Thursday, June 25, 2009

Naxalites keep Buddha on toes

Rajat Roy / Kolkata June 25, 2009, 0:59 IST



Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, the chief minister of West Bengal, seems to have his hands full of the Naxalite issue. His government is conducting a joint operation with the central force against the Maoists in Lalgarh, and the western part of south Bengal. To compound his problem, today Sriprakash Jaisawal, union minister of state, Coal, Statistics & Programme Implementation, divulged that prior consent of the chief minister was taken by the centre before announcing the ban on the Maoists.




After holding a meeting with the chief minister, the union minister told reporters that “the Centre banned the Naxalites after getting a recommendation from the state government.” He further clarified that “without the state state’s recommendation, the Centre does not ban an extremist organization.”

This information, however routine it may sound, does not go well with the CPI(M) party bosses, especially the party general secretary Prakash Karat and state party secretary Biman Bose. Both are of the view that the ban won’t yield the desired result. Last week Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee met both the Prime Minister and the union home minister and discussed with them the Maoists problem. After that he told his party and media that the Centre was mulling with the idea of banning the Naxalites. Immediately, Karat went on record saying that it won’t serve any meaningful purpose.

However, the Centre went ahead with the ban and the chief minister of West Bengal was too eager to impose it in the state. In the last 24 hours the state police have arrested at least three Maoists and are on the look out for more.

The Centre is also extending support to the state by sending in additional central force to Lalgarh. Today some more companies of central force have arrived at the state and they have been deployed in Lalgarh, Goaltor, and adjacent areas to reinforce the joint force already stationed there. The chief secretary Ashokmohan Chakrabarty made a visit to Lalgarh today to make an assessment of the situation and to oversee the arrangements done in various relief centers there.

But, the chief minister’s acquiescence to the Center’s move is viewed by his party’s leadership as that of playing into the hands of the UPA government. The party insiders explain that at present the party is under fierce attacks by the opposition TMC and the Maoists in the state. The CPI(M) leaders, including Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, feel that the Naxalites are being actively encouraged by the TMC leaders to resort to violence to destabilize the state government. Since the TMC is a partner in the present UPA government, it would be politically advantageous for the Left, if the Centre was shown to be acting unilaterally in banning the Maoists. But the fact that the chief minister has given prior consent or recommended to the union home ministry for the ban of the Naxalites, has taken away that advantage.

This is likely to be raised and discussed in the state secretariat meeting of the CPI(M) on Friday, where the chief minister might be in for some criticism. Meanwhile, an aggrieved Mamata Banerjee, the union minister of Railways and the leader of the opposition party TMC, has stated that she would definitely take up the issue of Center’s decision to take part in the joint operation in Lalgarh with Pranab Mukherjee tonight.

Her contention is that the state government is using the bogey of Maoists to repress the people’s genuine grievances. According to Mamata, the present violence and lawlessness are all fall out of the Left politics in the state. Here, she claims, the CPI(M) is now fighting against its own dissidents and putting the label of Naxalites on the dissidents to cover it up.

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