against the dominance of high-caste Hindus now merging with them and becoming ministers.[3] This tokenism would bring the broader struggle by Dalits for social justice to a screeching halt. Of course, a handful of formerly downtrodden Dalit politicians is no indication of the socio-economic status of the remaining Dalit community. The right wing extremist Hindutva continues to use great skill in absorbing the lower castes so as to suppress and neutralize all dissidence.

Interestingly, the leftist movements, manifested by the Bengal Provincial Kisan Sabha and the CPI and CPI(M) communist parties, like the Hindutva movement, are also dominated and run by the highest castes – the Brahman, Kayastha and Baidya castes. So while the communist parties claim that Dalits have been greatly benefited by land reforms enacted since 1977, in reality the main beneficiaries were the middle class peasants. The higher castes of any political persuasion in West Bengal or India will not take any steps that would disturb their place at the top of the caste hierarchy. As another example, while some Dalits run for election in the Gram Panchayats and win, invariably when they attempt to institute local reforms benefiting Dalits, the higher castes immediately pass a no-confidence resolution and remove them from office. In fact, when it comes to class versus caste, West Bengal is no different from the rest of India, and in some respects the lot of Dalits there is worse. Due perhaps primarily to the growth of the BJP and RSS cadres all over India, caste attitudes have increased, as reflected by Brahmin students in 2004 refusing to take mid-day meals at school that had been prepared by cooks of a lower caste.[4] On 24 August 2004 the Asian Human Rights Commission reported the brutal police beating of a seven-month pregnant Dalit woman who was asleep with her children in front of her hut. She was awoken by baton sticks and then, when she could not produce her husband, who was fishing in a nearby creek, was mercilessly beaten.[5]

Chandra Bhan Prasad, President of Dalit Shiksha Andolan, states that the Left Front is no friend of Dalits. According to Prasad, during the Congress-dominated government in West Bengal from 1952-62, the percentage of ministers belonging to Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Muslims was 2.3 percent, 6.9 percent and 12.7 percent. In contrast, during the CPI(M) government spanning 1977 to the present, the percentage of ministers was 1.5, 1.5 and 7.1. No Dalits can be found in the CPI(M) leadership. The economic situation of non-Dalits in West Bengal has improved, reflected by a decline in proportion of landless agricultural laborers by 3.89 percent. However, those who remain landless laborers are almost entirely Dalits.[6]

According to the 2001 Census, the total population of West Bengal is 80,176.197. Of this number 4,406,794 are Scheduled Tribes, which is 5.5 percent of the state population. Between 1991 and 2001 West Bengal registered a 15.7 percent growth of Scheduled Tribe population.[7] According to the 2001 Census there are 38 notified Scheduled Tribes. The Census does not provide any information on denotified tribes. The Santal tribe represents 51.8 percent of the total tribal population, the Munda tribe 7.8 percent, the Bhumij 7.6 percent and the Kora 3.2 percent. These four tribal populations alone constitute 85 percent of the state’s tribal population. The Lodha, Mahali, Bhutia, Bedia and Savar tribes have a population comprising a minimum of one percent, while the remaining tribes have populations of less than one percent.

More than half the Scheduled Tribe populations live in Medinapur, Jalpaiguri, Purulia or Barddhaman, with Bankura, Maldah, Uttar Dinajpur and Dakshin Dinajpur also having substantial tribal populations. The numerical populations of the larger tribes are presented in the table below.

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Population of Scheduled Tribes in West Bengal, according to Census of India 2001, Census Commission of India.

Approximately 43 percent of the tribal populations have been deemed as literate, with the national average being 47 percent. The male literacy rate is 57.4 percent while the female literacy rate is 29.2 percent, a ratio that characterizes many developing countries, including Bangladesh. The Bhutia tribe has the highest literacy rate with 72.6 percent while the Savar tribe has an overall 26.3 percent. Slightly more than 50 percent of tribals in West Bengal attend some kind of educational institution.[8]

According to the 2001 Census of India, almost 50 percent of the scheduled tribes are employed, with 65.7 percent of those labeled main workers and the remaining 34.3 percent as marginal workers. The Savar tribe has the highest percentage of workers at 53.4 percent, while Bhutia has the lowest at 36.3 percent. This is the direct inverse of the educational or literacy rate of these two tribes. Of all tribes, 23.7 percent are cultivators and 45.1 percent are agricultural laborers. Only 5.3 of the Mahali tribe are engaged in agriculture.

Herein we will discuss the Santal, Toto, Bagdi and Robi Das tribes of West Bengal.

Santals

The Santals of rural and urban India are by far the largest tribe in India and also in Bengal. In West Bengal the Santals are the majority tribe and comprise more than 50 percent of the total scheduled tribe population. Other tribes include the Oraon, Munda, Bhumij, Kora, Mahali, Lodha, Bhutia and Malpahariya.

In 2002 the Indian constitution identified the Santals as “scheduled tribals.” They are the third largest scheduled tribe in India. Indian culture originates from four racial groups: Austro-Asiatic, Dravidian, Tibeto-Chinese and Aryan.[9] The Santals descend from the pre-Dravidian or Kol people who migrated to the regions of Jharkhand, Chattisgar, Orissa and West Bengal about three centuries ago, preserving to a large extent their language, culture and traditions. It is speculated that a region called Sant existed south of the Santal Parganas in Jharkhand, which may have been their original habitat. According to British documents, Santals were brought by Bengali traders in the first quarter of the eighteenth century and continuing to the mid-nineteenth century to what was then a much larger Bengal, to clear forests and scrub areas of the lush Gangetic plains for the Bengalis and the Rajas. In return they received one tenth of the land they cleared, leading them to settle there permanently. The land was used primarily for wet-rice agriculture. It led to their drifting from a hunting-gathering community to an agricultural community.

In some instances, or in the beginning, while never accumulating wealth, they also did not starve. They knew how to work the land and how to produce the necessities for their survival, such as rope, bamboo beds, wooden and bamboo stools. Even today their thick-thatched roofs last for more than 30 years, while the women have mud cook stoves and keep the mud walls of their homes smooth and clean, covering the mud with white clay. They keep bountiful gardens with multiple varieties of vegetables (eggplant, cabbage, tomato) and flowers, all surrounded by bushes, banana and palm trees. In between their homes they dig ponds which meet all their bathing and drinking requirements. Domestic cattle provide them milk and other dairy products. In November and December they harvest the rice and then irrigate the land for a winter crop, such as mustard or wheat. They have led a simple but sustainable existence, and had mental peace as they interacted amongst each other in a spirit of coordinated cooperation and without any worry about time.

From almost the very beginning, however, the Santals were exploited by moneylenders, who supplied them with oxen, plows, axes and food in the off-season while exacting exorbitant interest rates ranging from 25 to 100 percent. As a result, whatever land and goods the Santals acquired was repeatedly lost to the exploitative moneylenders. Due to plundering and stealing of their land, the Santals have faced continual exploitation, poverty and leperization, causing sometimes fierce rebellions, the most famous of which was the Santal Rebellion in 1855-56,[10] referred to by historians as the Santal hul. Santal tribals fought with bows and arrows, axes and spears against the British armed with horses and rifles. Within a brief period more than 10,000 Santals were killed. While in public the British minimized the revolt as just one more rebellion, the immediate consequence was the awarding of a large agricultural area exclusively for Santal tribals. Until today many Santals continue to live in mud-walled, thatch-roofed houses in nucleated villages of 100-200 people, guided by a headman and assistant headman. Their status continues to be that of “below caste, equal, in fact, to the non-tribal outcastes.” However, according to Dr. George Somers, who lived with the Santals for thirteen years, they refuse to participate in the Hindu caste system.[11]

In West Bengal Santals occupy the jungle areas around Midnapore, and are poorly tolerated by the peasants in the plain regions of Midnapore district. However, according to Walter Hamilton, the Santals are “a mild, sober, industrious people, and remarkable for sincerity and good faith.”[12] They lead lives of severe impoverization and starvation. While they are known to raise crops successfully, their worst enemy even today is the moneylender who takes advantage of their simple natures and charges them 100-150 percent interest on loans taken for seed. As their forests were gradually taken from them, many Santals moved north and cultivated land. In addition they worked in the coal and iron mines of western and eastern India and the tea gardens of north Bengal.

In the late 1970s the Santals were mainly concentrated around Manbhum in southwest Bankura and in northwest Midnapore. While they live on the outskirts of villages due to their lack of social status, it is the Santals who cleared the forests over the years to create lands for the establishment of those villages. The highly egalitarian lifestyle of the Santals of one century ago became corrupted by the concepts of land ownership, private property and rental income, all introduced by the British. The method of extracting land from the Santals has always been exploitative. Invariably the tribals sold their land at pittance prices simply in order to pay their debts to the money lenders. The money lenders or Mahajan could fix the price of the land however they liked because the Santals had no idea about the market value.

In April 2002 the Times of India reported the arrest of activist Kunal Deb in the Bolpur region of Birbhum District. He was accused of what he said were false pretenses in order to silence his fight for the fundamental rights of the Santals. According to Deb, a nexus of stone quarry owners and police filed charges against him in the town of Mallapur, which is located abut 50 kilometers north of Santiniketan in the deprived Rampurhat-I block of Birbhum District. The only work available near Mallapur is in the stone quarries. Quarry workers come from the extremely impoverished Santal tribes who are made to work ten and twelve hour days and paid a pittance. They are not provided with masks to protect them from stone dust, they are not provided health care in the form of hospitals, first aid centers or even crèche, nor are any schools provided. While blasting and crushing the stones, the tribals are injured and receive no compensation. In addition cattle have died due to being hit by flying stones. Adults and children fall sick with respiratory disease. The quarry owners, who are the wealthiest people in the region, ignore numerous environmental regulations and exploit the tribals mercilessly, even sexually exploiting the young tribal daughters whose fathers have no other source of income. As a result venereal disease and abortions are routine among the tribals. It is this kind of exploitation in history that has led to violent rebellion against the oppressors. To date, the Santals of Mallapur have seen no justice.

Totos

The Totos are a Mongoloid tribe residing in the Dooars area of Jalpaiguri district in West Bengal. Compared to other larger tribes they are extremely isolated in the hills of the Sub-Himalayan region, enveloped by mixed hardwood forest and surrounded by rivers.[13] Yet even the Totos have changed due to influences in the nearby environment. As of 1993 the Totos were designated as one of six underdeveloped Mongoloid tribal communities in West Bengal, along with the Mech, Garo, Lepchas and Bhutia tribes. They reside in Totopara of Madarihat police station. They have lived in the same region since the middle of the 18th century when they drove out the Rabhas, a weaker tribal group that moved towards Assam. They originally moved to Totopara to escape from western Dooars, where they had contracted diseases such as malaria, and also to escape from the more powerful Bhutia tribals. Due to ongoing wars with other tribals in the vicinity, only a small pocket of Totos remain in the present location, which lies south of the Tading Hills in Bhutan. The hill in fact marks the boundary between West Bengal and Bhutan.

