Eruption of a hundred, million Nonadangas is Dangerous for the Ruling Class!

Krantikari Naujawan Sabha (KNS)

From the filth and dirt of the cities of the present, emerges a shriek of revolt. Liberal society based on inequality squirms, and tries desperately to take contain it and dole out relief. The people asserting their power and dignity of labour persist with the question—who controls access to urban resources and who dictates the quality and organization of daily life. Is it the financiers and developers, or the people?

Nonadanga, in the eastern fringes of Kolkata in West Bengal, has brought this question again starkly to the foreground which is being posed everywhere. In this area, lie several slums with thousands of households, housing a population of few belongings and only their capacity to labour and dignity in hand. The bulldozers of the Kolkata Metropolitan Development Authority (KMDA) with brute Police force burnt and razed the houses in Mazdoor Pally and Shramik Colony to the ground on 30 March 2012 in the name of ’emptying the land’. This prime land including water bodies in and around Nonadanga of 80 acres is to be handed over to developers of ‘star/budget hotels, shopping malls, multiplexes, restaurants, serviced apartments, recreational facilities’. If the 80 acre project materializes, another 1000 odd houses are in line to be demolished. The legal and parliamentary channels had already been close to exhausted before this round of evictions. Peaceful marches by residents under the banner of the local autonomous Ucched Pratirodh Committee (Resistance-to-Eviction Committee) on 1 and 4 April, sit-in demonstration on 8 April and many agitations were organized, appeals were made. The government responded with allusions of Nonadanga being a place where ‘outsiders are inciting’ and ‘stockpiling arms and ammunitions’. Kolkata Police resorted to brutal lathicharge on a protest rally on 4 April, and many suffered severe injuries including children and pregnant women. On 8 April the committe decided to go for a road-side sit-in-demonstration and police was intimated accordingly. But within an hour police force mobilised and picked up 69 residents and activists, later among them 62 were released but seven activists continue to languish under many charges ranging from ‘assaulting public servant in the execution of his duty’ to ‘anti-national activities’ (5 of them were released on bail after about two weeks imprisonment). Then continued series of mass protests and subsequent arrests, and alongwith we witnessed attack on APDR rally by TMC goons. On 28 April, after the confrontation of residents with police over the blocking of the entry-exit points with a boundary wall by the KMDA, 11 residents including 5 women were arrested and slapped with a host of cases, and were put into police custody. The threat of further repression through legal and illegal channels looms large.

Who are the residents of Nonadanga?

An area meant for rehabilitation for evictees from various canal banks and slums across Kolkata, Nonadanga is crowded with single roomed flats of 160 sq ft, which were distributed to these evictees with many anomalies. The ‘rehabilitation’ did not contain schools, health centers or markets. Later more and more evicted and forcedly migrated people from the crisis in the rural areas, majorly from Sunderbans after Aila, started to come here and build their homes as they thought that the land stipulated for rehabilitation would be the last one where jaws of eviction could reach. Having pushed here thus, the people of Nonadanga are employed in various small-scale industries, in petty production and many are unemployed workers. Some in the garment industry, some in the ‘Kasba Industrial Estate’ nearby, some in other small factories of the subcontractors of big industrial houses. A large number of people work as construction workers and contract workers in various places. Many are auto-drivers, rickshaw-pullers, van-pullers, drivers of personal or official cars. Many people are self-employed in small roadside shops of food, tailoring, mobile-recharge, grocery and majority of women are employed as domestic-helps. The question of living wages in such a situation is one of the most important. Linked to that, the quality of living condition is horrible to say the least and the struggle to reproduce everyday life is rife with insecurity. Struggle over shelter and rent, added with worries over water and sanitation constantly plague the people. These insecurities also play out into internal divisions over the struggle for scant resources.

As in each and every urban concentration across India, they bear with them the marks of the violent process of development both in the rural and urban areas. And this pain and their function in the chain of capitalist production is their strength and power. In the villages, they have seen their debts with the landed elite and prices of agricultural inputs soar, the pesticides ruin the nutrition of their soil, even caste related atrocities jump in number, and have been thrown out unceremoniously as companies pounce on their resources. They bear with them the crisis in the urban areas where huge ‘industrial model towns’ have no mention of workers housing even in the grand ‘master plans’, where workers are being pushed daily into selling the endless days and nights of labour even cheaper. With no proper housing, they are pushed into residing in rented dormitories and slums where the state has wilfully withdrawn from all its responsibilities. The working classes are thus ‘legally’ handed over to networks of the local elites and goons (who are hand in glove with the local police, the company owners in the nearby industrial estates, the political party in power or parliamentary opposition) who impose exorbitant rent and user charges on any service that is provided. All this comes under the rubric of ‘illegality’, and the pitching of the people as encroachers. To manage this, the system also has in place several welfare programs and NGOs who act as middlemen, ‘service providers’, ‘consultancy groups’ to delink the struggle in the rural and the urban, the factory/workplace and the household, and push the struggle only into litigation and as a question of lack of rule of law. Integrated in the global networks of capital, cheap labour has to be ensured for the ruling class by constant regulation—by the force of law, by the police and by the ameliorate benevolence of the NGOs.

Exposing the present model of ‘development’

There is nothing surprising about eviction and repression as everywhere in India, and across the world, cities are restructured to suit the needs of capital accumulation, as the attack of neoliberal capital intensifies. In the resistance in Nonadanga is seen an active process of exposing the linkage between exploitation and state repression—both of which defines the fabric of ‘normalcy’ and ‘development’. The residents of Nonadanga formed an independent organization without links to the Trinamool or CPI(M) or any of the standard vote-shops, and asserted their power without relying on the NGOs either. This has been possible, even in the face of their weak economic condition and other insecurities, because of their will and the presence of struggling left revolutionary forces from much before this present agitation started—who are working in coordination during the struggle. Even after all the houses were demolished, the residents refused to budge from the site, put up shelters, ran a community kitchen, and are confronting the might of the police everyday with their bare hands and indomitable will. Since 11 April, 10 comrades under this Ucched Pratirodh Committee persisted with a fast-unto-death in the site for 12 days with undeterred support of the entire slum, and beyond. Fighting the might of the developers and the state, they have reconstructed almost all the burnt and demolished houses, and are preparing to face further assaults from the government, like the boundary wall being constructed by the KMDA and constant threat of further violence by the police, and TMC goons. A local school here, during the present agitation, has been turned into a police camp. However, even in the face of this, some initiatives in education, ecology, health camps are stirring to imagine a different vision of development, even as the state is sought to be held responsible and answerable to their demands. The built makeshift houses stand for now, but so do the demands for proper housing.

The residents continue to demand unconditional dropping of charges against the arrested activists and residents. That without ‘organisational prejudice’, 7 activists of various mass organisations were arrested on 8 April, and then again 11 residents of the area have been arrested on 28 April, shows that whoever raises a voice against the developmental terrorism of capital, without exception, will be crushed. The illusions of justice by the government, police, administration, and judiciary are daily breaking, coming face to face with them in the arena of struggle. The TMC and CPI(M) of the Singurs and Rajarhats have been exposed as lapdogs of the land sharks and company mafia. The state has been forced into retreat after confrontation—the government has been forced to grant bail to the 7 arrested activists (though 2 of them are still in jail) and make promises (albeit temporary) not to go into further evictions. The solidarity campaign by revolutionary left forces and mass organizations in different places also got energized into thinking, debating and linking the ongoing struggles against similar processes in own specific locations. In cases of local resistance, not only did the general process of capitalist restructuring of cities and resistance as the only way to confront it come up again, but thinking around questions of forms of resistance and organization within the struggle are also showing itself.

Beyond anti-Mamata-ism, and the empty discourse of (il)legality

During the ongoing struggle, we have witnessed repeated attempts to not only repress the movement, but at the same time to depoliticize and divert it as an ideological offensive by the ruling class. Even the solidarity campaign when picked up by the civil society, the NGOs, the national media or a organization like SFI focused on (a) anti-Mamata Banerjeeism, (b) depoliticized appeal to push the release of the ‘eminent scientist, harmless national asset’, Partho Sarathi Ray, and (c) relief to the ‘helpless slumdwellers’, without challenging the discourse of (il)legality.

