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Lalgarh, Media and the Maoists: Monobina Gupta

Guest Post by MONOBINA GUPTA

[As this report is filed, reports have come in that the CPI-M has finally managed to enter Lalgarh and hold its first public meeting since 2 November 2008, when the police first arrested seven young students from Lalgarh, sparking off a revolt. No machine guns were fired, no mines were blasted – even though we are supposed to believe that the area is a ‘liberated area’ of the Maoists. See our earlier report, written soon after the revolt began. Even as we post this, more reports – mostly from West Bengal government and police sources, are being suddenly being published of ‘unrest’ spreading to ‘more Maoist areas’, and an atmosphere is sought to be created for an eventual justification of government and party sponsored violence.]

Assembly in Lalgarh - Armed Maoists? Photo, courtesy sanhati.com
Assembly in Lalgarh – Armed Maoists? Photo: courtesy sanhati.com

For five months now Lalgarh has been practicing a unique form of democratic politics. To the ruling CPI-M in West Bengal and the big media however, it has been nothing but a Maoist-sponsored agitation with portents of Maoist style violence. Except Bengal media, national print and television, have by and large kept Lalgarh out of their ambit of coverage. If at all news has trickled in, it has come tagged with ‘Maoists’ and ‘violence’; as if tribals in this forgotten part of Medinipur, the past five months, have been stocking up arms and laying ambushes to wage a war against the state.

A front-page article in the Times of India (TOI) today (April 22, 2009) sticks to this format describing Lalgarh as “Nandigram II, a liberated zone” where an explosive situation is building up with elections scheduled for April 30 and the Pulishi Santrash Birodhi Janashadharaner Committee (People’s Committee against Police Atrocities) refusing to allow the police to enter Lalgarh. “The police can’t enter here. Nor are other government officials welcome. This has been the situation for the last six months.”

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