Sunday, June 21, 2009

Maoist’s in Lalgarh: the plot unfolds

Lalgarh continues to burn. Over the last few days, there were continuous news of violence, brutal killings and large-scale arson reported from there. The victims of the atrocity were mostly local tribals who were also known to be activists or supporters of the Communist Party of India (Marxist).They were forcefully driven out of their homes and coolly gunned down. Several CPI(M) party offices with houses of local party leaders were selectively targeted, torched and demolished. In front of the CPI(M) party office, the corpse of an agricultural laborer and CPI(M) worker Shalku Soren were seen lying under the sun, draped in a blood spattered sheet, for days. No one from his family has dared to perform his final rites. In the name of ‘people’s resistance’, this unprecedented brutality and vandalism was spearheaded by the Pulishi Santrash Birodhi Janashadharaner Committee or People’s Committee against Police Atrocities (PCPA). At present, state police force along with central forces are jointly engaged in a fierce gun battle with the PCPA activists. It is out in the open now that the PCPA has been shaped, maintained, controlled and strengthened by the Maoists who are leading the Lalgarh resistance from the front.

Lalgarh is situated in West Midnapore district, just 200 km away from Kolkata. In spite of the fact that within a stone’s throw distance of Lalgarh, the Jindal Group has acquired 4500 acres of near-barren land to build up a steel plant at Salboni, there is no credible complain of ‘forceful land grab’ against the Bengal government here. Like Singur and Nandigram, some ‘concerned’ activist groups had habitually opposed the steel project but were unsuccessful to create enough ruckuses as 4200 acres from the notified land was ‘unfortunately’ owned by the government’s State Animal Welfare Board and the rest was purchased directly by Jindal from local landowners through a three tire compensation policy. The ‘Salboni Package’ was complimented all over the country as the best possible model so far for acquiring farmland for industry in India. In Lalgarh, there are no reports that the CPI(M) party men has unleashed a reign of terror on poor and harmless villagers wearing ‘police uniform but with chappals’. Here, no ‘eyewitness account’ has informed us that villagers are brutally murdered by the CPI(M) goons and then ‘put in gunny bags, loaded in trucks and transported to unknown destinations’. There is also no such report about mass raping of women. No witness has testified before a ‘fact finding committee’ that ‘the legs of a small child were torn apart’.

Then why this brutal outrage is surfacing in and around Lalgarh? Is it possible to explain this ‘people’s rage’ by linking it with the ‘thirty two years of massive state repression’? According to a honorable central minister who also happens to be a Trinamool Congress leader, the violence is a spontaneous ‘outburst’ of the oppressed people against the ‘atrocious’ CPM rule. Furthermore, who can disregard that the CPM has a chronic tendency to tag all popular unrests against their dismal rule with the Maoists? Didn’t they try to circulate the same theory during the great Nandigram uprising? Didn’t they do the same in Singur? “Where are the Maoists?” the honorable central minister candidly asked in a recent television debate. Is it not true that the Maoist presence in Bengal is a myth created by the CPM? The honorable minister in all probability was not aware at that time that Maoist leaders have surfaced before the media to claim their robust authority to the movement. The justifying tone of the minister sounds as if he was actually enjoying the brutal killings of the CPI(M) men! He must be in a calculative mood and expecting that Lalgarh will provide some sort of continuity to the electoral and political gains his party has reaped from the very similar episodes of Nandigram.

There are indeed many similarities between Nandigram and Lalgarh. The politics and modus operandi of the agitation is similar. In both the places, rumor and disinformation were spread among locals to agitate and mobilize them. In both the places, a rainbow organization had sprung up rapidly to lead the agitation. In both the places the agitators took over the state administration to establish a free zone. Roads were dug off, several places were blocked by felled trees to resist any further state incursion. In both the places, indigenous weapons brandishing mob emerged as a symbol of the resistance. Both the so-called ‘popular movements’ were backed up by social activists, NGO’s and city dwelling intelligentsia who came on the street to protest the ‘state repression’ and ‘brutal use of force’. In both the places, there were a significant presence of women and children among the agitators who formed the front rank as ‘human shields’ while armed Maoists have positioned themselves in the back layer to instigate police firing. To deliberately create an anti-people image of the CPI(M) and the state government, a deceitful propaganda model was crafted to establish that the state government has particularly targeted the minority Muslims in Nandigram. The same model is applied at Lalgarh where the long oppressed tribals are shown as the victims of state government’s oppression and dispossession. It is now starkly evident that in both the places, the agitation was and is fuelled by a combined force of the right-wing Trinamool and the ultra-left Maoists. In both the places, the CPI(M) party and its workers were the single target.

