Saturday, June 24, 2006

Tribals’ city tryst to trip Naxalite plans

HT Correspondent
Lucknow, June 24

DESPITE LIVING in the 21st century, they never saw even a pucca road before. For tribal youths of Naxal-infested Sonebhadra, it was their first tryst with the modern world.

Moreover, the Sonebhadra police were playing friend, philosopher and guide to the youths who were on ‘Lucknow darshan’ on Saturday.

It was no casual trip. There was a larger objective behind the exercise – weaning tribal tyros away from the influence of Naxalites and their propaganda.

“I never saw a city before,” said Ram Jag of Purianara village in Sonebhadra.

Thus far, his world had been confined to the hilly tracks of his native place infested by gun-toting Naxalites from across Chattisgarh, Jharkhand and Bihar.

For Jitan Singh, too, the visit was an eye-opener. He was dumbfounded to see the glitter of life outside his Dhani Raina village. All that he had been exposed to so far was ‘indoctrination’ by Naxals. They had told him that the world outside the tribal belt was bad.

So, it was a pleasant surprise when policemen befriended him and others to dispel many a myth about the world. Mobilisation of around 200 youths against Naxals appeared to have yielded positive results.

If only the civil administration had been just as innovative in trying to bring the tribals into the mainstream.

“Our counterparts (the civil administration) neither understand the sensitivity of the Naxalite problem, nor are they committed,” said Sonebhadra superintendent of police Raghuvir Lal. He said other departments made piecemeal efforts and thus development of the Naxalite affected region was highly “imbalanced”.

More than the police, the tribals needed basic facilities, added 35th PAC Battalion commandant VK Singh.

Director general of police Bua Singh nodded in agreement, as he said developmental measures should be speeded up in the region.

Most police officers feel the Naxalite problem cannot be tackled without providing villagers with amenities. The Sonebhadra police have succeeded in weaning away around 200 youth from Naxalites by assuring them of a better and safer future.

Bua Singh told the group that Naxalites had given them nothing and only imperiled their lives. The DGP said Naxal leaders lived lavishly, they compelled innocent tribal youths to live a hard life in the forests.

He said the “best way to eliminate the Naxalite menace” was to win over tribal youths who were their local conduits.

Sonia-CPM regime suits the US

By M.D. Nalapat

Words are cheap, it is deeds that count. Even while the CPI and the CPM weakly “protest” at the foreign policy of the UPA, the fact remains that both have joined with Sonia Gandhi.

Is it any wonder that official America is in love with Sonia Gandhi and her chosen instrument, Manmohan Singh? Both have ensured—with the full backing of the CPM and the CPI—that the Government of India is today effectively directed by junior officials in this city, the same way as Iraq and Afghanistan are. Wherever one goes in Washington, whomever one meets who is in the policy establishment, the joy at getting a team in India that 100 per cent listens to US advice is visible.The hope here is that the BJP and the rest of the NDA will continue to wallow in their present confusion, so that the Sonia-Manmohan team can continue for a full 5-year term. It is a wish shared by Pervez Musharraf as well, who is looking forward to an Indian withdrawal from Siachen and Sir Creek, and the creation of soft borders in Kashmir that would undo the damage done to the jehadi caused by the expensively-built barrier across the Line of Control

It needs to be admitted that the slippage in national security that is being witnessed today began during the time of the NDA government. This columnist has consistently pointed out the numerous missteps made by the NDA, beginning with the Kargil intrusions, caused because those at the top refused to believe that the jehadi army of Pakistan would behave dishonourably, despite five decades of evidence to the contrary.

If Sonia Gandhi is confident about continuing in her Mission Surrender to Foreign Interests, it is because the NDA shows no signs of having learnt from the mistakes of the past, but is instead continuing with the same attitudes that led to the 1998 rout. Hopefully, the situation will change before it is too late for a country already watching a complete loss of influence in its own neighbourhood and the fusing of Maoist insurgency to jehadi.

To add a dash of comic relief to developing tragedy, Sonia Gandhi has made the UPA formally propose UN Under-Secretary Shashi Tharoor as the next Secretary-General. This selection goes against several conventions, including one that requires a UN head to have had ministerial-level experience in his own country. While Kofi Annan was Foreign Minister of Ghana twice, Shashi Tharoor has spent his working life within the UN headquarters. Another convention is that the candidate belong to a smaller, less controversial country. India is neither. A third is the reality that the obvious infirmities in the way the UN is being operated presently mandate an outsider rather than an individual who has not merely contributed to a dysfunctional system, but has been among its principal beneficiaries. Of course, for Tharoor himself, this move by India is welcome, as he can now leave the organisation on a high note, with his pension intact.

Why Tharoor? Friends within the UPA say that this was Sonia’s way of snubblng Manmohan Singh, who—informed groups claim—himself had an eye on Annan’s job. The PM needs to be pushed into his lowly place every now and again, and Sonia misses few opportunities to do so. But the principal reason for the UPA supremo’s diktat is less the impulse to further debase Manmohan Singh than the mindset found in a book that is now on the bookstands. The author is Tharoor himself, and the revealing title is “Nehru: The Invention of India”. According to Shashi Tharoor, India has become what it is not because of its people or even individuals such as Tagore, Gandhi and Patel, but owing to the superhuman qualities of a single colossus, Jawaharlal Nehru. If the book is to be believed,it is Nehru and his family—stretching down to Sonia, of course—who almost singlehandedly made the country a functioning democracy. Small wonder that Sonia Gandhi has decided that this unbiased and scientific mind is precisely the one needed to preside over the UN. Who knows, the next Tharoor book may be “Sonia: The Invention of Humanity”. Just as in the past, it was buddies of Brajesh Mishra who were pitchforked into key positions, these days it is boosters of the Nehru family. It will not be long before another flatterer of the Nehrus, Sunil Khilnani, becomes the next Indian Ambassador to the US, replacing Ronen Sen, who no doubt will be taken care of elsewhere

Words are cheap, it is deeds that count. Even while the CPI and the CPM weakly “protest” at the foreign policy of the UPA, the fact remains that both have joined with Sonia Gandhi. Just whom is the CPI and the CPM fooling when they claim to be “against US hegemony” but are responsible for keeping in office the very UPA that has demonstrated unprecedented loyalty to Washington. These days, Manmohan Singh avoids the all-important Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit because his boss is nervous that attendance by an Indian Prime Minister at a summit where Iranian President Ahmedinejad is present would prompt US envoy David Mulford to remember yet more Swiss bank account numbers. Of course, times have changed, and the new haven for the proceeds of the enormous deals now being done by the Energy, Defense and other ministries is in Hong Kong, not that our Finance Minister, Palaniappan Chidambaram, would dare be interested, even though it is common knowledge in international financial circles

