Lalgarh (West Bengal): It would be naïve to label the current upsurge of vanavasis against the worst kind of exploitations by the ruling communists in West Bengal as a “Maoist aggressions to destabilise Left government in West Bengal. In fact, it is a clever ploy of the CPI(M) to divert attention of the people from its dismal failure to bring any development in the vast tribal belt, known as Jungle Mahal, bordering three under-developed districts West Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia. It is now no secret that hundred thousands crores of rupees poured in from the Centre for its different rural development projects during the past 33 years have been simply usurped by the party cronies. While, vanavasis continued to eke out their living in below poverty line, local comrades have build up palatial buildings at Lalgarh and other such highly backward areas just by siphoning off funds for rural employment programmes and subsidised rations for the poorest of the poor.
Vanavasis in South Bengal districts have never dreamt of organising protests against their exploitations by the communist rulers mainly due to their simple and peace-loving nature. They took their poverty, exploitations and police tortures as due to their cursed fate. They have served their communist bosses loyally till the last Assembly elections held in the State in 2006. This was the reason why the CPI(M) had never lost a single seat right from the Gram Panchayat level to Assembly and even the Lok Sabha elections in tribal areas of West Midnapore, Bankura, Purulia and Birbhum districts since past three decades. There is hardly any presence of Opposition parties like Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress, Sonia Congress or the BJP in the forest areas of South Bengal. No doubt, the ruling communists had a complete sway over vanavasis and Lalgargh was an impregnable Red Bastion till November, last year when a group of Maoists from neighbouring Jharkhand State entered Lalgarh and triggered off a land mine that narrowly missed the Chief Minister, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s convoy. Bhattacharjee had gone to inaugurate Jindal’s steel project at Salboni close to Lalgarh block. Although it was a clear case of intelligence and administrative failures of the government as it had prior information about the attack, the police had unleashed a reign of terror in tribal villages targeting particularly hapless women folks to cover-up failures.
The police atrocities on vanavasi women and children have simply ignited tribal angers so long suppressed deep inside their minds. Lalgarh has burst into flames following tribal revolt against the police atrocities. Three police chowkis were burnt down and all roads connecting Lalgarh were cut off by the agitators. There was no semblance of government administration since vanavasis have launched a peaceful agitation in Lalgarh since past six months. After the Nandigram- Singur experience, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s government did not dare to recapture Lalgarh with brute force and it preferred to lie low. So, the initial peaceful tribal upsurge gradually snowballed into a formidable armed resistance against the government thanks to entry of the Maoist forces from Jharkhand and Orissa. Mysteriously, the State government remained a mute spectator except making some occasional complaints about Mamata’s Trinamool and Maoist hobnobbing in the area.
Then the bells of the Lok Sabha elections sounded in February – March. The vanavasis dominate seven Lok Sabha constituencies namely Arambag, Midnapore, Ghatal, Jhargram, Bishnupur, Bankura and Purulia. The CPI(M) struck a secret deal with the Maoist forces, who are actually break away groups of the party, that they would help the CPI(M) candidates to win the seven parliamentary seats and in return there would be no police action against them. The Maoists called for a poll boycott and threatened to kill villagers if they did not obey them. All the Opposition parties asked the government to deploy Central forces to ensure free and fare poll in the seven Lok Sabha seats without getting any response from the State administration.
On April 30, Ghatal, Jhargram, Midnapore, Purulia, Bankura and Bishnupur Lok Sabha constituencies in Jungle Mahal went to poll. Maoists had allowed only the supporters of CPI(M) and its Left allies to cast their votes on the polling day and others were kept at bay by gun slinging cadres. While the Opposition cried hoarse, it was a free run for the CPI(M) in Jungle Mahal. The result was predictable as the CPI(M) and the CPI candidates had won all parliamentary seats in Maoist dominated forest areas in South Bengal despite the Left’s poll debacle in other areas of West Bengal.
It may seem unbelievable to many outside West Bengal that there is virtually no presence of Maoists in South Bengal like their presence in Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh and part of Orissa The CPI(M) has first used the myth of Maoist presence to break the people’s resistance in Nandigram. However, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s government and his party could not find a single Maoist in Nandigram and later claimed that the armed gangs of Maoists had fled to Jharkhand.
But this time the CPI(M) bosses have changed their illusive Maoist presence strategy to some extent by roping in Central home minister, PC Chidambaram, into their net. It is no secret that PC and Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh are two close friends of the communists. They have simply either forgotten or pardoned the Left for the trauma and shock they experienced following withdrawal of the Left support on the UPA government. These two top ministers of the UPA government did not feel it necessary to take their Cabinet colleagues Pranab Mukherjee and Mamata Banerjee into confidence before agreeing to send Central forces to flush out illusory Maoists from Lalgarh. Like earlier in Nandigram, the elite Central forces have not found a single Maoist in this region so far.
No doubt, the bogey of Maoist threat is now raised by the CPI(M) to break the people’s resistance against the communist misrule before the Assembly elections scheduled to be held in March, 2011. It is very important for the party to suppress such resistance as nearly 150 Assembly seats out of 294 are in this region of South Bengal. So, whosoever controls these seats will form the next government in the State. The pertinent questions are now raised by Bengali intelligentsia that how Maoist forces have entered Lalgarh without notice of the party and the police when the entire area was under the full control of the CPI(M) since 1977? Why the party is not in favour of banning the Maoist organisations? Why the chief minister, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has agreed to ban the Maoist party during his meeting with the union home minister in Delhi when he knew that his party is against the ban decision? The secret of the deep rooted political conspiracy of the communists in collusion with the Congress is buried in these questions.