Their spoken dialect comes under the Tibeto-Burma family of the Sub-Himalayan group of languages. The Limbu, Dhimal and Nepali languages have to some extent permeated the Toto language, and more recently due to increased communication with the external world, the Toto tribals, aside from their own dialect, speak Nepali, Hindi and a corrupted form of Bengali.[14]

The nearest precinct is Madarihat, from where one can take a private bus to Totopara, although the bus plies on an irregular basis. The distance between the two precincts is 28 kilometers, and the road winds through river beds, forest and tea gardens. Sometimes the bus proceeds through knee-deep water in the rivers. Totopara lies at the foothills of the Himalayas with the tropical Titi rain forest running along its western and southern boundaries and the Torsa River to the east.[15] As with other tribes, they originally had communal land, but with the advent of the British individual ownership was introduced and the once reserved land of the Totos became unreserved.

Winters in Totopara are humid and cold and summers are humid and wet with an annual rainfall of 130 inches. The highest recorded temperature is 34.5 C and the lowest is 11.5 C.[16] Due to sandy soil with gravel, crop production is difficult as water retention is difficult. Many valuable timbers such as papal, khayer, simal, sal, siris, dumri, lampute and chilauni grow in the forests, along with jackfruit, mango, orange and bamboo. Grasses grow near the Torsa River that runs near the community. The people live on fish from the river as well as snails and supplement their diet with roots, tubers, leaves and mushrooms from the forest. Additionally they grow spices like black pepper, ginger, turmeric and areca nut trees. They domesticate many animals, such as cows, goats, pigs and dogs in addition to fowl. Wild animals such as elephants, tiger and deer visit them regularly. Other tribes living in close proximity to Totopara are the Nepali speaking Tamang, Mangar, Rai, Chetri, Gurung, Kami, Sanyasi, Brahmin, Damal, Limbu, Ghale, Newar and Sarkar tribes. The life of the Totos is heavily influenced by Nepalese culture and habits. The Nepalese taught the Totos the practice of terraced paddy cultivation.

Their traditional houses are made of bamboo split walls with bamboo platforms in front of the house called dui. The houses are built on wooden or bamboo posts about six feet above the ground. All materials for house construction come from the surrounding forest, including bamboo, catechu, and rope from the bark of the odla tree.[17] The roofs are made with layers of thatched grass. To reach the platform a tree trunk or thick wooden plank is placed diagonally from the ground to the edge of the dui, hence serving as a staircase. The home comprises of one room divided into three sections: one for sleeping, one for guests’ sleeping, and the third section for ancestral deities. Guests are not allowed to enter the third section. The family animals such as pigs, fowl and other animals live in the space under the house.

According to Amitabha Sarkar, the Toto tribals were a perfect example of a bridge community, as they were engaged in carrying edible goods such as salt and rice from the plains to Bhutan and then returned carrying oranges and other jungle products from Bhutan to sell to the people of the plains.[18] Thus they played an important role by maintaining a trade line between the two regions. About one century ago the main crop of the Totos was oranges. In 1925-26 almost the entire orange orchards of Totopara were destroyed, most likely due to deforestation, which caused the micro ecosystem to change, including soil erosion and increased temperature. It is further speculated that the orange trees were unable to tolerate the sun’s direct rays. In more recent times the Totos cleared more of the forest to give space for crop cultivation. Using only organic cow dung and their own indigenous seeds, they presently cultivate maize, millet, pulses, paddy, potato, sweet potato tapioca, ginger, green vegetables, drumstick and areca-nut. Of these their cash crops are areca-nut, ginger and drumstick. Generally for four-five months annually the tribals are unable to survive as their stored food runs out. At that time they work nearby as daily laborers. If work is not available, they come near to starvation.

Due to their location in the Sub-Himalayan forests, the Totos have accumulated an intimate knowledge of their environment, including of medicinal plants. They do not use allopathic medicines. Instead, for example, for skin disease they apply the paste of the leaves and fruits of Lutodabai (cassia alata Linn), for ulcer and headache they apply the juice of the leaves of Daising (Cordia dichotoma). For stomach pain they take the juice of the bark from the Lungdi (Glochidion assamicum); For cold and digestive problems they take the juice of the Makaibi (Drymaria Cordata) or they roast and inhale the fumes of these leaves which cures the cold. To stop bleeding they apply the paste of the Duba (Cynodon dactylon) and for diarrhoea they take the juice of the root of the Sadhimodi (Emilia Sonchifolia). For eye problems they apply the juice of the Sadhimodi leaf (Emiila Sonchifolia), and for gum bleeding they apply the juice of the Dirisai leaves (Kirganelia reticulata). For simple fever they take the juice of the Pagra root (Laportea erenulata). For small pox they apply the powdered leaves of the Harsoo (Pothos scaridens) and make the stem of the same plant into a paste to use as a poultice on any fracture.[19] Either they find the medical plants themselves or they take the help of the medicine man in the tribe. About nine percent of the Totos are literate. That much literacy has been achieved with the establishment of a primary school in the village in the 1950s.[20]

The greatest curse for the Totas as for other tribes are the moneylenders or mahajans. The Totos are very simple, innocent people. The do not understand the value of money. Hence it becomes extremely easy for the mahajans to exploit them. Thus many Totas take loan from the mahajan to meet their daily necessities and then repay the loan later with areca-nut, bamboo, maize, millet and other produce, and receive hardly anything for these goods. Hence although it is a type of barter system, it is extremely exploitative.

Bagdis

Due to the large export of tiger prawns from West Bengal, the Bagdi (Meendhara) community of the Sunderbans delta are receiving increasing attention.[21] The Sunderbans has naturally available prawn seeds in large quantities throughout the year. The Meendharas harvest those seeds and sell them to middlemen or directly to breeders who then grow them and export them for huge profits to other countries, with Japan and the US being the biggest buyers.

In a study of the fisherfolk of Kamdebnagar village under Patharpratima Police Station in South 24 Parganas district of West Bengal, anthropologists R. Ray, I. Chakraborty and N. Bhattacharyya of Kolkata University gained detailed knowledge of the Bagdi community as well as of their exploitation by middlemen and prawn breeders, which keeps them barely at subsistence level. Meen or prawn seed collection is the mainstay of the Kamdebnagar residents. The soil of the Sunderbans delta region is not overly suitable for agriculture due to the brackish water flowing in from the Bay of Bengal; hence, the villagers found prawn seed collection not only a viable alternative but also more lucrative than agriculture, although in the off season the men continue to grow rice.

Since the 1980s the Indian government began to export prawn in large quantity to foreign markets. Kamdebnagar village lies in the extreme southeastern corner of West Bengal and is surrounded by Kolkata on the north, North 24 Parganas on the east, the Bay of Bengal on the south and the river Haora on the west. A portion of Midnapore district also meets South 24 Parganas on the western boundary.

South_24_Parganas
South 24 Parganas District, West Bengal
Source: Wikipedia

Although creeks and rivers criss-cross the district, South 24 Parganas remains very short of sweet water, accentuated by regular tidal waves that inundate coastal areas and destroy both crops and soil. In some villages, including at Kamdebnagar, cross-bund type embankments are constructed to thwart the tidal waters. Immigrants came and cleared the forests in the Sunderbans Delta region and rendered it suitable for rice cultivation, with the bulk of immigrants coming from the drought and famine prone regions of the Eastern Plateau, from Jhargram, western Medinipur, Bankura, Singhbhum and Santal Parganas. Most immigrants were tribals such as Santals, Mundas, Oraons, Kurmis and Koras; however, a few families were low-caste Hindus, such as from the Mahishva, Bagdi and Kayastha communities. Population growth in the Sunderbans Delta was slow due to snake bites, animal attacks, malaria and other diseases.

Risley in 1908 wrote that as per the extant caste hierarchy only degraded or low-caste Brahmins would serve Bagdis and barbers would not cut their hair or shave them (leading them to evolve their own barbers),[22] According to Risley (1891), the Bagdis were a tribe that had now been converted to a caste. Sixty-three castes in West Bengal have been listed as scheduled castes. The Bagdis are one of those listed castes and reside almost exclusively in West Bengal. In addition there are more than sixty sub-castes within the Bagdi caste. They comprise one-fifth of the state population[23] and can be found in every district of the state. The vast majority reside in rural areas.

The present Bagdi population in Kamdebnagar village is 223.[24] The people live in thatched huts clustered around an open space in the center of the village, with each hut comprising two rooms, one for sleeping and the other for storage. Each hut has one window and a wooden door. The kitchen is on the verandah.

In the particular village of Kamdebnagar, there is no caste sentiment; rather, all multiethnic groups are united in their struggle for economic and physical survival.[25] The Bagdis are the Meendharas, the fisherfolk. The word fisherfolk is used because the women and children do more fishing than the men. Women and children are constantly in the water (year round) collecting meen or prawn seeds (baby prawn). Men also fish but in the off season they cultivate paddy or work as day laborers in nearby villages to supplement the meager income from prawn seed sales. Meen fishing and the making of fishing nets along with rice cultivation are the traditional occupation of the Bagdis. Today many of the men became landless laborers in order to survive during the off-season when income from prawn seed is too meager for survival. Of their present population, no female is alive over the age of 60.[26]

The Bagdis are of short stature, reflecting their aboriginal Dravidian descent, and do not eat beef or pork. Higher castes generally do not accept water from them. Bagdis practice monogamy and worship Manasa, the snake god. According to P.R. Sarkar, the snake god Manasa was created from people’s imagination purely due to fear of snakes.[27] West Bengal has the highest number of snakes of any state in India. Bagdis keep cattle, goats, sheep, fowl and ducks, and consume eggs from the poultry and milk from the cattle. Cattle are also essential for crop cultivation. The Meendharas own small plots of land which are not large enough to enable sustainability. Their homes are built on higher ground above the paddy fields so as to provide more protection from tidal waves. Land boundaries are not clear, and all villagers use the central open space as a common area. In addition to rice they cultivate chilies, ladies finger (okra), eggplant, pumpkin and other vegetables.[28] The Bagdis raise just one crop during the summer months and harvest in the fall. In winter the land is inundated with brackish water and utilized for prawn raising; thus, directly after harvest the Meendharas are busy catching prawn seeds. When the prawns are fully grown they are lifted out of the water with nets and the field is once again drained of water and made ready for agriculture.

The fishing implements are hand-operated nets, boat nets, aluminum pan for keeping the prawn seeds alive in saline water, rope for dragging the fishnets, an iron dish used to segregate the prawn seeds from other fin and shell fish, and shells, which are also used to pick out the meen, i.e., prawn seeds. (Since when segregating the prawn seeds, the other fish are simply thrown on the embankment to die rather back into the water, the ecological diversity of the Sunderbans is continuously damaged ecologically.) These fishing tools are essential for every Bagdi family, as it their only means of survival. The Bagdi men sometimes sell the meen in the nearby markets. More often middlemen come and purchase the prawn seed from them in the village and in turn sell them to breeders. When the prawns reach full size, the breeders process them and export them to other countries.

The amount of prawn seed collected varies depending on the lunar calendar followed in Bengal. The high tide brings in more fish and the low tide brings less fish. Hence the quantity of fish increases depending on the rate of increase of the water towards the new moon and full moon.[29] Aside from the tidal effect, the summer southerly wind brings more seed, and hence the largest meen collection occurs in the summer months. Winter months bring the lowest number of meen to the delta. The Bagdis only collect the prawn seed. They do not grow prawns or engage in pisciculture. They are engaged only in aquaculture. They catch prawn seed and sell them to middlemen or directly to the breeders. In either case, the payment received for their labor is pitiable.

