The principles of secularism is what we need to fight for: Brinda Karat

May 28, 2019
Teesta Setalvad speaks to CPI(M) polit bureau member Brinda Karat about the violence that Left cadres and supporters are facing in Bengal and Tripura.


Brinda Karat, the first woman member of the CPI(M) politburo, speaks to Teesta Setalvad about the violence that Left cadres and supporters are facing in Bengal, the threat to secularism, among many other things, just a day before the election results are out.

Q. How do you look at the political scenario?
A. After three months of solid campaigning, what I see is that there is a strong anger against the BJP and RSS and it comes from different sections. What I saw clearly throughout is that everybody, whether it’s the Kisan (farmer), workers, women, Dalits or Adivasis, there’s a strong feeling that ‘Bhai ye panch Saal hamare liye bahut nuksandayak the (The last five years were very harmful for us). We are thus going to exercise our vote against Modi.’

So, that is one reality which was there throughout. But the second thing that I noticed is the money in this election. One cannot imagine the money which we saw there, especially in the poor rural areas! New bikes given to BJP people, cars running around, money just being thrown around in the rallies which they are organizing. So there is a lot of money but I am really confident, in spite of the exit polls, that the Modi-Shah duo and what they have meant for India, people are going to reject it.

Q. Coming to Bengal and Kerala, on the debate on vilification of the left and the whole issue of the saffron rise in Bengal, if you could just speak about that as it needs to come back to debate.
A. I really thank you for giving us the opportunity to bring this back into the debate because the kind of things that we have been reading over the last ten days, even in the supposedly progressive portals, I would say it is the slander of the left to think that the left cadre are organizing to bring saffron into Bengal.

I just think thousands of our comrades in the last eight years of the Mamata Banerjee rule have faced the worst kind of repression and physical elimination. I have documented so many real stories where women are threatened with rape, women are raped and women were raped because they refused to give up the red flag and they fought for the red flag. We have more than one lakh false cases against our cadre. We have around 20,000 cadre today who are not allowed to go back to their homes. Our comrades are fighting at the ground level for the red flag and everything it represents.

Mamata Banerjee’s government has decimated democracy in Bengal which is nothing but targeting of the left and not targeting of the BJP which you see in the rallies of Modi and Mamata. Mamata first attacked the left to defeat the CPI(M) and when BJP started coming in, she used competitive communal politics. This has now created a Hindu-Muslim and Bengali-Non Bengali divide, especially in the heart of working class areas like Barrackpore and Bhatpara.

Q. When the TMC came to power in Bengal the allegation was that the left used to function in a similar way when it came to booth capturing in elections and gunda gardi etc. Your take on that.
A. Putting that into perspective, if you look at the times when left was in power, TMC had won elections with a very good vote share, for example in 2009. We had very hostile governments at the centre, which clearly wouldn’t support us in rigging the elections. I’m  not saying there were absolutely no cases but there were no cases to make out a case that the elections are rigged.

Q. Will the left in Bengal really fight on the NRC issue?
A. It is a frightening scenario. NRC is being used as an instrument to attack linguistic and religious minorities and we will fight it. Also, this communal polarization, which is being done by the BJP and to a great extent by the TMC, is the greatest challenge before us.
If you look at this election, the issue of secularism, who spoke about the word except the left? So the principles of secularism is what we need to fight for and restore to a great extent.