Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Uniform Strategy Needed To Counter Terror: Chief Minister


The following is the text of the speech delivered by West Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee at the conference of chief ministers on internal security held in New Delhi on January 6, 2009

IN the last few months, the country witnessed considerable amount of violence and destruction of properties caused by terrorists in different parts of the country. The disastrous attack of terrorists in Mumbai in the last week of November horrified people all over the country. Those unfortunate incidents gave rise to widespread panic and a general feeling of insecurity in the minds of ordinary people and disrupted the normal pace of urban life in India. Given the large dimensions and complexities of the problem, it is necessary that a uniform strategy for countering terrorist threat is adopted all over the country, and active cooperation of all state governments and political parties and different segments of the society are sought for.

In recent times, a tendency to link up terrorism with one particular community at times has been noted. I would like to strongly deplore such tendencies. Terrorists have no religion. The only driving force is to cause violence, kill innocent people, destroy properties, bring civil life to a grinding halt and harm the stability of the country. These criminals deserve to be treated firmly.

The present arrangements for collection and dissemination of intelligence in the states and also of the centre must be strengthened to prevent terrorist activities. I have a feeling that the present arrangements for sharing of information and coordination among various agencies involved in intelligence collection work are far from being satisfactory. Home minister has suggested that the state intelligence wing should regularly forward intelligence reports and information to the intelligence bureau for information of the central government. I have advised home department officials in the state government to comply with this advice. I may, however, point out that the intelligence agencies in the states hardly receive useful inputs on regular basis from the office of central IB situated in the state. There were several instances of violence caused by terrorists in different parts of the country in the last few months. The office of SIB in West Bengal could hardly enlighten the state IB and the home department on these matters in time. Ultimately, we deputed our officers to the concerned cities to collect information. We feel the importance of information sharing and coordination between central IB and the state intelligence agencies. But this should essentially be a two-way process.

Government of West Bengal has already taken up the task of raising the efficiency and skills of the state security personnel on priority basis. Recently, I wrote to home minister and drew his attention to some of the important pending proposals. We hope that government of India will agree to support these initiatives of the state government.

I would once again thank prime minister of India and union Home minister for the initiatives taken to strengthen the country’s security against terrorist attacks. The need of the hour is to add to the efficiency of the intelligence. I do believe that we will face the grave threats posed before the country by the terrorists with determination, courage and conviction.

No doubt, the unfortunate tragedy in Mumbai was organised from Pakistan’s soil. We feel the need to expose Pakistan before international community for what they are doing against our country all these years. For that, we should not depend on a particular country. Rather we should take up this issue at UN Security Council level. I believe that will be just and more effective, and will be appreciated by all peace loving countries of the world.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009



The entire ambience at the Howrah station as I alight from the Steel Express en route from Jhargram on 30 December (with stops-over for the pre-poll picture obtaining at Para at Purulia and Nandigram – more of which later) is one filled with tension. Six state buses have been put to the torch. Several dozens of motor vehicles including taxis have been stoned to battered, mangled heaps of metal and plastic – and then as a grisly finale, have their fuel tanks blown up.


There is worse of the same in the offing, a shell-shocked station attendant tells me and I follow his quivering, pointing finger to take a look at the rows of TV sets overhead. Each screen is filled with the raucous image of the Trinamuli chieftain whose body language itself is fearsome as she and her men, oh-maybe-a-couple-of-thousands in all, grimly, menacingly, nosily, and with lighted torches, and more dangerous instruments of violence, make an approach towards the ground-floor two-room flat at the housing estate at Palm Avenue buttressing the beginning of the Ballygunge locality. This is where Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee lives with his wife Meera and teen-age daughter Suchetana.

The cause for this completely irresponsible and terribly dangerous provoking manoeuvre, you query. There is no cause as such; I may like to point out. Listen to what the ‘chief’ herself has to shout out. ‘The state government must allow the [polluting, as per the high Court order] two-stroke engine auto-rickshaws to remain in place, and the government must instead wind up the excise department as it causes pollution.’

There is a perfidiously beautiful word in Hindi for which I in a moment of confusion do not recall a Bengali linguistic equivalent. The word is bahana. This is what the chief is indulging herself, as she is in a bind. Biman Basu, LF chairman and senior CPI (M) leader later tells me to take a look at the newspapers of the period of the time I am away from the thick of things of the metropolis.


It appears that one senior CBI officer much beloved of the Trinamulis has been caught and quite red-handed and if you pardon the cliché, with a hand in the pot, and the pot comprises large amounts of illegally acquired bundles of currency notes (Rs 13.80 lakh or thereabouts, and counting), around 70 lakhs of rupees worth of savings schemes, ten or so bank accounts, and so many pieces of bejewelled ornaments that the enquiring (CBI) officers are hard put even to count them all (what is this, a fetish for gold?!).

This is the same officer who looked into the Tapasi Malik killing case and was alacritous enough to find quickly the seventy-plus Suhrid Dutta of the CPI (M) guilty enough to be put in long jail custody where the elderly comrade yet rots. This was also the CBI operative who failed miserably to locate and recover the Nobel medallion of Tagore. Finally, he is the man ‘on the spot’ who looked after the sad instance of suicide of Rizwan-ur Rahaman and nearly made the case into a communal imbroglio. Each of his actions had been lauded by the chief whose mendicant penchant for even cases of petty thievery to be ‘handed over to the CBI’ is now seen as concomitant with the cases being handed over to the supervision of this officer whose political options are known and exercised.