The answer to the question why Lalgarh has become a killing field of CPI(M) workers is plain and simple. The CPI(M) is the lone target because it is the only party in that area that has the potential to confront and resist the deadly Maoist insurgents. It is the daring local leaders and workers of the CPI(M) who has created the biggest hurdle for the Maoists. They are the only one spoiling the Maoist’s grand design to systemically extend influence in the entire Jangalmahal region of Bengal. These sincere workers who are rooted deep with the daily struggles of the people are the real strength of the CPI(M). The Maoists have understood this strength and therefore has taken up the horrific task to selectively kill individual leaders and workers of the CPI(M) and detach the people from the party by enforcing a reign of terror against them.

The Janashadharaner Committee which is roaming and clumping all over Lalgarh for the past few months were formed as a protest against ‘rampant police atrocity especially on women and school children’ after the state police had raided Lalgarh and its adjacent villages in November, 2008 and detained some locals for having suspected Maoist links. The police action was carried out after the landmine blast on the convoy route of chief minister Buddhadev Bhattacharjee who was returning from Salboni after laying the Jindal steel plant foundation stone. The wire connecting the landmine was found to be originating from Lalgarh. The mastermind behind the attack on the chief minister is suspected to be Maoist action squad leader Sasadhar Mahato, younger brother of the former Trinamool and present PCPA leader Chatradhar Mahato. Along with Maoist sympathizer groups like the Association for the Protection of Democratic Rights (APDR) and Lalgarh Andolon Sanhati Mancha (Solidarity Forum for Lalgarh Movement), the Trinamool Congress had also extended its clandestine support towards the PCPA from its birth and stimulated the ‘unique form of democratic politics’ in Lalgarh against the “government’s long neglect of the tribal people”. Trinamool chieftain Mamata Banerjee was seen several times in the recent past to share the same dais with Chatradhar Mahato. ‘Humanitarian’ NGO groups, social activists and intellectuals with ultra Left undertone were seen to be busy providing moral, intellectual and financial support to the PCPA and ‘steadfastly persevered’ the movement ‘on a path of peaceful show of unity’. The Maoists, who had already set up a strong foothold in the region, were already waiting in the wings. The PCPA incited the tribals for an administration boycott and prevented the police from entering the area. All these developments were happening prior to the Lok Sabha polls. The Left Front government, taken aback by the political consequences of Nandigram were coerced not to take direct action and tried to resolve the crisis through negotiation and talks.

The villages in Lalgarh block could not cast their votes in the Lok Sabha polls due to constant threats from the Maoists. Soon, the area completely went out of hand from the state administration. Lalgarh virtually became a liberated zone of the Maoists. The mainstream media started its systemic propaganda with illustrated stories of people’s resistance and also about how the Maoists have initiated the alternative developmental work inside Lalgarh in the past seven months through their rural governance programme to ‘built at least 50 km of gravel paths, dug tubewells and tanks, rebuilt irrigation canals and are running health centres, with the help of local villagers in Lalgarh. Sporadic killing of CPI(M) leaders and workers were taking place which was made known as ‘people’s upsurge’ against CPI(M) ‘atrocities’.

Just some time after the Lok Sabha election results were out, the situation of Lalgarh erupted with its real face. Planned butchery of CPI(M) local leaders starts. Exciting images of enthusiastic PCPA activists hammering down the house of a CPI(M) leader brick by brick surrounded by drum beating tribals were beamed by TV channels. On June 15, Maoist leader ‘Bikash’ came out into the open to deliver a chilling interview, “On November 2, our plan was to execute Buddhadeb Babu. If West Bengal wants Buddhadeb hanged, who will hang him. It will be us of the People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army.” Standing back facing TV cameras with an AK 47 slung on his shoulder, the real leader of Lalgarh ‘movement’ announced to the literally dumbfound looking journalists, “The ground here is already ready and waiting for us. A child is about to be born and we are playing the role of the nurse who will deliver it”. Next day, in his second media interaction, Bikash also told to the Bengali news channel Star Ananda that “Killings, mass rapes, violence are the doings of Buddhadeb babu’s party. What we are doing is counter-violence.” But Bikash tried to indirectly deny any association with the Trinamool by saying, “Trinamool and CPI(M) are the two sides of the same coin.” At once, Trinamool friendly media picked up this information and propagated repeatedly to invalidate the CPI(M) claim that “Trinamool Congress workers are in cohorts with armed Maoist groups”. Bikash’s identity has been revealed by the Bengal Home Secretary. He is none but Sasadhar Mahato; the younger brother of Chatradhar Mahato.