In the summer season the Bagdis receive Rs. 200 per thousand prawn seeds. In the rainy season they receive Rs. 250 per thousand. In the autumn they receive Rs. 16-40 per thousand, and in the winter season they receive Rs. 400 per thousand. It is during the lean season when the prices go down to Rs. 16-40 per thousand that the men go in search of daily labor. Breeders pay the middlemen twice as much as what the middlemen pay the Bagdis. They pay from Rs. 800 to 3,000 per thousand. Adult prawns are then sold headless in foreign markets. Five headless prawns weighing one pound are sold for US $23.00. Using the current exchange rate of Rs. 39 for one dollar, this comes to Rs. 897 for just five prawns. For one thousand large prawns the cost abroad will come to $4,600.00, which converts to Rs. 179,400. The Bagdis sold one thousand prawn seed for as low as Rs.16 per thousand, and that seed was sold in turn to foreign markets for Rs. 179,400. Like the Totos, the Santals and the Rabi Das, they cannot do any other work. In addition, they face daily the occupational hazards of being attacked by crocodiles and sharks and being bitten by snakes. Due to being year round submerged in water, they succumb to malaria and other diseases. The simple Bagdis through their daily labor of catching prawn seed are reaping huge profits for the Indian government and for private capitalists, while their personal poverty is heart-rending.

It is the decreasing catch of fish that drives the Bagdis to purchase land and turn to agriculture to supplement their income. In a study of another fisherman community in the coastal villages of Hara and Sultanpur, also in South 24 Parganas District, sociologist Dr. Sankar Kumar Pramanik determined that 76 percent of their meager income went for food, four percent for clothes, less than one percent for education, three percent for medical expenses and 12 percent on miscellaneous expenses, including fishing gear and loan installments. Generally each male in the village purchased two dhuties (cloth wrapped around the waist and covering the body from the waist down) annually and women purchased two sarees annually.[30] Some families could not even afford this much. They also cannot afford to eat the fish they catch. Everything is sold to the middlemen or at the market.

The lives of the fisherfolk in West Bengal are grim primarily due to the grinding poverty that causes them first to borrow money for food, for survival, and then due to the utter mercilessness of the moneylenders forces them to sell their everything – their land, their crops, their boats, fishing equipment, nets – to make the loan payments. It is a structural violence, a systematic pauperization caused by capitalist exploitation, as the fisherfolk live in abject impoverishment while middlemen and prawn breeders live comfortable upper middle class to wealthy lives. Each day they go into the water to collect more prawn seeds simply to avoid sheer starvation. Heavy pollution along the coast of Bengal has greatly decreased the number of hilsa and other fish as well as prawn. The appalling poverty has other repercussions. It leads to mental torture that causes disintegration of the joint family,[31] while barely retaining the nuclear family structure. According to Pramanik, more than 80 percent of fishermen in 1993 earned from Rs. 300-600 per month.[32]

Rabi Das tribe

The Rabi Das are another marginalized urban community. Originally they were leather workers and used to do tanning, shoemaking and shoe repair. They came originally from Bihar about one hundred and fifty years ago and settled in and around Krishnagar, which is about 100 miles north of Kolkata. Each home had a workshop for shoe production.[33] As they were a low-caste community (still earlier termed a tribe), they originally lived outside Krishnagar town proper, because the higher castes considered tanning and leather work a filthy job, and hence the people who did this work were “untouchable.” This attitude strongly prevailed up until 1947.[34] The history of the Rabi Das comprises three periods: (1) their settlement and occupation as tanners and shoemakers, which ended when (2) the Gandhian social reformers brought tanning to a halt and sought to educate the Rabi Das, and finally (3) the present decline in demand for leather work, which has led to great unrest in their community.[35]

Today, however, the homes of impoverished high-caste Brahmins completely surround the homes of the Rabi Das. Additionally, in the late 1940s Gandhian social reformers worked closely with the Rabi Das and convinced many of them to give up tanning while encouraging them to continue their trade of shoemaking. They also taught them proper speech, etiquette and social habits like daily bathing and wearing clean clothes. As a result, the younger generation particularly has been able to blend in far more than their elders, as there is nothing distinctive physically to set them apart from the surrounding local Bengalis. Even if the younger men belonging to the Rabi Das have no employment, which is often the case, they will still bathe and dress in nice clothes and congregate with other young men, instead of taking up any manual work or daily labor, which they now consider beneath them. The younger generation that managed to gain some formal occupation now have taken up other typical artisanal occupations such as rickshaw driving, umbrella repair and domestic service.[36]

This is a community of traditional leather workers that has been monetarily marginalized by economic globalization. While economic globalization and liberalization have greatly expanded the leather industry, the older generation engaged in tanning and shoemaking has been completely marginalized in the process.

The Rabi Das live in a para (neighborhood) along Hemanta Sarkar Lane at the junction of the local market and the Jalangi River which runs through the town of Krishnagar. As of 1990 there were 37 families and 225 members of the community.[37] Most of their homes are made of brick, are whitewashed and in need of repair. A few families live in homes of thatch and bamboo. Generally several homes of relatives adjoin one central courtyard.

While boys as they grow up are not made to work hard around the house, girls are given duties as young as nine or ten years of age. They include washing the dishes after meals, sweeping the verandah and courtyard, making the beds, cleaning the stove as well as the courtyard with dung, making tea and preparing breakfast, washing clothes, chopping vegetables and cooking meals, going to the market, and collecting cow dung and firewood. In addition, if cash is required, young girls work as domestic help in middle class homes for wages.[38]

While men of the elder generation maintained a tight control over their women, the younger generation merges far more with the values of their Bengali counterparts. However, they continue to differentiate themselves from Bengalis by exerting rather strict control over their women with the view that the seclusion of women defines their dignity and respect. It is in rather sharp contrast to Bengali women, many of whom are in the workforce. As a result, the young Rabi Das women feel often rebellious at such control and even reluctant to marry, knowing in advance the kinds of social and economic restrictions that will be placed on them. They are furthermore heavily influenced by both Hindi films and western films, where women are shown as rejecting the role of passivity and instead have the freedom to yearn for and indulge in romantic relationships.[39] Despite these external environmental influences, most young girls ultimately resign themselves and are married to men of the Rabi Das community, to continue the same lifestyle as that of their mothers.

While as mentioned the Rabi Das girls work very hard, boys are protected from hard work throughout their growing up. Instead they play and later study in the name of obtaining a good or higher occupation in future that can support the family. According to the research of Ganguly-Scrase, however, the young men do not study hard or have high educational goals; instead they long for a life of affluence that is shown to them day in and day out by the media, particularly by television.[40]

As elders understand that their sons cannot earn a living by leather work, they do not push their sons to go into their trade. Instead their sons are sent for government training in leatherwork which equips them to work in large leather factories such as those established by Bata Company all over India. It is ironic that if a young Rabi Das man is a “leather engineer,” he is treated with respect by Bengalis. But his father, whose skills in tanning and shoemaking are far superior, is treated with contempt by Bengalis today. For the young men it is a dilemma. Neither can they carry on with their father’s trade because there is no income, nor can they manage financially on the meager wages given in low-level white collar jobs. They aspire to be bhadraloks (respectable people) like their Bengali compatriots but economically remain chotoloks (lowly people associated with lowly occupations).[41]

In earlier days there was tremendous discipline along with deep love from father to son, as father taught his son the art of tanning and leather making:

No words, no beatings … the look in his eyes was enough to make you cry. When he was angry his look was fatal… he loved us intensely. He was equally authoritarian, although the love exceeded his discipline over us … That sort of love cannot be found anymore. Perhaps we do not love our children as much as our father loved us.[42]

While they are spared from lower jobs in order to maintain their social status, the women are not spared, and are sent out as domestic help in order to bring needed cash to the family. As young men no longer listen to their elders or show them respect, the frustration of the elders falls full-force on the women by keeping them subordinated and silent. Meanwhile, unemployed young men spend their time together in gossiping on street corners, gambling, or organizing social events that take place after religious rituals. Elders try their best to restrict the movements of young daughters; however, as a middle-class Bengali woman said:

Even those people who come to work for you are wearing fancy clothes and lipstick. They work in domestic service in the day time, but at night they get dressed up and hang about with boys. You do not recognize them at night.[43]

As young brides living in the home of their new husband, however, their status in the new joint family is the lowest, as is typical of the patrilineal and patriarchal household of the Rabi Das. Young brides are expected to engage in domestic work alone and not to have any other interests. According to Ganguly-Scrase, as a direct result of structural adjustment programs and neo-liberal policies, the poverty is increasing in the Rabi Das community.[44] The huge influx of cheap plastic and polythene sandals signaled the start of Rabi Das displacement in the 1970s as plastics began to replace leather shoes.[45] Even repair work was eliminated since plastic shoes were simply discarded after use. According to this author, the growing impoverization crosses all castes and geographical regions of India and is not at all restricted to the Rabi Das tribe or even West Bengal. We have already seen how the Santals are severely exploited by capitalists in the rock quarries of Burdwan and how capitalists have stolen the precious lands of the simple Totos in the sub-Himalayan region, leaving them in dire economic straits.

Lynching in West Bengal

Lynching refers to execution of a person or persons, either by hanging, burning or beating to death, without due process of law, in response to a perceived outrage and performed with the idea of vindication or revenge. Samit Kar, Reader at Presidency College, Kolkata, has compiled painful statistics on the ghastly occurrence of lynching in the state. According to Kar, the rate of lynching is rising sharply as a rural phenomenon, as villagers, frustrated at the inaction of law authorities, take matters into their own hands and mete out their own collective mob punishment on so-called criminals.[46] In addition, he attributes the unique three-tier Panchayati raj system as contributing to the more aggressive mentality of village subalterns in comparison to subalterns of other states. He further attributes the rise in lynching to the global growth of attributes such as intolerance, hatred and restlessness, caused partly by the capitalist economic model and economic globalization that has permeated even the rural regions of India. Still other factors include crime, drug abuse, high unemployment, stress, financial debt, no health care, lack of drinking water, poor education and ethnic tensions, which permeate both global and rural villages.[47] Uncontrolled consumerism combined with deprivation of fundamental human rights leads to individual and collective aggressive behavior as people seek a way to vent their unbounded frustrations.

Villagers blame lynching on the police who fail to arrest spiraling crime rates. According to the Police Crime Records Bureau, West Bengal, 2002, the state-wise crime figures are as follows for the years 1997 to 2000: In Bankura district the total criminal cases, including dacoity, robbery, burglary, theft, murder, rioting came to 1246. Lynching deaths were 10. In Birbhum district, there were a total of 2132 criminal cases and 7 lynching deaths. In Burdwan district, there were a total of 5171 criminal cases and 25 lynching deaths. In Coochbehar district the total criminal cases were 1385 and lynching deaths were 23. In South Dinajpur the total criminal cases were 1210 and lynching deaths were 67. In Darjeeling the total criminal cases were 1555 and the number of lynching deaths were13. In Hooghly district the total criminal cases were 3633 and the number of lynching deaths were 52. In Howrah district the total criminal cases were 2559 and lynching deaths numbered 68. In Jalpaiguri total criminal cases were 2411 and lynching deaths were 41. In Malda district total criminal cases were 1916 and lynching deaths were 5, with no data for the year 2000. In Midnapur district the total criminal cases numbered 5231 with lynching deaths 29. In Murshidabad district total criminal cases were 2906 and lynching deaths 39. In Nadia district total criminal cases were 3462 with lynching deaths totaling 61. In North 24 Parganas total criminal cases were 6454 and lynching deaths came to 109. In South 24 Parganas total recorded crimes were 6395 and lynching deaths 99. In Purulia district the total number of crimes recorded was 1495 and lynching deaths totaled 8. In North Dinajpur total criminal cases were 1843 and number of lynching deaths 38.

