Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Trinamul-Maoist Violence Against the Left in West Bengal

Since the results of the Lok Sabha elections have been announced, a spate of attacks have been organisedagainst activists and supporters of the CPI(M) in West Bengal. In Khejuri in East Midnapore and Lalgarhin West Midnapore, CPI(M) activists have been physically attacked and murdered, Party offices burntdown and hundreds of CPI(M) supporters forcibly driven out of the villages, by organized and armedgangs led by the Trinamul Congress and Maoists. Targeted assassinations of CPI(M) leaders have alsotaken place in the districts of Bardhaman, Birbhum, Purulia and Howrah. This planned and organisedviolence has been continuing right from the time the Lok Sabha polls were announced. Since then over 70 CPI(M) leaders and activists have been martyred across West Bengal.
A notable feature of this spate of attacks against the CPI(M) in Bengal is the open nexus between theMaoists and mainstream opposition parties, particularly the Trinamul Congress. Their present objective isclearly to physically eliminate the CPI(M) and create anarchy in the state in order to destabilize thedemocratically elected State Government. This nexus, however, is not unique to West Bengal. The socalledMaoists in India, who have refused to abandon the path of individual assassination and mindlessacts of terror, have since long degenerated into armed gangs, indulging in nefarious activities likeextortion, robbery and money laundering. Like criminal gangs, who forge links with political parties forpatronage and protection, the Maoists too have developed links with mainstream politicians in states likeAndhra Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and Chattisgarh. In these states, the involvement of the Maoists inelection related violence has not been limited to their enforcement of poll boycott calls. They have beenoften found involved in threatening or even killing candidates of one political party on behalf of another,and also indulging in booth capturing. In West Bengal, they have discovered a willing ally in the TrinamulCongress.
The links between the Trinamul Congress and the Maoists in West Bengal have surfaced during variousincidents of violence since the early years of this decade. However, it was the Nandigram episode in 2007that had brought this nexus out in the open. While reports in the media had pointed towards the activeinvolvement of Maoists in Nandigram, this was vehemently denied by all the opposition political partieslike the Trinamul Congress, Congress and the BJP, who were a part of the BUPC (Bhumi UcchedPratirodh Committee) in Nandigram. The recent interview by Maoist leader Koteshwar Rao (Kishanji) tothe Times of India (27th April 2009) has put all speculations to rest. He has not only confirmed the activeparticipation of the Maoists in the Nandigram violence but he also stated that the Trinamul Congress hadsupplied them with ammunitions. This corroborates the admissions of Himadri Sen Roy (Somen), theWest Bengal State Secretary of the CPI (Maoists), who was arrested by the police in February 2008. Onthe basis of his interrogation report prepared by the CID, the Indian Express (22nd June 2009) reports:
 “CPI (Maoist) leaders, including Somen, visited Nandigram in December 2006 to ‘assess thetemperament of locals’ when protests against land acquisition for a chemical hub just began.
 Based on the visit, a meeting of his party was held in Chakulia forest in Jharkhand in February2007 to devise a strategy for Nandigram. A decision was taken to keep the Maoists away from theforefront of agitation due to lack of organisational network in Nandigram. It was also decided toprocure arms. Accordingly, the party central committee sanctioned Rs 8 lakh, by which six .315rifles and 500 bullets worth Rs 4 lakh were purchased from one Sahoo based in Jharkhand.
 The consignment was received at Haldia, shipped to Nandigram and kept at the house of CPI(Maoist) East Midnapore zonal committee secretary Narayan's residence in Sonachura, theepicentre of Nandigram movement. Besides, 30 crude guns were procured locally. Narayan alsoacted as a link with the BUPC, whose members Karabi, Ranjit Pal and Dipak formed the Maoistsquad along with Narayan. [Maoist cadre Ranjit Pal was involved in the assassination of JMM MPSunil Mahato in Jharkhand in March 2007]
 Somen also visited Nandigram in July 2007 for two days and stayed at Narayan's residence.TrinamulMaoistViolence Against the Left in West Bengal
 Narayan was in contact with Trinamool MP from Tamluk Subendhu Adhikari, the then MLA fromContai South Assembly constituency, and BUPC leaders. Maoists also forged links with SidiqullahChowdhury's People's Democratic Council of India (PDCI), SUCI and Bandi Mukti Committee(BMC).
 Several Bengal intellectuals, including BMC president Mahasweta Devi, went to Nandigram at theMaoists’ behest to exhort people to join the antiacquisitionmovement.
 However, relations between the BUPC and Maoists soured when the former rejected a proposal toform volunteer groups to take on the CPI (M) cadres.
 Kishanji, also operating under the names of Pradip, Bimal, Prahalad and Sridhar, collected “levy”from contractors in Bankura, Purulia and West Midnapore averaging Rs 8 lakh per month. He also received Rs 1.31.5lakh from the central party headquarters every month, which he distributeddirectly to the state unit. He wrote press statements of the party in English while Somen framed the Bengali ones.”