After Bikash, it was the turn of Koteswar Rao alias Kishanji, the head of CPI(Maoist)’s central military commission and a politburo member in charge of Bengal, Jharkhand and Orissa to address the media. Suspected by the administration to be present at Lalgarh to spearhead the insurgency, Kishanji in his interview with the news channel NDTV has demanded an apology from the Centre and the Bengal government for waging a ‘psychological warfare’ against the tribals. Contrary to the remarks of Bikash on the Trinamool-Maoist connection, Kisanji has meanderingly appealed to the Trinamool chieftain ‘to break her silence’ and repay the Maoist’s contribution in Nandigram by assisting them in Lalgarh. In an earlier interview with the Times of India, Kisanji had spelt out how the Trinamool has armed them to fight in Nandigram. Even Chatradhar Mahato, in a careless moment had acknowledged the same fact.

It seems that the Maoist leaders are finding it increasingly difficult to keep the truth of a Trinamool-Maoist nexus concealed anymore. Earlier, in an inter-party letter, the Maoist leaders had already expressed their desire to “amass all anti-CPM forces in Bengal” and have appealed to their members to “involve the ruling class parties in this anti-CPM project to the maximum extent possible”. In the same letter, the Maoist leaders had asked their comrades to “strengthen relation with the leader who is leading the Singur movement from the front”. Fearing that her carefully veiled truth is getting uncovered by the ‘block-head’ Maoists, Trinamool chieftain Mamata Banerjee has promptly distanced herself and her party from the Lalgarh movement. Impatient to ‘portray a statesman-like attitude’, she has worriedly responded on the issue by saying, “I don’t support that (the Lalgarh violence). It is our collective duty to maintain law and order”. She has announced that two years ago her party has ‘expelled’ Chatradhar and made a wild claim that the Maoist’s are in fact a CPM plant to prevent the growing Trinamool influence in Bengal. “Buddhadev himself is the Maoist” was her reply to the CPI(M) allegation! (For a recent update on the Trinamool-Maoists nexus, see Maoist leader names TMC, Mahashweta as allies)

In Lalgarh, the Maoists have again made it clear why they are no different than any terrorist group. But till they were working covertly under the PCPA banner, their linkage with the PCPA could not be believably proved by the administration. It was easy for the Maoist backers to romanticize the Lalgarh movement in every possible way and candidly support the movement through sympathy soaked media coverage and armament-logistic-legal-financial helps. But by coming out in the open to face the media and announcing their leadership role in Nandigram and Lalgarh, the Maoist leaders have placed them on the horns of a dilemma. The avid sympathizers are showing signs of frustration that the consequences of this ‘stupid’ revelation of ‘hegemonic power’ can derail their well crafted plans. Now, when the truth about Maoists presence in Lalgarh cannot be dismissed anymore, a section of the sympathizers are trying their best to project the Lalgarh violence as a result of the growing discordance between the Maoist central leadership and ‘grassroots Maoists’ and harshly criticized the Maoist leadership as a ‘threat to the various democratic mass movements’. (Source) Their prime concern now is to justify that the Lalgarh movement is basically a ‘non-violent struggles of the people against unjust development policies in the state’ that is suddenly hijacked by the ‘self styled warriors against the state’. Can we humbly ask the ‘democratic mass movement’ propagators why they have waited so long to raise their voice to oppose the Maoists role in the Lalgarh resistance? Following the same logic, will they then condemn the so called Nandigram resistance also?

There is another section that is continuing to shield the Maoists by saying, “…the Maoists are rightly concerned about the objective historical necessity of the moment. This has prompted them to boycott elections and more ruinously adopt the exclusive path of protracted war. It is true that Maoists do not necessarily enjoy staying underground, and it is the brutality of the state that initially forced them into the forests.” (Source) Off course, this dogmatic section does not face any dilemma. Through their intellectual jargon and twisted facts, they are keen to establish that the mindless violence in Lalgarh was “…a spontaneous outburst of popular anger which has resulted in the torching of a CPI(M) party office.” (Source) They have condemned sending in paramilitary forces into the area and guaranteed continual support to the ‘historic in form and content’ movement in ‘every possible way’. They are supporters of mindless killings and completely blinded by the concept of armed uprising.

It is just a matter of days before the state and central joint forces will flush out the Maoists from Lalgarh. The real test for the state government will start from here. Instead of banning the Maoists, confronting them through political and administrative means seems to be the right solution. The government has to address the genuine grievances of the extremely poor and underprivileged section of the region with a compassionate determination. They must also remain extremely alert about the evil designs that will continue to proliferate in the coming days.

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