Reasons for the rise in lynching as given by the villagers themselves include increasing awareness of their own empowerment through the three-tier Panchayat system; a marked rise in criminal activities, ineffective police action against criminals and an indifferent judicial system. A further exacerbation according to the villagers is the unholy nexus between the police and the criminals, with criminals obliging the police with a share of the stolen goods in return for the police keeping mum.[48] Thus, villagers claim, the lynchings are a matter of self-defense.

Relative to other states of India, West Bengal after Independence made significant advances in the area of land reform, literacy, forestry, cottage industries and other areas. The rural people took an active role in the development of their own communities, and hence implemented a system of grassroots decentralized planning.

In addition to earlier mentioned causative factors for lynching, two more factors put forward by Kar include (1) the absence of a towering personality at the village level who serves as a moral role model for the people, and (2) the fact that mobs are anonymous entities, hence individuals in a mob can indeed get away with murder. Kar puts forward several solutions, including (1) the formation of Resistance Groups who essentially will inform the police who lynched whom; (2) Police Villager Workshops, wherein greater understanding should develop. However, in the absence of a commitment to higher morality amongst the police officers, what purpose would such workshops serve?

While Sumit Kar makes the claim that caste or class has no relation to the lynchings in West Bengal,[49] the award-winning novelist and famed tribal rights activist Mahasweta Devi tells a different story. In her article “Year of Birth – 1871,” she talks about the utter indifference of Indians to the word “tribe.” Yet tribals, she says, have no rights. They are denied the right to earn a living, to proper housing, drinking water, electricity, health care, food, clothing, education and the very crucial right to land. All are denied to tribals. Politicians shout big slogans and obtain huge amounts of money to “uplift” the tribals, but their plight remains unchanged. Mahasweta Devi, now 82 years old, spent the past thirty years working with the tribals of West Bengal as well as other states. She calls theirs a “faceless existence.”[50] Although they have existed in India for thousands of years and have a mighty civilization, including song, dance, and art, they are faceless. Although thousands of tribals organized countless rebellions against the British in the 18th and 19th centuries, persons like Gandhi, Puley and Ambedkar barely mention their contribution towards Indian independence.

According to Mahasweta Devi, the tribals of West Bengal and other parts of India are far more civilized than other sections of Indian society, because they have no dowry system or divorce and widow remarriage is wholly accepted by the society.[51] Despite their higher civilization, they routinely face disease and death from starvation. Capitalists over the decades have robbed them of their precious forests and they have no way to survive outside the forests. The only role tribals play in the 21st century is to watch how their land is taken for dams and other megaprojects while they themselves are displaced and redisplaced as per the whims of state and federal governments. While India is caste-divided into upper and lower castes, the tribals are below the lowest Hindu castes. The sole intention of the federal government is to detribe the tribals.

One of the greatest crimes committed by the British during their occupation of India was to legally brand certain nomadic tribes as “criminals,” by passing the notorious “Criminal Tribes Act of 1871.” These included simple cattle-grazers, wandering singers and actors. All those tribals who dared to resist the British occupation of their lands were branded as “criminals” and belonging to “criminal tribes.” Between 1871 and 1944, more tribes continued to be added to the existing list of “criminal tribes.” After Independence in 1952, the Indian government officially “denotified” the criminal tribes; however, they made no provisions for their rehabilitation into mainstream society. They made no arrangements for these branded “criminals” to be given jobs so as to earn an honest living. From 1961 onwards the Indian federal government has published state-wise lists of “Denotified and Nomadic Tribes.” The police in every part of India are taught the names of the “Denotified tribes.” To add insult to injury, the police forced these tribals to steal and then share the stolen goods with them.[52] Sometimes the police took everything and then had the person killed.[53]

According to Mahasweta Devi, the denotified tribes are jailed, mob-lynched and tortured to death by the police not just in West Bengal but all over India. She provides three examples from West Bengal, the home of three denotified tribes, namely: Lodha, Kheria Sabar and Dhikaru. Between 1979 and 1982, 42 Lodha tribals were mob-lynched, not for crimes but for being born as “Lodhas.” Between 1960 and 1998, more than 50 Kheria Sabars were mob-lynched or murdered by the police. In June 1997 Lalit Sabar of the Kheria Sabar denotified tribe was tied to a tree and his arm chopped off. In February 1998 in West Bengal Budhan Sabar was tortured and then subsequently died in police custody. Mahasweta Devi filed a case in the Kolkata High Court over his murder. In October 1998 Mathur Sabar of the Kheria Sabar denotified tribe was speared to death by villagers. These are only a few cases in West Bengal. Numerous other cases exist in other Indian states such as Gujarat, Maharastra and Rajasthan. The denotified tribes throughout India are victims of mob-lynching and death at the hands of the police. As Mahasweta Devi says, “… this monstrosity of keeping a section of Indian people branded as born criminals is an unforgivable sin.” Due only to their birth, they are condemned for life to live outside the society and denied all fundamental human rights. It is time, she says, to remove the year 1871 as their year of birth.

In 1998 Mahasweta Devi, along with Laxman Gaikwad (Sahitya Akademi award winner for his autobiography, Uchalya), Tridip Suhrud (Gandhi scholar) and rural researcher Ajoy Dandekar, sat together and created Budhan, the Denotified and Nomadic Tribes Rights Action Group Newsletter. In the first issue of Budhan they published a complete list of denotified tribes, which included the Nats of Bihar. The National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights carries an article on their website informing about the ten Nats who were lynched to death by higher caste people of Dhelpruva Village of Vaishali District in Bihar.[54] The lynching had no connection to any crimes committed. It was a mass lynching by an upper caste mob. Mahasweta Devi writes of scores of incidents where Lodha and Kheria tribals were compelled to steal by the police and other receivers of stolen goods, for which they were given pittance for survival.[55] Essentially, having the status of “denotified tribe” makes it easy for anyone – Dalit, caste Hindu and Muslim – to kill them. According to this author, here is the real source of lynching in West Bengal and elsewhere. It can only be rectified by coming to grips with the caste system and implementing harsh laws to punish hate crimes based on caste sentiment.

Nandigram

Haldia is a town in Medinipur about 150 kilometres from Kolkata. It is situated near the mouth of the Hooghly River, and is a major port for shipping of bulk goods. Companies already based in Haldia are Indian Oil Corporation, Exide, Shaw Wallace, Tata Chemicals, Haldia Petrochemical and Hindustan Lever.[56] At present its population is about 171,000, but it is growing fast. For this reason, the neighboring district of Nandigram was considered to be ideal for setting up an SEZ (Special Economic Zone).

In February 2006 the federal government operationalized the SEZ Act of 2005 and so informed the SEZ Rules in February, 2006.[57] SEZs are specially demarcated zones in which entities are to operate under specialized rules that pertain only to those entities and not to the people on the lands outside the SEZ or in the entire rest of the country. Entities/companies occupying SEZs are national or transnational companies which are supposed to attract foreign direct investment (FDI). As per the new laws, any private, public, or state government can set up SEZs. Overseas multinational corporations can also set up SEZs in India. Considering the potential consumer population, this scenario is an economic paradise for transnational corporations. Companies are given 100 percent tax exemption for the first five years and 50 percent for the following two years. Developers may import goods without paying duty and will enjoy tax exemption for from ten to fifteen years. In addition they will have the authority to provide essential services such as water, electricity, security, restaurants and recreation centers.[58] These terms are just tailor made for US corporations. The SEZ laws state hardly a word regarding the displacement of and reparations to farmers and fishermen who lived on SEZ land.

The West Bengal government chose Nandigram to be an SEZ on behalf of the Salim Group of Indonesia. It is to cover 250 square kilometers.[59] Whereas China has only six large-scale SEZs, in India an unlimited number of smaller SEZs have been proposed, which will threaten economic development in non-SEZ regions. The resulting land wars are likely to lead to civil war. State governments are using the police to invade the lands of farmers and kill them, including the tribals. The farmers and tribals are simply defending their lands which are guaranteed to them in the Indian Constitution.[60]

On December 1st, 2006, the state government seized at gunpoint some 997 acres of SEZ designated land in Singur under the colonial Land Acquisition Act of 1894. That land is now controlled by Tatas Corporation. It has been cordoned off and a four meter high wall has been constructed all along the border, which is manned by police and security guards. Who knows what has happened to all the villagers displaced by this land seizure. Along with other corporations, West Bengal has also invited Dow Chemicals (formerly known as Union Carbide, responsible for scores of thousands of deaths in Bhopal) to invest in West Bengal.

A point of interest is the caste composition of successive Left Front governments in West Bengal. While in other Indian states the proportion of upper caste MLAs (ministers) has declined, in West Bengal it has steadily increased. About two thirds of the state ministers come from one of the three highest castes – Brahman, Boddhis and Kayasthas. In 1987 CPI(M) goons/hoodlums attacked peaceful Dalit protestors, who were afterwards persecuted by the police.

On January 2, 2007 the Nandigram Block Development Office (BDO) posted an announcement on their door announcing the forthcoming seizure of land in the locality for the purpose of creating an SEZ – a Special Economic Zone.[61] The news spread like wildfire among the people, and on January 3rd a group of villagers marched to the local Panchayat office in protest. The Panchayat members called the police, and the police responded by lathi-charging the protestors. The villagers then torched two police vehicles and attacked the Panchayat office. That day eleven people were killed, with the police and government/communist cadres on the one side and the poor villagers on the other. By the end of the day, the CPI(M) party members were driven out of the area by the outraged villagers.

The CPI(M) – communist government of West Bengal could not tolerate this peasant uprising, and on March 9th and 12th announced there would be police action in Nandigram. Witnesses said the number of police who arrived in Nandigam on March 14th ranged anywhere from 700 to 3,000.[62] The police carried not only the standard lathi but also .303 rifles and semi-automatic assault rifles. They were armed to the hilt. In other words, the decision to use maximum force against the practically unarmed villagers was a premeditated one. They did not carry with them forms of non-lethal crowd dispersal equipment. We cannot say that this was a protest or riot. It was a war. In addition, the CPI(M) cadres formed the vanguard of the army along with the police, and they had their own guns and swords as weapons. Some were even dressed as policemen. The villagers placed women and children at the front of their march, thinking that the police and communists would not attack them. They were wrong. The invading army unleashed a brutal carnage on both the women and children. The police hardly spent any time telling the crowd of villagers to disperse. Instead, they proceeded to shoot and slash the villagers to such an extent that two days later when observers visited they found the streets covered in blood. Upwards of 150 people were killed that day, with CPI(M) cadres loading bodies into trucks and driving off. Women were mercilessly raped and tortured. Afterwards many more people were reported missing. The goal of the police and CPI(M) cadres was to terrorize the villagers.

