Nandigram and Cricket

Sorry to say that some cricket metaphors might be abused below – its time to resurrect the old colonial games-shames…

Sports latest: West Bengal lal-rounder Buddhadeb Battarcharjee was implored to recognise that CPM was in serious strife over the ‘firings’ in Nandigram mid week. This became acute when former chief minister Jyoti Basu said on friday what the other Left Front coalition partners had wanted to say, but thus far just sledged from the sidelines. Basu, a tail-ender that wags, declared: ‘comrade, get your act together or lose’. Subcontinental news reportage favours ‘alacrity’ as a watchword, and Buddhadeb thereby was said to have agreed to change line and length so as to consult with the partners (RSP – formed in the thirties, and Forward Block) and, I guess more importantly, he conceded that the Nandigram villagers would not be asked to give up their land. If this means the CPM’s economic program and its plan to attract greater FDI is stumped, what it means for the Indonesian investor in the proposed SEZ is now unclear, but there was one funny comment about the investor – ‘who is this Saleem chap anyhow, can he bat?’ – the company is called Salim PLC, but I also do not know their form or record – so will have to look it up in Wisdens [right, enough, its time to put a stop to all this cricket spin malarkey…].

So it comes to pass that the situation at Nandigram is resolved. Or ‘perhaps’ resolved – since there were a number of other measures in the package, such as bridges, roads, infrastructure projects. Whatever may be the case, the day of the Bandh (the entire city was shut down to protest the firings) looks more and more like a multifaceted coup. Though there is a slight danger of relying on standard visitor observations and cliché, for me it is somewhat personal and maybe oblique observations that stick in the mind. The streets were free of traffic, the air seemed so much cleaner, the city sounded so different, and I walked around for hours amidst middle-of-the-road cricket matches, with stumps made of bricks, old tyres, boxes etc. That this could happen while in the Caribbean, the Indian team floundered in the Cricket World Cup, comprehensively beaten by Bangladesh. So its interesting that street cricket thrives so well in the Bandh. Kolkata’s traffic most days forces the kids onto the already crowded pavements, on this day they took over the open spaces (only the intersections had vehicles – parked cop jeepneys and the occasional press car – nothing else moved, or if it did, it was burned – as happened to two buses in the south of the city.

Of course cricket is not incidental to politics in India (see Ashis Nandy’s book The Tao of Cricket, second only to Beyond a Boundary by CLR James as text on cricket and colonialism). So, Buddhadeb, is there a message for you here? Should the CPM go for the hype and rhetoric of shining India, FDI, capital investment, slick flyovers, and the consequent decline of Kolkata as one of the most pedestrian-friendly cities I have ever seen, or does the evident resilience of cricket as popular/vernacular expressive form suggest that there is something wrong with the plans for the Great Lunge Forward toward Neo-Liberal Capital implied in the SEZ development projects. I don’t know what answers the Left Front coalition can come up with, or if they have any, or if the Maoists in Nandigram and elsewhere can take their struggles to a level beyond the Not-In-My-Rice-Patch NIMBY-level… and of course cricket does not dissolve the gross inequalities of wealth in India, or even halt – rather it occludes – the increasing polarization of rich and poor, but I would like to think, on this day of the bandh, the flourishing of popular vernacular cricket can be a symptomatic marker of the score, what people do on strike days maybe suggests a diagnostic: the elite players fluffed it, the people went out and played…

More Nandigram discussion, rumours, global chat, horror scenes: here.


2 thoughts on “Nandigram and Cricket

  1. Really good post, fun to read.

    It’s great that cricket brings up the name of Trotskyist and humanist CLR James and the Naxalites, all in one post.



