Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Storming The ‘Red Fort’

Published by editor India Jul 1, 2009 By Chandrahasan – Syndicate Features

The security forces may have won the battle against the Maoists in Lalgarh (literally, Red Fort), a village in West Bengal, by driving them out of the village police station, but there is no sign that the more important goal of defeating the Maoists has been achieved. The message that the retreating Maoists left was: ‘We’ll come back.’

The Maoists need not make big efforts to ‘come back’ because their large support base among the villagers of Lalgarh and other areas where they operate is certainly not wiped out. Politicians in West Bengal are making the Maoists’ job easier by indulging in ‘blame game’ when the need is for them to unite to lure the people away from the Maoists’ cult of violence.

The ‘blame game’ in the state has a peculiar triangle. The (dominant) ruling party, the CPI (M), attributes all the trouble, including violence, in Lalgarh and similarly Maoist infested areas to its principal ‘enemy’, the Trinamul Congress of Mamata Bannerjee. The Marxists in Kolkata also blame the Congress but not so vociferously as the Trinamul Congress.

Mamata ‘Didi’ sees it all as part of the CPI (M) ‘drama’. Despite being part of a Congress-led coalition, she criticises the Congress, though only obliquely. She resents that her party was not consulted when Delhi dispatched paramilitary forces to launch a flush out operation in Lalgarh. It is obvious that she is looking to enlarge her following by reaching out to those—mostly Maoists—who are angry over the police action in Lalgarh.

The ‘blame game’ is not likely to end anytime soon. The malaise highlighted at Lalgarh–pockets of backwardness going out of state’s control—does not look like going away soon.

Undoubtedly, what has caused the Lalgarh ‘problem’ was the result of negligence and poor governance. What needs to be added here with equal emphasis is the culture of violence that has been the hallmark of politics in West Bengal for a very long time.

It is used to be alleged by the Marxists and their sympathisers at one time that the Congress was using the Naxalites to ‘eliminate’ them. The Marxists are accused by all ‘non-Left’ parties in the state of ruling by ‘terrorising’ people. Now the Marxists are talking about the Trinamul Congress resorting to violence to get to power.

It is hard to say whether all these accusation are true or false but what has been clear is that West Bengal has developed an unfortunate history of settling political differences with violent means. While the Marxists-led Left Front government may have brought about some ‘revolutionary’ changes in land reforms and introduced many ‘pro-poor’ measures it is not the only reason why they have stayed in power for so long.

About the first thing the Marxists and their allies did on coming to power in West Bengal years ago was to infiltrate all institutions of the state as well as the lower bureaucracy. Simultaneously, they raised well-armed cadres who enjoyed the licence to get rough and talk tough with critics and the opposition. The Marxists had begun on a high moral ground as they certainly had many men and women among their ranks and top echelons of their party who were seen as honest and upright. The Left parties in general were also able to attract the bulk of the intellectual cream of the state. In due course, lumpen elements elbowed them, if not all majority of them.

When violence was raging in Lalgarh one of the things that came to light was that the locals had attacked and destroyed their eye sore – a ‘palatial’ house of CPI(M) satrap who led and lived a lavish life even as the area continued to suffer on account of government’s neglect. The Bengal Marxists acted no differently from any bourgeois or capitalist party in selectively implementing development programmes. A local party satrap could prosper by leaps and bounds while the villagers around remained where they were, deprived of basic facilities and job security.

The Left government denied the fruits of the national scheme of guaranteed rural employment to the villagers. The police atrocities were allowed to reach a stage when the villagers had to resort to ‘social boycott’ of the policemen and their families to register their protest.

All this could not have happened in a year or so. It will be a surprise if the comrades in Kolkata say that they were not aware of the true picture in the countryside. A cadre-based grass-root party cannot say that its feedback system is faulty.

The Marxists surely knew what was happening. They perhaps assumed that if anything goes wrong their armed cadres, with help from the police, would take care of it. The intervention by the musclemen of the ruling party only broadened the conflict and caught the attention of the entire country, much to the embarrassment of the Left Front government.

It is deplorable but also natural for political rivals to gloat over the travails of the ruling party. That, however, will not help matters. It is truism to state that West Bengal needs better governance—all the states do. A necessary ‘pre-condition’ for a turn around in governance will be renouncing the culture of violence by all the political parties in Bengal and elsewhere in the country. That, unfortunately, appears to be a tall order.

It can be distilled from various reports that the hot-headed cadres of the Marxists and even some from the Maoists ranks are overtly or covertly supporting the Trinamul Congress, perhaps in the hope that the demise of the Left rule in the state is near and Mamata ‘Didi’s’ Trinamul is destined to be the next ruling party.

For the sake of West Bengal’s future, the Trinamul Congress has to shun the votaries of violence forcefully; it can do so because at the moment it does seem to enjoy spontaneous support among a large section of the state’s population.

- Asian Tribune –

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