Most of the villagers came from the Scheduled Castes, the Dalits. Many other villagers were Muslims, another minority group. These groups are always the easiest targets for governments and capitalists. As they are already near complete powerlessness, it becomes very easy to seize their lands. If suppose the residents of Nandigram had belonged to the Brahman or other higher castes, we can be certain that the area would have never been selected as an SEZ. Invariably those lands are selected where the poorest of the poor, the tribals, the scheduled castes and denotified tribes, reside. It remains easy for state and federal governments to displace them. However, in Nandigram the brutality of the government has only served to radicalize the dispossessed villagers.

Interestingly, Naom Chomsky, Howard Zinn and others sent a letter to the opposers of the CPI(M)’s capitalist policies not to “split the Left” in the face of American imperialism, to which they received a prompt reply from Mahasweta Devi, Arundhati Roy, Sumit Sarkar, Uma Chakravarty, Tanika Sarkar and other prominent Leftists telling them that they have no idea what is going on in Nandigram, and they are shocked to learn that they (Chomsky, Zinn, et al) support the brutal actions of the West Bengal communist government.[63] The West Bengal government today is communist in name and brutality only. Politically and economically they are full-fledged capitalists and pushing hard for speedy neoliberal reforms. Former Navy Chief Admiral (retired) L. Ramdas said, “This is nothing but high-powered land grab. It’s ironic because over five hundred Princely States were merged with the Union of India in 1947 but today we are rapidly re-creating fiefdoms called ‘Selective Exclusive Zamindaris.’ What else can we call the SEZs?”[64]

In early November CPI(M) squads began to move into party strongholds including the Takhali Bhangabera Bridges which both led to the land occupied by the Bhumi Uchched Pratirodh Committee (BUPC), which is backed by the Trinamool and other opposition political parties. On November 4th and 5th more CPI(M) squads came from Haldia by sea and prepared for what they called “Operation Recapture.” Their first assault occurred on November 5th. As they were so heavily armed and in such huge number, they quickly retook Satengabari and other neighboring areas. From November 7-9 they captured Maheshpur and Amgachia, two BUPC strongholds. Along with recapturing these areas there was widespread looting and arson. On November 10th their “Red Brigade” crossed the Bhanganbera bridge and proceeded to capture the BUPC stronghold of Sonachura. On November 11th came the final assault on Nandigram proper, which was followed by CPI(M) victory rallies. As of December 6, 2007, the communists occupy Nandigram and the farmers have fled for their lives. The number of women raped, houses razed and protestors shot and slashed is unknown. The media have been silenced.

The villagers of Nandigram and Singur have become heroes. Local poet-singers have composed songs that have already become the anthem across the entire Konkan belt. Copied CDs of the songs are couriered from one taluka (district) to another. Demonstrations and marches have become a normal part of the daily routine. Former fishermen and farmer associations have been converted overnight into anti-SEZ movements. The farmers and fishermen are fighting for their land, because it is not just their land, it is their sacred mother. India has long been an agrarian, decentralized economy, which has given political and economic empowerment to local communities based on the 73rd and 74th Amendments of the Indian Constitution.[65]

Chief Minister Buddhadeb should think twice when he celebrates his victory in Nandigram. The people in that region have a long history of rebellion against oppression, and countless great revolutionaries and freedom fighters such as Khudiram Bose and Matangini Hazara have taken birth in Medinipur district. It was the people of Nandigram who were at the forefront of the Khilafat movement of 1921, the Salt Satyagraha of 1930 and the Quit India movement of 1942. The August Revolution of that year took its most pronounced and militant form in Tamluk and Contai in Medinipore, a district already famed and loved as the most anti-British or freedom-loving district in the subcontinent.”[66] The Tebhaga movement – the peasant struggle of 1946 – took birth in this region. Hence, the battle for freedom from corporate oppression is not yet over.

Conclusions

In studying the marginalized communities of West Bengal, it can be seen that invariably the notified and denotified tribes, the scheduled and backward castes, the Dalits, are severely economically oppressed and culturally persecuted. We have seen that the Santals are exploited in the rock quarry mines in Medinipur as well as by moneylenders. The Totos in their simplicity also end up in the clutches of moneylenders. The Bagdis, in their innocence and powerlessness, work inhuman hours in the waters of the Sunderbans, facing crocodiles, water snakes and then tigers in the forests, and sell their prawns for a few rupees while breeders export them for a profit of hundreds of thousands. The Rabi Das have had to deal with the impacts of globalization as plastic and polythene shoes have replaced leather shoes and made their traditional occupation practically obsolete. Elders due to their illiteracy and poverty are no longer respected by their offspring, yet the children remain impoverished due to their own inadequate education. All of these tribes and castes have an ancient civilization and culture going back 2,000 years. The legacy of exploitation of these beautiful, marginalized communities has culminated in the current conflict brought on by corporate land-grabbing under the euphemism of Special Economic Zones. Throughout India peasants have helplessly watched their lands being seized, be it for corporations or megadams. In Chattisgarh the peasants are ground down by government and unofficial, government-sponsored militias. In addition, these peasants face assaults by conflicting Maoist groups.

In Nandigram, however, we have a different scenario. We see peasants standing up and fighting for their own land under continual military assaults. This is the first armed struggle against SEZs in India. It is also the first armed struggle against mega corporations and corporate globalization in the world. Already other groups in India are learning from the heroic peasants of Nandigram and are forming their own resistance movements to fight the national and foreign corporations invading their lands. The traditional paradigms of farmer suicides and meek acquiescence are coming to an end. A new era of resistance and rebellion is beginning that will inspire the victims of SEZs and economic globalization not merely in India but throughout the world. Hence, the world needs to keep a close watch on the noble farmers of Nandigram. The shots fired by those farmers in self-defense have now echoed around the world, and will crescendo into a world revolution against the tyrannies of capitalism.

Notes

[1] Shrii Prabhat R. Sarkar, A Few Problems Solved, Part 1, Kolkata: AM Publications, 1959.

[2] Pradip Kumar Bose, Classes and Class Relations Among Tribals of Bengal, New Delhi: Ajanta Publications, 1985, p. 10.

[3] Sekhar Bandyapadhyay, Caste, Culture and Hegemony: Social Dominance in Colonial Bengal, New Delhi: Sage Publications, 2004, p. 243.

[4] Malabika Bhattacharya, “Casteist row over mid-day meals,” The Hindu, New Delhi, Nov. 19, 2004.

[5] “INDIA: Pregnant Dalit woman assaulated by West Bengal police,” Asian Human Rights Commission – Urgent Appeals, 24 August, 2004. http://www.ahrchk.net/ua/mainfile.php/2004/779/

[6] Chandra Bhan Prasad, “Left Front is no friend of Dalits,” Communalism Combat, February, 1998.

http://www.sabrang.com/cc/comold/feb98/debate.htm.

[7] West Bengal Data Highlights: The Scheduled Tribes Census of India 2001.

http://www.censusindia.gov.in/Tables_Published/SCST/dh_st_westbengal.pdf

[8] Ibid.

[9] George E. Somers, Ph.D., A Santal Saga: Facing the Twenty-First Century, Self-published, 2002, p. 3.

[10] Pradip Kumar Bose, Classes and Class Relations Among Tribals of Bengal, New Delhi, Ajanta Publications, 1985, p. 15

[11] Ibid, p. 7.

[12] Pradip Kumar Bose, Classes and Class Relations Among Tribals of Bengal, New Delhi, Ajanta Publications, 1985, p. 14

[13] Amitabha Sarkar, Ph.D., Toto Society and Change: A Sub-Himalayan Tribe of West Bengal, Kolkata: Firm KLM Private Limited, 1993, p. 1

[14] Ibid, p. 4

[15] Ibid, p. 2

[16] Ibid, p. 8

[17] Ibid, p. 7

[18] Ibid, p. 11

[19] Ibid, pp. 41-43

[20] Ibid, p. 46

[21] Ranjana Ray, Indranil Chakraborty and Nandini Bhattacharyya, “ A Study Among Some ‘Meendharas’ of Sunderbans, West Bengal,” in Anthropology: Trends and Applications: Anthropologist Special Issue No. 1:83-89, 2002, p. 1.

[22] Satadal Dasgupta, Caste Kinship and Community: Social System of a Bengal Caste, Madras: Universities Press, 1986, p. 27.

[23] Ibid, p. 28.

[24] Ranjana Ray, Indranil Chakraborty and Nandini Bhattacharyya, “ A Study Among Some ‘Meendharas’ of Sunderbans, West Bengal,” in Anthropology: Trends and Applications: Anthropologist Special Issue No. 1:83-89, 2002, p. 2.

[25] Ibid.

[26] Ibid.

[27] Prabhat Ranjan Sarkar, Ananda Vacanamrtam, Part 11, Ananda Marga Publications, 2008.

[28] Ranjana Ray, Indranil Chakraborty and Nandini Bhattacharyya, “ A Study Among Some ‘Meendharas’ of Sunderbans, West Bengal,” in Anthropology: Trends and Applications: Anthropologist Special Issue No. 1:83-89, 2002, p. 3.

[29] Ibid, p. 5.

[30] Sankar Kumar Pramanik, Ph.D. Fishermen Community of Coastal Villages in West Bengal, Jaipur: Rawat Publications, 1993, p. 131.

[31] Ibid, p. 155.

[32] Ibid, p. 160.

[33] Ruchira Ganguly-Scrase, Ph.D. Global Issues: Local Contexts: The Rabi Das of West Bengal, Hyderabad: Orient Longman, 2001, p. 152.

[34] Ruchira Ganguly-Scrase, “Globalization and Gendered Social Transformation: Young People’s Lives in an Urban Artisan Community in India,” Children, Youth and Environments, 14(2), 2004, p. 47.

[35] Ruchira Ganguly-Scrase, Global Issues: Local Contexts: The Rabi Das of West Bengal, Hyderabad: Orient Longman, 2001, p. 151.

[36] Ruchira Ganguly-Scrase, “Globalization and Gendered Social Transformation: Young People’s Lives in an Urban Artisan Community in India,” Children, Youth and Environments, 14(2), 2004, p. 47.

[37] Ibid, p. 48.

[38] Ruchira Ganguly-Scrase, Global Issues: Local Contexts: The Rabi Das of West Bengal, Hyderabad: Orient Longman, 2001, p. 215.

[39] Ruchira Ganguly-Scrase, “Globalization and Gendered Social Transformation: Young People’s Lives in an Urban Artisan Community in India,” Children, Youth and Environments, 14(2), 2004, p. 54

[40] Ibid.

[41] Ruchira Ganguly-Scrase, Global Issues: Local Contexts: The Rabi Das of West Bengal, Hyderabad: Orient Longman, 2001, p. 8.

[42] Ibid, p. 158.

[43] Ruchira Ganguly-Scrase, “Globalization and Gendered Social Transformation: Young People’s Lives in an Urban Artisan Community in India,” Children, Youth and Environments, 14(2), 2004, p. 60.

[44] Ibid, p. 61.

[45] Ruchira Ganguly-Scrase, Global Issues: Local Contexts: The Rabi Das of West Bengal, Hyderabad: Orient Longman, 2001, p. 163.

