Wednesday, June 24, 2009
LALGARH : ULTRA LEFT TAKES ON LEFT
Lalgarh – There is so much information that I do not think I can add anything substantive to the ongoing debate. However, I have been told to write a small piece, after all, the blog was originally “BENGAL UNDER ATTACK”.
A little history:
Bengal was a feudal society run by a few zamindars (landlords who owned villages) and they subjugated the villagers (subjects under them) and treated them worse than slaves. There were a few exceptions, but very few. When zamindari system was abolished post independence, the rich landlords continued their sway over the vast many by manipulating the political process and using police to brutalize the masses.
(Well, I belong to one such "zamindar" family and I will like to believe that my ancestors were an exception - though I cannot be sure).
Out of desperation, poverty and hunger, the mass movement started in a small village in Bengal – Naxalbari – hence the Naxal movement gets its name from this village – Bengal’s contribution to India.
FRONTLINE article : THE ROAD FROM NAXALBARI - THE organ of the Communist Party of China (CPC) seemed to be consumed by a sense of euphoria as it used these words to describe the Naxalbari uprising in West Bengal in May 1967. It went on to add that the "revolutionary group of the Indian Communist Party has done the absolutely correct thing" by adopting the revolutionary line advanced by Chinese leader Mao Zedong, which involved "relying on the peasants, establishing base area in the countryside, persisting in protracted armed struggle and using the countryside to encircle and finally capture the cities".
The editorial concluded that "a single spark can start a prairie fire" and that "a great storm of revolutionary armed struggle will eventually sweep across the length and breadth of India". This optimism, was obviously motivated by similar hopes expressed by the leadership of the Naxalbari uprising - Charu Mazumdar, Kanu Sanyal and Jangal Santhal. Charu Mazumdar, the principal ideologue of the "first authentic Maoist phenomenon" in India, held that "there was an excellent revolutionary situation in the country with all the classical symptoms" and that organisations such as the Communist Party of India (Marxist), to which Mazumdar originally belonged, had "betrayed the cause of Indian revolution by choosing the path of parliamentarism and class collaboration".
The CPI(M) swept to power and immediately went about taking land from wealthy zamindars and assorted "landlords" and distributed it amongst the peasants and landless villagers. This was done in “people’s courts” - and was hailed and continues to be hailed as best land distribution system India has witnessed.
Logically, land got distributed, and the peasants and tribals should have been a happy lot. They were for some time, till refugees started streaming in from Bangladesh post 1971 and the process continues. Along with Hindus came Muslims too. And thus on finite land holdings there was pressure from excess population from another country.
Here the Left Front (CPIM - note here M = Marxist and not Maoist) leaders played a dirty game. To increase their cadre base, they welcomed any and all refugees from Bangladesh and gave them ration cards under false names – thus giving them de-facto Indian citizenship and a right to vote. Which these “infiltrators” did with great gutso. They formed the CPI(M) cadre base and with this the CPI(M) rural bosses became the new “zamindars”.
Hence started the "new" exploitation of the villagers – specially on the original villagers and tribals from the "infiltrators" under CPI(M) banner and patronage. The infiltrators from Bangladesh became unabashed CPI(M) supporters and ruled the countryside with absolute brute force - some of the local villagers too joined in – as this was the only means to survive the tyranny of CPI(M).
CPI(M), which was at the forefront to abolish the zamindars in Bengal by re-distributing land, ended up themselves as the new zamindars – only worse. With political power and brute cadre force, they rigged elections after elections and ruled Bengal for 30 years – and continue to do so.
However, keeping villages without power and without jobs over such a long period, also provided fodder for revolution. This was now the far-left (Maoist) taking on the Left (CPIM). While there is justification for a retaliation against the corrupt Left Ministers, I will condone violence. But the question to ask – did they have a choice?
NAXAL TO MAOISTS
The other truth is that Mamata Banerjee sniffed an opportunity to break the CPI(M) stranglehold and joined hands with the Maoists – this is a frightening positioning of forces. And in this, walks in Jamaat and sides with Mamata and Trinamool.