There is at present, a seemingly anti-Mamata Banerjee wave. From the huge uproar over the arrest of a JU professor over a anti-Mamata cartoon to the ‘don’t talk to CPI(M) members diktat’ around the same time, the corporate media is also ‘lovin it’. Nonadanga then becomes merely a question of ‘bad management’ by the Chief Minister. Whereas one opinion argues for an even more virulent form of corporate rule as the answer (it points to the earlier three decades of so-called ‘communist misrule’), the other opinion grants legitimacy to the CPI(M) as better political managers for the capitalist class. After all, the CPI(M) showed its capability to contain revolutionary and mass struggles for a long time, before it faltered over Singur and the Nandigram, and the building mass discontent and shifting class base. What these opinions fail to see is that these Nonadangas show again that whether it be a Mamata or a Buddhababu, they have to take credit for their shops from the same capitalist class. The handing over countless Singurs and Nonadangas to corporate at throwaway prices, the using of brute repression for it on the resisting population is to continue the normalcy of exploitation and accumulation by further demolishing the power of working class. Against this, what must be posited, in continuation from Singur, is that the revolutionary left forces organizing the working class and masses as a power will fight capital and its political executive of whichever variety, who seek to impose the fear over the people.

The hulaboo over Partho Sarathi Ray as the ‘eminent scientist’ divorced from his political positions against the depredations of global capital and state repression reminds us of the decoupling of ‘the good doctor’ Binayak Sen from his politics of demanding universal primary health (the declaration of Alma Ata, the work with Shaheed Hospital) and protest against the Operation Greenhunt. It reminds us of representing Irom Sharmila Chanu as the vaishnavite/Gandhian divorced from her struggle against the AFSPA and the Indian military’s occupation of the Northeast. The question is in this manner sought to be trivialized to mere condemnation of harassment of these ‘national assets’ ignoring their uncomfortable politics or just mentioning it in passing as merely incidental.

The last argument is a desperate attempt to confine the struggle. It raises the question of rehabilitation and livelihood from a NGOist perspective—not going into its causes, and forgetting that most rehabilitation packages are used by neo-liberalism, more often than not, to make yet another assault on the reproduction of labour-power. They thus see this as only a question of shelter for the marginalized, push the struggle into mere litigation and ask for stronger laws or better implementation of existing ones. However law itself and its enforcers create a false sense of equality even as it constitutes its ‘outside’ i.e. the slums as areas of ‘illegal encroachment’. The struggling people and the revolutionary left forces understand that what is law for one class is repression for others—and only a struggle that seeks to question ruling class law itself can shed light into how they came to be ‘illegal encroachers’ in the first place and overturn it; that it is not a question of mere ‘governance’ or more laws or protection from the state of ‘human right violations’. When here, the law of equal exchanges is pointed out, we reiterate Marx of Capital, “between equal rights, force decides”, as has been the history of capitalist production. The people assert—we are not helpless victims of atrocities but we raise the question of housing as a question of class struggle. We demand wages and housing both simultaneously, recognizing that the increase in distance between the place of residence and the source of livelihood that most resettlement and rehabilitation process imposes on the evicted slum-dwellers further devalues our labour-power by lengthening our average labour day. We link the spheres of reproduction and production, we bear the pain of your poriborton, ‘development’ and ‘aid’, and are a force who posits a different imagination. From the Paris Commune to Occupy Wall Street and the London Riots, imaginations of how cities might be reorganized in socially just and ecologically sane ways—and how they can become the focus for anti-capitalist resistance have been posited. Today in India, we find the urban space as increasingly turning into a site of such resistance even as these are still fragmented, localised and disorganized.

As the struggle in urban areas intensifies, the space of operation of NGOs and civil society organisations as only ‘mediators’ between ‘atrocities happening in some remote part’ and ‘corridors of power’ in the cities, is shrinking more and more each day. As class struggle and urban resistance sharpens, the limits of the framework of ‘legality’ and ‘civil liberties’ within which these forces work will become even starker. The shrinkage of democratic space—manifesting with even more brutal assaults by the police state and juridical machinery on the working class is inevitable. While being engaged in the struggle of Nonadanga, we learn from it and those like it that this presents a possibility, and we must seize this.

The Aspirations/Possibilities of Nonadanga

The movemental militancy here is bound not to be confined in the legal and rights discourses only; it asserts its right to the question of housing as a class question. Neo-liberal capital thrives on cheap labour and segmentation. The working class while asking whose city is it, whose space is it, militantly asserts its inalienable right to all resources and to the dignity of its labour. This possibility in Nonadanga is then the potential of the struggle of the working class in urban areas to fight for the cost of its reproduction i.e. of housing and rent, health, education, transportation. These are reflected in some of the present demands—the movement is now proceeding with the demand for proper rehabilitation which is a political demand for a dignified and free life, along with thinking of the practice of alternate forms (however transitory now) of development.

Linked to this, is the possibility of taking this struggle against exploitation to the site of production, to the connected workplaces—asking for higher wages and better working conditions. In attempting to organize domestic workers and the huge informal sector workers and unemployed in the area in these ways, we believe the struggle can take a crucial turn, and this presents a possibility of unearthing and positing through a period of struggle, a form of organized working class power. In organizational terms itself, a process of democratic churning among left revolutionary forces in tune with the movement also is at play, which is also noteworthy. Today, the future of the present struggle is still uncertain, but these possibilities show themselves as the political question that Nonadanga poses. The crisis of capitalism cannot always be managed by governance, more laws and NGOs which seek to isolate and contain these local struggles—this framework will be in danger, and thus the eruption of a hundred million Nonadangas can be a serious anti-capitalist threat in the heart of capitalism as the terrain of struggle is remapped. The state will increasingly act with the repressive and ideological apparatuses at its disposal and this clash can and will only intensify. What is required is to take the movemental militancy and democratic organizational forms in Nonadanga a step further, and in every space where capital thrusts its violent marks. Standing in solidarity with it can only mean intensifying the struggle in our own locations and furthering them to learn from and connect to each other for a proletarian upsurge.

Published by Parag (09804468173) on behalf of

From Nonadanga to Workers’ Power

Pothik Ghosh

तू है मरण, तू है रिक्त, तू है व्यर्थ,
तेरा ध्वंस केवल एक तेरा अर्थ.
(You are death, you are emptiness, you are useless,
In your decimation lies your only meaning.)
– Gajanan Madhav Muktibodh

The resistance of Nonadanga is – for the working-masses of Calcutta, West Bengal and beyond – a shining example of struggle against capitalist repression and exploitation. The Nonadanga movement is a wake-up call for Mamata Banerjee and her Trinamool Congress-led West Bengal government. It is an indication that the popular upsurge, which unseated the 35-year-old CPM-led Left Front regime in West Bengal 10 months ago, was neither meant to clear the way for Mamata’s Trinamool Congress to appropriate state-power by forming a new government in West Bengal nor was it meant, at a more general level, to affirm and consolidate the hegemony of and consensus for competitive electoral politics. The different people’s movements – whether they be in Jangal Mahal or Darjeeling, Dooars or Calcutta city – were all directed against the deviation of the Left Front and its largest constituent, the CPM, from the fundamental ideological principles of Leftist politics.

The determined resistance the Kolkata Metropolitan Development Authority and its slum-eviction drive has come up against at Nonadanga proves the popular upsurge against the Left Front and its then government in West Bengal, not so long ago, was, without doubt, not an instrumentality for effecting a change of guard in the control room of state-power. By the same token, it was also not meant to play a partisan role in determining who would win the competition to usurp the privilege of enforcing and implementing the policies of neo-liberal capital. The Nonadanga struggle proves the working-masses care nothing about which party or electoral coalition gets to enforce the neo-liberal policy-vision by winning electoral and governmental power. Instead, it reveals that the working-masses will persist in their struggle until they have repulsed the neo-liberal assault on their lives and livelihoods, and have decimated capitalism, which is at its root. We hope this message, which rings loud and clear, gets across to Mamata Banerjee, CPM and all those political parties and non-political organisations that consider serving capital and its socio-economic and political system their good fortune and a matter of great honour.

In this context, the Nonadanga movement – which has emerged in less than a year since the change of regime in West Bengal — is an indication that no radical transformation in the material conditions of the working-people as a whole would be possible until and unless they manage to generate a new configuration of social power, based on the working-class logic of self-emancipation and self-activity, by forging a unity among their different struggles even as they keep intensifying those struggles in their separateness. As long as the working people, and the various left and progressive organisations that are part of their different struggles, are unable to accomplish that their dogged but divided struggles will continue to become cannon fodder for electoral competition and capitalist class-power that is the foundation for such bankrupt politics.