It is clear that the blockade of Nandigram, which continued till November 2007, had little to do with theprotest against land acquisition for the chemical hub. The State Government had explicitly abandoned the land acquisition proposal in February 2007 itself. The protest against land acquisition became aconvenient cover for legitimizing the gang up with the Maoists and unleashing open terror against the CPI (M).
Having tasted blood in Nandigram, several attempts were made by the Trinamul Congress and theMaoists to create similar situations elsewhere in West Bengal. On 2nd November 2008, an attempt wasmade by the Maoists to assassinate the West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya, when hewas returning from Salboni in West Midnapore along with the Union Steel Minister after laying thefoundation stone of a steel plant. The landmine exploded by the Maoists missed the Chief Minister’sconvoy narrowly. The police launched operations to arrest the culprits and some suspects were arrested.In the process, however, the police indulged in some unjustifiable repressive measures in the Chotopeliavillage in Lalgarh, especially against some tribal women, one of whose eye was severely damaged. 11women lodged formal complaints about police torture.
This angered the local tribals who launched protests against the police led by the Bharat Jakat Majhi Marwa (BJMM), a body of adivasi community leaders. They demanded treatment and compensation forthe injured tribal women, action against the guilty police officials and release of the arrested suspects. On14th November the BJMM leadership reached an agreement with the local authorities. The administrationaccepted most the demands and provided treatment and compensation for the injured women, releasedeight of the accused including three school going boys who were arrested and the SP and the Inspector inCharge of Lalgarh police station were transferred.
However, a Committee against Police Atrocities (PSBJC or Police Sontrash Birodhi JanasadharanerCommittee), which was backed by the Maoists was formed which accused the BJMM leadership of sellingout. The PSJBC blockaded the entire Lalgarh area by digging up roads and felling trees, similar toNandigram, and made the area out of bounds for the police and the administration. They demanded apublic apology by the District Superintendent of Police of West Midnapore and other policemen byholding their ears and crawling with their nose to the ground. The administration tried to open dialoguewith them but the PSBJC continued with the blockade insisting upon the public apology by the policeofficials. That the PSBJC was not interested in resolving the issue in a peaceful and democratic mannerbecame clear with the continuing blockade.
The local tribal people were not in favour of the undemocratic tactics adopted by the Maoist backedPSBJC. The Bharat Jakat Majhi Marwa organised a rally to protest Maoist violence on 9th December in theBhulabheda area of Belpahari, where more than 10,000 adivasis had gathered. Sudhir Mandal, theadivasi leader who organised the rally, was shot dead by the Maoists less than 48 hours later. The PSBJCformed a parallel administration and its Maoist allies prevented the entry of the police and administrationin the villages of Belpahari, Binpur, Lalgarh, Jamboni, Salboni and Goaltore.
From here, the Maoist deathsquads launched a series of brutal attacks.
2nd February, 2009: CPI (M) leader Nandalal Pal was killed by the Maoists in Lalgarh. The next day,Maoists also attacked the funeral procession of the slain leader and killed three more tribal villagersRajaram Mandi, Lakhiram Mandi and Gopinath Soren in the Khasjangal area.
18th March, 2009: Two CPI (M) members and Kisan Sabha activists Durga Deshowali and SantoshMahato were killed by Maoists in front of Bhulabheda panchayat office in Belpahari.
10th April, 2009: CPI (M) activist Asim Mondal was shot dead by Maoists in front of the shop he owned atBhulabheda, Belpahari.
21st April, 2009: A small farmer, Hambir Mandi, who was also a CPI (M) supporter, was killed by Maoistsin Nadaria, Salboni. CPI (M) activist Sakti Sen was also killed in the attack.
23rd April, 2009: An armed gang of Maoists attacked a group of CPI (M) activists in Saluka village,Salboni. 10 CPI (M) activists were seriously injured but were prevented from being shifted to the hospital.Among the injured, Gopinath Murmu succumbed to his injuries. The Maoists burnt his dead body.
30th April, 2009: Three Election Commission (EC) personnel, Prasad Banerjee, Sougata Karmakar andSanjay Das (driver), were killed when Maoists triggered a landmine blast targeting their convoy afterpolling in Jamboni.
6th June, 2009: CPI (M) leader Jayanta Mahato was killed by Maoists at Dirghosa forest in Salboni. TheMaoists had announced at a meeting on 2nd June that Mahato would be killed.
11th June, 2009: CPI (M) activist Salku Soren was abducted by Maoists from his house at Kakracharavillage in Lalgarh. He was later shot dead inside a nearby forest.
14th June, 2009: Three CPI (M) activists, Asit Samanta, Naru Samanta and Prabir Mahato were killed inan attack by the Maoists in Dharampur, Lalgarh.
17th June, 2009: CPI (M) activist Anil Mahato, DYFI activist Niladri Mahato and SFI activist AbhijitMahato were killed by motorcycleborne Maoists in Lodhashuli.