Army sources say that there is daily pressure from Manmohan Singh to arrange a speedy withdrawal from Siachen, while naval officers speak of the same prime ministerial desire to get India to concede the very territory in Sir Creek that Ayub Khan went to war over in 1965. As for scientists in the Department of Atomic Energy, they are a demoralized lot these days, aware that it will not be long before the Sonia-Manmohan duo install “IAEA” inspectors in almost all the installations needed to ensure success in the crucial thorium conversion programme, as well as in the production of missiles that can protect the billion-plus people of India. Singh, of course, will not have a problem, he can live with one of his daughters in New York, enjoying his dollar pension, and neither will Sonia, who can very quickly get her Italian citizenship back (in case she ever lost it)

This columnist has been a backer of a strong India-US alliance since 1995, but this is one that needs to be on the basis of Washington acknowledging that India has the same rights and status as London and Paris, not that now endured by Kabul and Baghdad, the abyss into which Sonia-Manmohan are pushing this country into. Washington is smirking at how a country of a billion people has been reduced to the status of what Mao Zedong used to term a “running dog”. Prakash Karat and A.B. Bardhan need not, of course, worry, for being atheists, they will not have to answer for their support to such a regime in the hereafter. However, in the interests of intellectual, it would be best for them to admit that they have joined Sonia-Manmohan in celebrating the new status of India, as the third leg in the Kabul-Baghdad-New Delhi neo-colonies. To support the UPA in the Lok Sabha and then pretend they are opposed to its core policy is to underestimate the intelligence of the voters of India, who are waiting for the chance to settle scores with the Sultans and Sultanas of Surrender.

Indervelli dalam commander surrenders in AP

Saturday June 24 2006 11:00 IST

ADILABAD: Batti Rajanna alias Prabhakar, Indervelli dalam commander of CPI (Maoist) party surrendered before Superintendent of Police Kripanand Tripathi Ujela here on Friday.

Producing him before media persons, the SP said Rajanna, a resident of Shetpalli village in Khanapur mandal worked for 10 years in the party in various positions.

He was given training in handling weapons like SBBL gun and others. He is also accused of being involved in the killing of Shala Venkati, Sankaram, Ramchander, Pothanna, Damodar Rao and Ganapathi, branding them as police informers.

He has also participated in three encounters with the police and is also charged with setting RTC buses and public property on fire, the SP said and added that he is also accused of having roughed up many people as a Naxalite. Disillusioned with the party’s ideology and due to health problems, Rajanna had left Maoists.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Can India Escape the Nepalese Maoists Volcano

By Dr. Suvrokamal Dutta

The Land of the Himalayan ice glaciers these days is engulfed by a burning erupted volcano. Nepal today is sitting over a burning political and social volcano and no one knows which way the future of the nation lies. Nepal was simmering for quite sometime with social tension and political unrest and the past few months have been very dangerous and bad.

Failure of the elected government to control the Maoist gave the King of Nepal the pretext to dismiss the elected government and the parliament and take over all the executive control in his hands by declaring a national emergency resulting in excessive brutality . Infact a kind of undeclared curfew was clamped.

Declaring of national emergency didn’t solve the internal problems in Nepal. The King tried all his means to crush brutally any kind of descent in the name of clampdown on the Maoist rebels.This resulted in huge mass upsurge against the King with millions coming out in the streets of several Nepalese towns including the capital Katmandu.

The different political parties of Nepal formed a joint political forum under a seven party alliance for the restoration of multi party democracy in Nepal resulting in a brutal tug of war with the King and his army. With rising international pressure including that of India against the King and his brutalities for the restoration of democracy in Nepal the King was forced to climb down and announce series of measures for the restoration of democracy in Nepal with the formation of a national government under the leadership of a prime minister to oversee the whole election process and help in the restoration of multi party democracy in Nepal .

So far things seems to have fitted the zig saw puzzle but what lies ahead is difficult to say .If the present Prime Minister and his government fails to deliver now it would then ensure the takeover of Nepal by the Maoist rebels this would have disastrous consequences not only for the people of Nepal but also for her neighbors. India would be in a very perilous position if Nepal comes under a Maoist regime. Already in India a red corridor of the Ultra left including the Naxals have been formed from north Bihar and uttar pradesh upto the northern part of Tamilnadu.A takeover by Maoist in Nepal would mean a dangerous internal security situation in India of unprecedented nature and the government would not be in a position to control it.The worst states would be the states of Uttar Pradesh and Uttaranchal.

Already the secret reports of the IB and the RAW have given us enough evidences to prove that the Maoist in Nepal, the Naxals in India, the ISI of Pakistan and several international terrorist organizations including the ones in Jammu and Kashmir and the Al Qaeda have direct nexus with each other and this has given rise to several law and order problems in Uttar Pradesh including many form of violence and bomb blasts in many areas and towns including religious places so as to for met communal and sectarian problems within uttar pradesh and a takeover in Nepal would spell disaster for uttar pradesh and India .

The recent terrorists who were responsible for the blasts in Benaras had direct links with the Maoist in Nepal and were in regular contacts with the ISI links in Nepal. Before masterminding the blasts in Benaras the masterminds had visited Katmandu and other places in Nepal which the CBI and the IB have confirmed it . Again the masterminds of the Delhi bomb blasts last year and this year in Jama Mashid are from the state of Uttar Pradesh and they had direct links with the ISI operatives in Nepal and had visited Nepal several times . The terrorists of the Ayodhya blasts also had linkages with its Nepalese counterparts and these are not all good signs for the internal security of Uttar Pradesh and Uttaranchal .

With the taking over of all powers of the Nepalese Monarch by the Nepalese Parliament and removal of the king as the commander- in -chief of the Royal Nepalese Army and renaming it as the Nepal Army has'nt been taken very well by the Nepalese defence forces who are still very loyal to the Nepalese Monarch . Officially renaming Nepal as a secular nation from a Hindu country has also led to a kind of simmering anger in Nepal as the secret agencies reports .The FBI and the CIA fears that there is every likelihood that violence might once again erupt in Nepal with a direct confrontation between the Nepalese parliament and the Nepal Defence forces and the Right Wingers .If that happens the first aftershocks of it would be felt in the state of Uttar Pradesh . If there is influx of refugees from Nepal the burden on Uttar Pradesh would be tremendous and the state government should take all preventative measures to stop this.

So far the UPA government seems to have followed a direction-less policy towards Nepal. The government actually has no concrete policy towards Nepal it is time that it gets its wits together and formulates a sound policy towards it. It should also strictly restrict the Left parties of India from giving tacit and direct support to the Maoist in Nepal because of their ideological closeness as this would spell disaster for India in the long run specially for states like uttar pradesh and uttaranchal which has several areas where people of similar castes and profiles reside on both sides of the international border.

