People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 15

April 19, 2009



Real Battlefields Are  Far Off From Studios

Debasish Chakraborty


LISTEN to Jagari Murmu, a tribal folk singer from Purulia. She is busy, touring in villages in the scorching heat of this western district of West Bengal, singing songs in Santhali to explain how the life of poor tribals has changed in the last three decades. And she knows quite well who real friends are. Jagari is one of those many folk artists who is braving not only the heat but the Maoist threat also in densely tribal areas of Purulia, Bankura and West Midnapore. They realise that it is the most crucial time to hold the red flag high.

Thousands of folk artists are actively campaigning for Left Front throughout the state, through rehearsed or unrehearsed traditional folk songs, street drama, and local forms of dances. They are not only artists, they belong to the millions of poor or small peasants who have taken the challenge to ensure, what the CPI (M) general secretary, Prakash Karat has termed as ‘decisive victory’ of the Left.

A considerable section of the media is working overtime to predict a disaster for the Left in West Bengal. Is it tough battle for the Lefts this time in West Bengal?  Yes, it is. But it is also the season of determined class-conscious answer from the toiling people.

For example, in the tea gardens of Dooars and Terai at the foothills of the Himalayas in northern Bengal, the unity of working class has become the foremost question. In Darjeeling, the agitation for a separate state, supported by BJP, is trying to divide the people of the hills. In other parts of northern districts, a tribal organisation has called for vote boycott though they are totally against the demand for “Gorkhaland”. BJP has also supported the divisive movement for so-called “Kamtapur” separate state. These forces, all along propped up by Congress and Trinamool Congress, are trying to arouse extreme and somewhat perverted feelings of “identity” to damage the thread of unity among the people. The leading force in the working class struggle in those areas is tea garden workers. It is they who are now coming out in a determined way to counter these forces. Every day workers’ meetings, processions are taking place in support of the Left Front candidates. The workers’ lines are strong support  bases of the Left parties. One will find streams of red flags now flying in the gardens, the flag of unity.

The coal mine areas are bursting with flurry of activities for the last one month. The CITU is deeply entrenched in large areas of Asansol-Ranigunje-Durgapur belt. The coal workers have participated in strikes and protest movements in a big way for the last five years and successfully achieved many of their demands including pay revision. One of the major demands of the people in these areas is proper maintenance of coal mines and adequate safety measures to save them from subsidence and soil erosion. The Left parties were in the forefront of these struggles. And now, the mine workers are managing the booth committees of the CPI (M) candidates and brigades are moving door to door to ensure a bigger margin of votes.  

When the Maoist-backed forces are busy in fomenting violence in Lalgarh in West Midnapore district, the young Lodhas are busy in mobilising the widest possible support for the Left front candidates in the district. One of the oldest surviving tribes, the Lodhas   were castigated at one time as “robbers” and had been denotified. Their life has changed because of the intensive efforts of the Left Front government and the panchayats. Education has spread among them and many are employed in different professions. The state government and the district council have taken special measures of welfare for their upliftment. There are about 18 thousand Lodha families in West Midnapore alone, representatives of whom met in a convention and fanned out for campaign in support of the Front.

These are only few examples of a real battlefield, far off from the air-conditioned studios of commercial media, where the results will be clinched.

The first of three phases of election in the state will take place on April 30, the second phase on May 7and the final round on May 13, 2009. But practically every nook and corner in the cities and villages have been already covered with posters, festoons and hoardings along with wall writings.