What will come out one day – the role of Jamaat in driving away Nano (TATA's small car project) from Bengal. It orchestrated the entire event and played Mamata Banerjee around – showing the number of Muslim votes that she will get and Mamata caved in.
In Kolkata, one of maids in my friends house is a Muslim and she said that she will vote for Mamata as she is a Muslim. And we asked her what does she mean – Mamata is not Muslim. The maid said – Mamata has converted to Islam - see her picture giving namaaz – her cleric has told her and her ilk this story.
After the Maoist insurgency is pushed back, the Jamaat will bare its fangs in Bengal – wait for a few months to a year to see this phenomena. Muslims comprise over 25% of population in Bengal (IB puts the figure at > 40% due to infiltration), in government jobs they get a mere 3% representation – hence the new Jamaat revolution. And Mamata is poised to take the mantle of saviour from CPIM.
Read an earlier article I wrote: Mamata, Purnedu Bose and Siddiqullah : A potent combination
If we leave the villages, the CPIM has turned Kolkata to a “near” dying city. All the big companies that were headquartered in Bengal ran away to other states fearful of lockouts, strikes and militant trade unionism. It has come to such a state today, that Kolkata – one of the four major cities of India, could only notch up an abysmal number 26 on the list of India's rich cities.
For a city Kolkata's size, with an un-updated population of 15 million, drumming up a mere 15,853 millionaires hides a nightmarish horror tale. A comparison with the other three metros makes the city's tragedy quite clear. Comparable to Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore in both size and number of people, Kolkata figures nowhere even remotely near the 137,992, 100,039 and 104,852 millionaires that India's other main cities have to show for themselves. Chandigarh, a city with a population 15 times less, has 33,962 millionaires, twice that of Kolkata!
CPIM failed to generate any employment avenues for its citizens. Far from it, it helped drive away the companies in droves from Bengal. Even today they are playing politics with Prakash Karat dragging his feet on declaring the Maoists as a terrorist organization, though he has no qualms in declaring VHP as one!
The para-military force in Lalgarh are cooped in police quarters that do not have electricity or proper sanitation. They are starving due to the conditions prevailing there – a touch of a dose of reality. The politicians of Bengal should go there with food and employment – sustainable – and this menace will end. Guns will drive the Maoists underground – much like hot geysers.
And Lalgarh is therefore a hot geyser which erupted on the landscape of Bengal. Truth be told, Bengal is ripe for many such “geysers” in the future.
For an excellent perspective - do read this book : RED SUN by Sudeep Chakravarti.
INDRANI ROY MITRA'S INTERVIEW WITH GOUR CHAKRABORTY - spokesman for CPI (MAOIST)
What led to the Lalgarh violence?
Every act of violence has its roots in torture and repression. Be it the French Revolution, Russian Revolution, Santhal movement or Tebhaga movement, all uprisings resulted from popular discontent.
Tribals of Lalgarh have suffered for years. They have been tortured and insulted by the ruling Left Front and the police.
What is happening at Lalgarh is nothing but an explosion of tribals' pent-up grievances. Lalgarh, if you remember, has been on the boil since last November when a landmine exploded near Bhadutala on the route of the convoy of West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and then central ministers Ram Vilas Paswan and Jiten Prasada.
The ministers were returning after laying the foundation of a steel plant in Salboni. Soon after, the police launched a massive combing operation and arrested local school students and harassed tribal women. In protest, angry tribals in and around Lalgarh dug up roads, virtually cutting off Lalgarh from the rest of Midnapore. They also demanded a public apology from the police for the alleged excesses against them. The area has witnessed continuous clashes since then.
Hinting at a state within a state, tribal leader Chhatradhar Mahato of the People's Committee Against Police Atrocities said on Thursday his organisation could build infrastructure in just eight months in Lalgarh? Is it true?
Absolutely. Though the PCAPA is an infant organisation, it has a mission to better the lives of the tribals. The PCAPA is fighting for the tribals's cause, it is seeking justice for them. Like the PCAPA, we too are against violence. But what is happening in Lalgarh is the outburst of the people who have been suffering for the last 32 years.
It is being alleged that you are using women and children as shields.
This is utter nonsense. We are not using women and children as shields. Hundreds and thousands of tribal women have come out in the open spontaneously, shouting slogans against the police and the administration. They are walking in tandem with us.
