HYDERABAD: Occupy tactic may have come to be the call of the radicals, but Ranabir Samaddar, director of the Calcutta Research Group, said that it was unique in its ability to mobilise hundreds and break boundaries.
He was speaking at the Council for Social Development’s CD Deshmukh Memorial Lecture, on Occupy College Street: Notes from the Sixties on Friday. Recalling the 1960s when the College Street in Kolkata was synonymous with the naxalite and various student movements spearheaded by students of Presidency College, Samaddar said that it was the flexibility of the assembly that led to the metamorphosis of the college precinct into an occupy zone.
“Flexibility helped crossing boundaries of education, institution, birth, locality surveillance and pre-determined schedule. Nobody declared the Presidency College lawn was to be headquarters, none inaugurated it, nor did any celebrity come to visit the rebellious students and yet they were different from today’s occupy stories. That was because there were lines of command and meeting were conducted democratically,” he explained. The occupation was reinforced continuously, both on and off campus — in streets, slums, factories, across the city and even villages.
The critic, however, rued that post the white terror of 1969-70, the efficacy of occupation as a tactic of struggle declined. “Perhaps if the tactic was replicated in other towns it would have survived, achieved greater success, longevity and resonance,” he said. Highlighting the current scenario where institutions are increasingly clamping the freedom to protest of students, the critical thinker said that any tactics over used are eventually blunted.
“Politics is a civilian business but when it becomes serious, its rules mirror the rules of war. But creating occupation is not easy. You need logistical preparation, massive amount of manpower. The important thing in occupation is that they protesters have to continuously redraw the space,” he said. Kalpana Kannabiran who moderated the talk added that occupy can be better understood in the protests at JNU, UoH and Una. “NotInMyName movement was one such weak attempt at occupation where we did not take any permission and went ahead,” she said.