That is perhaps why the Nonadanga resistance should also compel the working people of not merely Calcutta and West Bengal, but all of India – together with the various left-democratic forces that are part of their larger struggle – to engage in self-criticism. We ought to view the experiences of our past struggles in West Bengal through the prism of repression and resistance at Nonadanga and the larger socio-political context within which it is situated. This would probably help us understand that as long as different sections of the working-people continue to wage their respective struggles against their particular oppressions in their separateness they would continue to find themselves incapable of constituting the new social configuration of working-class power. That is because capitalist socio-political organisation has the capacity to continually reform itself at its various levels by redressing the problems and demands of some sections of the working class, at times even managing to significantly reduce repression on those sections. But this system, which stands on the ethic of competition for hierarchy and domination, can never extinguish the culture of repression and oppression because without oppression (primitive accumulation) accumulation of capital through extraction of surplus-value (exploitation) is simply not possible. As a matter of fact, capitalism is compelled to continually reduce oppression on certain sections of the working class by transferring the crisis in accumulation, which is embodied by heightening oppression on those sections and the resistance it thereby provokes in them against such oppression, to other sections by simultaneously changing the organic composition of capital and recomposing the working class. It is this that segments and divides the working class and makes it appear as a sectionalised amorphous mass called the working people. In other words, capitalism, as a system of exploitation, is the condition of possibility of oppression and the repressive violence that renders such oppression most clearly evident. In such circumstances, every struggle against oppression must transform itself also into a struggle against exploitation and accumulation of capital.

We must ensure that our respective struggles against oppression do not turn into struggles for the proper enforcement of the rule of law but, instead, get transformed into struggles for the abolition of the very conception of the rule of law that is intrinsic to and constitutive of the unequal sociality of capitalism. “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter” is an adage that could well have an analogy: “What is law for one section of society is the exception to law for another.” The legally-protected rights enjoyed by one section of society, more often than not, spell repression for another section. And that is because our unequal capitalist society – which is stratified and thus divided – makes possible through the rule of law, differential legal rights for its different sections or strata, which in turn enable the preservation and protection of their differential identities and thus the reproduction of the entire sociality constitutive of those differential identities. Such an unequal sociality of differential identities is crucial because otherwise competition, which is the diesel of capital accumulation, would be impossible. That is precisely the reason why a law that ensures and protects the rights of one identified section of society comes up as a wall of oppression and repression against another identified section lower than it on the social ladder, and its struggles to level the ground in between them. It would, therefore, not be incorrect to claim that the blanks that exist in between the different laws constitutive of the sociality of differentially included socio-economic identities constitute the happy hunting ground for oppression or primitive accumulation. A bench of the Patna High Court has, in a recent verdict, acquitted all the accused of the infamous Bathani Tola carnage of 1996. This judgement sharply underscores the intimate relationship between the rule of law and so-called illegal repression and oppression like never before.

Needless to say the conception of the rule of law – which reproduces the unequal socio-economic structure of capitalism even as it stands on it as its ground — doesn’t merely generate oppression but also separates and divides the working people and their movement into various identitarian ghettos. That is why this conjuncture of postmodern capitalism – when there is such an unprecedented sharpening of socio-economic inequalities that no section of the working people is unscathed by the experience of suffering and havoc it is wreaking– has yielded a world of undeclared Emergency for us to live in. The ruling class, unlike before, does not now feel the need to officially declare Emergency because the identitarianised sectionalisation and ghettoisation of the working people, and the resultant competitive orientation of their respective struggles vis-à-vis one another, enables state-power to be an expression of the covert dictatorship of capital, concealed by a sheer cloak of democracy, over sellers of labour-power. Italian political thinker Giorgio Agamben’s conception of the “generalised state of exception is meant to explicate precisely such concrete situations. And this generalised state of exception, which has transformed the entire society into a factory if not a large fascist concentration camp, is the appearance of the neo-liberal character of contemporary capitalism.

Hence, in the final analysis, Nonadanga cannot exhaust our politics. Our solidarity with and support for the Nonadanga movement would be effective – as opposed to being merely symbolic like it is now – only if we are able to take it to its right denouement. And this denouement would be the eruption of a larger, cohesive, country-wide movement of urban resistance. If we fail on that score, we will have condemned the Nonadanga movement to the electoral cauldron of the CPM (and its Left Front), which is currently waiting like a stealthy and cunning predator for the right opportunity to pounce on its prey.

The Nonadanga movement has shown the way of unity in struggle to the working-masses of this country. If, on the one hand, the political hitmen of neo-liberal capital are busy dispossessing a section of the working-people from its villages, farms and forests in the name of development, thereby forcing it to flee to cities as a mass of completely pauperised proletarians, the same hounds of capital are also expropriating the urban working-people of their homes and their basic rights by demolishing their slums to further the same project of ‘development’ and ‘beautification’. Worse, this political executive (read chattel-slaves) of capital has turned rehabilitation into an alibi to push these uprooted, homeless people into undeveloped areas outside the city-limits, where they are provided neither with respectable homes fit for human beings to live in nor with clean and safe drinking water. Besides, such bogus rehabilitations are pushing uprooted sections of the urban working people farther and farther away from sources of viable livelihood. The progressive increase in distance between places of residence and sources of employment/livelihood that is being imposed on the urban working-masses by this twin process of eviction and resettlement/rehabilitation is leading to a progressive lengthening of their average labour-day. This entire process – which is enforced and realised through repression carried out by both governmental and non-governmental agents – diminishes the value represented in the wages that the working class receive. It also reconstitutes the urban space in a manner that the vulnerability and precariousness of the proletarianised population is increased – insulating the spaces of production from the erratic reproductive domain, while the latter is increasingly made dependent on the former, i.e., it is more and more subsumed under the logic of capital. Consequently, valorisation of labour-power has rendered socio-economic existence into a biopolitical realm, where determination of social life, even at its bare biological level of the body and its vector, is progressively becoming a matter of centralised systemic control. That is yet another salient feature of our conjuncture of neo-liberal capitalism.

Clearly, repression and legally-sanctioned exploitation complement one another. The two processes in inter-weaving with each other constitute capital, its accumulation and its class-power. In such a situation, when governments and the larger capitalist state-formation are pinning adjectives such as Naxalism on to struggles against repression and expropriation of peasants, Dalits, religious minorities, tribals and sub-nationalities, we have neither any fear nor shame in saying that we are all Naxals. In fact, we insist that this Naxalism-against-repression must now be transformed into a description for a cohesive country-wide urban resistance against capitalist exploitation and its neo-liberal class-power.

Delhi Press Release on Nonadanga and Urban Struggles (Protest Demonstration, April 25)

Halt eviction drives of urban slums and colonies!
Uphold the struggle of the toilers for the right to land!
Militant resistance in Nonadanga long live!!

Comrades, we are witnessing today the militant resistance of slum-dwellers of Nonadanga against the eviction drive of the Kolkata Metropolitan Development Authority (KMDA) through brute police force. Nonadanga presents us with the determination of the urban poor and working class to constitute an alternative form of social, political and economic power. The residents of Nonadanga have refused to budge from the site, have put up temporary shelters and a community kitchen, and are confronting the police everyday with their bare hands and their indomitable will, trying to hold on to whatever little they are left with. Since April 11, 5 comrades under Ucched Pratirodh Committee have persisted with a fast-unto-death in the site for 12 days with undeterred support of the entire slum, and beyond. Reconstruction and rebuilding of the demolished houses are being undertaken by them.

Nonadanga is a paradigm of struggle and unity that must be generalised across Kolkata, West Bengal and beyond. For, it’s only through the eruption of a hundred, thousand, million Nonadangas across the country – that the working class will be able to effectively pose its might and vision against the prevailing hegemony of neo-liberalism and its authoritarian political executive. In the absence of such a countrywide generalisation of urban resistance, the working masses of this country, including the residents of Nonadanga, have no hope in hell.

We are witnessing in India today, a ground preparing for a rising tide of urban upsurge. However much the ruling classes seek to dazzle the working people with the shine of their developmentist fables, corporate parks and election promises, they cannot hide from us the violence that is intrinsic to this process of capitalist ‘development’. Even as the agrarian crisis daily pushes the peasantry from villages to the cities as a proletarianised mass, capital is busy robbing this ever-growing population of urban workers of its bare necessities such as living wages, adequate land, decent housing and clean drinking water by putting up ever-heightening enclosures of rent and user-charges. Not just that. The political executive of capital does not flinch from turning the misery it produces into an opportunity for further accumulation. Even the demand for rehabilitation is used by neo-liberalism, more often than not, to carry out yet another assault on the reproduction of labour-power. The increase in distance between the place of residence and the source of livelihood that most resettlement and rehabilitation process imposes on the evicted slum-dwellers further devalues their labour-power by lengthening their average labour-day. Worse, any murmur of dissent against such accumulation by dispossession is brutally crushed by the state in order to ensure that the value of our labour-power can be progressively diminished even as the rate of extraction of surplus value is simultaneously enhanced and capitalist class power is reinforced.

