The controversy at Singur and Nandigram are finding resounding echoes in the left-leaning Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) campus. In fact, the controversy has created a sharp divide in opinions between the CPIM’s student wing, Students’ Federation of India (SFI) and the far left All India Students’ Association (AISA).
Over the last week, the two associations -- both groups have a substantial following in the campus – have been engaged in a bitter verbal battle, publishing and distributing booklets and pamphlets and holding meetings to sway students’ opinion their way.
While opinions for and against the issues of land acquisitions and SEZs were building up in the campus since the flare up in West Bengal in December, the rift became acidic after SFI published and begun distributing a booklet titled 'Industrialisation in West Bengal – Addressing the Real Issues’ in the last week of January.
Members of SFI went from one hostel room to the other explaining its parent party’s position on land use policy, Singur and SEZs.
Promptly, on January 28, AISA began handing out a counter pamphlet, which raised questions on the SEZ Act and Rules, alleging that the police in West Bengal was brutally repressing the displaced peasants of Singur and Nandigram. AISA questioned the need for the CPIM to have supported the SEZ Act when it was passed in the Parliament and demanded that it be scrapped rather then amended.
On January 29, SFI was ready with another booklet titled 'The SEZ Act 2005: Why it must be Amended'. In it, the SFI argued that the original "SEZ Act 2005 was severely compromised by subsequent actions of the government when the SEZ rules were notified in February 2006 by the Union commerce ministry.
Several provisions were sneaked in to the SEZ rules through the back door, which were not in keeping with the provisions of SEZ Act as passed by the Parliament," the booklet said. In it, SFI also alleged that AISA was spreading "falsehoods" and was "perpetually confused."
A stung AISA came out with a rejoinder on January 30, saying that "Amendment or No Amendment, SEZ Act 2005 stands for: law evasion, corporate land grab, eviction of farmers, tax exemptions and exploitation." It also raised questions like whether CPIM believes that "it is necessary to create special zones of foreign territory on Indian soil in order to promote industrialisation?"
After feverish rounds of attacks and counters, both groups currently seem to be busy researching for more data and views on the issues. The last, one can easily say, is yet to be heard.