December 11, 2011

Hint of tribal alienation?

Saugata Roy, TNN | Nov 18, 2011, 07.00AM IST

KOLKATA: Those who had been to Jagori Baske's home in Purulia's Bagdubi village would be aware of the pitiable background of this shy adivasi girl who later turned into a brutal Maoist squad leader. A mud house behind a pond in this forest hamlet, no land to fall back upon and no cattle to rear. Jagori lived with her mother in extreme poverty, surviving on a meagre income from babui grass.

Jagori had the desperation and zeal to break out of the penury - the Maoists gifted her a dream that shattered midway.

What does her surrender signify? Are the Maoists losing their foothold in Jangalmahal? And if so, is the Trinamool Congress gaining new ground when the CPM organisers are on their heels? The series of developments that led to the dramatic surrender displays a lack of trust towards the Maoists. But this is not all. It has created a void among the adivasis that is more significant than the surrender. The innocent adivasis, who largely supported the 'bon parti' against the CPM's domination, are at a loss.

Those in power have failed to understand the socio-cultural fabric of the adivasi community which is as important as the under-development that plagues the region. It's true that Maoists have smashed the adivasi patriarchy that was the last word in the community. But the mainstream political parties - CPM and of late Trinamool - dominated by the Sarkars, Pandeys, Roys and Adhikarys have never spared a thought to engage the adivasi samaj that could work wonders in bringing peace to the area.

Jagori's surrender is not an isolated case, as Maoists would like to showcase it. Shobha Mandi, another tribal Maoist squad leader, was the first to surrender. Gurucharan Kisku alias Marshall was among the men dumped by Maoists, and later Laxmikanta Baske from Katasimul village joined the Trinamool-backed platform.

They are all adivasis - a major contingent of the Jangalmahal population that played a key role in the Lalgarh uprising in 2007. It sent ripples in the entire adivasi samaj. Sensing the mood, the Maoists kept tribals Lalmohan Tudu (killed) and Sukhshanti Baske (now in custody) in the first panel of the People's Committee Against Police Atrocities. Chhatradhar Mahato (a non-tribal) was the spokesperson. A little after the uprising, the Maoists took over completely and broke the writ of the adivasi society.

This seems to have triggered the alienation. The Maoist diktat also began to dominate personal relations within the guerrillas. It became evident when the party didn't allow Jagori to marry her mentor Gurucharan Kisku alias Marshall and instead made her tie the wedlock with Rajaram Soren. Marshall felt out with the Maoist leadership and was shown the door, so was Jagori. It did not go down well among the adivasis.

"I won't go into the internal affairs of the Maoists. But it's a fact that Maoists are losing public support among the adivasis. But there is no one to address their concerns. We are trying in our own little way," said CPI(M-L) leader Santosh Rana.

Jagori's surrender may prompt the Maoists to regroup themselves among the adivasis who are not taking them in right earnest. They might try to consolidate their position among the non-tribal Mahato community, which might further aggravate the social tension.

The Mamata Banerjee government cannot make much headway in the adivasi belt with its band of bureaucrats. The BPL rice that was promised to them has been stopped for over a week, soon after the government ordered a three-tier committee comprising BDOs, SDOs and district magistrate to revamp the delivery system.

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