The ongoing struggle against forcible eviction of slum-dwellers in Nonadanga, Kolkata, has revealed precisely that. On March 30, 2012, the KMDA, with the full support of the Trinamool Congress-led West Bengal government and its police force, bulldozed and burnt down the houses of over 200 families in the shantytown of Nonadanga in the name of ‘development’ and ‘beautification’. These people, who have lost their homes and hearths, are those whose cheap labour is ‘legally’ exploited to run the economy of the entire city. They are the toilers of unending nights and days, informal-sector workers and unemployed battling precarious living conditions. Among them are either those who were resettled here after being evicted from various canal banks across the city, or those whom the Cyclone Aila (2009) and the farm crisis uprooted from villages in the Sunderbans and other parts of the state respectively.

The state (and the corporate media), acting on behalf of capitalist land sharks eyeing this prime location in the city, are hell-bent on portraying these people as ‘illegal encroachers’. It has unleashed police and ‘legal’ repression, on an everyday basis, on all those who have been trying to resist this. A march of residents, under the banner of Ucched Pratirodh Committee (Resistance-to-Eviction Committee), was brutally lathicharged by the police on April 4, and again a sit-in demonstration four days later (April 8th) was violently broken up and 67 people arrested. Subsequent meetings and rallies held in solidarity with the movement on April 9 and 12 were attacked by goons and hundreds of activists were arrested by the police. Seven activists of various mass and democratic rights organisations, which stood in support of the Nonadanga movement, are either in jail or in police remand till April 26. Cases under Sections 353, 332, 141, 143, 148 and 149 of the IPC have been slapped on them. One of them, Debolina Chakraborty, has even been charged under the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). During a court hearing on April 12, a prosecution team of 40 lawyers made a concerted bid to implicate them in a slew of false cases and paint them as ‘anti-national’, opening earlier ‘Nandigram cases’, even going so far as to claim that Nonadanga was used for ‘stockpiling arms and ammunition’. We remember that this Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool government came to power using the anger of the people over the Singurs and Nandigrams of the previous CPI(M) government to its parliamentary ends. It is they who are now using the instruments of repression at their disposal in a hurry to prove themselves as faithful lapdogs of their class masters.

Comrades, Nonadanga has shown us the way. For, the sword of eviction hangs not just on a Nonadanga, or for that matter a Bhalaswa (Delhi). Today in India, 256 lakh people are homeless or live in abject conditions in slums, and this number is progressively on the rise. Forget jobs or providing decent education, the state is retreating from all its responsibilities of providing us with the cost of living and reproduction. Evicting us from our homes has become the norm, as the cities are restructured according to the needs of the ruling classes. In Delhi, Shiela Dixit’s Congress-led government has drawn up a list of 44 colonies to be evicted in the next few months- 33 in the first phase. The criteria for being allotted the meagre government flats is possession of voter identity card, aadhar card and ration card as of 2007, and a capacity to make a down-payment of Rs 80,000. We are thrown into these legalisms even as we suffer the already inadequate housing and water situation. Even in the six resettlement colonies in Delhi, the conditions are horrendous. When one of our comrades from Bhalaswa presented Delhi CM Shiela Dixit with a bottle of water from her area, the CM was at first deceived by the colour of the water to think that she was being offered Pepsi-cola to quench her thirst. People living in slums in various parts of the city are the ones who make the city what it is, who make the super-profits of the capitalists possible. It is these people who become an embarrassment for the government, whichever party is in power, and whatever their false election promises. We remember the spate of demolitions which was the run-up to the Commonwealth games 2010, and how the political managers of capital attempted to hide our ‘dirty’ dwellings and crush our then disunited voices of protest. This continues daily, even today. On 20th April 2012, the DDA with over 2000 police force, attempted to demolish and evict slum-dwellers from Gayatri Colony near Anand Parbat industrial area in Delhi, but were forced to retreat faced with the unity and resistance of the residents.

Even here in Delhi, we have daily struggled on the streets for our rights and demands. We have, however, also been disunited owing to our precarious existence and localised struggles. When in Kolkata, our brothers and sisters are fighting it out not merely for survival but for the right to live a dignified and free life, let us wish it all power and condemn the authoritarian actions of the government of West Bengal. Let us stand with them in solidarity, and also intensify our struggles at our own locations.

We condemn the action of the Trinamool-led West Bengal government and the brutal lathicharge on the Nonadanga residents and their supporters on April 4, and the threat of impending everyday violence. We also condemn the arrest and framing of activists who stand in support of the resistance.


Immediate and unconditional release of all the activists arrested on April 8. Drop charges against all seven of them: Debolina Chakraborty, Samik Chakraborty, Abhijnan Sarkar, Debjani Ghoah, Manas Chatterjee, Siddhartha Gupta and Partha Sarathi Ray.

Drop the draconian UAPA and all charges on Debolina Chakraborty, and release her immediately and unconditionally.

The state must stop further harassment of residents and activists, and apologise to the people for having infringed upon its democratic right to organise and dissent; and take action against the police officers involved in the lathicharge on April 4.

The right to housing and rehabilitation of the slum-dwellers and hawkers in Nonadanga must be immediately ensured in a fair and just manner so that that their labour-power is not further devalued.

All construction in Nonadanga by the KMDA must come to an immediate halt. The eviction drive in the city, and the anti-people programme of neo-liberal capitalist development of which it is an integral part, must be stopped.

The process of slum-eviction in Delhi must be stopped immediately and inhabitants of the jhuggi-jhopri clusters in the city should be provided with adequate land, and respectable housing with clean drinking-water sources and proper sanitation amenities.

Join a protest demonstration outside
Banga Bhavan on 25 April 11.30 am

All India Federation of Trade Unions(New)
All India Students Association
All India Revolutionary Students Organisation
Bigul Mazdoor Dasta
Disha Chatra Sagathan
Inquilabi Mazdoor Kendra
Jamia Teachers Solidarity Association
Krantikari Naujawan Sabha
Krantikari Yuva Sangathan
Mazdoor Patrika
Mehnatkash Mazdoor Morcha
New Socialist Initiative
Peoples’ Democratic Front of India
Progressive Democratic Students Union
People’s Union for Democratic Rights
Posco Pratirodh Solidarity-Delhi
Radical Notes
Shramik Sangram Committee
Students For Resistance
Vidyarthi Yuvajan Sabha

Press Conference: Against Evictions and Repression in West Bengal (April 23, New Delhi)

April 23, 11 am at the Indian Women’s Press Corps,

On March 30, 2012, the Kolkata Metropolitan Development Authority (KMDA), with the full support of the Trinamool Congress-led West Bengal government and its police force, bulldozed and burnt down the houses of over 200 families in the shantytown of Nonadanga in the name of ‘development’ and ‘beautification’. The dictatorial Trinamool government has unleashed police and ‘legal’ repression, on an everyday basis, on all those who have been trying to resist this. A march of residents, under the banner of Ucched Pratirodh Committee (Resistance to Eviction Committee), was brutally lathicharged by the police on April 4, and again a sit-in demonstration four days later (April 8th) was violently broken up and 67 people arrested. Subsequent meetings and rallies held in solidarity with the movement on April 9 and 12 were attacked by goons, and hundreds of activists were arrested by the police. Cases under Sections 353, 332, 141, 143, 148 and 149 of the IPC have been slapped on seven activists of various mass and democratic rights organisations, which stood in support of the Nonadanga movement. Six of them are either in jail or police remand till April 26, while Partho Sarathi Ray was released on bail on April 18. Debolina Chakrabarti has even been charged under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) for ‘anti-national activities’. During a court hearing on April 12 a prosecution team of 40 lawyers made a concerted bid to implicate them in a slew of false cases and paint them as ‘anti-national’, even going so far as to claim that Nonadanga was used for “stockpiling arms and ammunition”. In spite of such unrelenting and brutal repression by the state, the people of Nonadanga have continued to resist.

The sword of eviction hangs not just on a Nonadanga, or for that matter a Bhalaswa (Delhi). Today in India, 256 lakh people are homeless or live in abject conditions in slums, and this number is progressively on the rise. Forget jobs or providing decent education, the state is retreating from all its responsibilities of providing working masses with the cost of living and reproduction. Evicting them from their homes has become the norm, as the cities are restructured according to the needs of the ruling classes.

In Delhi, more than two dozen left and progressive organisations have come together not just in solidarity with the Nonadanga struggle and the arrested activists, but, more importantly, to leverage this opportunity to link up the everyday struggles of their respective mass bases with one another. That, we think, is crucial in order to build a larger, countrywide urban resistance of the working people against the depredations of neo-liberal capital.

We invite members of the press to a press conference on April 23, 11 am at the Indian Women’s Press Corps, 5, WINDSOR PLACE, NEW DELHI-110001 to announce our future course of action and to express our solidarity with the Nonadanga struggle.

Nayanjyoti & Sunil – Coordinators
Contact: 8130589127

Nonadanga: Political Profiles of the Arrested Activists


The dispossessed of Nonadanga are now on hunger strike, staying in an open field while facing constant police harassment. The demand is two-fold: rehabilitation, and the release of seven arrested activists. In view of the situation, Sanhati is publishing political profiles of the arrested activists.