Bimanda later tells the media when he meets a whole lot of them at the Muzaffar Ahmad Bhavan during a late sultry evening, today, 6 January that this is the hidden agendum of the chief and her not-so-merry men, a counterweight to draw popular attention away from the CBI officer’s misdoings, and her frustration at his being caught in the act, that prompted her, irresponsible to her very existence, political and otherwise as she has proven herself to be, to move to mount an unprecedented attempted assault on the chief minister’s residence at nine in the evening, and then again at the same time the next day – till the local people got a bit tired, and chased away not only the police barricade that had successfully halted the attacker on their tracks but the whole lot of Trinamulis, bag and baggage, once and perhaps for all.

Nevertheless, the events showed that, as the Lok Sabha elections approach, just how capriciously, expletively sinister the main opposition outfit Bengal has the misfortune to put up with, is capable of, can become and in a carefully planned-- even orchestrated manner.


On the bye-elections held, well, I would say that a fear psychosis was allowed by the Trinamul and the Maoist remnants to spread around Nandigram’s three blocks long before the polls came around. More than a couple-of-thousands of genuine voters were intimidated into not straying out of their hutments come the Election Day. Several thousand more simply had fled the locales for fear of assault from the Trinamul-controlled Gram Panchayats, and Panchayat Samities whose buildings now house hordes of potent and portentous criminals—developmental perspective given new dimensions under the régime change, Trinamul style. The EC has been kept duly notified.

That is all there is to it. Sujapore in Maldah has always been a Congress stronghold. We the CPI (M) have never lost the Para seat. What is regrettable is the very communal approach of the Congress leadership at Sujapore, speeches and acts that are on record on TV-- regrettable, but given the fight put up by the dour CPI (M) unit of the Maldah district under the state leadership and direction, not quite unexpected of the Congress, which is never unwilling to compromise with the forces of religious fundamentalism as the imperatives of time and occasion demand.

Statehood for Gorkhas, not a simple question

By Nilotpal Basu

The issue of statehood and formation of new states is back. First there was this question of Telengana.And now there is disquiet and violence in the hills of Darjeeling. And unlike the Gorkhaland agitation of the 80's, there is a conscious effort to extend the atmosphere to the plains of the Darjeeling and Jalpaiguri districts of North Bengal. This has an adverse implication on the relations between different linguist and ethnic communities.

The question of statehood is a complex issue in the Indian context. There are several factors for this complexity. The Indian civilization for historical reasons have been diverse – diverse in terms of ethnicity, language, culture, lifestyle, agro-climatic and geographic realities, levels of economic development and so on and so forth. The process of integration also got deeply influenced by the British colonial rule.

In course of the freedom struggle, the diverse people of India were sought to be united against the British colonial domination. However, it was correctly understood by the leadership of the national movement that if the Indian people had to be mobilized for a modern nation building exercise – this rich diversity had to be recognized. Therefore, the question of identity had to be addressed with a composite multi-dimensional approach.

It was, therefore, not a mere coincidence that the constitution-making process undertaken by the constituent assembly in the post-independence period recognized the basis for addressing this question comprehensively. A two-tier structure of governance, both in the executive and legislative spheres, was contemplated. This structure with the national legislature and the provincial legislature was aimed to establish the concept of democracy, secularism, social justice and federalism –as the four basic pillars of the political system.

Once these basic questions were clinched, the new nation- state embarked on reorganising the states with the State Reorganisation Commission formed in 1953. The Commission came out with its recommendations in 1956 which largely accepted the principle of linguistic states which had been a general principal accepted widely within the freedom movement. Of course, the Hindi-speaking region was disproportionately big to allow a viable single state unit. The Reorganisation Commission, therefore, while attaching primacy to the linguistic-ethnic consideration also took the question of administrative and economic viability and geographic reality also into consideration.

It is also significant that the Constituent Assembly and subsequently the State Reorganisation Commission rejected the conceptual framework proposed by the RSS to create more than 100 states purely on the administrative consideration and implicitly undermining the composite and plural nature of the Indian society.

That multi-ethnic, multi-lingual and multi-religious state was also a distinct possibility- has been accepted by the Indian polity. The finest example of this is the state of Jammu &Kashmir. In fact, with three distinct regions-Jammu, Ladakh and the Kashmir valley, celebration of 'unity in diversity'-the signature tune of the Indian nationhood is nowhere as suggestive as we see it here. It is, therefore, not a coincidence that those who question the status of J&K as an integral part of India also suggest its trifurcation.

However, two major developments – or for that matter processes have affected popular psyche leading to demand for division of states and creation of new ones after the first round of reorganization of states. The process of capitalist development inherently gives rise to imbalances in terms of regional development. India has been no exception. Questions of identity – ethnic and linguistic – and geographic reality have contributed to feeling of alienation and articulation of the demand for new states.

But given the size of the population, the fragmentation of the states further does not appear to be viable from the economic and administrative point of view. In North Bengal, for example we find 31 distinct ethnic groups with varying size of population using 141languages and dialects.

Additionally, there is a political danger. Increasingly, contemporary imperial powers have been seeking to use identity to destabilize and disintegrate nations. Kosovo is the most obvious reference that comes up in mind. In its counteroffensive against progressive governments, eastern lowlands and the Santa Cruz department have voted on an unconstitutional referendum to secede from Bolivia. Through the Columbian regime, the US administration is trying to abet separatist forces in the oil rich Zulia province of Venezuela to break away from the Chavez country. Here at home, developments in North East in the past also bear testimony to this.

Indeed there is a strong case for revisiting structures of governance and autonomy to bridge the sense of alienation. To address the aspirations for greater participation and determining the future of their own community– the yardstick of linguistic and ethnic identity alone or imbalances of regional unevenness alone cannot be a basis for creation of new states. A combination in the content and form of democracy, access to development and with adequate constitutional safeguards- protection and flourishing of linguistic cultural characteristics can only ensure a rich plural tapestry which the Indian people and the society have come to enshrine in our Constitution.