One should never forget that democracy in Nepal is of a nascent origin and it would be in Indian interest to help her little Himalayan sister to extinguish this volcanic fire other wish the Red Maoist taking over Nepal is not far off and that fire could engulf India in near future and Uttar Pradesh would bear the maximum brunt of it.

The Writer is a renowned Foreign Relation and Economic Expert.


IPCS Special Report 25
June 2006
Rajat Kumar Kujur Research Scholar, JNU


Naxalite menace: CM for talks with Jharkhand

Naxalite menace: CM for talks with Jharkhand

Express News Service

Kolkata, June 22: The state government wants a “realistic dialogue” with its Jharkhand counterpart for joint operations in tackling Naxalite activities, Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said today.

Replying to a question in the Assembly, the chief minister said that he discussed the Naxalite problem with his Andhra Pradesh counterpart during a meeting in Hyderabad.

The problem could not be tackled without joint operations with Jharkhand, Bhattacharjee said, adding that the difficult terrain along the inter-state border also made such operations necessary.

Although the Naxalite situation was reviewed from time to time in Delhi where inter-state joint operations were also discussed, nothing meaningful had come out of it, he said.

CM said his government was in touch with the CRPF to train police forces in areas affected by Naxalism and activities of the Kamtapur Liberation Organisation. Besides policing, steps were also being taken to improve socio-economic situation in Naxalite-hit areas by improving irrigation programmes and other facilities.

Maharashtra Police acquires motorboats to combat Naxals

Nagpur, June 23: Police in Naxal-hit Gadchiroli district in Maharashtra have acquired eight US-made "highly sophisticated" motor boats to combat the Naxalites and help the villagers during floods.

"We have received eight highly sophisticated powerful motor boats of 25 hp with a capacity of six persons each to help the villagers during flooding and to combat Naxals," Gadchiroli Superintendent of Police Shirish Jain said.

The Naxals often cross the Pranhita river after committing crime on either side and these boats will help the police to keep a vigil on them, he said adding the boats cost more than Rs 22 lakh.

Bureau Report

Villagers take on India's Maoists

The Indian government is experimenting with new ways of fighting back against Maoist fighters, who now operate in almost half of the country's 28 states. In the past year, the Chhattisgarh state government has introduced new anti-terrorism training for the police - and is backing a civil militia called Salwa Judum.
The BBC's Jill McGivering spent three days travelling with Maoist fighters in the jungles of Chhattisgarh.

Villagers joined the civil militia to defend themselves from Maoists

Driving through Chhattisgarh at dawn, we saw a group of villagers by the road, shouldering sticks as if they were guns and marching up and down doing military drill.

There were about 30 of them, many just young boys who looked about 12 or 13 years old.

Some of the men were middle-aged and looked unfit, with pot bellies.

As we stopped and walked across to talk to them, a group of young women, in brightly coloured saris, crossed too and formed their own marching unit alongside the men.

when I see them, I'll try to eliminate them

Mahendra Kumar Dorgum

India's red threat
India's red threat
The man leading the training session told me his name was Bagil.

He was a former police officer, he said, appointed to train villagers who lived in nearby areas which were hard hit by Maoist or Naxalite violence.

They were part of the Salwa Judum, the civil militia, supported by the state government, which was launched officially one year ago.

Civil militia

I asked him how well these villagers would be able to defend themselves. Many seemed malnourished, I said. Many were under-age. These were, after all, just villagers.

Women have also undergone training to face the Maoist threat

He nodded. "Yes, some of them are malnourished, some of them are under age," he said.

"If they applied to join the police, most of them wouldn't be selected. But what matters is that they're from Naxal-affected areas. They'll go back and help the police there. I need to train them."

I spoke to some of the village volunteers. Mahendra Kumar Dorgum said he was 27.

"I live in a remote area," he said, "and I know a few Naxalites personally. When I get a gun, when I see them, I'll try to eliminate them. That's my purpose."

As we talked a young boy, who had also been training, listened in. He said at first that he was 18 but then he looked much younger, more like 14.

He was shy when I questioned him and gave the standard answer: "I want to eradicate Naxalites from my area."

Once they had had several weeks training, the instructor told us, all these people, men, boys and young women, would be given a gun each and sent back to their villagers to kill Maoists.

Filling the gap

There are clear concerns about this arming of civilians and the lack of accountability of this new civil militia.

Many villagers are concerned about armed Salwa Judum cadres

As I drove around Chhattisgarh, we frequently passed through road blocks controlled by Salwa Judum members, often youngsters, guns slung on their shoulders.

In the relief camps which have sprung up in parts of the state, many villagers told me they had had to flee after Salwa Judum members burned their houses or threatened to kill them.

I put some of these allegations to Madhukar Rao, a former schoolteacher but now a leader of the Salwa Judum.

He said it was understandable that many of those who joined the group wanted to kill local Naxalites.

"Many in the Salwa Judum have personal experience of terror from Naxalites," he said. "They have a feeling of revenge which I think is very good. I think it's a good idea that we should go after them and kill them."

I asked him about the allegations that the Salwa Judum had beaten villagers and force them from their homes.

"That was not true," he said.

"Those allegations were spread by people who were pro-Naxalite."

Actually the Salwa Judum was helping villagers, he went on, by protecting them and keeping them safe from the Maoists.

Some of those who try to justify the civil militia say it is filling a gap left by an inadequate police force, a force that is simply no match for the Maoists.

'Order in disorder'

As well as supporting the civil militia, the state government has just introduced a new intensive training programme for the police in the hope of improving their performance.

Brig Ponwar is training the police to tackle the Maoists

It is under the command of Brigadier Basant Kumar Ponwar, a man with extensive experience in the Indian army of fighting insurgencies.

He is now the head of the Counter Terrorism and Jungle Warfare College in Chhattisgarh and showed me some of the exercises, from killing a cobra to storming a militant hideaway. His mantra is: fight a guerrilla like a guerrilla.

He told me he saw his role as trying to fill a perception gap, converting the police officers from conventional policing to unconventional warfare.

"If the threat changes, they've got to change," he said.

"They can't just get away by showing their weapons to innocent civilians or firing a shot in the air and saying: Ok, now the police have come, everything will be settled."

I asked him why he thought the number of people being killed in Chhattisgarh in Maoist-related violence had doubled each year in the last few years. Most of the people being killed are civilians.

"Civilians do get into crossfire between the security forces and the terrorists," he said.

"It'll take a little time. When you have to bring order in disorder for the cause of many, some may suffer."

This is the second of a series of three reports.

5 former Maoists killed for deserting party in Jharkhand

Chatra (Jharkhand), June 23: The bodies of five former hard-core activists of the Communist Party of India (Maoists), who are suspected to have been killed by Maoists for joining a rival group, were recovered today from Bhuyandih area here.