  2. New news on Nandigram, though this article, from The Telegraph in Kolkata today – Tuesday Nov 13h – does paint the CPM cadres and the events themselves as a kind of pantomime (‘hooded hunters’, planted flags, beatings, no speaking to the journalist). But at the same time it does look likely that CPM thugs have been all too thuggy once again. Hard to tell from afar, and the florid writing style makes me think a bit of both is true, but here in any case is the text in full.-J

    The hooded hunters
    Red army roars into Nandigram

    Nandigram, Nov. 12: “Peace” arrived in Nandigram today, face hooded, gun slung over the shoulder, the roar of a hundred motorcycles broadcasting a crushing CPM victory.

    Squads of armed, bike-borne cadres, carrying stacks of red flags, kept criss-crossing Nandigram since early morning on a mission to “consolidate” the recapture.

    The flags were for planting — one at every home — and the guns for forcing Opposition supporters to join the victory marches.

    “Fifty riders came to our village and asked us to join the rally or else…. We have switched loyalties to save our lives,” said a Sonachura resident who till yesterday was a Bhoomi Uchchhed Pratirodh Committee supporter.

    A red flag fluttered at every house in Nandigram town, the last Opposition citadel that was recaptured today and where all the processions converged.

    “Peace has prevailed and people should feel safe. There will be no trouble from today,” Niranjan Mondal, the CPM local committee secretary from Kendamari, screamed over the microphone at the town victory rally.

    The sound of motorbikes cut him short. Some 50 riders had burst on the scene and were sticking party flags into the ground — along the road, in people’s front yards. “Inquilab zindabad,” they shouted and the rallyists joined in.

    “Faster. There are so many villages left. We have to paint the whole of Nandigram red before the CRPF arrives,” one of the cadres snapped impatiently from the back of his gleaming Pulsar.

    His face was covered with a white cloth but the words came out clear. The man on the pillion carried a sword. The riders vanished towards Maheshpur.

    It was still several hours before the CRPF moved in at 4pm.

    “Just a show of strength, nothing more. We wanted to consolidate our position. After all, we have regained Nandigram after 11 months,” a CPM leader said as he got ready to lead the Satengabari march.

    Rabiul Islam towered above most in the Garchakraberia procession. The bearded Jamat Ulema-i-Hind leader, who wore a skullcap, was waving a red flag.

    “What can I do? We have to be with a party that can give us protection. Things have changed here over the past few days,” Islam sighed.

    “See, the past is past. We have to live in Nandigram and cannot go against the ruling party.”

    “Hey, don’t talk to the reporter.” A CPM cadre had suddenly spotted Islam. He and a few others hurried up to the big man and led him away by the shoulder towards the front of the procession.

    One of them turned back to say: “Don’t ask him anything. He is with us now.”

    An uneasy calm hung over the villages. Nearly 100 riders rumbled past The Telegraph team towards Tekhali bridge in the afternoon on a flag-lined highway.

    “We are just patrolling the villages to ensure the safety of those who have returned home. We are also keeping a tab on the Opposition’s movements,” said Nemai Das, a CPM leader from Khejuri.

    For some, movement was restricted. Medha Patkar was stopped on her way to Nandigram by a CPM roadblock on NH-41 at Kolaghat. She waited in her car for nearly two hours from 8.30pm before police shifted her to a private hotel.

    Mamata Banerjee, returning to Calcutta from Tamluk, heard about the block and made a detour via Bansda village.

    Most Red Brigade members, brought in from West Midnapore, left today and their huge arsenal was being moved out, local police officers said.

    The firing, too, stopped but CPM cadres beat up half a dozen people in Garchakraberia and Reyapara and ransacked homes, the police said. Twenty houses were burnt down at Daudpur, and doors and windows were smashed in Gokulnagar and Adhikarypara.

    “The cadres burst bombs at several villages to celebrate their victory but there are no reports of injuries,” an officer said.

    CPM district secretariat member Ashok Guria denied the attacks. “Nandigram is an oasis of peace now. Everything is normal here,” he said.

    Asked about the hundreds of Opposition refugees, he said: “We have sent our people to convince them to return. They will all be safe, I promise.”



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