Debalina Chakrabarty, secretary of Kolkata based women’s organization Matangini Mahila Samiti, has participated in the people’s movements of Singur, Nandigram and Lalgarh. She has been a member on many fora, such as the SEZ Birodhi Prachar Mancha, resisting the aggression of neoliberal capital in West Bengal. She has also participated on various fact-finding teams, including one of the first reports to probe the socioeconomic effects of the purported Jindal SEZ in Salboni, West Midnapur district, West Bengal.

Samik Chakraborty is an activist with the Mazdur Kranti Parishad and is also a documentary filmmaker with the activist cinema group Canvas. Earlier, Samik was the state secretary and president of the Progressive Democratic Students’ Federation. Samik is currently a fulltime activist, being involved in many of the peoples’ movements in the past decade ranging from the movements in Singur, Laalgarh, lockedout factory workers’ movements in the Hooghly and 24 Parganas industrial belt, union struggles of Hindusthan Motors, Gorkhaland agitations, relief and rehabilitation demands for Aila affected people of the Sundarbans and more recently the struggle of the slum evictees of Nonadanga. As a member of Canvas, he was involved in shooting and producing a host of documentaries. Samik is also an activist of the Sanhati Collective.

Manas Chatterjee is a full time activist of CPIML Liberation. He is a member of the Party’s Kolkata District Committee, and Secretary of the Jadavpur local Committee. He is a veteran of many anti-eviction movements in the past, and has been at the forefront of the organisation of rickshaw workers in the Jadavpur region, as well as the organisation of workers in the industrial complexes of the region. He is a district committee member of Kolkata AICCTU.

Debjani Ghosh is one of the leaders of the student organisation USDF at Jadavpur University, and has been actively involved in many political struggles in and around Kolkata. She was one of the many students injured during the lathicharge by police inside JU campus in 2010 November. She has participated in the solidarity struggle for labourers at the Naihati Jute Mill in 2010. Recently, she had been arrested during the protests against the TMC government’s failure to release political prisoners and withdrawal of joint forces from Jangalmahal. She was also was one the 12 USDF activists arrested while setting up a commemorative dais on Sidhu Soren’s martyr day. She has been part of the protests against the arrest of PCAPA leaders and is also part of the efforts to bring the land deal in Singur back in focus, as recently as August 2011.

Siddhartha Gupta has been active in the anti-land acquisition movement of Bengal since 2006, as part of Gana Pratirodh Mancha. Earlier he had been a member of the Revolutionary Youth League. At the time of this arrest he was employed as a physician at a hospital in Calcutta. He has been actively involved in organizing several free medical camps and had also visited Lalgarh for providing medical care to the people there. On one such visit in 2011 August he along with Abhijnan Sarkar was arrested. Siddhartha was also associated with Shramjibi Swasthya Udyog and has been one of the few doctors who visited the POSCO resistance area on health mission.

Partho Sarathi Ray has been active in various democratic rights struggles for a number of years, as a member of various solidarity fora, both in West Bengal and across India. He has reported on a wide variety of peoples movements, from Lalgarh to POSCO. He has also written a number of fact-finding reports, e.g. on Falta SEZ and South City Mall. He has also written a large number of analytical articles, on the political geography of SEZs, the Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India, the penetration of corporations in retail and the middle class of India. He has also contributed to various other magazines and journals, on similar issues. Partho is an activist of the Sanhati Collective.

Abhijnan Sarkar has been a member of the student group USDF and has actively participated in peoples movements in West Bengal for many years, as part of different solidarity fora. He is the editor of the periodical “Towards a New Dawn” in Kolkata. Abhijnan is also associated with the Sanhati Collective and has reported on the police repression on the Nari Ijjat Bachao Committee in Lalgarh.

Protest Demonstration in Delhi (April 12, 11:00 am)

12th April @11.30 am, in front of Banga Bhavan, Hailey Road
We will assemble at Mandi House Metro Station at 11a.m.

We find that the anti-people character of the West Bengal government is getting exposed daily. The police and bulldozers of Trinamool-led West Bengal government has not only evicted slum-dwellers of Nonadanga in South Kolkata, but lathicharged and then arrested residents in a continuous spate of its developmental terrorism. It has sent into police custody 7 activists of various mass and democratic rights organisations, who are kept in isolation, and allegations of ‘arms and ammunition found’ etc are doing the rounds.

We strongly condemn this anti-people development model and the eviction of slumdwellers and hawkers in Nonadanga and all over Kolkata, and demand that this be brought to a halt and the question of housing and rehabilitation of the residents be addressed. We also demand that the arrested activists be released and the the false charges dropped immediately.

AISA, AIRSO, Bigul Mazdoor Dasta, Disha Students Organisation, Inquilabi Mazdoor Kendra, Krantikari Naujawan Sabha, Krantikari Yuva Sangathan, Mehnatkash Mazdoor Morcha, Mazdoor Patrika, P.D.F.I., P.U.D.R., Students for Resistance, Vidyarthi Yuvajan Sabha and others.

Joint Statement from Delhi organisations on Nonadanga

The Trinamool Congress-led Government of West Bengal is daily showing its anti-people character. Its Police and the bulldozers of the KMDA (Kolkata Metropolitan Development Authority) razed to the ground and burnt the slums and homes of more than 800 people in Nonadanga, Kolkata on 30th March 2012. These are the same people who were resettled after evictions from various canal banks across Kolkata, and from the dispossessed from the hurricane Aila in 2009. A protest march called against the forceful eviction by residents and progressive organisations and individuals on 4th April was also brutally lathicharged by the Police, critically injuring many. Yesterday on 8th April, a sit-in demonstration was violently broken and 67 people were arrested, with false cases pressed on seven activists of various democratic mass organisations supporting the struggle. They have been remanded in police custody till 12th April, and there is an attempt by the state to frame these democratic rights activists, falsely alleging that arms and ammunitions have been found on them. Also on 9th April, 114 demonstrators who were protesting against these moves by the government were arrested from College Street. On 10th April, a huge consignment of police has cordoned off the entire area and the threat of imminent demolition even of the temporary tents and community kitchen looms large, reminding us of the situation in Singur in 2006.

The government had earlier refused to provide even basic amenities like water, school, drainage system and proper housing in these resettlement colonies and pushed them into an `illegal’ existence, and made them dependent on the networks of local Trinamool and CPI(M) goons. And now in the name of beautification, this violent eviction drive is set on the roll on these supposed `illegal encroachers’ whose cheap labour is `legally exploited’ to run the city’s economy. Anyone opposing this kind of violent `development’ of the ruling classes, has been declared to be `Maoists’ and `inciting outsiders’ conveniently by the Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee again in her press statements to delegitimize the struggle, while the common lands of Kolkata are handed over to the corporate land sharks in the best traditions set up by the previous CPI(M)-led government.

We, the undersigned organisations, condemn the arrests made on 8th April of protestors sitting in a demonstration in Ruby Junction, and demand that the 7 activists of various mass organisations who continue to be arrested be released and the false charges against them be dropped immediately, as the government is acting against the democratic right to organize and dissent.

We condemn the action of the Trinamool-led West Bengal Government and the brutal lathicharge on 4th April, and continued harassment by the Kolkata Police on the residents of Nonadanga and those protesting against the ongoing eviction process in the name of `beautification’ of the city, and demand action against the police officers involved.

We stand with the struggle of the residents of Nonadanga and demand an immediate halt to the eviction drive in the city and the anti-people development, and proper compensation and rehabilitation for all the slum dwellers and hawkers in Nonadanga and in the evictions all over Kolkata.

AIFTU (New), AIRSO, AISA, Bigul Mazdoor Dasta, Delhi Metro Kamgar Union, Democratic Students Union, Disha Students Organisation, Inquilabi Mazdoor Kendra, Jamia Teachers Solidarity Forum, Krantikari Naujawan Sabha, Krantikari Yuva Sangathan, Pragatishil Mehnatkash Mazdoor Morcha, Mehnatkash Patrika, Mazdoor Patrika, Mehnatkash Mazdoor Morcha, New Socialist Initiative, Peoples Democratic Front of India, People’s Union for Democratic Rights, Posco Pratirodh Solidarity Delhi, Sanhati-Delhi, Students for Resistance, Vidyarthi Yuvajan Sabha

Nonadanga: Against Repression and Arrest

Krantikari Naujawan Sabha

Condemn Repression in the name of ‘Development’ of the ‘Beautiful’ !
Demand Immediate Release of Arrested Dissenters !!

