By Nilotpal Basu
ULTIMATELY, the truth has come out. Not that it was not known; but now that it has come straight from the, so to say, horse’s mouth; the chief minister of West Bengal and the Trinamool Congress supremo has eventually lashed out at the ‘Maoists’ for their heinous crime of engineering the Ganeshwari Express tragedy which took the toll of 148 innocent lives. Contrary to what she has been claiming all this while that the CPI(M) and the Left was responsible for the tragedy to defame her and the Railway ministry – she has ultimately conceded that it was clearly the handiwork of the ‘Maoists’.
What is the provocation for this belated ‘discovery’? Two activists of the Trinamool Congress had been gunned down by a ‘Maoist’ squad in a hamlet on the foothills of Ajodhya in Purulia district – an integral part of the jangal mahal area in West Bengal which continues to remain infested by ‘Maoist’ activity. There is no doubt that these were murders most vile and all right thinking people would condemn these with all the strength that one can muster. The bodies of these hapless victims were brought to Kolkata and in front of the statue of Mahatma Gandhi – the `apostle of peace’ – that the chief minister blurted out her ‘pearls of wisdom’.
The travails of the TMC and its maverick supremo are not only bizarre as one would think. It is at the same time extremely sinister. The growth of the ‘Maoists’ – obviously, not in terms of popular support but its depredations and mindless violence in the districts adjoining the Jharkhand and Orissa borders – was quite strange. Any avid reading of the history of Left adventurism in the country makes one to come to an interesting conclusion. While Naxalbari was the cradle of the Left adventurist movement in the country and the CPI(M) and the Left suffered most due to its violence in the late sixties and early seventies, the movement completely petered out, particularly after the Left Front assumed office in West Bengal in 1977. The agrarian reforms and the protection and consolidation of the democratic rights of the working people completely isolated the Naxalites in the state. The resumption of their activities in early parts of the first decade of the new century started as armed incursions from Jharkhand initially and later on from Orissa. The thickly forested jungles on the borders of these states provided the natural cover, as well as, the strategic base that the ‘Maoists’ needed to move on to West Bengal.
The Left had from the very beginning, maintained that the ‘Maoist’ movement cannot be treated merely as a challenge to law and order. Their involvement in these forest fringe areas was not because of their compassion for the poor and the tribals who suffered from locational disadvantage and consequent comparative lack of development. Despite this, the agrarian reforms and other benefits of decentralisation had expanded social sector development. It is because of this, the Left had always been politically strong in these areas. Premised on these experiences, the Left, therefore, argued for facing the challenge of ‘Maoist’ violence through a three pronged response; first, on the question of targeted socio-economic development, secondly on the question of political-ideological offensive to isolate them from the people- and finally, based on these two, to initiate administrative actions of the security forces that would finally be successful in containing the violence.
As opposed to this, the central government had always pitched for all out administrative confrontation. The home minister, P Chidambaram, the fountainhead of such an exclusively confrontationist approach even mooted the idea of deploying the military and the air force to snuff out the ‘Maoists’.
However, the maverick TMC supremo was totally opposed to the very idea of taking on the ‘Maoists’. Because she understood that in order to undermine and weaken the Left in these areas which have traditionally been the bastion of the Left, the ‘Maoists’ could prove to be her hatchet men. The ‘Maoists’ – the opportunists that they are – found these to be extremely convenient. Their complete ideological bankruptcy and penchant for military strategy created conditions for the coming together of these two forces. West Bengal’s recent history – from the ‘Maoists’ involvement in the Nandigram agitation and the present West Bengal chief minister’s open dalliance with the ‘Maoists’ in Lalgarh - the alliance was eventually made official. The media savvy ‘Maoist’ Polit Bureau member Kishanji announced from behind his masked face that the ‘Maoists’ would love to see the TMC supremo as the next chief minister of West Bengal in an interview to Ananda Bazar Patrika before elections.
This was music to her ears. This made her to claim that there are no ‘Maoists’ in West Bengal. And, she was not even acknowledging the killings of hundreds of CPI(M) and Left activists and leaders who were being snuffed out by these ‘Maoist’ marauders. And, she did everything possible to politically delegitimise the operation of the state and central joint security forces to protect the life and livelihood of innocent citizens who were at the receiving end of the mindless ‘Maoist’ violence.
The complicity was so complete that while the ‘Maoists’ had hijacked a train, the Rajdhani Express, the Railways under her charge did not even mention the ‘Maoist’ involvement in the complaint that the department filed. And, finally, came the shocking allegation in the wake of the Gyaneshwari tragedy. Not only did she claim that these gruesome deaths of the Ganeshwari passengers were not the result of ‘Maoist’ depredation but actually they have been done by the CPI(M) and the Left to discredit the Railway Ministry! The intellectuals – the `civil society’ her close band of trumpeters for `political change’ in fact went a step further. They actually called a press conference on the eve of a crucial municipal election in Kolkata and directly charged the CPI(M) of engineering the tragedy. These intellectuals – of whom some are now even part of the cabinet of the present West Bengal government – justified their position by claiming that ‘Maoists’ did not explicitly take the responsibility for the incident.