Police also recovered a chit from the spot under the Sadar police station in Naxal-infested Chatra district, in which the CPI (Maoist) owned responsibility for the killing.

The victims had joined the rival group -- Tritya MCC Prastuti Committee -- formed by the breakway members.

The Maoists had kidnapped the five on Wednesday and are suspected to have killed them for joining the new outfit ten days ago after snapping ties with them.

The victims have been identified as Ritishji, former sub-zonal commander of Kaleshwar zone, Utrayanji alias Nandkishore Sahu, commander of Kaleshwar zone, Jitendra Das alias Prabhat, area commander, Kalu Turi and Virodhi alias Ishwari, also former area commander of CPI (Maoist), police superintendent, T. Kondaswamy, said.

While the throat of two of the activists, including Ritishji, was slit, the bodies of others bore bullet injuries in the stomach, chest and head, police said.

Bureau Report

Udupi: Anti-Naxal Force Arrests Teenager

The Hindu

Udupi, Jun 23: The Anti-Naxal Force (ANF) and the Hebri Police in a joint operation have arrested a teenager at Hebri Bus Station on Wednesday on the suspicion that he was supplying food to naxalites operating in forest areas adjoining Hebri. The accused is a resident of Mundani near Kabbinale village in Karkala taluk of Udupi district.

H N Sathyanarayana Rao, Inspector General of Police (Western Range) said ANF and the Hebri police had been keeping a close watch on those suspected to be sympathetic to the naxal cause.

Police recovered meat and other food items from the accused when he was picked up from the bus station. Stating that the accused had been booked under Section 109 of the Criminal Procedure Code, Rao said the police had decided to take a lenient view of the incident in view of the accused man's age. "We do not want to persecute him or label him a criminal," he said.

A Subramanyeshwara Rao, Superintendent of Police, Udupi, said the accused was suspected of being attracted to the naxal ideology. "We have decided to focus on his rehabilitation along with other members of his family."

Rao said the accused was produced before the Karkala tahshildar, who was also the taluk executive magistrate and released on a self-bail.

Sathyanarayana Rao commended the ANF and the Hebri Police for their alertness in disrupting the supply chain to the naxalites. The Hebri Police have registered a case.

Naxal set AP govt bus on fire in Chhattisgarh

Press Trust of India

Raipur, June 22, 2006

Naxalites on Thursday set on fire an Andhra Pradesh state owned bus in Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh, police said on Thursday.
The armed naxalites stopped the bus near Darbhaguda village under Errabore police station area, about 550 km from the state capital, on Wednesday night and asked the passengers to get off the bus, Dantewada police sources said.

The bus was plying between Jagdalpur and Hyderabad.

The Maoists also looted rice and money from the passengers, police said.

"In fact, naxalites were looking for any policeman travelling in that bus and not finding any one, set the vehicle on fire," police added.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

The CPI-M is hurting Indian interests in Nepal.

22 June 2006: Some time ago, we wrote about how Sitaram Yechury’s meddling in Nepal was damaging Indian interests, and now, there is more evidence of it.

The Nepalese political parties and the Maoists are engaged in very sensitive discussions concerning the future Nepal constitution, Maoist participation in government, their portfolios, and the disarming of their cadres. In their discussions, Yechury is involved, as a friend of the Maoists, and he has been given freedom of action by the CPI-M leadership to do as he wants.

Now Yechury is no foreign policy expert, that turf in the CPI-M has traditionally belonged to Prakash Karat, but in the Nepal negotiations, he has been in the forefront. Yechury is not India’s representative in the Nepal talks, he takes no institutional briefing from the Indian foreign office. He is on his own, and he acts to the best interests of his Maoist friends and his party.

But there is a problem. The CPI-M is an ally of the UPA government, an outside ally but nevertheless powerful because of its control of a bloc of some sixty Left MPs. The other UPA allies also look to the CPI-M for political direction to weaken the Congress. After the CPI-M’s spectacular victories in West Bengal and Kerala, it has become even more untouchable.

How all this turns on the Yechury mediation in Nepal is that, while he is not obliged to tow the Indian position in the talks, the Indian government perforce has to agree to all his commitments made to the Maoists. Why so? Because of the CPI-M’s clout, and Yechury is supposed to be pushing the CPI-M line in Nepal.

Where the Indian government is troubled is that the Nepal talks are shifting weight to the Maoists’ side, and this shift is not least due to Yechury’s friendship with them. How the Maoists perceive it is Yechury’s friendship neutralizes Indian objections, it cannot be tough because of the CPI-M, and this makes them bolder in their demands with the Nepalese political parties. Since these parties look for and get Indian direction, it is, in one sense, the Indian official position being compromised in Nepal by none other than the CPI-M, who value their friendship with the Maoists more than securing Indian interests.

Substantively speaking, India and the majority of Nepalese political parties want a ceremonial role for the king, they are leery of an out and out republican Nepal. On the other hand, the Maoists want a republican constitution, and they are also pushing for the trial of King Gyanendra. The CPI-M and Yechury are going along with the Maoists’ demand.

But even in the worst case that this is inevitable, a republican constitution, India wants an equally big concession from the Maoists, that they should disarm their cadres simultaneously. India’s insistence is not to the liking of Yechury, who says this issue can be visited later. But there is a real risk to Indian security here.

The chief Indian concern is that if the Maoists enter government without disarming the cadres, then natural differences will arise between those who have power and others who don’t, eventually leading to splits in the movement. This would inevitably lead to a regrouping of the Maoists with weapons but without power, and could create an Afghanistan type situation of warlords who control the countryside, wreak havoc on the central government, and are ever willing for civil war. Plus, there is the old Maoist-Indian naxalite link, which will strengthen with the splintering of the Maoists.

But Indian officials say Yechury won’t hear of Indian objections, he will do nothing to break the spirit of cooperation with the Maoists, even though they may be using him. On the other hand, because of the CPI-M’s clout, raised after the recent victories, the government has to listen to Yechury, even carry out his instructions, his “dictates”, as officials say.

This is extraordinary, a complete perversity of coalition politics. In Nepal, the CPI-M has no role to play, unless it plays an official Indian role. But this Yechury scorns, he and the CPI-M are on their own. Even being on their own, as parties swearing allegiance to the Indian Constitution, they cannot act against Indian interests, but they do. And using the clout they have, they force the Indian government to accept decisions against national interest.

In other words, the CPI-M and Sitaram Yechury are acting against national interest, and the compulsions of domestic politics forces meek government acquiescence. It is similar to the CPI-M’s interference on the Iran issue, which the Left as a whole communalized. There, prime minister Manmohan Singh stood firm, because the fate of the Indo-US nuclear deal was tied. On Nepal, the CPI-M has become the Maoists’ cat’s paw, but the PM is powerless to end the manipulations.