The ‘beautiful’ and the ‘developed’ entwined as it is with power, must make war on its underside, the ‘ugly’, the toiling, and demolish it, hide it under the shine of corporate towers and election promises. The brutal violence of the present process of ‘development’ in India comes buttressed with State Repression. This is exposed yet again when the Trinamool-led West Bengal government with its brute police force and Kolkata Municipal Development Corporation (KMDA) bulldozed and burnt the houses of 800 slum-dwellers in Nonadanga, South Kolkata on 30th March 2012 in the name of ‘beautification’. This is backed up with continuous state repression- residents who tried to resist their homes being demolished were beaten, picked up and put into police vans. Picking up pieces from their broken homes, setting up temporary shelters with vinyl sheets and a community kitchen, the residents organized a protest march the next day, and again on 4th April. This was met with brutal Police lathicharge and abuses, male plain-clothes personnel pounced on the women, kicked twenty-one year Rita Patra in her advanced pregnancy, split the head of two-and-a-half year old Joy Paswan. A sit-in demonstration was organized on 8th April- police forcefully arrested 67 people and again on 9th April, 114 student protestors were arrested from College Street. Seven activists of various mass organizations have been sent to police custody till 12th April with non-bailable warrants and allegations of ‘stockpiling of arms and ammunitions in Nonadanga’ doing the rounds in the Chief Minister’s press statements. Yesterday and again today 11th April, a huge consignment of police has cordoned off the entire area and the threat of imminent demolition even of the temporary tents and community kitchen looms large, reminding us of the situation in Singur of 2nd December 2006. A mass hunger strike has meanwhile started in the area by various progressive organizations, activists and intellectuals, which the state machinery is readying to crush.

The build-up to this has been the spate of eviction drives going on in the city under state supervision (read: repression) to hand over land to the corporate sharks at throw-away prices. All the roadside hawkers’s huts and shops and markets along an 8 km stretch have been demolished by the side of E.M. Bypass a few days ago. For Mamata’s ‘poriborton’, the working masses have to pay a price. The threat of an imminent eviction was looming large in Nonadanga days before the eviction drive. These are the people who have earlier been evicted from canal banks across Kolkata and have been resettled here and continue to be harassed by the networks of the local Trinamool and CPI(M) goons. Apprehending the worst, the residents met the Urban Development minister, Firhad Hakim who said that there will be eviction only for the ‘newcomers’. On the day before the scheduled date of eviction, the dwellers again went to meet the Chief Minister, but were stopped and arrested by the police just as they started their journey from Nonadanga. People of the locality then formed an independent forum named Uchhed Protirodh Committee (Eviction Protest Committee), with the help of several people and organisations who are supporting the movement who are now being accused of being close to Maoists.

The Question of “Legality” that Is Looming large in the Media and Civil Society

The police, administration and a section of media is playing on the hashed argument that the evicted people were ‘illegal’ dwellers and ‘encroachers’ in the area, that they do not possess any legal ownership documents etc. The history of colony movement in West Bengal was to resettle people who have come to Kolkata from elsewhere, and the vast majority of population in the areas like Jadavpur, Baghajatin, Garia etc were once refugees. These ‘encroachers’ have arrived in the city pushed by the crisis of agriculture in the rural areas, in search of any type of employment, some have been pushed here after being evicted from one place to another, and many have come from the Sundarbans after their homes and lands have been devastated by the cyclone Aila in 2009. If the people here are ‘illegal’, it is the State’s problem, which so-called constitutionally guarantees the ‘right of livelihood’, corollary of which is the right to land and habitation. Besides, their demand of an adequate rehabilitation is also perfectly within the ambit of law. So, where is the question of being ‘illegal’?

The obvious also does not point out that what is ‘legal’ may not be necessarily ethical. In fact, as history shows us, apart the regime of law set to protect the property rights of the rulers, the coming in of any new slightly progressive law or the amendment of an old one is almost always as a result of mass movements which were fought on the premise of such demands that were deemed as ‘illegal’ previously by the legal system. The ‘law and order problem’ approach of the State backfired when the struggles in Singur and Nandigram forced the government to consider changing the British era 1894 Land Acquisition Act. Every private land ownership in the world is basically a sort of forceful occupancy, some days earlier or some days later, and the modern state has come in between to stamp some of them legal and some illegal, according to its class interest.

Eviction: Not only a Question of Residence but of Political Economy

Brutal eviction drives have become normal in the ruling class agenda to pauperise the rural areas and move the thus insecure working masses to the cities, and restructure the cities themselves. Huge ‘industrial model towns’ and cities find no mention of workers housing even in the grand ‘master plans’. This is seen everywhere from Guwahati to Bhubaneshwar to Raipur to the resettlement colonies of Bawana and Bhalaswa in Delhi, and Kolkata is no exception. For one, in Kolkata the Land Revenue Department had acquired lands around the Nonadanga region about 25 years back to distribute them among the poor homeless people of the city. Since then, while a resettlement colony has been built up for the evicted people from other places, for the last few years, the wetlands and fisheries have been filled up and the land steadily sold in phases and parts to different companies and real estate developers who work in tandem with Trinamool and CPI(M) government officials and local goons. A section from among the settlers are also bought over given their precarious condition. Nonadanga is at just a stone’s throw from the eastern metropolitan bypass behind such glitzy corporate hospitals like Fortis, Ruby and Desunand and plans are on to transfer the land at throwaway prices to big real-estate projects by ‘Urbana’ and IT hubs. Obviously, in such a strategic location in a metropolis, they will not tolerate slums and ‘all these dirty people’.

While ‘restructuring’ of spaces to suit the needs of capital goes on, we need to remember that eviction is not only a question of residence of some people but a serious question of political economy, and that is how it relates itself to the other cross sections of society. To enter into the question we have to look at the means of livelihood of these residents here. People of Nonadanga are employed in various small scale industries, in petty production and many are unemployed workers. Some in the garment industry, some in the ‘Kasba Industrial Estate’ nearby, some in other small factories of the subcontractors of big industrial houses. A large number of people work as construction workers and contract workers in various places. Many are autodrivers, ricksaw-pullers, van-pullers, drivers of personal or official cars. Many people are self-employed in small roadside shops of food, tailoring, mobile-recharge, grocery and majority of women are employed as domestic-helps.

On their cheap labour, the social economy and architecture of the entire city stands. Especially the salaried masses and the lower middle classes are in a symbiotic relationship with them. The hawkers and roadside shops of “4 kachuri plus curry at Rs.10” evicted so that there is no other option than going to their Big Bazars, Walmarts and CCDs.; and so that this population already living below subsistence wages are further pauperised into selling their labour even cheaper. The domestic-helps for washing clothes, cleaning floors at Rs.300/month with 30 working days/month in morning and evening shifts will be dealt further blows. The formal sector anyway maintains its low real wage by virtue of the informal economy which creates a condition of lesser cost of regeneration of labour power. A vast section of middle class is convinced with the logic of capital propagated by the state, power-mongering political parties and omniscient media. There is a large section of the lower middle class in Kolkata who are the strata between slum dwellers and salaried masses who will be in serious crisis, because they are the consumers in relation to the people in Nonadanga and similar locations. For the ruling classes to have their beautification and accumulation growing, these are the people who have to pay a price.

Struggle against the evictions is ongoing in Kolkata, as in many other cities across the country. In Kolkata, slum-dwellers of different places are fighting against eviction and for housing, livelihood and the cost connected to their reproduction of their labour. These movements however have still not been able to build up solidarity among themselves and are still localised. The State and mainstream political parties are trying as always to create internal divisions among several sections of residents using their vulnerability and contradictions of their immediate interest. Advancement and generalisation of struggle can only throw out these problems from the arena of mass movements. We stand in solidarity with the struggle of people in Nonadanga for their right to housing and demand that the arrested activists be released and the false charges against them be immediately dropped.

Demo to protest Kishanji’s murder (Dec 2)

We strongly condemn the brutal and cold-blooded murder of Mallojula Koteshwara Rao alias Kishanji by the security forces in the Burisole forest area of West Bengal.

Now it is very much clear from various sources that the Maoist leader Kishanji was first captured and severely tortured by security forces and then killed in a planned fake encounter under the connivance of both West Bengal and central governments. Mamata Banerjee government of WB has used almost the same weapon of ‘Peace Talk’ to eliminate the Maoist leader as by the R. S. Reddy government in AP.

It is a known fact that the central and various state governments are jointly conducting a special military operation to suppress Maoist activities. The unjustified and irrational killing of Kishanji is nothing but a part of state terror being unfettered under ‘Operation Green Hunt’, centrally controlled by the UPA government. It is a clear cut violation of not only the guidelines given by Supreme Court and National Human Rights Commission but also by different international institutions.

