Monday, November 9, 2009

Buddhadeb steps into his 10th year as Chief Minister

The Hindu, 9th November,2009
KOLKATA: West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, besieged by challenges, stepped into his tenth year in office on November 6. This is, arguably, the most difficult time in his tenure.

“There is no looking back, the only way is the one forward,” has been his refrain over the years. Mr. Bhattacharjee stays on track, apparently cool and stoic, while all around him, the sound and fury of political enemies and detractors grows fiercer by the day.

For one who adopted “do-it-now” as a credo, Mr. Bhattacharjee has come a long way: from the poster-boy of reform in the Left to a Chief Minister wizened in the face of adversity. The setbacks range from forced relocation of the Tata Motors’ small car project from Singur to a severe electoral defeat for the CPI(M) and the Left Front in the 15th Lok Sabha election. The problems include simmering political unrest in the Darjeeling hills arising from the demand for a separate State comprising the region, and violent Maoist activity in parts of the southwest with its epicentre at Lalgarh.

Chief Minister Bhattacharjee’s programme of greater industrialisation in the State to create more jobs has met with some setbacks at the hands of Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress teaming up with the Congress, ‘left’ extremists, and various bit players. But the industrialisation programme remains on his list of priorities as does a determination to counter the Maoist threat — not only through security operations against the ultras but by ensuring development in the affected region.

What is notable is this man’s resolve to end lawlessness. This, the leadership of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) believes, is part of the programme of the principal Opposition party in the State, the Trinamool Congress — on occasions in league with the Maoists — to create anarchy and terror across West Bengal. Never one to shy away from admitting lapses on the part of his government, Mr. Bhattacharjee speaks of “lessons learnt” during his term in office.
There was one lesson to be learnt from the high-handedness of some policemen during raids to track down those responsible for an abortive attempt on his life (by Maoists) when he was returning from Salboni in Paschim Medinipur district on November 2, 2008. The tribal resistance group that emerged quickly morphed into a local front for the extremists in Lalgarh. Another lesson was learnt from the developments in Nandigram where the Chief Minister called off a proposed chemical hub project early in 2007. The hostilities were purportedly against the proposed acquisition of villagers’ land, a baseless charge brought by a concerted opposition that the CPI(M)-led government failed to counter effectively. In actuality, what was involved was a political turf war between the Trinamool Congress and the CPI(M). As for the Nano project being moved out of Singur, it was “a battle lost, not the war.”
In times as grim as these, what makes Mr. Bhattacharjee tick, one wonders. Asked about the relevance of holding film festivals (the Kolkata Film Festival on which he has always been keen will be from November 10 to 17) at a time when the State is being buffeted by inter-party clashes, the person behind the persona had this to say: “Even a hungry man sings.”

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


Probe This Nexus!

People's Democracy
November 01, 2009

THE Maoists have staged a daring stoppage of the Bhubaneswar-Delhi Rajdhani in the Jhargram-Kharagpur section, near Banstala station and holding it for over five hours. Mercifully, there were no casualties, thanks to the joint operations conducted by the security forces which resulted in the safety of the passengers and the release of the train. From the graffiti on the train, scripted by no hapless tribal but by someone well heeled, it can be inferred that this was done to demand the release of Chhatradhar Mahato, leader of the Maoist-backed People's Action Committee against Police Atrocities, recently arrested by the police.

The whole incident raises many questions that need to be probed. All those who have travelled by Rajdhanis or Shatabdis know that the train hurtles at speeds of around 120 kilometers per hour and even when obstructions are noticed on the track, application of emergency breaks would lead to damage to both the tracks and the train. In this case, however, the train peacefully ground to a halt.

The minister of Railway's first reaction, typical of the usual hyperbole and absurdity, was that the CPI(M) cadre had blocked the train to malign her image! However, when the graffiti exposed the perpetrators of this outrage as belonging to the Maoists, the minister expressed her desire for a dialogue and even conveyed to those holding the train hostage to suggest a venue! Further, one of the Trinamool Congress ministers in the union cabinet, Sishir Adhikary, soon after the incident, boasted to the media that he had prior knowledge that such an attack would take place. Surely, the prime minister needs to probe the source of such `knowledge' by his ministerial colleague and inform the nation.