Now that the TMC supremo has assumed the chief minister’s office, she has to reconcile with the harsh cold reality. She thought that the zeal with which the ‘Maoists’ had worked overtime to see her in the office that she holds today would continue to do so even after the objective has been secured. But, as we know, the ‘Maoists’ show extreme opportunism in siding with this or that bourgeois political party for carrying on with violent methods to physically eliminate all political opposition. The ‘Maoists’ clearly had an agenda that they would use the TMC to ensure the physical elimination of the CPI(M) and the Left to facilitate their own physical stranglehold over a region which had remained a bastion of the Left.
CHICKENS COME HOME TO ROOST
But, now the chickens have come home to roost. The latest dramatic turn of events saw the felling of that very ‘Maoist’ leader who once wanted to anoint the TMC supremo as the incumbent chief minister of West Bengal. This is the real irony. The operation of the joint security forces which was held back for almost five months had to be ultimately allowed since the ‘Maoists’ were not sparing the TMC functionaries once they had been able to regroup with the relief that the new government had provided. The process of the so-called negotiations which was bound to fail because of the pan Indian nature of the ‘Maoist’ activity also further emboldened them.
It is in this background that the gun battle ensured in the forests of Burisole which has by now become a household name – as the site which marked the elimination of Kishanji. In a way, this was inevitable. Far from being a revolutionary movement, which the ‘Maoists’ claim to lead, apparently he found himself thoroughly isolated and encircled – that is what the security forces had claimed.
But strangely, neither the chief minister nor any of her top ranking officials from the police or the general administration had come out with any authentic version over the sequence of events which led to the elimination of Kishanji immediately after the announcement of the incident. More than anybody else, it is their supporters – particularly those sections of liberal persuasion – some of them even sympathetic to the ‘Maoist’ cause have come out quite sharply against the same government and the security forces for having done what they did.
In doing this, they seem to have taken a leaf out of chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s book of records. She did exactly this in questioning the elimination of Azad – the spokesman of the ‘Maoists’. She had actually demanded enquiry into Azad’s `murder’ not only outside but also in the parliament itself. In fact, directed by the court, an inquiry is still going on about this incident.
Now that Kishanji has been eliminated, the same charges are being leveled. It is being alleged that the security forces had him in custody and this amounts to a `cold blooded murder of a prisoner in custody’. It is now for the state government to clarify the real course of development transparently. Rule of law would require that of her government.
However, in a public meeting recently, the chief minister has claimed that the security forces had encircled Kishanji for three continuous days. The forces had also made an announcement over a public address system that he would be allowed a safe way out . But according to her, he did not respond positively and fired back. This is what led to the armed confrontation which saw her one time `well wisher’ dead.
The convergence of purpose which brought the TMC and the ‘Maoists’ together to eliminate the Left – does no longer exist. The functional alliance appears to have come unstuck. And, therefore, this belated admission over Gyneshwari Express tragedy and this renewed restoration of the joint security forces’ operation leading to the elimination of Kishanji.
But the tenuous exercise to try and balance the relationship between these two sinister forces had continued for the last few months since the new government in West Bengal had assumed office, now seems to be finally over. The group of interlocutors who had been officially appointed by the state government to carry out the discussions with the ‘Maoists’ have finally thrown up their hands. And, in the statement issued recently expressing their inability to carry on the process, they have squarely blamed the state government for having killed Kishanji `in cold blood’.
The course of the sinister alliance has really come to complete its vicious circle. Sadly, the TMC and some of their grassroot level activists who are also poor and vulnerable have also now come to suffer from the mindless violence of the ‘Maoists’.
But the chief minister is not prepared to accept the reality. While she has lambasted the ‘Maoists’ and their liberal sympathisers who don the mantle of the human rights organisations for failing to condemn the death and killings of hapless victims of the mindless ‘Maoist’ violence – even going to the extent of pointing out that a large number of activists of the Left had suffered – she failed to concede that she herself had shown similar proclivities.
To compound her almost criminal negligence in shielding the ‘Maoists’ – she is actually still maintaining that the CPI(M) and the ‘Maoists’ are in league. This is not withstanding the fact that after the Lok Sabha elections alone almost 250 CPI(M) activists and leaders mostly poor and tribals laid down their lives in the course of taking on the political and ideological challenge of the ‘Maoists’. But still there is time. The threat that ‘Maoist’ violence poses to the life and livelihood of the most downtrodden sections of the society in the remotest jungles of West Bengal can only be repulsed by the joining of forces. The unity of all political parties who believe in the rule of law and securing life of the people must act together to isolate the ‘Maoists’. It is the only enduring way to establish peace. And, elimination of a single individual – however important he may be – cannot mark the end to the mindless violence which the ‘Maoists’ had been perpetrating. The restoration of legitimate political activities of all political forces in the affected areas of jangal mahal area is the only rational course to achieve that objective.
People’s Democracy, December 04, 2011