How do you justify the loss of so many innocent lives? Why are you killing policemen? They are just doing their jobs.
We are orchestrating a revolution at Lalgarh. Can you cite an instance where a revolution took place without bloodshed? Our motive is not to take innocent lives. We just want to resist coercion and police atrocities. To counter force, we have to combat and resort to violence. We really feel sorry for those who get martyred in the process, but we can't help it.
The security forces are on their way to free Lalgarh. Are you equipped enough to resist them?
One should not underestimate us. We know our strength and weaknesses. We are also aware how strong our 'enemies' are.
You mean your cache of arms and ammunition is huge enough.
I am not supposed to talk about it. But do remember, we are strong enough to put up a brave fight.
The CPI-M is alleging that the Trinamool Congress is giving you tacit approval. Is it true?
No, not at all. The Trinamool Congress did seek our support in its fight against the CPI-M in Nandigram. But (Trinamool chief) Mamata Banerjee had only wanted to use Nandigram as a tool to win elections. That was her ulterior motive.
Ms Banerjee recently stated that your party is an offshoot of the Communist Party of India-Marxist.
As I told you, Mamata Banerjee used Nandigram as an election plank. She used it as a pawn for her party to win Lok Sabha seats. She claims to be against special economic zones. Then why didn't she stand by us in our movement against the Jindal group's planned SEZ in Salboni area? Also, her demand to the Tatas to free 400 acres of land lacked clarity. She should have demanded the entire 1,000 acres. Therefore, we refuse to give any importance to what she says about us.
As we all know, West Bengal saw a huge political change in the recent Lok Sabha polls. The change occurred through a democratic process. Why don't you tread the same path to bring about the so-called transformation?
The Left Front government has been emerging winner in every election for the last three decades. What has it done for the state of West Bengal? What has it done for the tribals of Lalgarh? Nothing. Which democracy are you talking about?
In a recent press conference, one of your colleagues, Bikash, said that the people of Lalgarh want West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee dead. The landmine blast that narrowly missed the chief minister's car last November was an attempt on his life. Would you like to comment on it?
On August 14, 2004, Dhananjoy Chatterjee, a rapist and a murderer, was hanged to death in Kolkata. The incident brought to an end Chatterjee's 14-year-long legal battle to escape the noose, as human rights groups held protests outside the Alipore Central Jail against the capital punishment. Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and his wife Meera had then reasoned why a rapist and a murderer like Chatterjee should be hanged. Bhattacharjee's government has killed hundreds of people, raped countless women during its tenure. Therefore, may I ask why should he escape capital punishment?
You regret that your party missed its target in November?
Of course. Our party wanted to kill Bhattacharjee. It failed in its mission. We have every reason to regret. Think of the French Revolution, it was popular force that had brought down a corrupt monarchy. The kings and the queens were guillotined. History tells us that at times, the crooked and the greedy need to be eliminated.
You are the publicist of your party. Your task is to convey the CPI (Maoist)'s messages to the people. Who are your colleagues who actually carry out these attacks?
The attacks that we plan are carried out by People's Guerilla Army. PGA members act clandestinely. They move in the dark of the night and launch surprise attacks on our enemies. Once PGA members's skills reach the optimum level, their group is rechristened the People's Liberation Army and is considered empowered enough to take on the enemies head on.
Can the Lalgarh incident be compared to the Naxalite movement?
It will be improper to compare the two. The Naxalite movement had a different context. What is happening in Lalgarh is the tribals' way of resisting police atrocities. It's their method of saying, 'Enough is enough'. Those involved with the Naxalite movement had a different motive altogether.
Your party has called a bandh in Bihar, Orissa, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Chattisgarh on June 22 and 23. Could you clearly spell out your party's demands?
We want the entire Lalgarh to be a liberated zone for the tribals. We want them to have a democracy of their own, a democracy that will be guided by a new and free economy. We have three-point demands: Central and state forces must be withdrawn from the entitre jangalmahal; the state government must officially apologise to the tribals for its torture and misbehaviour and it should immediately put an end to police atrocities. Violence in Lalgarh will continue unless our demands are met."