Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Violence against the organised Left in West Bengal

By Jayati Ghosh

The appalling violence that has been unleashed against Left cadres and other innocent citizens in West Bengal is not just deeply disturbing in its own right. It is also a sickening reminder of the dreadful period of the 1970s. At that time, when the Left Front was still essentially an incipient political force and there was fierce contestation for state power, West Bengal was the site of the most noxious and vicious targeted violence against Left individuals, aided and abetted by the then government at the Centre. When the Left targets started retaliating, West Bengal became the terrain of dreadful and continuous violence between groups.

All this happened more than thirty years ago, and therefore most people involved in the current violence – whether as perpetrators or victims – did not experience it, do not remember it and at best are only dimly aware of those terrible years. This forgetfulness is itself is a triumph of the Left movement and indeed of the Left Front government in the state – that it succeeded in bringing peace to a very troubled and violent state, and that too for an extended period of more than three decades. This success has been ignored in much of the current political discourse and media analysis, and indeed has not even been adequately recognised by those within the Left Front themselves.

Of course this does not mean that there was no violence at all in this period, or even that the state government succeeded in completely eliminating all forms of politically motivated aggression. But certainly the appalling tension and corrosive political violence of the early 1970s appeared to have become a thing of the past. West Bengal was also remarkable among most other states in the country in keeping at bay the communal and caste-based conflict that has become endemic to many other states in the country.

This remarkable achievement has clearly been undermined in the recent past, partly because of some mistakes made by the state government, but even more so because of the cynical manipulation of people’s sentiments by the political opposition.

The “Maoist” takeover of Lalgarh and the need to bring in large numbers of state and central paramilitary forces to bring back normal administration in the area is only one example of this, even though it has received the greatest prominence in the national media. But the violence and targeted damage to life and public and personal property have not been limited to this kind of declaration of “liberated zones”.

After the election results, across the state, Left supporters, and particularly members and sympathisers of the CPI(M) have been brutally attacked, assassinated, severely wounded, and their personal property destroyed. The presumption of the attackers apparently is that their victims will not retaliate in kind. Of course that is absolutely correct, since it is clear at least to the Left parties as well as to all right-thinking people that to do so would only cause descent into the worst kind of destructive chaos.

But this restraint should not be interpreted to mean that the state government will remain helpless and inactive in the face of post-election disorder. The operations in Lalgarh have already shown that the state government has been forced to take on the local violence there through its own quasi-military operations. But elsewhere in the state as well, the horrific proliferation of violent attacks also has to be dealt with sternly and quickly.

This is where the role of the opposition parties in the state, the central government, and indeed the national media, all assume so much significance. It is no secret that much of the recent violence has come directly from members or supporters of the Trinamool Congress. It is also no secret that the so-called Maoists in some districts have been first openly and then tacitly supported by the Trinamool Congress, which is reported to have also provided financial and other support to such groups in the past, with the single-point agenda of destroying stability in the state and somehow forcing the collapse of the elected Left Front government.

And the mainstream media has displayed remarkable double standards about the violence in West Bengal and the state response to it. In any other state, such violence would have been immediately condemned. But for West Bengal, the rules are apparently different. On the one hand, there have been calls for the resignation of the state government on grounds of lack of legitimacy because of the recent election results, and a presumption that open violence targeting Left cadre is only to be expected; and on the other hand the government has been pilloried for inaction, when it is well-known that an immediate firm response would have been immediately condemned as being too heavy-handed and aggressive.

But the media response is deeply disingenuous. It is certainly true that the recent election has been a major setback for the Left and especially the CPI(M) and especially in West Bengal. There is correctly introspection and acceptance of the need for course correction.

Yet the extent of the setback also should not be overplayed. With all its flaws and errors of omission and commission, which the party and the ruling state government have themselves accepted, the Left still commands a lot of electoral support in West Bengal. The latest results from the Election Commission show that the CPI(M) got 33.1 per cent of all the votes cast, and together with its other Left Front allies, got 43.3 per cent of the votes. This is only 1.3 percentage points less than the Trinamool Congress (31.18 per cent) and Congress Party (13.45 per cent) taken together. This hardly qualifies as cause for rejection of the state government, and certainly cannot possibly justify any targeted violence against state cadre.

