Friday, April 24, 2009

Maoist victory

Post CommentLarger | SmallerThe Indian Express
Posted: Friday , Apr 24, 2009 at 2327 hrs IST

The West Bengal government’s decision to relocate 40 polling booths near Lalgarh in West Midnapore district — as per the demands of the People’s Committee against Police Atrocities, supposedly backed by the Maoists — has the obvious advantages of allowing elections to be held in the troubled area as well as keeping the tribals happy by precluding police presence near their homes. But the compromise worked out by the state government, the Election Commission and the People’s Committee is also the official acknowledgement of the extent of administrative failure. For sure, the Lalgarh tribal leadership has shut the police out since late last year, when agitations began following police raids and arrests days

after an improvised explosive device narrowly missed Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan at Salboni on November 2. The tribal leadership under Chhatradhar Mahato, after its April 18 meeting, agreed to allow Central — but not state — police personnel to enter the area and man all 44 booths for 12 hours on the polling day, but only if the government accepted their

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23-point demand. Forty of those booths will now be housed in five schools and voters ferried on buses because the administration cannot officially run its writ in a region where the Maoists are said to have entrenched themselves in the

absence of the police.

Lalgarh tribals, like most neglected communities in a cadre-ruled state, may have elemental socio-economic grievances. But behind them evidently stand armed Maoists. The elections in the area may be a one-day affair but the state government has to find the means of returning the rule of law to the area, without resorting to the tactics it employed, devastatingly, in Nandigram. The shifting of the booths is already a victory of sorts for the Maoists

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