A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine
Vol. 17 | No. 32 | 5 - 11 AUG 2014
Red Salute, Nabarun Da!
In the world we live in, his iconic poem, 'This Valley of Death Is Not My Country' could be the anguished cry and resolve of any citizen of the world; of the people of America or Israel; Iraq or Syria; Sri Lanka or India... The spirit of that poem lives in the struggles of people: struggles that, in renouncing the 'Nation' that the ruling class equates with violence, cruelty, and devastation, actually expresses a profound love for one's land, one's people and humanity at large.
Born in 1948 in Baharampur of Murshidabad district, Nabarun was the child of renowned actor-playwright Bijon Bhattacharya and Magsaysay award-winning writer Mahasweta Devi.
Nabarun won the Sahitya Akademi award in 1997 for his novel Herbert, a landmark in modern Bengali literature which synthesizes the lives of contemporary urban marginalized and stylised poetic sensibility into political statements.
Bhattacharya relentlessly wrote about marginalised sections living on the city streets, in slums and dark alleys, using political satire, dark humour, and magic realism to telling effect to highlight oppression and exploitation of our times. He persistently challenged the dominant ideas associated with Bengali literature through his subversive writing style.
Bhattacharya was also a very close witness of the radical left movement of seventies' Bengal, which is evident in his works. But it is not the romantic nostalgia for a radical past, but the turbulent seventies coming back to haunt the apparent peace of the present, which is a very familiar motif in his writings.
A fearless voice against state power, Nabarun always remained, in his own words, "an outsider to the circus of literature". He returned the Bankim Award in 2007 against West Bengal Government's Nandigram carnage. He was also a staunch critic of the Trinamool Congress government that is stifling democratic protests and civil rights.
In memory of Nabarun Da – and Saroj Dutta's whose martyrdom anniversary was observed on 5th August, below is an excerpt from a translation of 'Ei Mrityu Upatyaka Amar Desh Na'
This Valley of Death is Not My Country
I spit on the father who fears to point at his child's corpse
I spit on the brother and his shameless sanity despite everything
I spit on the teacher, the intellectual, the poet and the clerk
who do not seek to avenge this bloodbath out in the open
lie stretched across the pathway of reckoning
I am losing my senses bit by bit
Seventeen open pairs of eyes look at me in sleep
I scream out
I will turn insane
I will kill myself
I will do whatever I want to do
I will eat the sun, the moon and the stars
I will smash all bridges between the viewer and the viewed
This is the exact time for poetry
Through stenciled manifestos on naked walls
A collage crafted of own blood, tears and bones –
now is the time for poetry
in the torn face of severest pain
right now is the time to hurl poetry
face to face with real terror –
keeping eyes fixed at the blinding headlight of the vans
at the three naught three and whatever else the killers have
It is time to face them with poetry
Through stone-cold lock-up chambers
Shattering the yellow lamps of crime investigation cells
In courthouses run by murderers
In seats of learning that teach lies and spew venoms of hatred
In the state machine churning abuse and terror
In the heartless chest of gunmen who serve that machine –
Let the anger of poetry echo out in fury
Let the poets of the world prepare themselves, like Lorca,
for their strangled corpses to disappear
let them be ready to be stitched up by machine-gun bullets
the hours beckon
the city of poetry must be surrounded by villages of poetry.
this valley of death is not my country
this executioner's theater is not my country
this vast charnel-ground is not my country
this blood-drenched slaughterhouse is not my country
I will snatch my country back
I will pull the fog-kissed white kans flowers, the crimson dusks and the endless rivers
back into my chest
With all my body I shall surround the fireflies, forests burning in ancient hills,
countless crops of hearts, flowers, humans and horses from fairytales
I shall name each star after each martyr
I shall call out to the howling breezes, lights and shadows playing across the fish-eyed lakes of dawn
And Love – banished to places lightyears away ever since I was born:
I shall call it too, to join the carnival of the day of Revolution.
Days and nights of interrogation with a thousand watts of electricity blazing straight into eyeballs
Electric needles inside fingernails
Having to lie naked on chunks of ice
Being hanged upside down till blood gushes out of nostrils
Spiked boots pressed on lips, burning iron rods on every inch of skin
The sudden blast of alcohol on whiplashed back
Stark electric jolts on the nerves, pieces of rocks shoved inside vaginas, scrotums mangled to pulp
Being beaten and thrashed to death
Revolver-muzzles stuck against craniums
Poetry is eternal, irrepressible
Poetry is armed, poetry is free, poetry is fearless
Behold the warriors –
Mayakovsky, Hikmet, Neruda, Aragon, Eluard –
Look at them looking at you from the clouds.
Call out loud.