[46] Samit Kar, ‘Measure for Measure’ – Lynching Deaths in West Bengal: A Sociological Study, Kolkata: K.P. Bagchi & Company, 2006, p. 3.

[47] Ibid, p. 4.

[48] Ibid, p. 7.

[49] Ibid, p. 20.

[50] Mahasweta Devi, “Year of Birth – 1871” at India Together: www.indiatogether.org, March 2002.

[51] Ibid.

[52] Laxman Gaikwad, The Branded: Uchalya, New Delhi: Sahitya Akademi, 2005.

[53] Mahasweta Devi, “Year of Birth – 1871,” India Together. www.indiatogether.org, March 2002.

[54] National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights,

http://www.ncdhr.org.in/latestinterventions/brutal-kllings-of-ten-nats-dalits-in-bihar-ncdhr-on-a-fact-finding-reprot

[55] Mahasweta Devi, “Hated, Humiliated, Butchered,” Tehelka, November 12, 2007.

http://www.tehelka.com/story_main34.asp?filename=cr201007HATED.asp

[56] Tanveer Kazi, “Nandigram, an atrocity on dalits,” India Together, 5 May 2007. http://www.indiatogether.org/207/may/soc-nandigram.htm

[57] Vandana Shiva, “From Corporate Land Grab to Land Sovereignty (Bhu Swaraj),” Zmag, 10 February 2007

[58] Ibid.

[59] Tanveer Kazi, “Nandigram, an atrocity on dalits,” India Together, 5 May 2007. http://www.indiatogether.org/207/may/soc-nandigram.htm

[60] Vandana Shiva, “From Corporate Land Grab to Land Sovereignty (Bhu Swaraj),” Zmag, 10 February 2007.

[61] Tanveer Kazi, “Nandigram, an atrocity on dalits,” India Together, 5 May 2007. http://www.indiatogether.org/207/may/soc-nandigram.htm

[62] Ibid.

[63] “A CPI(M) Public Relations Coup: Response to Naom Chomsky, Howard Zinn, et al on Nandigram.” Outlook India, Nov 25, 2007.

[64] Smruti Koppikar, “Selective Exclusive Zamindaris,” Outlook India, February 7, 2007.

[65] Vandana Shiva, “From Corporate Land Grab to Land Sovereignty (Bhu Swaraj),” Zmag, 10 February 2007.

[66] Nitish Sen Gupta, Bengal Divided: The Unmaking of a Nation (1905-1971), New Delhi: Penguin Group, 2007, p. 80.

Copyright The Author 2007

News Clippings of Amra Bangali´s Movement re: Claims for Gorkhaland

“The Gorkhaland movement, which is demanding a few districts in the northern part of West Bengal, has reached a climax. The Gorkhas, who had settled there from outside the state, are now demanding the formation of a separate state by taking advantage of their Indian citizenship. They have launched regular agitations, called strikes, looted, plundered, burnt property, murdered and virtually brought the law and order situation to a stand still. In fact, the barbaric call for “An eye for an eye” has been the dominant political slogan, and now there is no rule of law in the Darjeeling district of West Bengal. – P.R Sarkar, “Gorkhaland”, read the whole discourse
The below are recent news clippings featuring native PROUT activists campaigning against the establishment of a Gorkha (Nepali) state in Bengal.

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Tripura

By P.R. Sarkar

(July 1986, Calcutta) – Since the dawn of human civilization Tripura has been a part of Bengal. In fact, Tripura is nearly as old as Ráŕh. Its soil, water, people and language are the same as those of Gondwanaland. The ancient Bengali people have been living in Tripura since time immemorial.

Five hundred years ago Tripura was called “Shriibhum”. The name “Tripura” is not very old. Present day Tripura, Noakhali, Hilly Tripura, Kachar, Manipur, Chittagong, Chittagong Hill Tracts and a part of the Arakan kingdom constituted the land of Shriibhum. In old records Shriibhum was called “Upabanga”. Upa means “nearer” and Banga means “Bengal”. The original inhabitants of Upabanga were all Bengalees, except for a group of tribals called “Tipprah” who lived in one small region. About 550 years ago, these Tipprah tribals came from northern Burma under the leadership of Mu-Chang-Fa and settled in Tripura permanently. Later, they defeated the Hindu king in the area and established the kingdom of Tripura. Since that time, the part of Shriibhum under Mu-Chang-Fa was called “Tripura”, as it was the land under Tipprah administration.

“Despite Tripura’s current economic and political instability, the region has a very bright future because it is rich in natural resources.”

Around the same time a movement for cultural synthesis under the leadership of Caetańya Mahaprabhu was going on in Bengal. Caetańya went to Tripura to preach his Vaeśńava philosophy. Mu-Chang-Fa and the members of his royal family were very impressed with Caetańya’s ideas and the rich Bengali language he spoke, so they took initiation from him. The king also embraced Bengali culture as his own culture. After that all the members of the royal family took Bengali names instead of tribal ones and adopted Bengali instead of their tribal language as the family and court language. From that time up to the last days of British rule in India, Bengali was the official language of Tripura, and Bengali culture was the culture of the region.

The Tripura tribals have their own dialect called the “Kak-Barak” dialect, which is of Burmese origin. However, this dialect does not have all the characteristics of a complete language. After independence Bengali was replaced by Hindi or English. Under the regime of the Left Front government, the communist leaders, in an effort to materialize their separatist designs, recognized the Kak-Barak dialect as the official state language. They imposed this dialect, which is spoken by 700,000 tribals, on the 1,750,000 Bengali people in the state. Thus, the communists dealt a severe blow to the cultural synthesis which had been taking place between the original Bengalees and the tribals in Tripura for the previous several hundred years.

During the ancient Hindu, Buddhist, Pathan and Mughal periods, and even in the British period, Tripura was economically self-sufficient, but Tripura’s economy received a severe set back with the partition of Bengal in 1947. According to the decision of the Radcliffe Commission, the part of Tripura rich in agricultural potentialities was included in East Pakistan, and the other part, consisting of hills, forests and jungles, was given to the Indian Union. Thus, in the constitutional structure of the Indian Union, the hilly, undeveloped areas took the shape of the economically shattered state of present-day Tripura.

Since independence, Tripura has fallen prey to negligence, deprivation and exploitation. In the interests of Indian capitalism, Tripura has been kept at the mercy of the central government, and has barely been able to maintain its existence. Now the abject poverty of the 2,450,000 people of Tripura has become a weapon in the hands of the political parties in the state, who try to use it for their own political gain. Severe economic insecurity and an atmosphere of political violence have been deliberately encouraged in Tripura to check the awakening political consciousness of the people. Tripura has been forced to pass through many traumatic and violent events because of the manipulation of political leaders. In addition, nearly seventy percent of Tripura’s land has been distributed among the 700,000 tribals through the Autonomous District Council Act, depriving many of the 1,750,000 Bengali people of land. The present situation in the state is the result of a far-reaching anti-Bengali campaign by the central government and an anti-national, separatist conspiracy by the communists in Tripura.

Despite Tripura’s current economic and political instability, the region has a very bright future because it is rich in natural resources. The topography of Tripura is shaped like a saucer – the outer border area is more elevated than the inner central portion. In this respect it resembles Ireland. The main differences between the two are that the hills and subterranean rock structure of Tripura are composed of granite, so Tripura is more rocky, but Ireland is colder. Although Ireland is not very developed, it can serve as a useful model while preparing socio-economic developmental programmes for Tripura.

In ancient times, large forests inhabited by elephants and rhinoceroses grew in the inner part of Tripura, and the provincial towns and agricultural areas were located around the borders of the outer rim. The soil in the inner portion is very suitable for growing cashew nuts, pineapples and bananas. Generally, the soil covering the granite rocks throughout Tripura is sticky soil which is ideal for agriculture, and especially for growing oranges. The border area touching Bangladesh is a rain-shadow area.

There is tremendous agricultural potentiality in Tripura. However, due to the granite bedrock, the aman variety of paddy will not grow well; the áus variety grows better. Áus paddy may be followed by chilli cultivation. Chilli is a good cash crop because it is in great demand in Bangladesh. When the land is still wet after harvesting the áus paddy, dry chillies can be sown. Dry chillies need to be watered like wheat. Where there is a scarcity of water, small gram can also be grown.

Huge quantities of red skinned potatoes can be grown as in Ireland, where the people eat a lot of potatoes and porridge. Tripura can grow enough potatoes to feed the whole of Assam, and the powered potato industry can flourish. On the higher land potatoes, pineapples, and cashew nuts can be grown, while bananas can be grown on the lower land. Ginger of all varieties – white, yellow and black – can also be grown. Large quantities of arum can also be grown, but arum takes nearly one year to mature. You should also know the types and locations of the mixed crops.

Tripura can grow the second best bamboo in the world after Mizoram, hence paper mills can be started. Hollow bamboo (phánpá bansh) is the best type for paper production.

More sugar beet than sugar cane should be cultivated, because four sugar beet crops a year can be grown in Tripura instead of just one sugar cane crop. Sugar beet can produce sugar but not gúr, and it is a good cash crop. Gúr can be produced from sugar cane and the waste can be used to manufacture good quality paper. The seeds of sugar beet should be grown in cold climates, and the best places are Himachal Pradesh and Kashmir. However, it is best to produce seeds in one’s own land. Both agro-industries and agrico-industries can be started.
Alcohol, pharmaceuticals, medicinal plants and silk can all be produced in Tripura, and inferior quality coal is available. Once upon a time Tripura was part of a sargasso sea, so there is also scope for producing oil.

You should have a blended knowledge of the soil condition, the river systems, irrigation, the power and energy supply, the mineral resources, the culture of the people, and the agricultural, horticultural and industrial possibilities. The future of Tripura is very bright if socio-economic planning is done in a proper way.

Copyright Ananda Marga Publications 2012

Greater Bengal

Bengal comprises Bangladesh, West Bengal, and parts of other Indian states such as Tripura and Assam. With nearly 300 million total speakers, Bengali is the sixth most spoken language in the world.

By P.R. Sarkar

(3 January 1989, Anandanagar) – The Bengali race, which is a blending of the Austric, Mongolian and Negroid races, was created about 5000 years ago. Saḿskrta was the language of the land of Bengal before 5000 years ago, hence Saḿskrta is the guiding language of Bengali. The Bengali language underwent a transformation about 1200 years ago. At this time the area of Bengal included the entire present day Bengal, the Jhanpa district of Nepal, the entire eastern portion of Bihar, all of Bangladesh and Burma, the plain portion of Meghalay, and certain portions of Pragjyotispur, Barpeta, Kamrup and Naogaon in Assam. This was the area of the land of Bengal. Today there are two types of Bengali expressions – Indian Bengali and Bangladeshi Bengali. There should be a proper assimilation or blending of both these types.

Bangladesh was created due to the folly of the Indian leaders during the independence movement. They were also responsible for the creation of Assam and Meghalaya. Now the original land of Bengal is Balkanized, and the only reason for the continuation of this situation is the disunity amongst the Bengali people. The unity amongst the Bengali people is the main requirement necessary to solve this problem.