The CPI-M’s recent electoral victories have totally benumbed the government. The Congress leadership is too paralyzed to protest. Some argue, almost as an excuse, that the Maoists have learnt their lessons, recognised Indian power in the bloodless displacement of King Gyanendra, and would behave once they come into government.

But this is an excuse, a wish, and not an argument, neither the truth, because at bottom, nobody believes it. The Maoists are bargaining for the portfolios of rural development, finance, and – here it comes – foreign affairs, and more testing times lie ahead for India.

Worse for us, the CPI-M is backing them.

Remember Quisling?

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Two naxals killed in encounter in Nalgonda, AP


NALGONDA: Two Maoists, including a woman cadre, were killed in an alleged exchange of fire with a police party at Kasarajupally in Chandampet mandal on Tuesday evening.
Officer on Special Duty (OSD) A. Venkateswar Rao said the two bodies were found between Kasarajupalli and Pedda Munigal after the exchange of fire between the Maoists and special party police. Further details were awaited, he added.
It is reliably learnt that one of the slain naxals was Kasani Salamma alias Latha, 22, the deputy commander of the Krishna Patti dalam. - Staff Reporter

Maoist Naxals set afire earth movers, tipper

Hyderabad, June. 21 (PTI): Maoists today set afire two earth movers and a tipper of a contractor working for a Lift Irrigation scheme in Mahabubnagar district of Andhra Pradesh, police said.

About ten naxalites went to the camp office of the contractor at Pasupalla village in Koderu Mandal and burnt two earth movers and a tipper being used for the Lift Irrigation scheme, police said.

The Maoists while leaving from the place informed the construction labourers that they resorted to this act in protest against the recent encounters in which some of their colleagues, including top naxal leaders were killed, police said.

Meanwhile, a report from Visakhapatnam said, police arrested three Maoists at Kannerisalama village in G K Veedhi Mandal and seized two landmines and fuse wire from their possession.

Bardhan slams Orissa Govt for banning Naxal outfits


Bardhan slams Orissa Govt for banning Naxal outfits

Bhubaneswar, June 21: The Orissa government's decision to declare activities of the CPI (Maoist) and seven other frontal organisations unlawful "is a panicky step and will prove to be counter-productive," CPI General Secretary AB Bardhan said on Wednesday.

Naxalite movement had socio-economic connotations and was fuelled by extreme neglect, poverty, continuing atrocities on tribals and common people and continuous displacement, Bardhan told newspersons in Bhubaneswar.

"Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik must find out what is wrong and why Naxals have spread to 17 districts from three or four in the past," he said.

Alleging that the Chief Minister himself was the "originator, creator and driving force behind spread of Naxalism in Orissa," Bardhan said 'a mere ban will not help.'

"You may close your eyes to a problem but it will not cease (to exist)," he said.

The CPI leader recalled that the Chief Minister had himself invited leaders of several frontal organisations for talks in the past but while returning some of those people had been arrested. "Why did he invite them? What sort of politics is this?" he asked.

"If anyone thinks that banning will rid Orissa of Naxal menace, he is living in fool's paradise."

Bureau Report

BJP leader, 2 others killed by Naxalites in Chhattisgarh

Raipur, June 21: The Maoists today killed three persons, including a senior BJP leader in separate incidents of violence in Bastar region of Chhattisgarh.

BJP Mandal president Bansidhar Gupta was axed to death today by Naxalites near Taragaon under Chhotedongar police station area of Narayanpur district, about 450 km from here, police said .

Gupta and a village guard were riding a motorcycle on their way from Dhodai village to Orchcha when the Naxals attacked them. The village guard fled from the spot while Gupta was being killed.

Gupta is also an elected representative to Dhodai Block Panchayat, police said.

In a separate incident, the Naxalites killed a Special Police Officer and a villager last evening in Kirandul town.

The state government had designated villagers as SPO to guard villages and fight against the Naxals in Bastar.

Seven villagers were killed and three injured in Chikurguda village of Dantewada district by the Maoists yesterday to protest anti-Naxal drive or peace campaign.

Bureau Report

Three killed by maoists in Chhattisgarh

Raipur, June 21 (PTI): The Maoists today killed three persons, including a senior BJP leader in separate incidents of voilence in Bastar region of Chhattisgarh.

BJP Mandal President Bansidhar Gupta was axed to death today by naxalites near Taragaon under Chhotedongar police station area of Narayanpur district, about 450 km from here, police said .

Gupta and a village guard were riding a motorcycle on their way from Dhodai village to Orchcha when the naxals attacked them. The village guard fled from the spot while Gupta was being killed.

Gupta is also an elected representative to Dhodai block panchayat, police said.

In a separate incident, the naxalites killed a special police officer and a villager last evening in Kirandul town.

The state government had designated villagers as SPO to guard villages and fight against the naxals in Bastar.

Seven villagers were killed and three injured in Chikurguda village of Dantewada district by the Maoists yesterday to protest anti-naxal drive or peace campaign.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Patil to examine Thackeray’s call for support to Naxalites

BY SUYASH PADATE | Tuesday, June 20, 2006 10:59:0 IST
Patil to examine Thackeray’s call for support to Naxalites

With Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray announcing that the party will seek the help of Naxalites in Maharashtra to counter the growing threat of “Islam fundamentalism”, it is feared that the Naxalite movement in the state will get a booster.

While addressing a party rally at Shanmukhananda Hall late last evening to celebrate 40 years of the Sena, Thackeray categorically instructed Shiv Sainiks to take help of the Naxalites to counter Islamic activities or “jehadi terrorism” which posed a serious challenge to India’s unity.

This has thrown the home department in a tizzy given the backdrop of growing Naxalite activites in Chandrapur, Gadchiroli and some part of Nanded. Thackeray’s statements are also likely to affect the morale of police officials who were attacked by various Naxalite groups in these three districts.
The home department has ordered the Anti-Naxalite squad to crackdown on their growing activities.

Now the home department officials are in a fix whether to go ahead with the earlier directives or wait for fresh instructions.

When contacted, Deputy Chief Minister R. R. Patil said this morning, “I have not yet examined the Sena supremo’s statement. But the government is firm on its decision to crackdown on Naxalite activities. The law will take its own course in spite of much political pressure.”

BJP attacks UPA, Left on Maoists

[ Monday, June 19, 2006 06:44:09 pmIANS ]

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NEW DELHI: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Monday asked the government to formulate an action plan to counter the growing threat of Maoist rebels in many parts of the country even as it accused the Left parties of having a hidden agenda to support the extremists.

The BJP took strong exception to the Communist Party of India (CPI) leaders' remarks that movements like Salwa Judum - a government-supported militia set up to counter Maoist rebels in the BJP-ruled Chhattisgarh - would lead to a civil war.

"BJP views these pro-Naxalites (Maoists) and anti-tribal demands by Leftists with concern," the party said in a statement.

