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The meaning of Nandigram

Corporate land invasion, people's power, and the Left in India

Tanika Sarkar and Sumit Chowdhury

Keywords: land struggles; Nandigram; neoliberalism; peasant resistance; West Bengal

This article discusses the events at Nandigram in West Bengal where in 2006-7, a Left Front government collaborated with an Indonesian corporate group to forcibly acquire land from local peasants and construct a Special Economic Zone. The events are placed against the broad processes of accumulation by dispossession through which peasants are losing their land and corporate profits are given priority over food production. The article looks at the working and implications of the policies and the way in which a Communist Party-led government had become complicit with such processes over the last decade. It critically examines the logic that the government offered for the policies: that of the unavoidable necessity of industrialization, demonstrating that industrialization could have been done without fresh and massive land loss and that industries of the new sort do not generate employment or offset the consequences of large scale displacements of peasants. The article's central focus is on the peasant resistance in the face of the brutalities of the party cadres and the police. We explore the meaning of the victory of the peasants at Nandigram against the combined forces of state and corporate power, especially in the context of the present neo-liberal conjuncture.

Affiliations

Sarkar, Tanika - Jawaharlal Nehru University

Chowdhury, Sumit - Independent scholar