People's Democracy

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


No. 07

February 13, 2011

 Left Parties Memo to

EC on Bengal Elections


A DELEGATION of Left Party leaders led by Sitaram Yechury, CPI(M) Polit Bureau member and MP (leader, Rajya Sabha) and comprising  Nilotpal Basu,  Central Secretariat member of CPI(M), D  Raja, MP and National Council secretary, CPI, Prabodh Panda, MP, CPI, Abani Roy, MP and RSP secretary, Barun Mukherjee, MP and Central Secretariat member of AIFB submitted a memorandum to the Election Commission on February 7 in connection with the ensuing assembly elections in West Bengal.


The delegation cautioned that the collusion of the Trinamul Congress, one of the main powers in the state and a partner in the UPA government at the centre, with the so-called Maoists may have adverse impacts on the coming assembly polls in West Bengal. The delegation also brought to the Election Commission’s notice many facts about the anti-Left Front violence, indulged by the Trinamul-Maoist combination, in these districts except in Darjeeling.

Later, addressing a press conference at the A K Gopalan Bhawan in New Delhi, CPI(M) Polit Bureau member Sitaram Yechury underlined that this meeting of the Left delegation with the Election Commission was in continuation with the one on January 21. This time, the Left drew the commission’s attention, in a more concrete way, towards some areas where the cadre and supporters of the Left were being subjected to murderous assaults. Yechury emphatically pointed out that these attacks were concentrated in areas where the Left has been traditionally strong. In fact, the Trinamul-Maoist combination was, through its violence, playing the game of terrorising the people there in order to provide electoral benefits to the Trinamul Congress.

In reply to certain questions, Yechury clarified how a completely one-sided picture emerged when, following the charges labelled by the opposition, the Election Commission sent its observers to the state to take stock of the law and order situation there. Dubbing this picture as baseless, Yechury reminded that it was after the opposition had submitted a list that the Kolkata High Court had ordered the joint central-state force working in the state to find out about the so-called ‘armed camps’ of the Left and then, after having finished with the task, the CRPF commandant had publicly stated that there was no such camp in the state. It is of course true that there are camps of the people who the opposition violence in the concerned areas have uprooted from their hearth and home, and the security forces are systematically registering the names of such people. In fact, the Left expects that the Election Commission would ensure the exercise of their voting rights by the people who have been displaced from many areas in Nandigram, Khejuri, East Midnapur etc.

The CPI(M) leader also pointed out that representatives of the Left parties had tried several times to meet the Election Commission’s observers but were not allowed to do so. It was to rectify this distortion that the Left parties thought it necessary to bring the reality of the situation to the commission’s notice for the sake of free and fair elections in West Bengal. Now, Yechury said, the Election Commission has to decide as to what steps it must take to ensure free and fair elections in the state. In particular, the delegation drew the commission’s attention to the border areas of West Bengal, affected by Maoist violence, where large parts of the state adjoining Jharkhand and Orissa are forest-covered. The Maoists have thus the ease to commit murders and arson in Bengal and then take shelter in the adjoining states. In view of this fact, the Left delegation suggested to the commission that sealing Bengal’s borders with these states as soon as the elections are notified would be of much help.

Did not the Left parties’ complaints mean an indirect admission that the law and order situation in the state has gone out of the Left Front government’s control? In reply to this query, Yechury reminded that a meeting of the high police officials from the Maoist affected states has admitted that anti-Maoist struggle has registered its biggest victory in West Bengal, in particular in the Jungle Mahal area. In fact, if the Maoists are concentrating their violent campaign in West Bengal and are killing the Left cadre in a large number, it is because here the Left is mounting a serious political challenge to them. He also reminded that out of the 276 Left Front cadre killed till the day in Bengal since the Lok Sabha elections, as many as 168 were tribals whose interests the Maoists claim to protect.

At the press conference, Nilotpal Basu and other members of the delegation pointed out that having got isolated in the Jungle Mahal area, the Maoists are now trying to get a foothold in districts like Birbhum, Murshidabad and Nadia.

During its meeting with the Election Commission, the Left delegation also drew its attention to the news in the media, according to which the commission had commented that violence during elections was an old happening in West Bengal. The delegation termed this opinion as far away from the reality, saying the state has had a record of peaceful polls. Yechury said the commission had described the said news as an instance of distortion by the media.


The text of the memorandum follows:



In continuation of our representation before you dated January 21, 2011, we are presenting our specific area-wise concerns which pose a challenge for the holding of peaceful, free and fair elections for the upcoming West Bengal assembly in some parts of the state.