The central government has also played an unsavoury role in the recent violence, with its slow response to the desperate pleas for outside support to control the violence and its implicit encouragement of forces that are out to destroy the Left Front. The cynical attempt to use those who see themselves as “ultra-left” to destroy the Left clearly has wider backing, including from imperialist forces that have not forgiven the Left for its principled opposition to the Indo-US nuclear deal and similar alliances.

But this is not just short-sighted, it is also deeply dangerous. The central government too must recognise that allowing this to continue would backfire on itself, much in the same way that Indira Gandhi’s encouragement of the Sikh extremist Bhindranwale in the early 1980s, in order to annoy the opposition party in Punjab, ultimately backfired quite viciously on the Congress Party and the central government.

Sunday, July 5, 2009


By Biman Basu

LALGARH Gram Panchayat (GP) area under Binpur I Panchayat Samity (PS) is presently known to the different cross sections of society for numerous reasons. Therefore, we are to explain the reasons behind the sudden shot up of the name of Lalgarh in the media. Lalgarh GP is surrounded by Poita GP, Dharampur GP, Sijua GP, Ramgarh GP, Binpur GP, Belatikari GP, Andharia GP, Dahijuri GP, and Nepura GP.

The total number of GP seats in the above GPs is around 100 out of which Lalgarh has 10 only. Yet, geographically Lalgarh is not a central place of all these GPs, but available connectivity puts Lalgarh at the central stage. However, Lalgarh is not a ‘red fort.’ It has such a name alone. Binpur I and II blocks constitute the Binpur (ST) assembly constituency. Lalgarh is within this constituency.

Since 1977, assembly elections have taken place in the state seven times and the Left Front-nominated CPI(M) candidates won in 1977, 1987, 1991—thus only three times from this constituency, and the rest of the occasions the seat went to the Jharkhand Party (Naren Hansda faction). At present, Chunibala Hansda of the Jharkhand Party is the MLA from this constituency.

It is a fact that the state Left Front government has already declared in the Human Development Report in 2004 that many of the villages under Binpur assembly constituency are backward. The state government through the three-tier Panchayati raj system, wanted to implement many developmental projects but due to the ‘Maoist’ opposition and reluctance of the Jharkhand Party, the efforts of development could not be implemented properly so far.

They even opposed the digging of ponds, construction of roads, and went in for destruction of the small bridges; they blew up road rollers, and cement mixture machines used for road construction, and even did not spare the tourism buildings and nearby Panchayat offices, which were blasted. They even stopped the mobile health service to the rural, tribal, and other oppressed sections of the society, and killed Dr Dhaniram Mandi, nurse Bharati Kisku, and a mobile medicare van driver.

The same brand of anti-Left forces including ‘Maoists,’ attempted to kill the Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee by planting a ‘directional mine.’ Since then, they formed a frontal organisation called the People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities or PCAPA, and started to spread their activities in and around Lalgarh virtually disallowing the normal rule of law. They wanted to spread their day-to-day activities in all this GP area to stop the functioning of the state administration, and to make a small hamlet to be a government within a government. They started collecting levy from teachers, government employees, shopkeepers, and they even went on to collect funds from the BDO in his office.


It is a known fact that since 2001, ‘Maoists’ started to build their contacts in West Midnapore, Bankura, and Purulia districts and in certain areas, waged concerted attacks against the Left forces targeting the CPI(M) as the main enemy. They also tried to spread their activities in certain other districts. In the above-mentioned districts alone until date, they have killed 74 CPI(M) leaders, workers, close sympathisers, and one Forward Bloc worker. Also, hundreds of other people were driven out from their own living places and residences. In total, they have killed 111 people.

