The Hindu, Editorial, August 11, 2010
In her eagerness to mobilise every dissenting section and use every available weapon against the Left Front government in West Bengal, Trinamool Congress chief and Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee is playing a dangerous game fraught with major, long-term implications for the internal security of the country.
First, Monday's rally in Lalgarh was a joint Trinamool-Maoist enterprise, with the latter dominant in the mobilisation. Ms Banerjee not only called for the resumption of negotiations with the Maoists, but also pressed for withdrawal of security operations in the Jangalmahal region (though this time she set a condition: the extremists should declare a ceasefire). This is in direct opposition to the stance of the central government, which is struggling to meet the Maoist armed threat in West Bengal and other parts of the country. Although the Railways under her charge have been repeatedly targeted by the Maoists, the Trinamool chief spoke up for the Maoist front, the ‘People's Committee Against Police Atrocities,' whose members are known to take the law into their own hands.
Ms Banerjee also managed to enlist the support of ‘social activists' Swami Agnivesh and Medha Patkar in this politically loaded endeavour. Both extended vocal support to the Trinamool Congress and the Maoists in the name of protecting the rights of Adivasis — speciously asking the ultra-left outfit to abjure violence and take to the democratic path. In such a situation, arms-wielding Maoists have seamlessly merged with Trinamool cadre in West Bengal, posing a serious threat to public order in the region.
Political India knows Ms Banerjee to be a law unto herself, and her politics to be irresponsible. But this cannot be a rationalisation for the United Progressive Alliance government to allow one of its important constituents and a senior Minister to publicly support, and collaborate on the ground with, armed extremism that does not have any compunction in unleashing terror against political opponents as well as civilians. The Congress, which heads the UPA, is itself mired in contradictions on this vital issue. Although Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has described the Naxalites as the “greatest internal security threat to our country,” his party extended moral support to the rally. Not surprisingly, the issue has rocked Parliament with the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Left parties questioning the commitment of the government in tackling the Maoist violence when one of its constituents is deeply enmeshed with Naxalite groups.
With Assembly elections in West Bengal due in less than a year, political opportunism has given short shrift to internal security considerations. There will be a huge price to pay if the central government continues to look the other way as Ms Banerjee pursues her akratic course for power at any cost.