(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
May 15, 2011
Jangal Mahal Polls: Peace and
Development are Main Issues
THE killers have been driven out into the jungles but the scars of their barbarity still hangs like a dark cloud over Lalgarh and surrounding areas in Jhargram assembly constituency in West Midnapore district. A pervading sense of fear is palpable among the people, as also – and more strongly – a sense of yearning for peace and return to normalcy and development in the region.
Uddharam Mondal, a poor agricultural labourer in Lalgarh, told People’s Democracy that if the elections on May 10 are allowed to be held in a free and fair manner, this yearning for peace would find reflection in greater number of votes for the Left Front. His rider of “if” is a valid one because even today the collaborators of 'Maoist' killers, the Trinamool and PCPA workers, are silently carrying out a terror threat campaign in the villages: “We have secret cameras in the polling booths. If you vote for CPI(M), you will meet the same gory death as hundreds of other CPI(M) cadre and supporters had, after elections.”
The CPI(M) campaign in this region is hence focussed on instilling confidence among the voters to come out and vote fearlessly for the Left Front on May 10 in order to permanently establish peace in the region. Party district secretary and state secretariat member, Professor Dipak Sarkar, held meetings and rallies in Ramgarh, Lalgarh and Belatikri as part of this effort on May 6, 2011.
Travelling with him to Lalgarh, we passed through many areas that form the narrative of the reign of terror and the heroic resistance to it. First was Enayatpur village and the CPI(M) run refugee camp for those who had to leave villages following 'Maoist'-TMC terror. The 'Maoists' attempt to attack the camp itself on September 21, 2009, led by Kishenji, was rebuffed and they had to beat a hasty retreat. This had marked an important milestone in the people's fightback against forces of terror. Next on our way was Dherua village, in whose adjoining forests 'Maoists' had established a weapons training camp. Dharampur village was witness to the gruesome massacre of 13 CPI(M) leaders and workers on a single night of June 14, 2009, post Lok Sabha polls. The 'Maoists' barbarity was such that after killing a poor tribal CPI(M) worker Salku Soren in front of Party local committee office in Dharampur, they did not allow the removal of his body. It was left to rot for five days on the road.
We saw a host
The first meeting of Dipak Sarkar was in Ramgarh gram panchayat at 9:30 a.m. There were around 1200 people attending it. Sarkar spoke at length against the terror politics and how it is affecting people's lives and development of the region. He appealed to them to come out and vote fearlessly. Given the sense of fear among the people, after the meeting, a rally was taken out through the village centre led by the CPI(M) leaders. Slogans against the 'Maoists'-TMC combine's violence rent out strongly. Similarly the meetings in Lalgarh and Belatikri were followed by marches in the villages in hot sun. The efforts to instill confidence in the people of these terrorised areas of Jhargram constituency seemed to be fruitful.
It is the nearest family members of the victims of 'Maoist'-Trinamool-PCPA combine's barbarity who are in the forefront of the efforts to dispel fear among masses in the jangal mahal area. Belatikri, near Lalgarh, had witnessed innumerable barbaric killings by these goons. One such victim was Tapan Dulai, a 42 year old poor peasant who was the Belatikri CPI(M) local committee member. After the takeover of these villages by the 'Maoist' goons, he had left the village and stayed in a refugee camp for long. Just on the eve of Durga Puja, the main festival of Bengalis, he decided to visit his family on October 12, 2010. The next day morning he went to the fields and began tending to the land when a killer squad of 'Maoists', tipped off by local Trinamoolis, pounced on him and shot him in the neck, resulting in instant death.
Ashtami Dulai, widow of Tapan Dulai, shared the dais with CPI(M) district secretary Professor Dipak Sarkar when he addressed an election meeting in Belatikri. The meeting was being held in front of Dulai's two room modest home in the village. Her son, Bikash Dulai, a college student, also participated in the election meeting and marched along with others, raising slogans decrying 'Maoist'-TMC atrocities and seeking peace in the region. Ashtami Dulai, when asked why she was participating in the CPI(M) election rally, said that her husband had no enemies at all in the village but was killed just because he worked for the CPI(M). “I am not afraid of attending this meeting. I have already lost my everything. I want the people of village to live in peace. We have seen too much violence”, she said. Ashtami Dulai's courage and example is sure to instil confidence in the people to go out and vote on May 10 for return of durable peace in jangal mahal. They have seen enough gruesomeness when the Maoists in their initial days beheaded a CPI(M) worker, Mihir Ahir, and placed the severed head on the road in Paloi Ganga, near Belatikri.
Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banarjee addressing her first election campaign meeting in Midnapore town on May 5 unleashed a barrage of lies. She claimed incredibly that "CPM and Maoists are the face and the mask. During the daytime they are the Marxists and in the night they are Maoists." She also said that it is the CPI(M) that is terrorising the people of jangal mahal and driving them out of their homes. Continuing in that fashion, she asserted that she does not want this bloodshed to continue and that peace can return only when TMC-Congress government is formed.
Even the hardcore of Trinamool supporters can easily see that these are naked lies. After actively aiding the killing of over 256 CPI(M) leaders and activists in just West Midnapore district alone since 2008, Trinamool chief had the gall to say this. Repeated proof of Trinamool and 'Maoist' nexus has been available to the people. As recently as January 30 of this year, two 'Maoists', Ashim Mahato and Amiya Mahato, were arrested by the police from the town municipality guest house. It is to be noted that the Trinamool had won the Midnapore municipality in the 2010 municipal polls. These two were wanted by the police in connection with Shilda incident in which 24 members of the Eastern Frontier Rifles were killed by 'Maoists' on February 15, 2010. Mamata Banarjee initially charged that the police wrongfully arrested them but when details of their confession of participating in the attack on EFR camp came out, she fell silent. Earlier, she has so many times shared the dais with leaders of the 'Maoist' front PCPA.
Another instance of this collobaration is in the following case. Sumitra Chalak, 29 year old woman, is waiting for her husband Swapan Chalak to be found since the last one and half year. Swapan, a poor agricultural labourer, was a CPI(M) supporter but not a Party member. For that crime, he was kidnapped by the 'Maoist' goons on December 6, 2009 in her presence from their home in Bhusa village in Midnapore Sadar block. In fact, when she pleaded for release of her husband by falling at the goons feet, she was physically beaten up. They took him into the jungles, and till date there is no trace of him. Like Chabhi Mahato, the brave ICDS worker whose body was dug out from a grave much later, it can be assumed that Chalak has also been killed and buried somewhere in the jungles. But Sumitra is still hopeful. She is usually composed but when her two boys, aged 9 years and 4 years, ask about their father, she cant restrain her tears. Swapan Chalok's mother died of heart attack a few months after her son's kidnap.
The 'Maoist' killer squad was led to the house of Swapan Chalak by local Trinamool worker Nimayi Singh, who was later arrested by the police and remanded to judicial custody. Recently, around two months back he was released on bail. Trinamool Congress leader and presently its candidate from Midnapore constituency, Mrigen Maity, personally escorted this goon back into the village. Trinamool chief Mamata Banarjee who is going around saying there are no 'Maoists' in jangal mahal and that CPI(M) and Maoists are one and the same needs to answer why her candidate is escorting the 'Maoist' accomplice.
Mamata Banarjee is trying to use the contest of the jailed PCPA leader Chhatradhar Mahato in Jhargram constituency – despite TMC fielding a candidate from there – to propagate that they have no connection with 'Maoists'. But it would not cut any ice with the people because it is an open secret that both are working hand in hand. It is reliably learnt that in a secret meeting around six months ago between TMC and 'Maoist' representatives, it was agreed that the TMC will leave three to four seats to the Maoist frontal organisation, PCPA, in jangal mahal area.
The modus operandi, it seems, was that PCPA nominees will contest as TMC candidates in these seats. Accordingly, candidates for Nayagram, Gopiballabpur, Salboni and Jhargram were left to 'Maoist'/PCPA to nominate. Churamani Mahato, who is believed to have worked as a 'Maoist' squad member, is the TMC candidate in Gopiballabpur. Similarly, Srikant Mahato, who was arrested for supplying arms to 'Maoists', and is presently on bail, is the TMC candidate in Salboni constituency. However, when they wanted to nominate Chhatradhar Mahato for Jhargram constituency, it seems Mamata opposed it saying that his candidature may put focus on TMC-'Maoist' relationship since he was a famous and known 'Maoist' frontman. The 'Maoist'/PCPA leaders did not relent and thus a difference arose only on this seat. Despite open criticism of Chhatradhar Mahato by Mamata, there is every possibility of a last minute agreement between the two to transfer votes to defeat the CPI(M) candidate in Jhargram.
The 14 assembly seats in jangal mahal area, seven constituencies of West Midnapore district alone, three of Bankura district and four of Purulia district, went to polls in the last phase on May 10. The polling went off largely peacefully except for few incidents of violence. The EC had deployed maximum numbers of security personnel in the areas, so that they can combat and tackle all possible attacks. 656 companies of Central Paramilitary Forces, 3 helicopters for aerial surveillance, quick response teams, mine detectors and a host of other arrangements were in place to ensure peaceful poll.
May 10, 2011