Out of this figure, 88 general people were killed among whom 74 are landless or poor peasants and 25 are tribals. It is true that these ‘Maoists’ would create a sense of terror in large sections of forest areas which is commonly called jangal mahal. It is also true that in these districts, the base of CPI(M), the Left forces, and their political activities are noticeable. ‘Maoists’ wanted to break this political base through armed attacks, and all sorts of anti-CPI(M) forces including internal and external reactionary forces wanted to utilise ‘Maoists’ to weaken the Left Front and the CPI(M) political base.

It is revealed in The Economist, June 27-July 3 issue under the caption of ‘India’s Naxalite: a rag-tag rebellion’ the name of Chatradhar Mahato and his activities covering some 2000 villages with a joint force of PCAPA and ‘Maoist’ guerrillas. The magazine in the post- 2004 parliamentary elections, wrote the first article with a photo of Dr Manmohan Singh, captioned ‘bad days for India.’ In the post-2009 parliamentary elections, an article was captioned ‘good days for India – don’t waste.’ This signifies how the western lobby keeps a close watch on the development of the Left and democratic movement in Indian politics.

The self-styled leader of the so-called people’s committee, Chatradhar Mahato who is a known Trinamul Congress activist, is moving with maintaining close liaison with the “Maoists.’ His younger brother is a zonal commander of the ‘Maoists.’ The Trinamul Congress supremo on February 4, 2009 just before the elections were declared went to Lalgarh and shared the platform publicly with Chatradhar Mahato. It is funny to hear that the Trinamuli supremo declared the Lalgarh agitation as another ‘Santhal rebellion’ though Chatradhar Mahato himself is not a Santhal or even an adivasi. In the mid-19th century, the first Santhal rebellion took place under the leadership of Sidhu-Kanho against the British Raj followed by the revolts led by first Tilka Murmu, and then Birsa Munda.


One of the top former Naxalite leader of the 1960s and even later, Kanu Sanyal, has correctly said ‘who has made Chatradhar the leader of the people’s committee?’ ‘Is the people’s committee represented by all communities?’ ‘Thus, how that can be dubbed as the Santhal Rebellion?’ But this is an irony of fate that the Trinamul chieftain is very much trying to disassociate herself from Chatradhar and ‘Maoists.’ Initially, she used to say that Left Front and CPI(M) are always saying that the activities of Chatradhar as ‘Mao-Mao’ (cat’s meow). These sorts of utterances have given extra strength to the ‘Maoists’ in and around Lalgarh to establish lawlessness and their authority in certain areas of jangal mahal. But ‘Maoist’ supremo Koteswara Rao alias ‘Kishanji’ has exposed the game plan of TMC by saying that ‘we went to Nandigram and adjoining areas to help TMC and made the operation successful, and now TMC is to come forward and help us.’

For the last eight months, Lalgarh and its adjacent areas remained seized by the PCAPA and the normal life of the people of the entire area was completely jeopardised. During this period, the parliamentary elections were completed and the Jhargram parliamentary constituency won by the LF-nominated CPI(M) candidate Dr Pulin Behari Baskey by a margin of 2,92,345 votes. This has infuriated the CPI (Maoist). They started a wrong political game plan with a renewed vigour. In this situation, LF gave a call for political campaign against the dangerous politics of ‘Maoists.’ Just before the LF statement, the state government with the help of the central government started a joint operation to restore normalcy in the affected areas.

The operation has been going on for two weeks now. The People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities did not leave any stone unturned in declaring themselves as the real representatives of the people there, but it is found that when the police forces reached Ramgarh proper under Ramgarh GP, the mass of the people waved at them in joy, and provided them with drinking water with a sigh of relief. Since the civil administration could not continue their normal activities, the people of Lalgarh and adjacent areas were suffering seriously and it is found that when the government started distributing rice, pulses among the deserted families they formed a long queue to receive the relief materials. This has certainly proved how the claim of the PCAPA is completely hollow.

People's Democracy, July 05, 2009

Who Are The Maoists Working For?

by Debasish Chakraborty

The rifle slinging carelessly from his shoulder, the Maoist zonal commander Bikash faced the electronic boom and openly admitted in public that the mine blast in Salboni in November 2008 was meant to kill the West Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya. He then added that Buddhadeb had been sentenced to death by the Maoists. In the middle of the interview, Bikash ran his fingers through his hair to smoothen it. The total episode may have resembled the shooting of a Bollywood thriller “Main Maoist Hoon.”


