[Guest post by MONOBINA GUPTA. As things begin to change on the ground in West Bengal, the irresponsible attempts by both the Maoists and the Trinamool Congress, to take over and ‘represent’ the popular discontent, in order to legitimize their own brand/s of politics, can only benefit the CPI-M. The alternative to the CPI-M, it might appear, are the Maoists – a sure put off , even for large sections supporting the Singur and Nandigram struggles. AN]
A deadly ambush executed by Maoists earlier this month has given the badgered West Bengal chief minister a god-sent opportunity to deflect attention from the burgeoning resistance in Nandigram-Singur to the more chilling phenomenon of ‘red terror.’
The story runs somewhat like this …
It was a lazy Sunday afternoon in the first week of November. West Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, for the first time in months, was looking pleased with himself returning from an inauguration of a Rs 35,000 crore steel plant at Shalboni in West Medinipur.
He had a high-powered delegation including union steel minister Ram Vilas Paswan, Lok Sabha MPs Jitin Prasada, Naveen Jindal, industrialist Sajjan Jindal traveling in the convoy which suddenly ran headlong into a deadly trap of ambush lying in wait among the lush fields by the side of the road.
The Maoists had struck. Just a couple of days earlier they had killed a senior CPI-M leader in the neighbouring Banspahari area of Belpahari block.
This time their target Bhattacharjee and the big wigs escaped by a whisker. Three policemen were seriously injured. The jeep looked like it was pounded by ballistic missiles.
The ambush was strategised and executed with a stunning precision – all the more so in view of the fact that the state police, preparing for the inauguration of the steel plant had inspected and cordoned off the area a day before. The entire operation panned a large stretch of the area, cutting through fields, roads and villages.
A 1,200 metre long explosive wire ran from the bomb-pit, through the fields towards a mound near railway tracks. According to a report, “Investigators believe the bomb was ignited from the mound, helped by scouts who might have positioned themselves in the paddy fields and signalled their comrades near the railway tracks”.
For Buddhadeb the action could not have been better-timed. His adversaries have become his ‘saviours’.
Singur was on a boil, the first time since the Tatas beat a retreat, that afternoon when the ambush exploded in face of the state government. CPI-M supporters swinging lathis and rods strutted on the road, barring entry of Trinamul Congress leaders to Singur, where Mamata Bannerjee was to address a meeting. In the full view of television cameras the mob attacked the car carrying Trinamool Congress leader Partha Chatterjee. The rods swung wildly –windows of the car broke into glass shards – the mob wanted more. Chatterjee turned back. The CPI-M, of course, claimed it was the ‘jobless youths’ who were protesting as the Save Nano Committee.
Just when the resistance catalysed by the Nandigram-Singur violence seemed headed for some kind of a ‘destination’ – perhaps the first time in 31 years, the Maoists have thrown a spanner in the works. All eyes are now riveted on the sensational red terror which needs no introductory preface in West Bengal; a land awash with violence during the naxal movement in the late 60s and early 70s.
The middle classes are petrified at the mere mention of Naxals. Bhattacharjee will use all his trappings of power and skills of imagination to reinforce that fear by driving home the threat posed by the Maoists in West Bengal.
The red terror brigade, not believing in violence-free over-ground political movements and mobilizations do not really give a damn if they are spiking the Nandigram-Singur resistance – a movement that that does not have to scurry for cover. Functioning only and only by stealth, Maoists have vanished after the ambush, leaving tribals to face the wolves.
Stung by the precision of the ambush, the state police combed the villages, rounding up, as always innocents. According to reports, seven people, including three school going children were arrested in the immediate aftermath of the blast. In protest tribals in Lalgar dug up roads blocking off the entry of police. Here was Buddhadeb’s chance. The chief minister has asked the center for central reserve police force to ‘control’ the situation.
I have no doubts we will hear in the coming days the familiar incantations of the ‘outsider-conspiracy’ theory in the statements and speeches of CPI-M leaders in Bengal and Delhi. Even as the last bullet short was ringing out in Nandigram – party bosses – Prakash Karat to Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee – were racheting up fears of a terrible conspiracy that was hatched by outsiders – particularly Maoists – to sabotage industrialization.
Maoists have now given the CPI-M the chance to militarise districts – Mediniur, Bankura, Purulia – known to be safe harbours –for the armed brigade.
This may sound strange. But Maoists and the CPI- M despite their bitter rivalry seem enjoined like twins with a common purpose : Turn to mud a democratic movement of resistance against the ruling party in West Bengal.
Monobina Gupta is a senior journalist, formerly with The Telegraph and IANS. She is currently working on a book on the Left and West Bengal.