Certain portions of the original land of Bengal are now in Assam. In 1912 during the period of Lord Curzon, because of the folly of national leaders, Bengal was partitioned. After the movement against the partition of Bengal, Bengal was reunited in 1912, but certain portions in Assam and Orissa remained outside the jurisdiction of Bengal. The leaders at that time accepted this plan so there was no objection to this division. This situation should not be allowed to continue. All the portions of Bengal should be reunited. What is essential for Bengal is to develop a sense of unity. Bengal will be de-Balkanized when this unity is developed.

The people of Bengal are more black in the west and southwest, and more yellow in the north and northeast. The people of Bengal have almost the same blood relationship.
The area of Bangalistan consists of the following regions – West Bengal, Tripura, the Bengali speaking areas of Assam, Bihar, Orissa and parts of Nepal, and Bangladesh. How will you unite the fragments and fractures of Bengal? Throughout this area there is socio-economic disparity. In Bangladesh the people suffer from suffocation and natural calamities because there are no develoment schemes. For example, in many places there is only one crop a year and the rest of the time the land is vacant. There should be development schemes in Bangladesh to raise the standard of living of the Bangladesh people. The economic standard of India should also be raised but Bangladesh should be raised more rapidly. Only when there is economic parity amongst Tripura, Bengal and Bangladesh, should India and Bangladesh become united.

Should the people of Bangladesh and Tripura be rehabilitated in West Bengal? No, not at this stage, as this will hamper the development of the people of West Bengal. The best approach is to work for the economic upliftment of the people of Tripura and Bangladesh to ensure their long-term socio-economic progress. There should be a constructive socio-economic movement in Bangladesh. This should include technical education, agricultural development and movements which guide the people away from dogma. All religions encourage centres of dogma. Education should not preach dogma. Education should be free from all the influences of dogma. Next to Indonesia, Bangladesh’s population is saturated and about to burst. As there is disparity in Tripura and Bangladesh, we should think more for the development of Tripura and Bangladesh. Other than the Bengali speaking districts of Dhubri, Goalpara and Barpeta, the economic development of Assam is somewhat satisfactory.

For the development of Bangladesh, what should be done and what should not be done? The main raw materials of Bangladesh are raw jute and hide. Alternatives to jute should be developed, especially in the jute producing centres like the Narayangunge block of Dacca district. Also, there should be maximum utilization of the land by introducing mixed cropping and crop rotation. The adversities of Bangladesh include the education system, natural calamities, malnutrition and lack of economic development.

In Tripura there are two varieties of paddy crops – áus and boro. In Assam there are two major valleys – the Brahmaputra and Barak valleys. In the Karimgange block of Barak valley the quality of bamboo is good and this can be used in the paper industry. Sweet potato and sugar beet can also be grown in the same area. There should be four crops in a year. Synthetic fibre for clothing, medicine, jams, etc. can be manufactured from pineapple. Medicine is made from the leaves of the pineapple plant. Banana stems and leaves can also be utilized, and after the banana plant is burnt, sodium and sodium nitrate can be collected and utilized in the soap industry. Jackfruit grows well in Assam and Tripura, and honey and natural paraffin wax can also be produced.

In Tripura there is laterite soil. In this soil small oranges of the Sylhet variety, cashew nuts and papaya can be grown. Also, small scale industries should be developed. In Amarpur block synthetic rubber should be encouraged in place of natural rubber. This also applies to Jampui Hill region in Panisagar block. Peas, peanuts and white sesame can also be grown. There are good possibilities for utilizing oil and natural gas as well as harnessing solar energy. Solar energy is of a permanent nature and will not run out. Solar energy can also be collected in batteries. Why should energy be imported from outside Tripura?

Copyright Ananda Marga Publications 2012

Contai Basin Planning

By P.R. Sarkar

(June 1988, Calcutta) – The Contai Basin is the area between the Rasulpor and Suvarnareka Rivers where they are about to merge in the Bay of Bengal. The Bengali name of Contai is Kán’thi derived from the Sanskrit word kan’thiká. The British changed Kán’thi to Contai because to them Kánthi sounded similar to Kandi in Murshidabad district and Kanthi in Midnapore district.

In the Contai Basin there are numerous natural resources which can be the basis for various large-scale, medium-scale and small-scale industries in the planned development of the area. Nature has generously allocated her resources to almost all the regions of the world – on land, in water, in space, in the deserts, in the mountains, in the dense forests and on the bottom of the sea. Nowhere has nature been miserly in bestowing her wealth. By applying human intellect, wisdom, enterprise, mutual cooperation and commercial acumen, these natural resources can be fully utilized, and each region of the world can be developed agriculturally, industrially and commercially into viable self-sufficient socio-economic units.

“During the last forty years, both the Congress and Left Front governments have proved to be totally negligent and incompetent, and both have failed to develop the economic potential of the Contai Basin.”

Planning for the economic development of the Contai Basin should be included within the framework of block-level planning. If this approach is adopted it will ensure integrated, balanced and multi-purpose developmental planning. Unfortunately, no government has so far taken a constructive approach to the socio-economic problems of the region or bothered to assess the actual amount of natural resources and economic potentialities in the Contai Basin. Economic planning must identify the particular problems of the Contai Basin and utilize the natural resources of the region to solve them.

Cyclones

Of all the problems affecting the area, the worst is the frequent occurrence of cyclones. The Contai Basin is a low lying area along the coastal belt of South Bengal. About 200 to 300 miles out to sea depressions often form in the Bay of Bengal. As a result the human beings, animals, buildings, agriculture and natural environment of this area are regularly subjected to violent cyclones which cause untold loss of life and property. To control the fury of nature, there must be extensive afforestation in a strip one mile wide along the entire coast. In this strip trees such as shishu [Dalbergia sissoo Roxb.], cashew nut, jackfruit and hoop pine should be grown. These varieties of trees will create an artificial forest which will function as a natural wall to keep the powerful cyclonic winds and the destructive force of nature from wreaking havoc in the region.

A new kind of afforestation programme must be developed for this purpose. Such a programme will yield a number of benefits – the cyclones will be resisted; the loss of agricultural land will be minimized; new forest resources will flourish; regular rainfall will increase; the production of cash crops such as cashew nut and jackfruit will develop; and the purchasing power of the people will be enhanced. If a village or settlement already exists within the coastal strip, it should not be destroyed. Rather, the afforestation should be done all around it and continued along the coast. If the pine trees are planted close together, the pores of the leaves will attract the rain clouds, and as a result there will be a profound beneficial change in the climate of the region.

The afforested strip will also greatly assist the prevention of soil erosion along the coast. In rural Bengal large-scale soil erosion is called khoyái. The pine trees spread an extensive network of roots under the earth, compacting the soil particles and binding them tightly together.

Besides afforestation there should also be large-scale cultivation along the coastal sand dunes of all varieties of melon, such as musk melon, deer melon and watermelon; and gourd, such as squat gourd. These creepers will spread out across the surface of the dunes, hence soil erosion will be prevented. (Melons grow best during the summer, the worst season for cyclones.) If sand dunes are kept uncovered, the winds from the ocean will blow the sand away and erode the coast line, reducing the area of land and encouraging the encroachment of the sea.

Marine Industries

In the Contai Basin there is enormous potential for large-scale marine industries. For example, the cultured pearl, salt, iodine, phosphorus, oyster, conch shell and seaweed industries can all be developed.

Cultured pearls can be grown along the Contai Basin coast and sold in both the national and international markets, earning a lot of revenue. Other pearl based industries can also be established. This kind of enterprise will strengthen the rural economy of an undeveloped area. The cultured pearl industry brought prosperity to the fishermen along the coast of Japan. The Contai Basin has enormous potential for developing cultured pearls.

Within the one mile wide afforested coastal strip, salt manufacturing units may be established at various places. Salt tanks may also be constructed at different points along the coast. This industry will create direct and indirect employment for hundreds of families, and the chronic unemployment problem of the Contai Basin will be alleviated to some extent. If the salt industry is developed, West Bengal will not have to depend upon Gujarat, Maharashtra or South India for its supply of salt. This will also help check the outflow of capital from West Bengal, so the state will experience overall growth.

In the Bay of Bengal along the coastal area of the Contai Basin there are many types of seaweed, which can supply iodine, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, sodium chloride and other valuable chemicals. On the basis of these chemicals, a number of chemical industries can be established in the region. Due to the abundance of iodine, pharmaceutical industries can also be developed.

Along the Contai seashore various types of beautiful oysters and conch shells are available, which can be utilized to make ornaments, house decorations, handicrafts and a variety of other products.

In the sea along the Contai Basin many types of seaweed and aquatic plants grow which can be used to produce various medicines and protein rich foods. Seaweed processing factories can be built at various places along the coast. Most seaweeds belong to the grass family of plants, and vegetarians can eat the protein from seaweeds of this group. However, if the protein collected from a particular variety of seaweed causes an allergy in a person, then the protein of that variety of seaweed should be considered static for that person. Pharmaceutical industries can be established to produce protein foods and protein tablets which can be used as both food and medicine.

Cash Crops

Cash crops such as coconut, squat gourd, melons of all varieties, cashew nut, jackfruit, chiku, betel nut, betel leaf and banana can be grown in abundance.

The soil of the southern and southeast portion of Midnapore district is saline, which is why coconut grows very well there. Large quantities of coconuts can be grown in the adjoining area of Contai for the same reason. The hybrid variety of coconut from Kerala produces fruits within only five years and can grow abundantly in the Contai Basin. The leaves can be used as fuel and the small branches as broom sticks. The kernels can be pressed to produce oil, thus the coconut oil industry can be profitably developed. Coconut oil can be used as both a hair oil and as an edible oil. A network of small-scale or cooperative coconut industries can be established in the Contai Basin to supply coconut oil throughout West Bengal and the northeastern states of India. Even the shell of the coconut can be used to produce various commodities. Thus, in every village there is the potentiality to develop cottage industries.

Coconut milk can be bottled and sold in distant places as a cold drink, coconut pulp can be used in the sweet industry, and the trunk of the coconut tree can be used in the house building industry. Coconut husks are used in the mat and window screen industries, dehydrated coconuts are used in ayurvedic medicines, while in Bengal there is a large market for coconut delicacies. These industries can also create a lot of income for the local people. In fact if coconuts are grown on a large scale in the Contai Basin, the local economy will be transformed automatically, and the standard of living of the people will be greatly increased.

The beach in the Contai-Junput-Digha region is very wide, so it is easy to grow squat gourd and melons profitably beside the seashore. Where the land does not become submerged by sea water, poor farmers can improve their economic condition by cultivating squat gourd throughout the year. Melons can also grow in abundance. In hot countries like India, melons are in great demand. Melons and squat gourd are some of the popular cash crops of the area.

Cashew nuts are also a very profitable cash crop in India and abroad. The soil and weather of the Contai Basin is quite congenial for cashew nuts. Through the application of modern agricultural science, the quality of the cashew nut harvest can be greatly increased. Cashew nuts can be fried and packed or eaten raw, while cashew nut powder can be used to make sweets. The local farmers can earn a good livelihood by utilizing this valuable cash crop in various ways.

Jackfruit is also a very lucrative cash crop. Jackfruit is very nutritious, so villagers can eat the raw fruit to improve their health, and the juice can be canned or bottled and sold in the market at profitable rates. Dried jackfruit seeds can be used as an alternative to potatoes. Potatoes have been in use in Bengal and India for the last few hundred years, but prior to that the people of Bengal used jackfruit seeds as vegetables. The food value of jackfruit juice and seeds is very high.