It is to note that the state is not only killing the Maoists and their supporters but also viciously suppressing all voices of dissent, especially of democratic and revolutionary forces. We strongly feel that Naxalism / Maoism cannot be suppressed by killing its propagators / leaders and organizing massacres of its supporters.

So, we demand that:

1. The central and state governments should immediately stop ‘Operation Green Hunt’ and physical elimination of Naxal /Maoist leaders and cadres.

2. The central government should set up a high level Judicial Enquiry Committee on the killing of Kishanji.

3. The government should register a case of culpable homicide under section 302 of IPC, so that the killers of Kishanji are forced to face the court trial, as directed by Supreme Court and National Human Rights Commission.

We call upon all the progressive, democratic and revolutionary forces to come together and oppose the killing of Kishanji and the suppression of people’s movements.

We, the undersigned have decided to organize a Protest Demonstration before the Bang Bhavan, 3, Hailey Road, New Delhi-110001 on 2nd Dec. 2011 at 12 PM to show our united anger against state oppression. We appeal to all the pro-people forces to make this Protest Demonstration successful by joining it in huge number.

Signed by:
1. Arjun Pd Singh, PDFI
2. P.K. Shahi, CPI(ML)
3. Narender, Peoples Front
4. Thomas Mathew, Bahujan Vam Manch
5. Shieo Mangal Sidhantkar, CPI(ML) New Proletariat
6. Ashish Gupta, PUDR
7. Anil Chamaria, Journalist
8. Amit, krantikari Nawjawan Sabha
9. G.N.Saibaba ,Revolutionary Democratic Front
10. Mrigank, Navajwan Bharat Sabha
11. Harish, Inquilabi Majdur Kendra
12. Alok Kumar. Krantikari Navajawan Sabha
13. Deepak Singh, NDPI
14. Mritunjay, CCON
15. Banojyotsna, Democratic Students Union
16. Kusumlata, Student For Resistance
17. Bijunayek, Lok Raj Sangathan
18. Ambrish Rai, Social Activist
Contact: 9868638682, 8800356565, 9873315447

Incarcerating Prafulla Chakraborty and Cooperation Ethic

Anjan Chakrabarti

“The emancipation of the working class
must be the act of the workers themselves.”
Rules of the First International

On 16th October 2011, the veteran 71-year-old trade union leader, the chief advisor of the Kanoria Jute Mill Shramik Sangrami Union, and exponent of cooperation ethic, Prafulla Chakraborty, was arrested on the trumped up charges of attempting to murder a worker of the Kanoria Jute Mill and disturbing industrial peace. He was remanded in judicial custody for seven days; since then he has been on indefinite hunger strike. My objective in writing this piece is not merely to protest his arrest which many have rightfully done, but to argue that the arrest involves something more sinister, which needs to be scanned and opposed. Specifically, underlying his arrest is an attack on cooperation ethic and the institution of the economic collective (1) which Prafulla Chakraborty has personified for the last few years, most definitely in the case of the Kanoria Jute Mill.

This arrest of Prafulla Chakraborty telescopes an attack on the idea of cooperation ethic and represents a move on part of the state-capital nexus in West Bengal to repress the possibility of its appearance among workers. As such, this arrest-attack is an assault on any possible alternative economic imagination the workers may dare to cultivate and/or experience. Among other conditions, (global) capitalism ideally also requires a docile body of workers who would not only be dependent on capitalists, but would also be unable to imagine any relation other than that of this dependency. It is not just the presence of the common that is the target of the logic of capitalism (via primitive accumulation), but more sinister is the attack on the very idea of the common, especially new institutional forms that the cooperation ethic encapsulates. A challenge to this is typically met with ferocious repression campaigns supported by well-grounded ideological apparatuses, as Maruti Udyog and Kanoria Jute Mill workers, in very different circumstances, found out; they have made their respective struggles visible by articulating their own, at times very innovative, practices of resistance. Evidently, Prafulla Chakraborty and the Kanoria Jute Mill Shramik Sangrami Union have disturbed the consensus by challenging the given order of things and its underlying presuppositions; hence the need to exorcise them. That is also the reason why anybody who shares the politics of challenging this consensus needs to understand and condemn the arrest of Prafulla Chakraborty as a political attack against the cooperation ethic and the economic collective. The point is to not to attack the state government per se, which the Union is not doing anyway (which it cannot afford to do, and is in fact not interested in), but to defend the cause of a possible alternative economy based on the cooperation ethic, in which the collective of workers is in charge of the product it creates and of the wealth that comes consequently. The cause espoused is based not on negativity, but fundamentally, on the positive constructivist terrain of freeing themselves from the clutches of anybody else.

The bone of contention is the 81 years old Kanoria Jute Mill which was re-opened in August 2011 after almost five years of closure and handed back to the old promoter-capitalist. This move was trenchantly opposed by Mr. Chakraborty and the Kanoria Jute Mill Shramik Sangrami Union. It would not be totally inappropriate to remind the readers about the plight of the workers of the Kanoria Jute Mill, which is situated in Uluberia in Hoogly. After a struggle spanning two decades, with recurrent setbacks and betrayals (both from inside and outside), facing trenchant opposition from state governments (the so-called Left as well as the Right), from mainstream political parties and from trade unions with vested interests, putting their faith in the promoter-capitalist and seeing it being dashed time and again (the mill has been closed at least eight times since 1992), the vast majority of the workers have now finally come to the understanding that they must take over and run their mill as a collective. It is a lesson they have learnt through their own bitter experience/struggle. The issue for them, at least as espoused by the Kanoria Jute Mill Shramik Sangrami Union, is not merely to own the enterprise, but to be in a decision-making capacity, especially concerning the process of appropriation and distribution of any surplus that they create.(2) Their goal is not merely to create and maintain workers’ unity, but also to produce the imagination of a creative unity based on cooperation ethic which, by default, is opposed to any dependency relation vis-à-vis the promoter-capitalists (or even the state). Whether they ultimately achieve success or they fail, it cannot undermine the strength of their belief in the virtues of the economic collective. In his capacity as adviser to the Kanoria Jute Mill Shramik Sangrami Union, Prafulla Chakraborty has been in the frontline of this ground level movement, campaigning relentlessly among the (for last five years, unemployed) workers about the virtues of cooperative ethic and its institutional form in the economic collective. Given that the initial movement, inaugurated in 1992, has fragmented into parts, claims of whether the Kanoria Jute Mill Shramik Sangrami Union has majority support often reverberates; the Union has even floated the idea of holding ballot based election among the workers to find out who the real representatives of the workers are, a move supposedly resisted by many other trade unions, some now evidently siding with the promoter-capitalist. Notably, this dedicated cultural movement trying to transform workers’ consciousness in favor of cooperation ethic, and that by taking into account the history of the movement itself in the process, has been conducted in a peaceful and dialogical manner. It is thus evident that the demand for an economic collective has risen organically from within the ranks of the workers of the Kanoria Jute Mill.

After the change in government in West Bengal in 2011, there was hope that things would take a different turn, at least in the case of the Kanoria Jute Mill. However, it seems from the initial moves on the industrial front that the new government is bent on pursuing the politics of class collaboration, which, given the existing defensive position of the workers in West Bengal (a situation to which, unfortunately, the CPI (M) led Left Front government contributed), cannot but further decrease the bargaining capacity of the workers; with their backs to the wall, the industrial workers of West Bengal are now being asked to work peacefully for/with the capitalists, and agree to whatever condition is fixed by the state-capital nexus. For example, the Labour minister retorted, “If a factory closes down, the workers are affected the most. The new government believes in negotiations to keep factory gates open. Kanoria Jute Mills will run on mutual co-operation among the owner, government and the workers. Strikes called on trivial issues will be dealt with strictly,” (The Telegraph August 23, 2011) Paradoxically, on today’s globe, that is fast turning against global capitalism, a turbulence which is engulfing the workers of our country elsewhere too, the West Bengal industrial workers are being asked to pledge a dependency relation with state-capital, which de-facto constitutes a demand for surrender. At best, there seems to be an attempt to ensure that the state represent/take the voice of workers to representatives of capital, and the autonomy of their voice stop mattering. Through class collaboration, the ruse of mediation (state/party/etc. usurping the right of workers to speak) once again seems to be reiterating itself in West Bengal.

Against this changed background, the West Bengal government went into a pact with the existing promoter-capitalist of the Kanoria Jute Mill and helped open the mill; a tiny fraction of the total workforce of over 2000 was taken into confidence in this regard and till now only 300 have been employed. A need was felt on the part of capital/state here to nip at its bud the very idea of cooperation/collective and make it seem an absurd or impractical thought. This is essential to bring the workers to the side of the constructed capital-state consensus. Because he trenchantly opposed this move along with many of the workers (the workers have even written a letter to the chief minister), Prafulla Chakraborty was arrested on the murder charge and sent to jail; notably, along with the murder charge, another pretext used was complaint filed by a promoter-capitalist for disturbing industrial peace. How can we make sense of this move other than to see it as an attempt to defeat and indeed erase the possibility of a worker run collective and re-impose the given consensus of dependency relation so that the owner-capitalist can operate freely? Perhaps it is also a signal to the workers in West Bengal in general not to think along the lines of cooperation/collective and accept the politics of class collaboration.