The above sequence must have made some people very excited. Sitting kilometres away from Lalgarh, somebody may have had the desire to participate in a ‘war-war game’. Some had even travelled there in search of the ‘cute’ Maoists but ended up only in meeting Chatradhar Mahato. The loveliest of beauties among the retinue openly lamented, “What Maoist? We didn’t see a Maoist anywhere!” Really, what a pity!

The experience of the people who do have to meet and live with the Maoists, though, seems to be a wee bit different in general. Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh have been going through the experience for the last decade or so. From afar, it was easier to paint a romantic picture of the “perpetual class war” going on in these areas. Now people in Belpahari-Lalgarh-Bandwan area have had a first hand experience of the state of things in a ‘liberated’ (!!!) zone.

The Maoists have been able to expand their influence in some districts of six or seven states. Although there has been a debate about the area of the so called Red Corridor, it cannot be denied that the Maoists have been successful in expanding their ‘Raj’ in these six or seven states. Has this ‘Raj’ been the outcome of a vibrant mass movement? Has the movement of the peasantry, or of the working class, been the driving force behind the Maoist domination? Has anybody been the witness of such happenings? Has anybody heard the Maoists spearheading any mass movement for the rightful demands of the poor landless peasants, the rural poor and the adivasis? By name, they are indeed a communist party. But nobody can condemn them for having waged any movement in favour of the class they claim to be the representatives of, that is, the working class. They do not bear any responsibility of building any mass movements. The theory of acquiring dominance at gun point has been termed as a “continuous people’s war” while at times the ‘self- proclaimed revolutionaries’ termed it as guerrilla warfare. Maybe at times, perhaps to win over support from the middle class, they may enter into a public debate. Then they would say that if the state itself is an armed apparatus, an instrument of coercion, the working people should also take up arms against the state for survival. But the flaw lies here.

The Chinese revolutionaries, who understood the true character of the state far better than the Indian Maoists have ever understood, had always stressed on the necessity of mass action and mass movements. And the man in whose name the Maoists are running their party had always emphasised on the supreme importance of mass participation. Comrade Mao had had, several times before as well as after the Chinese revolution, stressed on the active initiative of crores of people.


But the Indian Maoists believe in the politics of terror, perpetrated by their armed squads, instead of an organised and spontaneous mass movement. This particular trend is quite harmful for the real mass movements in our country. The territory where the Maoists are very powerful at this present moment of time happens to be the abode of a vast section of the poorest of the poor Indian masses. Even if, suppose, somebody claims that the adivasi population is the main ‘proletariat’ in the country, he or she must be aware of the fact that a vast majority of the adivasi population too lives in this belt. They are living under the shadow of the Maoist guns and have not been mobilised in any genuine mass movement. They are even being kept several light years away from the primary movements on economic demands. All these must surely be making the ruling classes of this country very happy. Apart from the law and order situation, our ruling classes have nothing to worry about.

Some people may feel thrilled with the thought that the Maoists have built their bases in the adivasi preponderant areas. But it is to be remembered that building such bases has nothing to do with sympathy for the adivasi population. In numerous documents, the Maoists themselves have categorically stated that the reasons behind choosing such areas are related to military tactics. The remote areas, the jungles are tough for the state to reach quickly. Due to this inaccessibility, obviously, these areas become favourable for their “guerrilla warfare.”

Thus the entire interest of the Maoists is in geography, with love or compassion for the adivasis and the poor having never been an issue for them. But, obviously, they can --- and they do --- make use of the intense poverty of the adivasi population, though not for enhancing their consciousness. Instead, this poverty has been used for making the people surrender to their diktat. As long as the news of Maoist mine blasts poured in from Andhra Pradesh or Chhattisgarh, an element of adventurism was there in the air. Now living amidst the muzzles of A K 47, however, people are bitterly realising the harsh reality prevailing in Lalgarh, Belpahari and other areas. As many as 73 CPI(M) activists have been killed in the Junglemahal area of Bengal. A large number has been driven out of their villages. This has been done precisely to create a reign of terror there. The world does not hold any other example where the poor people are afraid of ‘revolutionaries.’


