Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Maoists inch towards their goal

If Nandigram and Singur have leapt into fame or notoriety as a symbol of the Bengal Marxists’ war against poor farmers in the name of development, the Lok Sabha polls have thrown up another part of the state ~ the Purlia-Bankura-Midnapore belt ~ as a testimony to the raw deal the Marxists have given to the rural poor all these years.
If Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamul Congress-led Opposition is responsible for turning the first two places into what they now stand for, it is, by a queer coincidence, Rahul Gandhi and the Maoists who have brought Purulia and its adjoining areas into sharp focus.

Rahul Gandhi ranked Purulia as worse than Kalahandi (the ultimate metaphor for starvation and squalor) in terms of poverty index and the Marxists didn’t waste a minute to pillory him and laugh him out of court. CPI-M state secretary Biman Bose took pains to collect information about Mr Gandhi’s stay in Purulia, minute by minute, to demonstrate the impossibility of passing such a scandalously negative judgment on Purulia after having been there for a brief while.
Mr Gandhi’s blow was so stunning and unexpected that the CPI-M was initially found to be without words. It took 48 hours for its state secretary to collect data about his movement in Purulia before he could launch into one more inane propaganda exercise to remind the people what the Congress couldn’t do for Purulia during its tenure till 1977 and what the Marxists did for the uplift of Purulia’s poor during its 32-year rule.
Mr Bose recounted that Mr Gandhi had alighted at a helipad, I km from the venue of his election meeting, and spoke for 12 minutes. Hence, he argued, it’s not possible for him to understand the problems of Purulia which has 20 blocks and 170 gram panchayats. Mr Gandhi, he concluded, spoke on the basis of wrong briefing. In fact, he said with a tone of finality, Purulia is far better than his Lok Sabha constituency, Amethi.

Such political rhetoric during election time is only natural. But the Marxists have long adopted an ostrich-like policy so as not to see the colossal neglect of the rural poor and the endemic corruption among its party functionaries at different levels who have become party card holders only for cornering the privileges of power.

The non-partisan people of the state don’t need a Rahul or a Sonia Gandhi to enlighten them about the deprivations and abject poverty that the Marxists have left the rural population in, particularly in the Purulia-Bankura-Midnapore belt and the tea garden areas of the Terai-Dooars region. Starvation deaths in Amlasol and the tea gardens are only recent examples.

What the Gandhis and later Prime Minister Manmohan Singh stated about the Left during electioneering in the state has added a new dimension to the expose of Marxists’ misrule.

If one accepts the Marxists’ charge that Amlasol is a gross exaggeration and a canard against them, why is it then that the Maoists are thriving in the Purulia-Bankura-Midnapore belt?

The Maoists’ penetration and consolidation in these areas have assumed such proportions that they first triggered a landmine blast on the convoy route of the chief minister and two Central ministers and then followed it up with a largely successful poll boycott call in 18 police station areas and one more landmine blast killing three polling personnel at a time when security presence in the zone was the maximum that the administration could provide!

The heartrending spectacle of the elder brother of one of the victims wailing and holding the state chief electoral officer and home secretary responsible for the deaths, as the latter had assured the polling personnel of adequate protection, should shock the conscience of the Marxists ruling the state. The distraught, inconsolable brother asked who would look after the two children of the victim and why there were no police or security personnel near the mutilated body hours after the blast.

Surely, the CPI-M would once again launch one more propaganda onslaught against the Maoists’ cult of violence as they have all along been doing without addressing the root of the trouble ~ poverty.

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee can only pound his fist on the podium during electioneering and call the Maoists “cowards and devils who kill people in the darkness of night and then escape in the jungles of Jharkhand.”

The plain truth is the Maoists are ominously inching towards their goal of carving out a corridor from Nepal to Andhra Pradesh via Purulia-Bankura-Midnapore. Nandigram, Singur and the poverty in Purulia and adjoining districts have only propelled them to enlist the support of the poor whom Rahul Gandhi equates with the skin-and-bone destitutes of Kalahandi.

Neither the chief minister nor his party colleagues can get away by merely alleging a nexus between the Maoists and Trinamul or wishing away the growing influence of the Maoists in those areas. For, without the support of the people the Maoists wouldn’t have been able to detonate landmines on the chief minister’s convoy route and later on polling personnel.

If the Maoists exploit the abject poverty and the administrative excess on the poor to get entrenched, the fault lies with the Left rulers far more than with anyone else.

All these years, the chief minister and other CPI-M leaders were pretending that the Maoists operating in the state had no popular support and were merely armed brigands from Andhra Pradesh targeting only CPI-M cadres at the behest of right reactionaries. They believed their task ended by mouthing such rhetorical froth.
The rot that has set in the CPI-M and a heavily politicised administration it controls to further its agenda of loot is far too deep and the situation is doomed to drift away.

(The writer is Special Representative, The Statesman, Kolkata)

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