It is important to highlight and rebut the reasoning being used by the Labour Minister (who coming from a Left background was expected to be more sensitive to the plight of the workers) against the idea of a workers-run collective for the Kanoria Jute Mill. He asserted, “There are some leaders who want to form a cooperative to run the factory. But, closure of the New Central Jute mill that was being run by a cooperative society proved that such a society could not keep a jute mill functional for a long period. I would request these leaders to sit for a discussion instead of creating a situation that would hamper the normal functioning of the mill.” (The Statesman, 16th October 2011) He is partially correct. Indeed a collective enterprise may fail; even the Kanoria Jute Mill if run as a workers collective may fail since failure of an enterprise happens due to multiple internal and/or external reasons (these include even something as uncontrollable as product obsolescence). But other private enterprises fail too and quite regularly. The average life span of a large enterprise is 50 years and that of a medium or small one less than seven years. Even the average life expectancy of a multinational corporation – Fortune 500 or its equivalent – is 40 to 50 years.(3) Why pick up the instance of a failure of one cooperative enterprise to call the whole idea of a collective defunct. What about the current wave of instability across the globe, epitomized by rampant plant closure and labour shedding (to name a few effects) within the system of private capitalist enterprises that are turning communities, even whole nations, into wasteland? Secondly, since 1992, the Kanoria Jute mill has been closed at least eight times by this promoter-capitalist; in other words, it has failed 8 times. What about this recurrent failure? Is it the policy of the state to reward such kinds of tested failures? Thirdly, it is often argued, and the Labour Minister shares this view, that economic collectives, even if favourable on a small-scale, are inadequate for large size enterprises. This argument seems to be stuck in the warped beliefs of the 1960s and 70s. All I can do here is to refer to the cases of, to name only a few, the Mondragon Cooperative Complex (MCC) in Spain which is a federation of workers’ collectives (4), the experiments of Kibbutz in Israel (some successful, others failures), the case of our own Amul (that at least shows how a different organization system tuned to large scale production can be successful), and the recently created or taken over collectives in Latin America; some of these, such as MCC, are totally private while many others (owned and run by the workers or/at least with their active participation) depend on state for support (especially for credit). Instead of the state-capital solution undertaken for the Kanoria Jute Mill, we wonder why the state cannot, for once, take the side of workers, plan with them in detail (meticulous planning in this case is fundamental for its success), handover the mill to a cooperative run by workers, ensure the initial infusion of substantial credit (maybe, as an initial one time grant) that is indispensable for the survival of the enterprise and save a whole community from despondency and decline (for the economy of the entire area is largely dependent on the Mill). As of now, though, this route looks unlikely.

Finally, it is time for many in the Left who are opposed to cooperatives to come out of the 1970s style cliché thinking. The world has changed and is now changing faster. Across the globe, the end of Soviet style centralized planning system, the fast disappearing despotic orders, and the current destruction of social life wrought by capitalism makes it apparent that there is no alternative left for the industrial workers (and the unemployed, retirees and the community they belong to) other than to create and run their own economy. This realization is not only evident in Latin America where the influence of the cooperative movement is widespread (5), but it is now also growing rapidly across the continents including in the USA. And, with this arises the realization that this transformation cannot be enacted merely by opposing capitalism, but must include in that opposition the constructivist idea that would snap the dependency relation with capital and perhaps establish a different relation with the state. It must contain the germ of a new ethical economy it would give rise to. I know of no way this can be done other than by the creative union of workers/participants and hence the importance of cooperation ethic and the institution of economic collective. Prafulla Chakraborty believed in this opposition-construction route and it is also the reason why he was put behind bars. Let us at least realize that the injustice of this arrest is also the injustice of repressing the cooperation ethic, the institution of the economic collective and of an ethical economy based on this ethic and institutional form. The struggle for workers-run economies and the right to think of these must be asserted. It is no less urgent than the task of opposing global capitalism and its networks.

Anjan Chakrabarti is Professor of Economics, Calcutta University. He can be reached at


(1) By cooperation, I mean creative unity, that is, the in-common of individuals, here, the workers. In-common refers to a common which is neither you nor me, but a fusion/creation which contains you and me. Here, the mentioned unity is a creation of you and me and yet is distinct from you and me. Therefore the creative unity is a constantly reiterated outcome of thought-decision-action of otherwise free and active individuals. Importantly, this kind of unity only appears through our practice; that is, through how we exercise it rather than whether we possess it. Institution/structure created on the basis of this ethic of cooperation is what I refer to as collective. So, for example, the collective created by workers to produce goods and services with cooperation ethic is an economic collective. Evidently, given cooperation ethic, decisions concern the enterprise of economic collective must be participatory; the term exclusion here is oxymoron to the meaning of cooperation ethic of creative unity. In the usual jargon, this distinction between cooperation ethic and collective is not maintained leading to all kinds of confusion, which we try to avoid here. This distinction also highlights the need to differentiate between the types of collective; a typical state run collective which operates on principles of excluding the workers from decision making would turn out to be inconsistent with cooperation ethic and hence by that criteria is to be rejected as inappropriate. From what I understand, the Kanoria Jute Mill workers espouse a collective based on cooperation ethic. Notably, the influence and presence of economic collectives in India too has a long history, not merely among Marxists but perhaps more pervasively among Gandhians. Other figures such as Rabindranath Tagore remained a steadfast supporter of cooperation ethic. While these trends may have had differences regarding the path and content of collective, one cannot but be captivated by their commitment to it. Thus, cooperation ethic and economic collective is very much part of the critical tradition of India.

(2) It does not entail that the workers would do all the jobs themselves (especially in case of a large collective); it is recognized that a body of workers at a given time may not have the capability to perform all the tasks. Indeed, depending upon the requirement, the members of the collective, by consultation, may hand over the authority to decide on and operate certain processes inside the enterprises (technical, accounting or otherwise) to one or a group of persons deemed as experts; this partial transfer of decision-making is however neither permanent nor non-scrutinized since whatever decision may be arrived by the expert groups would be subjected to further deliberation by the workers which again is done cooperatively and whose decision-authority is final. Many other possibilities can be envisaged; just as capitalist enterprises has over the years invented and worked upon various methods of organization within its specified paradigm, so would economic collectives. Not even in the capitalist enterprise is the daily decisions done by capitalists (say, board of directors) or top management; they are delegated. However, the minimum condition of economic collective is that no policy conclusion regarding the enterprise can be arrived at without the participation/consent of workers (and maybe even including other stakeholders); moreover, the wealth created would also belong not to any group of individuals such as under capitalist enterprise but the workers as a whole. See Mondragon Cooperation Complex in Spain for an example of a one worker-one vote model that develops the organization of a large economic collective along the mentioned time. Also, see Richard Wolff, “Taking Over the Enterprise: A New Strategy For Labor and the Left” in New Labor Forum 19(1): 8-12, Winter 2010.

(3) See, ‘The Living Company’ in Bloomberg Business Week,

(4) Founded in 1956, MCC by 2008 had around 92000 participants with one worker one vote model, profit sharing and business contact/trade spread across multiple countries. Its operations include high technology, machines, tools, auto parts, co-operative banking, an insurance company, retailing, and even a recent “Electric car/Sustainable mobility” project. MCC displays a long-term resiliency which refutes the claim that workers run collective, especially on a large scale, is a recipe for failure. Of the 103 cooperatives created between 1956-1986, only three were shut down, a remarkable survival rate of 97 per cent of three decades (Whyte, William Foote and Kathleen King Whyte, Making Mondragon: The Growth and Dynamics of the Worker Cooperative Complex. Ithaca, NY: ILR Press, 1988, 3). On the details of workers cooperation, see J-K, Gibson-Graham, “Enabling Ethical Economies: On Cooperativism and Class” in and the MCC homepage. It is notable that faced with a growing crisis that turned into an assault on the workers, the United Steelworkers (USW)—North America’s largest industrial union—and Mondragón Internacional, S.A. came to an agreement in 2009 to collaborate in establishing Mondragón-style manufacturing collectives in the United States and Canada. These collectives are to be governed by the “one worker, one vote” model of MCC.

(5) See the movie, ‘The Take’ (2004) by Avi Lewis and Naomi Klein on the movement of takeover of closed factories in Argentina by workers through formation of collectives