The collaboration of the Trinamool Congress with the Maoists has been detailed in these columns earlier as well. Chhatradhar Mahato was a local Trinamool leader before becoming the head of the so-called People's Committee. The self-declared and publicity hungry spokesman of the Maoists, Kishenji, had earlier declared to the media that the Maoists wish to see Ms Mamata Banerjee as the future chief minister of Bengal. He has also suggested that as they had helped the Trinamool earlier in Nandigram and now in Lalgarh, they expect the Trinamool to return the favour. Clearly, this has once again confirmed that the Maoists began their operations in Bengal under the political patronage and protection provided by the Trinamool.

It is precisely due to this political collaboration between the two that the Trinamool, till we go to press, has not condemned this Maoist outrage of stopping and damaging the train. It is again precisely due to this political arrangement between the two that the Trinamool Congress has been asking for the withdrawal of the central forces in the operations against Maoist terror in Bengal. Ironically, such blatant support for the Maoists and their terrorist activities comes from a party that is in that very union cabinet headed by the prime minister who on repeated occasions had stated that Maoist violence constitutes the gravest threat to India's internal security. The tragedy for the country is that this UPA government is continuing, displaying no discomfort, despite such a blatant contradiction. The prime minister owes an explanation to the country on this score.

In the meanwhile, there are reports of growing unrest and insecurity amongst the railway employees. A leader of the Railway Men's Union in Purulia has expressed grave doubts on the security of railway personnel who are not being provided adequate forces to protect themselves from growing Maoist attacks on railway stations, tracks and other railway facilities. The situation will not improve, they feel, as long as the Trinamool chief is the Railway minister because of the close political collaboration between them.

These are issues that warrant a serious probe. Can the safety of the Indian Railways, one of the most important instruments of our country's unity and integrity, be jeopardised at the altar of crass political opportunism of protecting and patronising the Maoists? And, consequently, permit the Maoists to mount grave threats to our country's internal security? The prime minister and this UPA-2 government need to assure the people that India's internal security is not being compromised. A thorough investigation into all these issues must be urgently ordered and those culpable of damaging the interests of our country that threaten the lives of the innocent people must be made accountable.

(28 October, 2009)

Concerned Citizens on “Maoist” Violence

About 40 eminent intellectuals, writers and artistes etc. jointly issued the following statement from New Delhi on October 27.

THERE has been a spate of growing murder and violence in certain areas of Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and West Bengal by armed persons acting on behalf of the “CPI (Maoist)”. We strongly feel that their use of the name of Mao Zedong, a widely respected figure, while carrying out the acts of carnage and killing, is reprehensible. Such acts can also in no way be justified in the name of a war against the state. While every conscious citizen opposes acts of oppression committed by members of the exploiting classes or individuals in the state apparatus, the so-called “Maoists,” by their violent acts of vendetta, torture and gruesome killings, are gravely damaging the cause of the popular democratic movement. The “Maoists” are thus in fact working against the interests of the workers and peasants.

In order to isolate the “Maoists” politically, it is however important that the Indian state do all that is necessary to restore its presence and credibility in tribal areas whose interests it has largely been ignoring. The central government should review its neo-liberal policies that have pauperised the tribal people and help the state governments to meet their developmental challenges in these areas. Counter insurgency vigilante groups (such as Salwa Judum) have proved to be counter productive. Harassment and killing of innocent local people should be avoided while tackling the violence, and those responsible for such acts in the name of fighting the "Maoists" should be punished. A genuine dialogue should be started with those "Maoists" who are ready to give up the path of armed struggle.

The signatories included:
Irfan Habib,
Teesta Setalvad,
Vijay Prashad,
Utsa Patnaik,
Amiya Kumar Bagchi,
M K Raina,
Najaf Hyder,
Badri Raina,
Shireen Moosvi,
Jayati Ghosh,
Iqtadar Alam Khan,
Sohail Hashmi,
Archana Prasad,
Amar Farooqui,
Ayesha Kidwai,
Simi Malhotra,
Nadim Rizavi,
Sonya Surabhi Gupta,
Lata Singh,
Atlury Murali,
Biswamoy Pati,
Madhu Prasad,
D N Jha,
P K Shukla,
Arjun Dev,
Suvira Jaiswal,
H C Satyarthi,
Kesavan Veluthath,
V Ramakrishna,
N R Rana,
N K Sharma,
Prabhat Patnaik,
Arun Bandopadhaya,
Rajendra Prasad.

