Thursday, July 23, 2009

Where have the Maoists gone?

; Sankar Ray

Fables like 1,500 Maoists or 100 specially-trained-in arms-operations Maoists are at Lalgarh or its surroundings, scripted by West Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and his condescending subordinates like chief secretary Asoke Mohan Chakraborty and home secretary Ardhendu Sen, are now into the open.
Not a single Maoist is yet in the net of the joint forces. However, the 11,000-strong force has been successful in preventing newspersons from filing reports on torture let loose on subalterns.
Small wonder, the CPI-M’s central committee member Benoy Konar happily said, rubbing his palms gleefully, “We are with the chief minister in his application of the Central Act to suppress the Maoists”.
This is in contrast to the decision of the CC and LF neither to apply the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 2008 nor to ban the CPI (Maoist) in the state. Who cares for the CPI-M’s editorial posture in People’s Democracy (21 December, 2008) warning the UPA government of the possibility of “gross misuse” of three clauses therein?
The first of them, “contained in clause 43D, seeks to amend Section 167 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) to extend the period of detention without bail to 180 days beyond the existing periods ranging from 15 to 60 to 90 days. The maximum 90-day period is now proposed to be increased to 180 days if the courts are satisfied that such extension is required to complete the investigation”, the editorial said.
Mr Bhattacharjee, LF chairman Biman Bose ~ both Politburo members ~ and general secretary Prakash Karat resort to a mystic silence over wanton repression on those who couldn’t flee their hearth and home, while over 70,000 Adivasis left the place from 300-plus hamlets of Jangalmahal. All of them are languishing in poverty, malnutrition and social deprivation.
The Maoists of Jangalmahal ~ West Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia districts ~ are inexplicably compared to terrorists of Kashmir or some far-flung Northeast region to justify classification of them under the UA(P)A. The comparison is absurd. After all, Maoists are not secessionists like Ulfa, NSCN factions and Kashmiri militants with Al-Qaida connections.
Ludicrous as it may seem, bureaucrats, rushed to Lalgarh ostensibly for development, admitted that no economic development had taken place there.
A booklet ~ Lalgarh: Paschimbanger Adivasi (Lalgarh ~ Adivasis of West Bengal), brought out by the Kolkata-based voluntary social action forum, Nagarik Mancha, reveals the pathetic condition of the inhabitants despite three decades of Left governance. The average number of days of work per household in 2008-09 under the NREGA was 6.02, 6.72 and 8.60 in West Midnapore, Purulia and Bankura, respectively. About 95 per cent of children between six and 35 months suffer from anaemia against the state average of 78.3 percent.
Only nine per cent of villages of West Midnapore district receive piped drinking water, 15 percent and 14 percent in Bankura and Purulia, respectively.
Former RSP MP Manoj Bhattacharya admitted: “Out of Rs 6,700 crore programmed for socio-economic transformation of the western region over a period of five years (2007-11) as per recommendations of the IIT-Kharagpur, which was retained by the LF government to draw up the plan, Rs 82 crore was granted by the western regional development board for 2007-09. Out of this, only Rs 14 crore was incurred.”
The pathetic performance under the minister for western region development, Susanta Ghosh, the CPI-M’s shah-en-shah at Garbeta, is there for all to see.
A 16-member experts group was set up by the Planning Commission to go into causes of extremism. It was headed by former revenue secretary D Bandyopadhyay, who conceived the idea of Operation Barga, CPI-M’s USP until three years back. In its report, “Development Issues to deal with the causes of Discontent, Unrest and Extremism”, submitted in 2007, it observed: “There is no denying that what goes in the name of ‘Naxalism’ is to a large extent a product of collective failure to assure to different segments of society, their basic entitlements under the Constitution and other protective legislation”.
Villagers we met at Baropelia, Lalgarh, on 8 May denied there was anarchy under the people’s committee. “For over six months, our male members have been sleeping peacefully at night as the nightmare of police torture has vanished for the time being at least. We are all with the Pulisi Santras Birodhi Janaganer Committee,” said Meena Tudu (name changed).
The jingoistic rule under the home (police) ministry is evident from the deliberate default in the case of poet Prasun Bhowmik, convenor, Swajan, forum of poets, performing artists, academics etc like Aparna Sen, Saoli Mitra and Kausik Sen. He got repeated threatening phone calls when the Swajan team visited Lalgarh.
“I recorded the calls specifically and filed an FIR but I got no response from the administration or police. No action has been taken against the caller”.

The writer is a freelance contributor

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