CPI leaders were quoted as saying in reports that "actions like Salwa Judum in Naxalite-affected areas of Bastar in Chhattisgarh will ultimately lead to a civil war."

According to BJP spokesman Prakash Javadekhar, Left's move to take up the Maoist rebellion issue at the recent United Progressive Alliance (UPA)-Left coordination committee meeting has "exposed their hidden agenda".

"The recent meeting of UPA-Left coordination committee has exposed the Leftists to the hilt and has also exposed their hidden agenda to support various insurgent groups."

Referring to a note given by the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M)-led Left Front to the government on economic policies, Javadekar said: "But newspaper reports suggest that these topics were not discussed at all or if referred, only casually. The meeting discussed the situation in Jammu and Kashmir and the northeast officially. This is the peculiar double speak by the Left and the Congress."

"The real and hidden agenda of Left Parties came to fore when they discussed Salwa Judum and military deployment against Naxalites and not the common man's problems. Thus the Left are exposed on twin front. One of shedding crocodile tears on petroleum price hike and second, taking a tough position on people's movement like Salva Judum," he said.

The Left parties, who support Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's multi-party government from outside, have held nationwide protests against the recent fuel price hike.

The party demanded that the government should abandon its policy to treat the Maoist rebellion as a state subject and a law-and-order problem.

"It should adopt a comprehensive policy to contain Naxalite rebellion. The central government should formulate an action plan to deal with the growing threat of Naxalites," the BJP spokesman said.

Maoist top gun killed in encounter in Guntur, AP

Staff Reporter

GUNTUR: Communist Party of India (Maoist) Palnadu `platoon commander' Suresh was killed in an encounter with a special police party team at Ramapuram crossroads near Dachepalli in Guntur district on Sunday night.

The police stopped a motorcycle at the junction at around 9.30 p.m. on which Suresh, 28, was riding pillion. While the rider sped away, Suresh jumped from the two-wheeler and began firing at the police, forcing them to retaliate.

The police gave a chase to the motorcyclist but in vain.

A red alert has been sounded in police stations in the Palnadu region and all MLAs and officials on the hit list of the Maoists have been asked to either move to safer places or take care of their safety.

Night services of RTC to all naxalite-affected areas have been cancelled. Vehicle checks have been intensified.

With the death of Suresh, the Maoists' activities have suffered a major setback in the Palnadu and Nallamala regions, where he was the most active leader. He had masterminded the rocket attack on the Durgi police station in May 2005.

Another blow to naxals

Staff Reporter in Khammam adds: Earlier in the day, two Maoists were killed in an encounter with the police near Marrimalla village, close to the banks of the Godavari, 25 km from Perur.

A senior member of the party, not below the rank of district committee member, is suspected to be among those killed. The police recovered an AK 47 along with some ammunition from the scene.

Seven killed in Naxal raid in Chhattisgarh

Raipur, June 20 (PTI): At least seven persons were killed and three injured when about 300-armed naxalites raided a village in Dantewada district of Chattisgarh today, police said.

After kidnapping around 25 people from the Chikuarguda village under the Konta police station, about 485 km from here, seven persons were either shot, stabbed or beaten to death by naxalites early this morning, police sources said today.

The remaining persons, including the three injured were released after the incident, they said adding that the naxals also looted and burnt some houses in the village.

Police claimed that the Maoists had taken revenge for the June 8 incident of Dewarpalli village of Dantewada district in which 10 ultras were killed and many injured in an encounter with security forces.

Konta block is the most sensitive area as far as naxal activities are concerned and as all the five police districts of Bastar region, including Dantewada have been badly affected by naxal violence for last over two decades.

Left's tacit support for naxals exposes "their two faces : BJP

New Delhi, June 20. (UNI): Taking strong exception to the Left party's demand for withdrawing the Naga and Mizo battalions deployed to contain violence in Chhattisgarh, the BJP on Monday, said that the demand had exposed the "two faces" of the Communist parties.

Reacting to the demand of the Left parties to seek a ban on the 'Salva Judam', an all party backed tribal campaign against the naxal groups, BJP spokesman Prakash Javadekar said although the Left parties said that they would raise the issues of rising prices of essential commodities, hike in petrol prices and other deviations from the Common Minimum Programme, these issues were only "Casually discussed without any concrete assurance, but they chose to discuss Salva Judum and deployment against naxalites and not the problems of the common man".

The BJP demands that the Centre should deploy more forces to fight the rising naxal menace threatening to carve out a red corridor transcending eight states from the Nepal border to Karnataka, he said.

Mr Javadekar claimed it was the Congress' unilateral ceasefire in Andhra Pradesh for one year without insisting the naxals give up their arms, which created problems for the nearby States of Chhatisgarh and Jharkhand, where the Ultras had regrouped and consolidated. About 379 civilians were killed and 95 police and military personnel were killed in the last two years, he noted.

He said Left's opposition to Salva Judum stemmed from the fact that the movement in Chhattisgarh was led by leading Congress leader Mahesh Karma, himself a former Communist.

"We strongly condemn the demand for banning Salva Judum, which believes in the principles of non-violence. This sort of playing around with security is not in national interest", he said.

The BJP spokesman said the stand taken by the Left Parties was very different from what they had taken in West Bengal, where they were fighting the ultra left insurgency themselves.

The tribals of Bastar were fed up with the violence of naxals and and had devised their own way of fighting naxals effectively. Thousands of villages had joined the movement, which is also spreading to Warrangal district of Andhra Pradesh, the hub of naxal violence.

The Centre should abandon its policy to treat the naxal problem as a law and order issue but should come out with a comprehensive national policy to check the scourge, Mr Javadekar stressed

Salwa Judum: Left demand criticised

Special Correspondent

BJP says Left adopts a duplicitous stand on naxalites

Salwa Judum a ``people's movement'' against naxals
"Left is playing with issues of national security."

NEW DELHI: The Bharatiya Janata Party has charged the Left with being ``pro-naxal'' and ``anti-tribal,'' for its demand at the recent coordination committee meeting of the United Progressive Alliance and the Left that the Government disband Salwa Judum, which has been fighting the naxal menace.

BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar's criticism of the Left comes a day after reports said that the former Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, at the party's national executive meeting last month, complimented the Left for its streak of poll victories and recommended its emulation.

Mr. Javadekar said the Left had a duplicitous stand on naxals — as on other issues, such as rise in petrol price. While it adopted a hard position against naxals in West Bengal, it was seemingly sympathetic to them in other States. He blamed the talks initiated with naxals in Andhra Pradesh by the Rajashekhar Reddy Government, soon after it came to power over two years ago, for the spurt in naxal attacks in the neighbouring Chhattisgarh.