What are the Maoists doing in their so called open corridor? Are they distributing lands? Is feudalism being ousted? Are collective farms being run? Are development programmes for the adivasis and the poor being implemented? Nothing of the sort is being done. The areas in Bihar where the Maoists are most powerful, are quite comfortable areas for feudal lords. Very interestingly, due to the role of some other naxalite groups in these areas, there was some advancement of land movements in these areas earlier. Those advancements have now faded away. The Maoists and the feudal lords, in fact, share a common understanding among themselves. Land movement does not even have the remotest place in the Maoist agenda. Payment of levy to the Maoists clears the contractors from all sorts of hazards. The added advantage in this regard is that the contractors do not have to even construct the roads. The levy alone suffices the purpose. The Maoists share the same relation with the illegal wood and mine mafias. All parties are getting benefited from this symbiotic relationship. The Maoists act as paid agents of different political parties during the elections in Jharkhand. Children belonging to the poor adivasi families are taken away in the name of Balasangham in Chhattisgarh and Orissa. The Maoists have reached the final stages of degeneration. They are basically a mafia group now.

Of late, it has become a fashion to attribute underdevelopment as the reason for Maoist fervour in the Junglemahal of West Bengal. Lack of development is definitely there, particularly in the backward areas. In spite of some remarkable advancement in some sectors, poverty still persists. The neo-liberal policies pursued in our country over the last two decades have further widened the divide between the rich and the poor. It is an irony that on television channels some people argue for speedy realisation of the policies of neo-liberalism while, side by side, pointing out that lack of development is making the Maoists powerful. The Maoists themselves are against any kind of developmental model. In a capitalist society, any development cannot be there outside the sphere of class components and contents. But before a complete or thorough transformation of society take place, is it a crime to demand development for the working people? If the conditions and chances exist for development somewhere, is the utilisation of such opportunities a crime? Even the weird leftists whom Mao derided as the “Marxists sleeping on Marx,” never stooped so low!

The Indian Maoists oppose the projects of development everywhere. They oppose the laying of rail tracks, construction of bridges and establishment of power projects. Blowing up schools by the Maoists has become a very common phenomenon in Orissa, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand. In West Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia districts of West Bengal, the Maoists have established themselves to be the strongest hindrance to any sort of developmental works. Whose interest are they protecting?

And let us have a look at their “class enemies.” They have killed 73 CPI(M) activists in the Junglemahal area of Bengal. Out of them, 50 were either agricultural labourers or poor peasants. These poor unarmed people were dragged into the jungle and stabbed or shot to death. Their bodies were left lying on the spot, only to decompose. Their family members were not given the right to cremate them. We don’t know what sort of infernal pleasure these atrocities provide to the Maoists. Making the life of the poor adivasis horrible does not possibly serve any class interests of the downtrodden.


The political motive and interest of the Indian Maoists is definite and clear. Thanks to the long and sustained struggles, the three districts of Junglemahal have become strong bastions of the CPI(M). And the Maoists look upon their arms as the last resort in their sordid game to order to break this bastion. But this belief is not shared by the Maoists alone. Keeping the Maoists in the forefront, others including Trinamool Congress are playing their role as well. Nowhere in India have the Maoists earlier faced any political challenge. They have had confrontations with the police and the administration. West Bengal has provided the first instance where the Maoists have to taste the people’s resistance and the barrier of a mass movement. Naturally, the attack on the Left has become focussed.

There is no doubt that Bikash or Kishenji will become a star. With the CPI(M)’s tally having come down in the parliamentary elections, the share market has now nothing to worry about. Washington had played the tunes of delight and ecstasy. Big media houses can’t help expressing their excitement. At this point of time, it is quite obvious that the people engaged in killing the cadres of the CPI(M) are slated to definitely become stars. Naturally, the demands of the Kishenji, Bikash & Company are on the high side!

People's Democracy,July 05, 2009