The inevitable has happened. As soon as the election results came out and the wall of fear collapsed and mass anger against the ruling CPM became evident, the Maoists waiting in the wings have come out into the open. However, what is happening today in Lalgarh and other parts of West Bengal cannot be justified by pointing at the CPM’s totalitarian terror in the Bengal countryside.
According to reports, the violence, killings of CPM activists and members, especially in Lalgarh, has now acquired unprecedented proportions. CPM members are being driven out of their homes or killed. The offices of the party have been targeted on a large scale, not just in Lalgarh but elsewhere in West Bengal.
At Kafila, we had earlier, on 22 April, reported on what is going on in Lalgarh. That Maoists have been active in Lalgarh is well known. In this report filed after a visit to Lalgarh, Monobina Gupta had drawn attention towards the disjunction between the Maoist leadership’s designs and the local Maoist activists who were having to work along with the popular sentiment. Monobina’s report went further:
In fact, curiously enough, the situation on ground zero is not going exactly in accordance with the plans of Maoist central leaders who favour stepping up violence. Insiders talk about a growing discordance between the central leadership and the ‘Maoist villager’, active in the movement. With the agitation forging ahead, Maoist central leaders want to have a firmer grip; they want landmines, killings, terror, systematic targeting of informers. But the grassroots ‘Maoist’ worker is unwilling. “They realize any such violent action will lead to their isolation and the death of the movement. But Maoist central leaders believe they made the movement and should have the right to control it,” said an insider. “One of the reasons villagers are sympathetic to Maoists is because they know them intimately, not as some distant commander, but the youth next door, who works for and with the poor. But violence would find little endorsement,” he said.
Today, in the aftermath of the elections, the design of the Maoist central leadership seems to have won the day. Maoist cadre are out in the open. Activists associated with the movement and with the Lalgarh Sanhati Mancha, confess to a feeling of helplessness as the armed Maoist cadre threaten to take over and derail the movement that has so far afforded little space to its politics of violence.
In some of our earlier posts, we had condemned Maoist violence in Chattisgarh, especially its threats against the human shields programme of the Vanvasi Chetna Ashram and the wanton killings by them in Nayagarh in Orissa (22 February 2008). The latter was a statement issued by eleven intellectuals and activists who had also been raising their voice against the Nandigram violence. This statement expressed its “complete opposition to this cult of violence” and had warned that
The Maoist atrocity in Nayagarh is particularly unfortunate as it is detrimental to the various democratic mass movements all over Orissa that are resisting the policies of land grab and diversion of natural resources to global and domestic corporations. The Orissa government is bound to use this incident as yet another excuse to crack down on the militant but non-violent struggles of the people against unjust development policies in the state.
Today, once again, in West Bengal this is the threat that the democratic mass movement faces. Maoist violence is once again set to eliminate every intermediate space of democratic protest and struggle, leaving the villagers with only two options: either line up with the state or follow the Maoists. This is the picture everywhere, wherever the Maoists are in command, from Chattisgarh to parts of Andhra and Orissa. That is the challenge before democratic struggles and public opinion today.