Salwa Judum, Mr. Javadekar said, was a ``people's movement'' against the violence perpetrated by naxals. It had the support of the Congress and the BJP, as well as the Government. But the Left had openly demanded withdrawal of some Army battalions from the area and wanted to finish the Salwa Judum movement.

He did not agree to reporters' suggestions that ordinary people had become victims of naxal and police violence as a result of the Salwa Judum. If they joined it they became targets of attack by naxals; if they did not they became objects of suspicion in the eyes of police.

Maoists and naxals had established a ``red corridor'' from Nepal to Andhra Pradesh; yet the CPI (M) adopted a soft approach to the problem while going for a no-holds-barred war against naxals in West Bengal.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Tribals in Maoist bastion to get Essar jobs

Raipur, June 18 (IANS) Steel major Essar Steel has agreed to recruit 130,000 tribal people in Maoist violence-racked Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh for its upcoming steel plant.

Essar Steel, which signed a deal in June 2005 with the government to set up a 3.2-million tonne per annum steel plant in Dantewada with an investment of Rs.70-billion, has sought 900 hectares of land for the plant.

"The company is ready to pay the compensation amount to 149 affected families of Dantewada's Bhansi and Dhurli areas," an official of the industry department told IANS.

These families will be losing their land for the Essar project. Besides the compensation, the government has promised to ensure jobs to one member of each affected family.

The government has asked the local residents to come out with their demands and expectations for losing land and ancestral houses. Essar Steel says it will involve indigenous people in the production, supply and related jobs.

Essar Steel will impart technical training to youngsters as well as thousands of educated tribal youths at the Industrial Training Centre (ITI) in Bhansi. It will pay Rs.1,000-3,000 a month as scholarship to trainees.

ITI Bhansi belongs to the state-owned National Mineral Development Corp (NMDC), but the institute did not conduct training for several years due to escalated Maoist violence.

The rebels, who have a strong presence in almost all the areas of Dantewada, have vowed to oppose Essar Steel's plant.

The guerrillas, who have killed at least 170 civilians in the district this year, have stepped up attacks on industrial establishments in recent months. They carried out several attacks on the NMDC iron ore mining facilities in Dantewada.

Unfazed by rebel threat, the government plans to give 900 hectares of land to Essar Steel by the end of this year.

Four Salwa Judum members killed in Chhattisgarh Maoist Naxals violence

By Indo Asian News Service

Raipur, June 18 (IANS) Suspected Maoists guerrillas killed four tribals working for an anti-Maoist movement in Chhattisgarh's violence-hit Dantewada district, police officials said Sunday.

The rebels dumped the bullet-riddled bodies of three 'Salwa Judum' (Campaign for Peace) movement cadres in a thick forested belt under Farsegarh police station, 512 km south of capital Raipur, early Sunday. Another dead body was recovered from Usur locality.

'All the four tribesmen were killed late Saturday night. The rebels pumped several round of bullets into the civilians before throwing them by the roadside. The body found at Usur also had multiple injuries,' Bastar Range Inspector General T.J. Longkumer told IANS over telephone.

Bastar region, which includes Dantewada, is one of the worst Maoist-infested areas of the country. The Indian government has deployed thousands of paramilitary troopers in the 40,000 sq km-area of Bastar to tackle the Maoist menace.

About 50,000 tribesmen have deserted their native forested villages in Bastar after the Chhattisgarh government launched Salwa Judum in June 2005. The tribals, including men, women and children have settled at ill-protected relief camps.

Human rights groups say the government is endangering the lives of civilians by sponsoring the Salwa Judum and putting young men in the line of fire.

According to officials, at least 170 civilians, mostly tribal villagers, have been killed since January in rebel violence.

Maoists, who control vast swathes of rural India along its eastern flank, claim they are fighting for the rights of poor peasants and landless labourers.

There are about 20,000 armed Maoist rebels in the country, backed by thousands of sympathisers, officials say.

Copyright Indo-Asian News Service

West Bengal for more central forces in Maoist zone

[ Sunday, June 18, 2006 12:03:42 pmTIMES NEWS NETWORK ]

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KOLKATA: The state government has asked the Centre for two more battalions of paramilitary forces to tackle the Maoists. The decision was taken at a meeting convened by chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee on Saturday.

The meeting was attended by the police chiefs of Purulia, Bankura and West Midnapore.

The chief minister directed the police to be proactive in combating Maoist threats and restoring the confidence of the people. Bhattacharjee made it clear that he wanted Maoist menace in the state to be stopped immediately.

In a bid to take the party closer to the people in Maoist-affected areas, the CPM state committee decided to observe 'Hul festival, a festival of Santhals, in a big way on June 30. Santhals are a dominant tribe in three districts in the western part of the state.

Briefing newspersons after the meeting, inspectorgeneral of police (law and order) Raj Kanojia said the CM had asked police to increase their presence in the three districts.

Expressing concern over the renewed Maoist attacks in Belpahari, Bhattacharjee said policemen and paramilitary forces stationed at the trouble-hit areas should be more cautious about their responsibilities. CPM leader Rabi Sankar Das was gunned down last Wednesday just few metres from the Belpahari police station, where a large posse of policemen and para-military forces were stationed.

The three Naxalite-affected districts of West Midnapore, Purulia and Bankura now have six companies of paramilitary forces. Home secretary Prasad Ranjan Roy conveyed the request for more forces to the Union home ministry.

The state government wanted to equip the state police with more firepower. For this, the government would lobby with the Centre. More self-loading rifles, Insas rifles and AK 47s would be procured. Most of these will be deployed in the 18 highly sensitive police stations of the three most trouble-prone districts — Purulia, Bankura and Midnapore West.

Nitish Kumar seeks more Central forces for Bihar

Special Correspondent

Calls for disaster management institute in the State

CORDIAL MEETING: Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar (right) with Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil during a meeting at the latter's residence in New Delhi on Saturday. — Photo: Shanker Chakravarty

NEW DELHI: Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Saturday urged the Centre to provide more Central forces to the State for carrying out anti-naxalite operations.

Mr. Kumar who called on Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil here also wanted the proposed training centre for Central Reserve Police Force in Bihar to be started at the earliest.

Talking to reporters, the Chief Minister said he had also demanded the setting up of a disaster management institute in Bihar as it faced the twin problems of drought and flood.

He said the number of paramilitary personnel in Bihar had decreased as the Central forces had been deployed out of the State for the Assembly elections in five States and had not been redeployed.

The State Government had allotted land for the proposed CRPF training centre. He had asked the Centre to take follow-up steps. The Chief Minister said the Home Minister had assured him that the demands would be seriously considered.

The law and order situation in the State was also discussed and the Chief Minister apprised Mr. Patil of the steps being taken by his Government to check crime. He informed him about the constitution of a Special Auxiliary Police Force.

