Guest post by BISWAJIT ROY
Civil society, including human rights groups, in Bengal are now divided on Mamata Banerjee government’s ‘open and hidden’ conditions regarding the release of political prisoners who have been jailed during the Left front rule as well as talks with Maoists and Maoist-backed Peoples Committee against Police Atrocities in Bengal’s tribal hinterland, known as Junglemahal.
Mamata and her ministers have rejected the demands for unconditional release of all political prisoners, immediate withdrawal of joint forces from Junglemahal and public announcement on non-enforcement of the draconian central law, the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. Maoists and PCPA have accused Mamata of eating up her pre-poll words on those demands. A large section in the human rights movement including the intellectuals and activists who actively joined the Mamata-led campaign for regime-change now supported these demands. But some of their fellow travellers have differed on political and legal grounds.
The differences revealed contradictions between the pre-poll and post-poll positions of Mamata as well as chinks in the armour of human rights groups on the attitude to the new government, Maoists and PCPA. Tension among all the stakeholders in the process— Mamata, Maoists, human rights groups and individuals— was well-known within the concerned circles for quite some time. But none of the stakeholders dwelt on it in public before the assembly polls when they had made common cause against the CPM, particularly, the atrocities by CPM-joint forces combine.
I would like to dwell on post-poll dilemmas and fissures in the pro-Paribartan civil society in Bengal later. But this piece is primarily aimed at reporting the increasing manifestations of the hitherto latent tension.
My hand trembles as I write again. To say that it is murder, mass murder and we cannot remain silent when faced with such horror. I do not know who is responsible for this and what caused it. Was it a bomb blast or tempering with the fish plates which derailed the Gyaneshwari Express train near Midnapur in Bengal? Who did it? Was the PCPA involved as claimed by criminally inefficient police of Bengal citing two posters owning the blasts? Or it was not, as claimed by its spokesperson Asit Mahto? How do we condemn the deaths of ‘innocent civilians’ when we do not know the source of violence? Is it not a possibility that some actors, covertly sponsored by the state did it to further defame theCPI(Moist)? Or could it be the handiwork of the CPI( Marxist) which has an ability to organize violence in Bengal again to besmirch the revolutionary reputation of the CPI( Maoist) and also to justify a military campaign against them? Continue reading Death of the Ignorant
This guest post by MONOBINA GUPTA is the original of the article published in The Times of India today.
Monobina’s book on Left politics, Postcards from the Margins, is in press with Orient Blackswan, forthcoming in 2010.
The Delhi bound Rajdhani Express held up by supposed ‘Maoists’ for seven hours in West Medinipore had emblazoned on its body: Chhatradhar Mahato is a good man. He is not a criminal.
People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCPA) Chief Mahato was put behind bars in the aftermath of waves of violence lashing West Bengal post 2009 general election results. There was speculation that the PCPA was demanding Mahato’s release. Equally, there was curiosity about Mahato who till a couple of months ago, did not seem to fit the bill of a gun-toting Maoist, a cold-blooded executioner.
When I met Mahato in Lalgarh on the eve of general elections in March earlier this year, he spoke a democratic language far removed from guns and killings. On my arrival that day I found Lalgarh abuzz with news of police picking up three villagers supposedly Maoists, and a murdered PCPA activist. Mahato was in the midst of an organizational meeting under a tree in Lalgarh’s sublime, verdant surroundings. A tall, lanky man, smartly dressed, with a pair of sunglasses to beat the piercing July sun he was sitting with his comrades putting inside envelopes hand-written notices for PCPA’s next public meeting. Brother of Sashadhar Mahato, a Maoist fugitive, Chhatradhar was catapulted to the PCPA leadership virtually overnight, following a brutal police attack on villagers in the aftermath of a Maoist plot targetting Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.
Mahato said he would talk to me after lunch. The PCPA was running a community kitchen inside a mud hut where activists had their meals – rice and vegetable curry. This was where I met Mahato relaxed, lying down on the refreshingly cold mud floor.
Continue reading An encounter with Chhatradhar Mahato: Monobina Gupta
[This is a guest post by SANTOSH RANA, one of the legendary leaders of the Naxalite revolt in 1967. Rana lead one of the important CPI(ML) groups that is active in the Jharkhand region. Here he writes of the Lalgarh and the Maoists. The post was written sometime ago. It gives a more nuanced picture of the different strands and phases of the movement, including the PCPA phase.]
Lalgarh lies in Jhargram sub-division of West Medinipur district of West Bengal. It is part of the Paschimanchal (western zone) of the state and is an extension of Chhotanagpur plateau. With its laterite soil of low water-retention capacity and Sal-Mahua forests, the area differs from the Bengal plains both geographically and culturally. It is indeed a part of the Jharkhand cultural region. Nearly 30 percent of the population are Scheduled Tribes (ST), 20 percent Scheduled Castes (SC) and the rest are communities like Kudmi-Mahatos, Telis, Kumbhars, Bagals, Rajus, Tamblis, Khandaits and others. The Kudmi-Mahatos are the biggest among the rest, who had been treated as ST till 1935 when they were de-scheduled. The Mahatos, Bagals and some other communities are actually semi-tribals who have been partly Sanskritised but still retain their tribal characteristics; now they are treated as Other Backward Classes (OBC). There are other OBC communities like Kumbhar, Tanti, Teli and others. But in West Bengal, benefits for OBCs started not only late but also unenthusiastically. Even today, there is very little reservation – only 7 percent, and that too in the government jobs only – given to the OBCs here. The OBCs are not given any reservation in higher education. The SC communities living in the region ( Bagdi, Dom, Jele, Mal and Bauri etc) are so backward that they are unable to get government or semi-government jobs through reservation. The tribals constitute 30 percent of the population Jhargram sub-division, but in local jobs, they are given only 6 percent reservations – the stipulated quota for the STs at the state level.
Continue reading A People’s Uprising Destroyed by The Maoists: Santosh Rana