A Selection of Nabarun's Poems
(translated from Bangla by Avijit Basak)
A bunch of bulletproof poems
A bunch of bulletproof poems
Stand in front of the Firing Squad
With their shirt buttons open, fearless
The bleeding lips of a bird
Hang biting the hand of a big metal clock
Harpoon struck whales
Stare at the scene with eyes overturned
Stars watch the blood bathed sea
In their lights from far off days
On the leaden pipe the Great Flag
Freezes in fear.
The head of the city spins
Cool air from the slaughterhouse
Runs after the school children
Those lost in love become
Between one kiss and another
The heart of the terror-bomb weakens
Lawyers with black robes walk
Pocketwatch of moon in their dirty pockets
The news just came in
That long before men
Birds and butterflies conquered moon
We just learned
That each pole is affected with destructive melting
Seventy one Noble laureate scientists have confirmed
Men don't watch t.v. after death
When newspapers throughout the world
Publish of us having no future
When all political leaders say
Our last efforts have failed
Inevitable missiles fly
Void swells within fixed deposits
Between fingers burns
The last cigarette of the world
Then, yes, right then
A bunch of bulletproof poems
Stand in front of the Firing Squad
With their shirt buttons open, fearless
Life As We Live''
The Philosopher said, Son
Life is indeed like watching
'Sholay' on big screen
A couple of daredevils run
Effortlessly, to catch the goon Gabbar
My child, go to sleep in night therefore,
Without fear, and with your eyes see
The garden is graced with gals and madrigals
But thinking of the world whole,
Which was supposed to be changing
A bunch of amateurs,
Fashionably revolutionary leaders
Metamorphosed into professional ministers
By night, and nobody cared
Villagers, oppressed, do not fear, well
Courage is like a soft towel
We can hear that comforting oracle from the stable
And that healthy poison, watertight and pure
Reaches every household for sure.
Apart from these mechanisms
We have kick-thief lawyers
Palm scratching police
And inhuman doctors
Due to whose indifferent cheers
The vat-ground is busy with supplies.
But what would we do with all these boss
WE THE PEOPLE, or ant-ish public
We are just toothless idiots
Busy with frequent sex-tax drives
Feeding on flies
And casting votes with sickly wives
It is far better
To threat cut or chase in car
And very often than not
By different penal parliamentary acts get caught.
I don't party with the homeless
I have a room
I own one.
When lost, torn apart
The homeless me
Find my mouth
Agape in void.
The Living and the Dead
The Coward and the Daring
I know of their different heartbeats.
In the Name of Humanity, Stop the Israeli Slaughter in Gaza: More than 1,800 Killed and almost 10,000 Injured
Press Release Gaza Ministry of Health, Palestine
The Ministry of Health Gaza condemns in the strongest possible terms the Israeli breaking of the humanitarian ceasefire in a murderous attack on the Al-Bakri family home in Al-Shaati refugee camp in west Gaza City, killing an eight-year-old child and injuring 30 other people, mostly women and children.
This attack on a home in one of the most densely populated residential areas on earth only minutes after the commencement of a humanitarian ceasefire can only be seen as a calculated and deliberate attack on civilians.
This attack can only be seen as calculated and cynical disregard for the ceasefire agreement – the same cynical disregard Israelis have evidenced towards each and every agreement they have ever signed, whether ceasefire, international convention, treaty or peace agreement.
This attack in breach of all legal and humanitarian law can only be seen as yet another example of the complete contempt and disdain in which the Israeli authorities hold all standards of civilised behaviour, organisations and instruments of international law, and humanity itself.
This attack comes amid the ongoing massacre in Rafah in which at least 170 have already lost their lives, as the death toll continues to rise.
Since July 7 more than 1,800 Gazans have been killed and almost 10,000 injured, the vast majority of them women, children and the elderly.
Its own actions in the past four weeks have stripped the thin mask of civility from the Israeli face, and revealed its abject savagery to the world.
In the name of humanity, the Ministry of Health Gaza demands that the international community act immediately to end the slaughter of innocents in Gaza, and hold the Israeli war criminals to account.
Witnessing the systematic destruction of Gaza
August 4, 2014
(Interview with Joe Catron is a journalist and activist in Gaza, where he works with Palestinian groups and international solidarity networks. He co-edited The Prisoners' Diaries: Palestinian Voices from the Israeli Gulag, an anthology of accounts from detainees freed in 2011, and blogs at joecatron.wordpress.com. Catron spoke with Tithi Bhattacharya, a Purdue University professor and member of the International Socialist Review editorial board.)
WHAT CAN you tell the world about the morale of people in Gaza now living almost a month under Israeli bombs?
MORALE REMAINS strong, even among those facing the toughest circumstances. Whenever I walk into al-Shifa hospital, I pass through an encampment of displaced people, mostly from Shejaiya to the east, erected on the grounds. I'm always struck by the visible strength and determination of its residents, as well as the paramedics, nurses, doctors, journalists and coffee vendors within the hospital itself.