The soil and weather of the Contai Basin is very congenial for chiku. Chikus will grow abundantly along the coast as far as the salty sea air travels inland, but beyond that distance the fruits will not grow so well. Chiku is a nutritious, tasty and popular cash crop.
Besides these crops, abundant betel or areca nut, betel leaf and bananas can be grown in the Contai Basin. All these are profitable cash crops.

Infastructure

Digha is the widest sea beach in the world. At some points the beach is two miles wide. Together with the creation of a forest along the Digha sea coast, a well-made road and a railway line should be constructed parallel to the seashore. If this is done, Digha will develop into an ideal resort for tourists from Bengal and other states of India. People from other countries will also visit Digha to enjoy the natural sea beach. If good hotels, healthy drinking water, the Danton-Digha railway line and cultural centres are arranged, Digha can become an extremely popular and attractive sea resort. This development will virtually eradicate the poverty of the people. Many new food stalls, vegetable markets and transport facilities will provide job opportunities for the local people.

A small distance from Digha an ideal port can be built at Bhograi at the confluence of the Suvarnareka River and the Bay of Bengal. The future of the Haldia Port is not very bright, so if a new port is established in the mouth of the Suvarnareka River, another large commercial centre can be added to the map of Bengal. All the commodities which are imported and exported through the Calcutta and Haldia Ports can also pass through this port, as well as all the agricultural produce, coconut, betel leaf, areca nut, melon, squat gourd, banana, etc., that can be grown in the Contai Basin. Once the port is developed, various new export industries can also be established in the Contai Basin area. The people of Contai will no longer rush to Calcutta, Durgapur, Tatanagar or Bombay in search of employment. In fact, if this port is constructed, the entire Contai Basin as well as the southern portion of Midnapore district will undergo an economic revolution.

The Howrah-Danton-Digha railway should also be constructed immediately. In the Contai subdivision there is no railway line. For the speedy development of this area, there must be a railway line between Danton and Digha, then passengers from Calcutta can travel directly to Digha. Once this railway line is established, the progress of the Contai Basin will be accelerated, facilitating the development of industry, trade and commerce throughout the subdivision. The Danton-Digha railway will be the lifeline of the Contai subdivision. In fact, if the railway line is extended to Bhograi along the coast, then the trade, commerce and industry of the entire region will rapidly develop. For railway tourists, this area will become an attractive tourist resort.

Cooperatives

It is unfortunate that in the Contai Basin, which has abundant natural resources and enormous economic potential, no industries other than mat-making and weaving exist. During the last forty years, both the Congress and Left Front governments have proved to be totally negligent and incompetent, and both have failed to develop the economic potential of the Contai Basin. Today even the traditional mat-making and weaving industries are on the verge of collapse due to lack of capital.

The mat-makers should be encouraged to produce mat sticks on a cooperative basis through the provision of low interest loans, and proper marketing arrangements should be made so that they can sell their finished products throughout India. Their mats can also be sold to other countries which have warm climates. If this is done the poor mat-makers will earn a decent living. Ninety percent of Bengal’s mats are now produced in Midnapore district.

Likewise, the weavers of the Contai Basin should be trained to use power looms instead of outdated handlooms; then they will be able to compete with modern, large-scale weaving enterprises. The government should have encouraged the formation of weavers cooperatives, but nothing has been done so far in this regard. Handlooms should only be used to make special items such as clothing adorned with high quality embroidery, but for all other items, the weaving industry will have to conform to modern standards and preferences. If the mat-makers and weavers are properly organized and these industries are modernized and developed, thousands of families will benefit economically.

One of the sources of income for the fishermen of the Contai Basin is dried fish, which is exported to different markets in India and Bangladesh. The fish are usually dried in the open, so the bodies rot, creating a foul smell. This pollutes the atmosphere, and as a consequence negative microvita attack the coastal area.

From the viewpoint of public health and welfare, this type of fish production cannot be supported. With the help of modern technology, dehydration plants should be built to dry the fish scientifically so that no foul smell is created in the atmosphere. Both cooperative bodies and the government will have to come forward to establish such factories.

According to the principles of psycho-economy, static food production should not be encouraged, but considering the traditional habits and psychology of the people, the system of producing dried fish should not be stopped immediately unless alternative sources of livelihood are arranged for the fishermen. But because of the importance of public health, and the air pollution, the production of dried fish which has a foul smell should be stopped as soon as possible.

Copyright Ananda Marga Publications 2012

Gorkhaland

By P.R. Sarkar

(30 August 1988, Calcutta) – The Gorkhaland movement, which is demanding a few districts in the northern part of West Bengal, has reached a climax. The Gorkhas, who had settled there from outside the state, are now demanding the formation of a separate state by taking advantage of their Indian citizenship. They have launched regular agitations, called strikes, looted, plundered, burnt property, murdered and virtually brought the law and order situation to a stand still. In fact, the barbaric call for “An eye for an eye” has been the dominant political slogan, and now there is no rule of law in the Darjeeling district of West Bengal.

The Government of West Bengal has failed to curb this secessionist movement. Its only business is to divert this movement into animosity against the Central Government to try and procure some advantage in the elections. Whatever may be the objectives of the communists, the people of West Bengal have understood their selfish intentions. The law-abiding citizens of West Bengal are extremely concerned with the rapes, murders, police firings and large-scale violence which has occurred recently.

“Let the historic role of the communist party vis-a-vis
the Gorkhaland movement be exposed!”

In fact, the Gorkhaland issue is not an isolated political problem of a particular ethnic community, but an artificial issue initially created by the undivided Communist Party of India and their agents. In 1977 the Marxists, with the sole intention of grabbing political power in West Bengal, began to arouse the Gorkha sentiment by demanding autonomy for the Gorkhas and the recognition of the Gorkhali language. The foolish, narrow-minded politcal leaders could not realize that their spurious policies would one day boomerang on them. Strangely, the communists are now trying to avoid the poisonous tree of Gorkhaland which they themselves planted. With their characteristic cunningness, they are trying to mislead the population of West Bengal by claiming that the Central Government is inspiring this secessionist movement.

Let the historic role of the communist party vis-a-vis the Gorkhaland movement be exposed! In 1947 the Communist Party, in collaboration with the communal and secessionist Muslim League, raised the slogan for the partition of West Bengal. At the same time they also raised the slogan for the formation of a separate land for the Gorkhas. In fact, the term “Gorkhaland” is 40 years old and was last used by the Indian communists. The communist party demanded that Gorkhaland should comprise Sikhim, parts of Nepal and a few districts of North Bengal, including Darjeeling. This would be the separate homeland of the Gorkhas. In order to create a solid political base amongst the Gorkhas, the communists raised the Gorkhaland issue, but at that time the movement was not very effective.

In 1977, when the communists came to power in West Bengal, the old political leaders of the Marxist Communist Party revived the old Gorkhaland sentiment which has now transformed the northern part of the state into a land of utter chaos and bloodshed. Innocent, peace-loving Bengalees are now fleeing from their houses in Darjeeling in terror, and becoming refugees in the adjoining districts of Coochbihar, Jalpaiguri, etc. In their home state, the Bengalees are virtually refugees. But the Gorkhas, who are the real outsiders, are demanding that the Bengalees quit Darjeeling.

The Lepchas and Bhutias – the original inhabitants of Darjeeling district – belong to the Coch tribe. The Coch people are the original Bengalees. A part of their population settled on both sides of the Saḿcoch River in Sikhim and Bhutan, and another group migrated from Barendrabhum, the northernmost part of Bengal, and settled in the hilly regions further north. The Lepchas and Bhutias have always remained associated with the mainstream of Bengali life and culture. The Gorkhas are clearly the outsiders.

About 200 years ago, the Gorkhas came from outside Bengal in search of a livelihood and began to settle in the Darjeeling hills. According to the 1872 census report, their number was so negligible that they were too inconsequential to be recorded, and it was merely mentioned that they were outsiders. The upper hilly regions were inhabited by the Lepchas and Bhutias, and the plains were inhabited by the Bengalees.

In addition, a major percentage of the population who introduce themselves as the Nepalese and live in the Darjeeling hills are not Gorkhas at all. 15 Nepali ethnic groups like the Tamang, Gurung, Newari, etc. live in the Darjeeling area. They are not Gorkhas nor is their language Gorkhali. In fact, Gorkhali is a dialect of a very small community. Just as there is no language called the Indian language – in India there are as many as 323 major or minor languages and dialects and all these languages are Indian languages – likewise in Nepal there are about 32 languages and dialects, and each of them is a Nepali language. Gorkhali is not even the official language of Nepal. The Gorkhas, though a small ethnic community, have demanded Gorkhaland to fulfil their petty selfish interests, misleading the other simple, innocent tribes living in the Darjeeling hills.

There is no historical, social or economic justification behind the Gorkhaland movement. The Lepchas and Bhutias who are the children of the soil, outnumber the Ghorkas. So, those who are raising the bogey of Ghorkhaland have only blackened their hands in a dangerous political game. Just as the Gorkhali language is the language of a small minority and should not be imposed upon a large community, similarly the Gorkas are a small community who live in the Darjeeling hills and should not be allowed to indulge in provocative politics. Such politics have been operating for the last 40 years behind the Gorkhaland movement. The Gorkhas who departed from Shikim, Bhutan and Assam gathered in the Darjeeling hills. The Left Front Government of West Bengal has cleared the jungles and built settlements for them, and declared Gorkhali the official language. It is the Marxists who have induced the Gorkhas to raise the bogey of a Gorkha homeland. This is an example of the dangerous, nasty politics practised by the Marxists in Bengal.

Now, what does the constitution of India say with regard to this issue? A written constitution gives better shelter to the people than an unwritten one. The constitutions of India, France and the USA are written while the constitution of Britain is unwritten, but it is known to everybody. According to India’s constitutional provisions, specific tribal areas enjoy certain constitutional rights. That is, where there is the possibility of the tribals being dominated by the non-tribals, the tribals enjoy certain constitutional rights. Some examples of tribals are the Garos, the Khasias, the Kacharis who live in some districts of Assam, and the Mizos. The provisions of the Indian constitution are for the tribals only, not for any other groups, and they are relevant only to northeast India, not for any other area, not even for the tribals living in other parts of India. Such rights are only desirable for a very short time.

Tripura does not come within the scope of these constitutional provisions, but despite this the communist party tried to exploit the situation there. It passed the Tribal Hill Council Bill by abusing its powers in the assembly. This bill violates the provisions of the Indian constitution and is ultravires to the people of India.

In Bengal the Gorkha Hill Council in Darjeeling is also against the provisions of the Indian constitution because the Gorkhas are not tribals. The pact between certain selfish communist leaders and the Gorkha chiefs is not only illegal but unconstitutional. Constitutionally, the Gorkhas do not enjoy the rights specified in the Gorkha Hill Council Act. Those who signed this pact have betrayed universal fraternity. The Government-Gorkha pact has nothing to do with the tribals, and from this point of view it is illegal and unconstitutional. It will not be upheld in the Supreme Court if a proper judgement is given.

Copyright Ananda Marga 2012