But, at the outset, before going into these specific facts, we would like to draw your attention to certain observations from the Election Commission.  That West Bengal elections have been historically violence-prone is a claim which is not borne out by facts.  On the contrary, West Bengal has a very positive record of peaceful elections.  Further, West Bengal’s electoral history is unique, characterised by abnormally heavy voter turnout underlining the peaceful, free and fair character with massive popular participation under the strictest scrutiny of the EC.  A number of times the Election Commission and its observers have put these on record.  Particularly during the 2006 elections, the EC had organised it under unprecedented security arrangements.  So much so, that the elections were held in five phases and both security and other election officials were largely drawn from outside the state.  Unfortunately, overlooking this history and making ahistorical observations can only lead to interpretations which will help partisan interests. 


The situation, as we had stated on January 21, is, indeed, serious in certain areas.  This is largely due to the nexus between the Maoists and the Trinamul Congress.  More developments have taken place since, which bring out the brazenness of this complicit relationship.  Now, this nexus is not operating covertly but quite in the open.  A meeting was held in Lalgarh jointly sponsored by the Trinamul Congress and the People’s Committee against Police Atrocities (PCPA) on January 30. This was addressed, amongst others, by Shishir Adhikari and Mukul Roy – both ministers of state in the union government and front-ranking TMC leaders. Both the print and the electronic media have reported banners, festoons and flags alongwith the actual presence of PCPA in the meeting.  Incidentally, PCPA has been described by the home minister as a frontal organisation of the Maoists – on the floor of the Rajya Sabha itself.  The CBI chargesheet in the Gyaneswari Express tragedy has established the involvement of the PCPA in the gruesome incidents where deliberate sabotage had led to the death of 150 innocent people.  On January 31, two Maoists were apprehended from the so-called relief camp run by the TMC in the Congress-TMC led Midnapur municipality’s Guest House.  Communications with the top Maoist leadership, including Kishanji, were recovered from these arrested Maoists.  Media has also reported that questioning of these two have led to the recovery of firearms and ammunition which were hidden under the ground. 


The open involvement of a major political force which is a part of the UPA coalition at the centre with the Maoists may adversely affect the coming election process.  This will create difficulties for the maintenance of a peaceful atmosphere, despite the state administration’s best efforts. Efforts by the administration have led to recovery of a large cache of firearms and other lethal weapons.  The joint security operations have also been able to largely restore normalcy in large parts of the affected districts. However, the new feature, as stated above, is the open complicity between the TMC and Maoists that makes the task of the security forces more difficult as seen in the resistance to arrest of two Maoists from the TMC relief camp and the subsequent insinuations by the TMC against the police administration.


We would like to further inform the Election Commission that the joint forces have conducted a thorough search for the so-called `armed camps’ on the basis of a list submitted by the opposition before the High Court.  The Commandant of the CRPF has publicly gone on record that the operations did not establish the existence of `armed camps’, but people evicted by violence were found to be living in those camps and that their names were being listed systematically by the security forces.  Arrangements must be made by the EC to ensure that such displaced voters in areas like Nandigram, Khejuri and other parts of East Midnapur are allowed to exercise their franchise.  However, the improvement of the situation has not been able to stop `individual annihilation’ of CPI(M) and Left cadre which continue to take place.  In fact, since the noise over `armed camps’ reached a crescendo more than a dozen Left activists have been killed by the Maoists.  One cannot escape an uncomfortable conclusion that such propaganda of disinformation has only emboldened the TMC-Maoist to mount greater terror.  On this February 4, a CPI(M) sympathiser, Baidyanath Jana, an employee of a school was shot dead by the TMC-Maoist nexus in Nayagram, in the Jangal Mahal area of West Midnapur district. 


Given this, the first specific concern  arises from the  geographic features of the state with its long  borders with Jharkhand and Orissa.  In fact, these borders are  in many cases under forest cover.  Therefore, it is that much easier   for the Maoists to cross over and conduct operations.  The Ayodhya hills  and its adjoining blocks  of Purulia district like Bandwan, Balrampur, Arsha, Baghmundi, Jhalda-I and II and Jaipur  are particularly vulnerable from the security point of view.  Similarly, Khairasol, Rajnagar, Mohd Bazar, Rampurhat, Nalhati of Birbhum district have borders with Jharkhand. Of late, as the situation improved in Jangalmahal, increased operations by Maoists have been noticed in Birbhum, Murshidabad and Nadia districts.  It is necessary for the EC to address this question of vulnerability in the border areas from a security point of view and may be consider the sealing of the state borders from the time of announcement of elections.


Further, we would like to draw the attention of the EC to specific assembly segments, villages and gram panchayats where terror has been let loose with an arms build up.   We are attaching as annexure detailed district-wise information. 


Unfortunately, the visit of the set of observers to study law and order exclusively on the basis of allegations by the opposition has created some doubts in the minds of the people.  During the visit of the observers, there are complaints that even after specific efforts were made, the representatives of Left parties could not meet these observers.  This was most particularly evident in Purba Midnapur  district. 


We hope that the Election Commission will initiate appropriate steps to address these concerns to instill the required sense of confidence.


                                                 (Annexures have not been reproduced here – Ed)