Whose Interests are Maoists Serving?

People's Democracy
October 18, 2009

THREE people were shot to death during a prize giving ceremony of a football match in Mayurbhanj district of Orissa. A bus carrying pilgrims to the Ajmer Sherif was shot at in Isri in Jharkhand's Giridih district, seriously injuring twelve passengers. Railway tracks have been blown up in various parts of Bihar and Jharkhand. Tourists were looted in the Similipal tiger reserve in Orissa, while forest offices were ransacked looting rifles and wireless communication sets. Schools in Lakhi Sarai district and the Nawadih Middle School in Chatra were dynamited. Roads and bridges have been damaged disrupting traffic on the highways. Explosives have been repeatedly used to damage telecommunication towers.

This is the track record of the first three days of this week of Maoist violence that is sparing not even innocent women and children. The murderous attacks in Medinapur district of West Bengal continue with the latest victim being a member of the Jharkhand party. As reported earlier, nearly 130 members and activists of the CPI(M) have lost their lives in such attacks in recent weeks. The CPI(M) continues to be targeted as it is in the forefront of the battle against such motivated violence and to protect the lives and properties of the innocent people. This is apart from the `ideological' reasons that are advanced to attack the CPI(M), to which we shall return later.

Contrary to the infatuated romantic description that Maoist influence is spreading because they espouse the cause of the most marginalised sections like the tribals, the truth is that control over administration of a territory provides substantial pecuniary as well as political power. This is the driving force behind much of their violent activities. This has been confirmed by the outpouring of information that the Maoist leader, Chatradhar Mahato has provided following his arrest in Lalgarh, West Bengal. Contrary to the propaganda that the People's Committee against Police Atrocities was a spontaneous creation by local tribals, Mahato has revealed that this was a front created by the Maoists to be used to cordon off an area out of bounds for the police and civil administration. The so-called Maoist `liberated zone'. This was to shelter the Maoists who were then being hunted by the police following the land mine blast near Salboni targeted to assassinate chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya. In their typical style, like they did earlier in Nandigram, all roads and communication channels leading to this area were disrupted. Simultaneously, all those who resisted such a capture by the Maoists, mainly the CPI(M), were targeted for elimination.

Mahato also revealed that the Maoists received complete support and protection from the Trinamool Congress. This assisted them in spreading the reach of the `committee' to many neighbouring villages. Local Trinamool leaders would provide both shelter and assistance for the Maoists to spread their activities. Clearly, the Trinamool Congress both patronised and provided the political cover for the Maoists to spread their activities and target the CPI(M) leaders and the Left Front's support base for advancing its political and electoral fortunes. Mahato has also revealed that the so-called `intellectuals' mobilised by the Trinamool Congress also provided huge amounts of monetary donations for sustaining their activities. The Maoist-Trinamool nexus has become so integrated that one of the Maoist leaders in an interview, in Ananda Bazar Patrika (October 4), openly declared their desire to see Mamata Banerjee as the next chief minister of West Bengal!

It is, therefore, little wonder that the ministers in the union cabinet belonging to the Trinamool Congress are pressurising the union government to withdraw the central security forces which are currently in joint operations with the state security forces against the Maoist activities. Apart from legitimising the brutality of Maoist violence, the Trinamool Congress is directly negating the assessments of the prime minister and the union home minister that Maoist violence constitute the greatest threat to India's internal security. This sounds appropriate given the fact that the same number of 17 lives were lost in the Maoist attack at Gadchiroli as in the Taliban terrorist attack on the Indian Embassy in Kabul. Yet, the Trinamool Congress ministers continue to remain in the union cabinet. The UPA and Congress party owes an answer to the country.

