(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
June 28, 2009
Efforts On To Restore Normalcy
FOLLOWING the joint operations launched by the central and the state security forces to clear the siege laid by the Maoists in Lalgarh and other areas in the West Midnapore district in West Bengal, the situation is fast returning to normalcy. Clearly, the Maoists have not succeeded, even partially like in Nandigram, in using the innocent terrorised tribals, particularly women and children, as human shields to face the advance of the security forces. Following the kidnapping of the seven CPI(M) leaders by the Maoists on June 7, there was a virtual exodus of the tribals from the area, some estimate as high as 30,000. Media reports those fleeing fearing Maoist terror as saying “they (Maoists) used to force women and children to stand in the front during the police attacks,” “We do not want to face police bullets as the Maoists want us to” etc. The state government has organised large-scale relief for these terrorised tribals who are now lodged in relief camps by providing free rice and vegetables as well as cooked food. Additional personnel have been dispatched to strengthen the health facilities at the Lalgarh government hospital.
Much is being said about the neglect by the West Bengal Left Front government of development in the tribal areas in the state. During the election campaign, Mr Rahul Gandhi also stated that many tribal areas in Bengal were more backward than the most backward regions of Orissa. We had then shown that the areas of Bankura and Purulia, in fact, had better socio-economic indicators than Amethi or Rae Bareli. That apart, both the tribal reserved Lok Sabha seats in the state have been retained by the Left Front notwithstanding defeats elsewhere. Needless to say that much more needs to be done for raising the livelihood standards of the tribals. The state government is initiating many new programmes.
There is, however, a specific problem in West Midnapore which is preventing much of the developmental activities from reaching the tribal population. A majority of the developmental works in West Bengal are routed through the elected panchayats. Many panchayats in the Lalgarh area are led by the Jharkhand Party. They have been the main obstacle in the implementation of many of these programmes and facilitated the entry of the Maoists. The MLA of the Binpur (ST) constituency also belongs to Jharkhand Party. Lalgarh falls under this constituency. Clearly, there was a political motivation to utilise the hapless tribals as fodder for the Maoist activities by perpetuating their backwardness. Hopefully, with the vacation of the Maoist `liberated zone', the much-needed and much-delayed benefits of developmental work will reach the tribals.
Much is also been made about the CPI(M) and the Left Front's approach to the ban on the Maoists. To put the record straight, the CPI(M) has always maintained that the Maoist violence must be met through a dual strategy. On the one hand, efforts must be made to politically isolate them by addressing the real issues of improvement of the livelihood of the population, in this case the tribals. A political solution is the only enduring solution possible. At the same time, any break-down in law and order or attacks launched by the Maoists to paralyse the administration must be firmly met to restore normalcy and the rule of civic administration.
In this specific instance, the union government has added CPI(Maoist) to the schedule of banned organisations under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. This comes with an explanation that as the existing list includes the People's War Group (PWG) and the Marxist Coordination Centre (MCC) which have merged to form the CPI(Maoist), therefore, the latter has now been added to the list. This is a decision applicable to the entire country and, therefore, equally applicable in West Bengal. However, as the chief minister has said, “As this is a central Act, we have to accept it. But we will decide where to apply the Act and against whom”.
With increasing evidence of the support extended by the Maoists to the Trinamool Congress (TMC) and vice versa, as corroborated by the public statements and media interviews of Maoist leaders themselves, this decision by the central government, of which the TMC is a part, to ban the Maoists, has put the TMC in an untenable situation. Unable to defend or deny their collaboration with the Maoists and the fact that they utilised the Maoist terror for their electoral advantage, the TMC is now shouting hoarse against the so-called `double standards' of the CPI(M). It is now becoming increasingly clear to the common people that the TMC had forged a grand alliance of all reactionary elements including the Maoists against the CPI(M) and the Left Front in the recent elections. The consequence of this has been unnecessary and unprecedented harassment and terrorisation of the common people. The TMC had put the people at the mercy of the Maoists for electoral gains.
Some `intellectuals' who had rallied with the grand alliance forged by the TMC, including the Maoists, had sought to mediate by informing the people that the Maoists are willing for talks if the government announces a truce and stops the security forces from clearing the area and restoring normalcy. The state government has made it abundantly clear that no talks can take place until the Maoists surrender their arms and abjure from violence and terror.
The West Bengal government, in the meanwhile, in an effort to protect the tribals from possible harassment by the security forces has issued a press note informing that the commands of all forces have been asked to prohibit security personnel from roping in the local population to locate and deactivate the landmines laid by the Maoists. It is now clear that the Maoists had laid landmines over vast tracks of this area virtually declaring a `war'.
It is now becoming increasingly clear that such cynical use of terror for electoral gains only jeopardises civil society mounting untoward misery on the people. It is such politics that need to be defeated while firmly meeting the challenge mounted by the Maoists and restoring normalcy and civic order.
June 24, 2009