Indian army patrols Calcutta after violent protests

Indian army troops are patrolling the streets of Kolkata (Calcutta), West Bengal, following a wave of arson and violence this week. Protesters repeatedly clashed with police, and torched several vehicles and the local offices of the state’s ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M). The street-fighting was sparked by protests both of atrocities earlier this year against Muslim residents in the nearby town of Nandigram, Purba Medinipur district, and the presence in the city of exiled Bangladeshi feminist writer Taslima Nasreen—who was flown to Delhi for her safety. The protests were called by the Muslim-supported All India Minority Forum (AIMF), which threw up roadblocks around the city—then fought back when police tried to break them up. AIMF leader Idris Ali was arrested Nov. 24 and charged with riot and property destruction. (IANS, BBC, Nov. 24; IANS, Nov. 21)

Up to 150 may have been killed in the violence in Nandigram this March, when police and CPI-M militants attacked villagers protesting the seizure of their lands for a “special economic zone.” The West Bengal government accused both the (mutually hostile) Muslim fundamentalists and Maoist Naxalite rebels of being behind the protests. (Sify, Nov. 24; IndiaTogether, May 5, 2007)

How perverse that the CPI-M, which still talks up anti-capitalist rhetoric, is closing ranks with savage-capitalist mega-development in West Bengal—leaving the inevitable and justified opposition to be exploited by the totalitarian Naxalite CPI-ML, or by Islamists who mix the issue up with reactionary backlash against a writer who advocates women’s rights…

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