That the Maoists represent the voice and champion the interests of the downtrodden sections of the people has, once again, been belied when their call for a boycott of elections in Gadchiroli failed to evoke the expected response. The polling percentage here was much higher than that in the country's commercial capital city of Mumbai. Their domination in any area is, thus, mainly out of terror rather than the support and sympathy of the exploited and the marginalised people.

The cause of the exploited and the marginalised forms the core agenda of the CPI(M) and the Left parties in our country. The elimination of such conditions of misery lies in the powerful mobilisation of the mass of the people in political actions that should eventually lead to the replacement of the Indian ruling classes and, hence, the reversal of the policies that are based on exploitation of man by man and the immiserisation of the vast masses of people. In the run up to such a powerful mass upsurge, popular protests and pressures will have to be mounted on the ruling classes at every stage to protect the livelihood of this vast mass of people. This means that all the neo-liberal economic policies, spearheaded by imperialist globalisation, that have been imposing unprecedented miseries on the people need to be opposed. During the course of this decade or so, in many battles that have occurred against the ruling class policies and imperialism, have the Maoists ever been seen, leave alone heard, to raise their voice on such vital matters?

Further, for the toiling people to succeed in their struggle against exploitation, it is of utmost necessity that their class unity is strengthened in such struggles. Communalism disrupts precisely such unity by exploiting the religious sentiments amongst the people. For the revolutionary advance of the Indian people it is necessary that the communal offensive must be weakened and defeated. Where do the Maoists stand in this battle? They are promoting a person to be the future chief minister of West Bengal who served as a cabinet minister in the Vajpayee government, remaining silent, thus implicitly supporting, the State-sponsored communal genocide in Gujarat. She is serving as a cabinet minister today in the Manmohan Singh government. Such is the opportunism of the Maoist `class assault' against the State.

Today's Maoists are the result of a partial reuniting of the hopelessly fragmented naxalite groups following their split with the CPI(M) in 1967. Following the formation of the Communist Party of India (ML) in 1969 by Charu Majumdar, this underwent various splits and re-splits for over three decades. Of these, the Maoist Communist Centre (MCC) in Bihar and the People's War Group (PWG) in Andhra Pradesh merged to form the CPI(Maoist) in 2004.

The Maoists split from the CPI(M) on the basis of their assessment of the character of the Indian ruling classes. According to them, the Indian ruling classes were `comprador', i.e., mere agents of imperialism not having any meaningful social and political base amongst the Indian people. Hence, all that was required was to arm the Indian people and launch a `people's war' to achieve revolutionary liberation. Thus, arose the naxalbari appraisal soon to be quelled by the State.

Despite the experience of the last four decades, which vindicated the CPI(M)'s understanding that the bourgeois-landlord Indian ruling classes had a strong political and social base among the Indian people, the naxal/Maoist groups continued with their earlier assessment. The CPI(M), on the other hand, has been working to change the correlation of class forces amongst the Indian people by using both parliamentary and extra parliamentary methods in order to bring about a revolutionary change. This, the Maoists see, as the legitimisation of the parliamentary democracy in India and, hence, they target the CPI(M) as their principal enemy.

Concrete analysis of concrete conditions is the living essence of dialetics, as Lenin said. If the conditions are not properly understood, then faulty analysis leads to a faulty political line. The task of mobilising the people and changing the correlation of class forces amongst the people, cannot be replaced by seeking the submission of the people through the terror of the gun. In the process, poor Mao Zedong, the legendary Communist who led the Chinese revolution to victory, through a powerful, then the mightiest in the world, people's movement is invoked to justify the very opposite of what he had practiced. Mao had taught all of us that no revolution can succeed unless Communists mingle with the people like fish takes to water. This can never happen through the terror of the gun.

In the final analysis, the praxis of the Maoists is benefitting those very reactionary forces like the Trinamool Congress and, in the absence of any opposition to either imperialism or communalism, they only ensure the continuance of the edifice of class exploitation. Since 1967 when they parted company with the CPI(M), we have been urging them to abjure the politics of violence and terror, and to return to the democratic mainstream and mobilise the people for a revolutionary change. After all, it was Mao who said, “Let a hundred flowers bloom, let a thousand thoughts contend”.

October 14, 2009