Nearly all in Gaza are tired of endless bombardment and hope for a cease-fire, of course. But there's a broad consensus that any cease-fire worthy of the name must include an end to Israel's siege, allowing Palestinians to travel, trade, fish, farm and conduct their political affairs without restrictions, by definition. In fact, while I'm not a pollster, I don't personally know of anyone here willing to settle for less.
SINCE THE mainstream media is still deceptive about the impact of Israel's assault, can you talk about the actual extent of the devastation? What do neighborhoods in Gaza now look like?
IT VARIES by area. Some, like my neighborhood by the Gaza seaport on the west coast of Gaza City, have sustained shellings and air strikes, but remain intact with localized damage. Days of saturation bombing have reduced others--like Shejaiya, Khuza'a and Beit Hanoun--to rubble.
I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that Israel has ethnically cleansed large regions of the eastern and northern Gaza Strip adjacent to its separation barrier. After ordering residents to leave their homes, it systematically destroyed them, while shooting anything that moved.
The process has seemed very reminiscent of the Nakba of 1948. Looking at the results, I think it's clearly part of Israel's plan to prevent these areas from becoming fully habitable again for years. And with Israeli forces having ordered evacuations from 44 percent of the Gaza Strip, it's hard to predict how much of it will be recognizable when they finish.
This was a flaw in my analysis when we stayed at Al-Wafa hospital. I thought the Israelis saw the building as a strategic asset because of its size and location, something they would want to seize quickly during any invasion of the city from the east. I didn't realize they actually planned to purge the whole area of Palestinian life.
DURING OPERATION Cast Lead and other Israeli operations, people in Gaza have continued to build a sort of grassroots infrastructure. For instance, we know of underground schools that people ran to continue educating children and youth. Are there similar efforts going on today?
IT'S SUMMER, so the kids might not like the underground school idea! But it's been amazing to watch an entire grassroots infrastructure come together, with very little centralized coordination, to support Palestinians displaced from their neighborhoods. In addition to hundreds camped out at Shifa, thousands more have found shelter in schools, mosques, churches and anywhere else there's room.
As of July 30, the United Nations' Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimated that 240,000 had been displaced to these shelters, while 200,000 more were staying with host families. Everyone's resources are stretched thin, but neighbors are doing what they can to help the displaced with food, clothing, etc., when not opening their own doors to house them.
HOW WOULD you assess the military resistance mounted by Hamas? We have read encouraging reports of even elite Israeli forces such as the Golani Briagde facing a military challenge. Is this is the reason why Netanyahu wants to continue the bombing?
GROUND OPERATIONS by Hamas' al-Qassam Brigades and other resistance groups have done a great deal to inspire people and keep spirits high. News of these daring raids, which have killed dozens of Israeli soldiers, have shown that while Israel's troops may be able to push buttons on billion-dollar machines, they aren't so good when it comes to actual fighting.
It's notable that while Israel has massacred more than 1,000 Palestinian civilians, Hamas fighters have repeatedly bypassed civilian settlements across the Green Line to reach military posts. Israel can yell all it likes about its civilians being targeted, but the numbers tell a very different story.
Israel may have anticipated a barrage of rockets. But rather than prolonging its offensive, I suspect the fierce resistance its army has met on the ground is one of the main factors, along with rising global outrage, pushing its leaders to seek a truce. Of course, they hope for a lopsided one--in practice, a unilateral cease-fire by Palestinians--allowing Israel to preserve the siege.
HOW DO people in Gaza feel about the silence of the leaders of the Arab states and the collusion of states like Egypt with Israel and the U.S.?
LIKE MANY political questions, the answer depends very much on whom you ask. I think it's fair to say that there's been broad disappointment with, if not outright hostility toward, the tepid responses of Arab governments. At the same time, many have been gratified by new support from unexpected quarters, like Latin America.
SINCE THE massive demonstrations broke out in the West Bank, there has been some talk in the news media about a third Intifada. Do you think there is such a possibility?
I THINK it's a possibility, but not the only one. In some ways, yearning for a third Intifada foists an unfair burden onto the minority of the Palestinian people who live under direct occupation, facing challenges to mounting a successful resistance that don't exist elsewhere.
For four decades before the first Intifada, although Palestinians obviously resisted within occupied territory, the core of the struggle lay elsewhere--in the refugee camps of the diaspora. With the decline of the Tunis-Oslo paradigm, which roughly characterized the first two Intifadas, as well as the rapid growth of global networks like the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, the next phase of the Palestinian struggle may combine both these models and more.
I can't say that the spark won't be struck in Bil'in. But it could also come from Beirut, or Brooklyn.
THOUGH WORLD leaders and Western governments have turned their back on Gaza and actively aided Israel, there has been an outburst of global protests in solidarity with Palestine. How do people in Gaza see these protests?