Boost locals’ morale, urges CM

Statesman News Service
Kolkata, June 17. — Chief minister Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today directed police to start adopting measures for building confidence of locals in the state’s Maoists-infested areas.
This comes days after Naxalites killed a local committee member of the ruling party last Wednesday, the first such Maoists attack after the seventh Left Front government took office.
The chief minister today held a review meeting with superintendents of police of the three Naxalite-affected districts ~ Bankura, Purulia and West Midnapore ~ as well as the zonal IG and DIG (Western Range), the home secretary and other senior police officers in the backdrop of the killing.
“The chief minister has asked us to undertake confidence-building measures and boost morale of the local people by intensifying patrolling and increased police presence,” confirmed Mr Raj Kanojia, IG (Law and Order).
The home secretary has written to the Centre asking for two more battalions of Central paramilitary forces in addition to the six companies already deployed in the area.
Later, the director general of police held discussions with the SPs of the three districts about steps to be taken to tackle insurgency.
There are 30 police camps spread over the area ~ each comprising 50 police personnel and three special operation groups.
With the election results tilting favourably towards the ruling combine in these areas despite a Maoist call for boycott, the state administration’s morale has been boosted.
But there are indications that the Maoists are looking to expand their activities in the neighbouring districts.

The patriarch


THE cabinet of the seventh Left Front government has excess baggage of 14 if the prescribed norm of 10 per cent of the 294-strong state legislature is taken into account. This would cost the exchequer, according to a modest estimate, Rs 10 crore annually. The amount could have been utilised to sink a good number of tubewells and provide infrastructure to ill-equipped primary schools in rural areas. Again, some controversial ministers (at least two) had to be retained while maintaining the district-wise balance. The chief minister possibly hasn’t got what he wanted though there has been no expression of anguish in public.
Mr Jyoti Basu had a greater say in the composition of the cabinet and distribution of portfolios. At 92, he is still active in the affairs of the state. No crucial decision is taken without consulting him. He also does not mince words if any follow-up action of the government is not to his liking. Recall his reprimand after Tata officials faced agitating farmers at Singur.
Mr Basu is the seniormost member of the Politburo and, as the longest-serving chief minister, has the right of experience-sharing with his junior successor when party and government are inseparable. Besides, nobody has the audacity to suggest that he should follow the example of Margaret Thatcher, John Major or Bill Clinton because he would be told that communists never retire.
According to a recent readers’ survey, the Iron Lady still dominates British politics, years after leaving office. She is remembered because “she changed the sense of embarrassment that Britons felt towards the concepts of productivity and profit, and for her extreme shock tactics and a searing honesty of the type seldom seen in politics which could shake the British people out of their torpor’’. Can this be said about Mr Basu? True, West Bengal is not a “sovereign’’ state. But wasn’t more than two decades enough for an unchallenged leader to make some lasting contribution?
Decentralisation, land reforms and work culture are three facilitators of economic growth. It is indeed a very good idea that power goes to where it should actually belong ~ the hands of rural men and women, enabling them to determine for themselves what is best for them. But the gram panchayat in West Bengal is the chosen political and legal instrument for the implementation of state policy. The CPI-M favoured the arrangement as it gives the Left control over distribution of surplus land, rights of sharecroppers, distribution of state subsidies and so on.
In the seventies, the CPI-M was locked in a battle on two fronts in the countryside. On the one hand, it felt that it would not be able to stem the dominance of the jotedars nor implement its agrarian programme without the countervailing institutional power of the state. On the other hand, experience of the Naxalite movement signalled that an encouragement of a militant peasant struggle might lead to violence that would damage the electoral prospects of the party and possibly invite central intervention. The three-tier panchayat system was, therefore, considered the best way to promote political goals of the party, instead of being a catalytic agent of rural growth.
The panchayats are granted around Rs 500 crore annually by the Centre and state government for rural development programmes. Allegations of party domination, misuse of funds and corruption are not infrequently raised. Audit reports are not furnished. How can it be a good idea to give absolute power to those who use it for partisan ends, and squander the scare resources meant for local development?
Operation Barga did initially push up agricultural productivity. But the state witnessed a delayed arrival of green revolution in the 80s. The gains were thus gobbled up. The economic plight of petty sharecroppers caused by capital-intensive agriculture has been forcing them to give up their land for a pittance to middle and large sharecroppers. The eviction rate of petty sharecroppers is currently 15 per cent. In tribal and Rajbanshi-dominated districts of south and north Bengal, it is as high as 25 to 32 per cent.
The Left Front could, over the years, successfully persuade jotedars to believe that their best chance of achieving moderate affluence and security lay in conceding legitimacy to panchayats as intermediaries between them and agricultural workers. The association between the party and the emerging middle and large peasants facilitated the uprooting of petty sharecroppers.
The quotable quote “whom should I ask to work, chairs or tables?” sums up work culture in the state. No hard decision was taken to stem the rot. The coordination committee was a pampered lot. From the beginning, the strategy was to politicise the lower echelons and use them for electoral purpose. By encouraging unions, the Left Front government brought a sea change in the police force. Government employees and policemen had their rival unions and leaders who started neglecting their duties for “union work’’ with unofficial sanction. The complexion of the offices and police stations thus changed swiftly. Discipline, devotion to duty, obedience to authority and accountability disappeared.
Since October 1986, with the introduction of supersession at the top slot, the higher bureaucracy was vertically split into two warring camps pro and anti-establishment. The Left Front, predominantly the CPI-M, encouraged the bureaucracy to believe that staying on the right side was what mattered. The officer who was the blue-eyed boy of the deputy chief minister in charge of police during United Front rule, was sought to be banished to an inconsequential post outside Writers’ Building in the late 80s because he was allegedly making noises unpalatable to the powers that be. The message was clear and loud. Soon, those in charge of enforcing accountability chose the route to sycophancy.
Politically, it would be naive to portray Mr Basu as the loyal party man. In 1948, his opposition to the Ranadive line was strong. When the party split in 1964, he and Mr EMS Namboodiripad remained “centrist’’ for some time and worked to bring about a rapprochement between the two factions.
As chief minister, Mr Basu was more compromising, spoke in half sentences, encouraged acolytes, resented dissent, and hardly took any hard decision. This ran counter to his “years of combat’’. Since 1994, he started welcoming capital and became more a pragmatist than a communist. Why did the change occur? Was it because of the realisation that West Bengal had sunk so low in terms of development and growth? Wasn’t it too late?
The experiment of coalition politics for three decades with Mr Basu as the longest-serving chief minister is considered a significant contribution to Bengal politics. But the success story has to be judged against the backdrop of a non-existent opposition, the CPI-M’s absolute majority in the assembly elections except in 2001, and weak and power-hungry small partners.
Even the qualified success would have made a difference if it had left behind a vibrant economy. In that case, Mr Basu would have been in the same league as BC Roy and Kamaraj.