It is clear that the blockaded area of Lalgarh was being used by the Maoists to launch murderous attacks,especially targeting CPI (M) activists and supporters. The objective of the blockade was also to shield theMaoists, who were behind the assassination attempt on the Chief Minister. This became clear whenMaoist cadre Shashadhar Mahato (Bikash), the prime suspect behind the assassination attempt, appearedbefore the media within the “liberated zone” of Lalgarh on 16th June with an AK 47 slung on hisshoulders. Bikash said on NDTV: “On 2nd November, our plan was to execute Buddhadeb. If people wantBuddhadeb hanged, who will hang him? It will be us of the People's Liberation Guerrilla Army.” He wasmaking these statements with the CPI (M) local committee office in Dharampur burning in the backdropand the corpse of CPI (M) activist Salku Soren, who was killed few days back by the Maoists, lying besideit. It was in the backdrop of this murderous spree by the Maoists, that the State Government was forcedto launch a combined operation of the state police and the central security forces on 18th June 2009. Theobjective was to combat the Maoists and restore normalcy in the area.
The Lalgarh episode has once again brought to the fore the nexus between the Trinamul Congress and the Maoists. The PSBJC Convenor Chatradhar Mahato, a contractor by profession, is the brother of thisMaoist Bikash. In an interview to NDTV on 22nd June, Chatradhar Mahato stated that he has been anactivist of the Trinamul Congress and actively campaigned for it during the Panchayat elections in 2008.He also admitted in a roundabout manner that his brother is a Maoist. Mamata Banerjee herself hasprovided active support to the Lalgarh blockade throughout and even addressed a rally of the PSBJC in Lalgarh on 4th February 2009, sharing the dais with Chatradhar Mahato. As the security forces’ operation in Lalgarh began, the double standards of Trinamul Congress and Mamata Banerjee got badly exposed:
17th June 2009
Partha Chatterjee, Trinamul MLA and leader of Opposition in WB Assembly: “If the Maoists areunleashing terror, then why is the CPI(M) not asking the government to ban the organisation. The ‘Maoistdrama’ has the support of the chief minister.” (Asian Age)
18th June 2009
Maoist leader Kishanji: “People will block the roads, the armed forces that come will be taught a lesson,the central govt., the Buddhadeb govt. will be taught a lesson…We are asking Mamata too, she was withus in Nandigram…now we want to know what stand she will take. She is now in the cabinet, the solemember from her party… The tribals here are sitting in protest against the Paramilitary forces, ready tofight them. Which side will Mamata support is what we want to know.” (NDTV)
20th June 2009
Mamata Banerjee: “If statements by Biman Bose and Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee linking our party withMaoists are not withdrawn within 48 hours, we will agitate to demand sacking of the government by theCentre. We don't believe in individual killings and don't have link with Maoists. We have been demandinga ban on Maoists in the state…He himself (Buddhadeb Bhattacharya) had said once that he is fond ofMaoist books and literature and has them at his residence.” (Outlook)
Kishanji: “She is playing a political game. Even though she is a member of the Central Cabinet, she hasnot said a single word against sending Central forces to Lalgarh. Now, to gain sympathy in West Bengal,she is saying that the police and the CPI(M) unleashed a reign of terror in Junglemahal. This is clearly acase of double standards on her part. The mask has fallen from her face…After the Lalgarh movementstarted, Mamata Banerjee visited Lalgarh. The locals allowed her to visit this place. But now she will notbe able to come to Lalgarh or any parts of Junglemahal. We have also decided that we will prevent herfrom entering Nandigram and Singur, where we were part of the movement.” (Asian Age)
22nd June 2009
Kishanji: “Mamata’s real interest is to grab power in West Bengal. Had she been sincere, she would havestepped down from the Union cabinet because the Centre has joined hands with the state government tounleash a reign of terror in Lalgarh” (India Today)
29th June 2009
Mamata Banerjee: “I am once again urging the central government not to provide support to the CPIMat Lalgarh and use central forces to unearth illegal arms stocked by the party…I urge the Centre toimmediately convene an emergency meeting to be attended by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee andHome Minister P Chidambaram to review what actually is happening at Lalgarh in the name of flushingout Maoists.” (Hindustan Times)
1st July , 2009
Mamata Banerjee: “What is going on at Lalgarh is a total drama. There are no Maoist activists in theregion. If there had been any ultraLeftactivists, they have by now already fled the area and the LeftFront government has allowed them to flee. Now in the name of running joint operations against theMaoists, the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government is just trying to regain its political base…” (EconomicTimes)
Despite the fact that not even one person has been injured or killed by the security forces since thebeginning of the joint operations in June 2009, Maoist sympathizers have launched a high pitchedcampaign against “state repression” and “atrocities” in order to mislead people on the ground situation inLalgarh. The fact is that 15 more CPI (M) activists and supporters have been assassinated by the Maoistssince the launch of the operations. Efforts by the Maoist sympathizers and the Trinamul Congress to stallthe operations of the security forces is nothing but an attempt to perpetuate the reign of terror by theMaoists. The unholy nexus between the Trinamul Congress and the Maoists and their antidemocraticandviolent politics need to be exposed thoroughly.
(A SFI-JNU Pamphlet on TMC-Maoist Violence in Lalgarh)

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