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#2894, 24 June 2009
Red Faces The Redder: Operation Lalgarh
Uddipan Mukherjee

Abjuring sophistry,Plato in his book “The Republic” says that if the form of government contradicts the character of men making the State, then it is bound to be a failure. It would be tautological to say that West Bengal is witnessing a revolution: a silent one through the ballot has just elapsed whereas a tumultuous jacquerie is ongoing. Climbing on Plato’s broad shoulders;democracy is bound to foster tyranny if it gives too much liberty. For the last three decades, the Left Front government in West Bengal gave too much liberty: not to the citizenry but to its cadres and so called “grass root” level leaders. Left Front had toed the Leninist line of making Party the vanguard: not of revolution but to entrench itself in West Bengal for eternity. Thus disintegration within the party structure and alienation from the masses started surfacing. The bloated Leftist leaders and their henchmen kept on indulging in hedonism and further alienation from the "have-nots" became the order of the day.

In fact when the CPI-M led government followed the Curzonian doctrine to divide the district of Midnapore, they had hardly envisaged the gravity of the insurgency that would erupt at Lalgarh in the West Midnapore district seven years later. Lalgarh is strategically located, at the middle of the district of West Midnapore and fairly close to the Jharkhand border towards its west; thus making it vulnerable to access by the Maoists from the Red Corridor. The Naxalites had been making inroads into West Bengal for a substantial period now. Buddhadeb-babu and his aficionados still keep on blaming the Jharkhand government for the increased activity of the Maoists in the West Midnapore,Purulia and Bankura districts of the state but forget the cases of rampant corruption of leaders like Anuj Pandey in Lalgarh. Probably these sort of leaders and their cronies compelled CPI-M leader Ashok Guria in Khejuri in East Midnapore (another trouble centre between the Trinamool Cogress-led masses and the ruling CPI-M cadres) to "admit their mistakes!"

The Left Front government was pretty much complacent regarding a Maoist insurgency in the state: lack of a Jehanabad or Nayagarh mostly bolstered their over confidence.Moreover, Buddhadeb and Biman wanted to tackle the menace with an innovative élan; by ignoring the Maoists: a move that had cost Nehru dear with the partition of the country as he kept on ignoring the rise of the Muslim League.History lessons are due for the Leftist honchos. Thus, when the Union Home Ministry advocates banning the CPI (Maoist) outfit and affected states like Chhatisgarh follow the path of Salwa Judum, the Leftists in West Bengal make an inordinate delay in responding to the "liberation"of Lalgarh. Even the CRPF and the specially trained Cobra Force were asked to come to West Bengal after protracted deliberations. Actually, the staunch belief in the fallouts of the Operation Barga of 1977 and the consequent enthronement for three decades had made the revisionist Left feel that a Maoist-led people’s rebellion in West Bengal was quixotic. The politico-administration combo had certainly bungled when the state police started to incarcerate the tribals indiscriminately after the attack on Buddhadeb’s convoy on 02 November 2008 at Salboni in West Midnapore, close to Lalgarh. The Maoists have owned up to the attack as they are against the proposed Steel Plant by Jindal in that area. Before embarking on an arresting spree and unleashing the cadre-police turbulence in the area, Buddhadeb should have remembered the Nandigram incident merely a couple of years back.

The people of Lalgarh,mostly tribals formed the People’s Committee against Police Atrocities (PCPA)and in fact under their spokesperson Chhatradhar Mahato succeeded to have the Lok Sabha elections in the area without the presence of the state police. A huge victory forsooth. Soon after the elections, the PCPA, with the covert aid of the Maoists started to gain control of the area. They rampaged the premises of the CPI-M party office, plush two-storey house of the local CPI-M leader and Binjur zonal committee secretary Anuj Pandey and the Lalgarh police station(all in the first-second week of June 2009), thus creating a “Liberated Zone”.The state government was definitely slow to retaliate since it was in a quagmire: whether to retain confidence in its well trusted cadre-cum-hooligan force which paid them rich dividends at Nandigram or to use the begging bowl in front of the bourgeoisie Union Government. Ultimately, Buddhadeb chose thelatter. 

In this scenario, the line adopted by Maoist leader Koteshwar Rao, alias Kishenjee is interesting as well as baffling. He does not rule out an alliance with the pro-people political parties of West Bengal, even with the TMC. Are the Maoists shifting from their core philosophy or is this a temporary aberration? Till date, TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee remains silent on the Lalgarh issue. This adds to the woes of the CPI-M. Whether a bloodbath can be avoided through political acumen or another Nandigram of a higher dimension would evolve, has to be keenly watched.

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