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Red Blood Trail

 

How Marxists are creating killing fields in Bengal of the type never seen before in india... And why the centre must immediately call for elections.
CHANDRASEKHAR BHATTACHARJEE | Issue Dated: January 16, 2011
Tags : CPIM | West Bengal | M.K. Narayanan | Kolkata | Jyoti Basu |
 

“Horror was the onset of Sanguinary Convulsions,” said Winston Churchill while commenting of the Great Kolkata Riots before Independence. Today’s Bengal reminds one of Churchill's words. And it is the Marxists who are giving credence to his one-liner. The violence let loose all over state for the past many months, especially in the districts of south Bengal where the main state Opposition has established a strong foothold, can only be compared with that witnessed by the state in the early 70s.


In all probability, the Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led Left Front will lose the electoral battle in the forthcoming Assembly election in the coming summer. And, the dispensation and its leading partner can't seem to accept such an inglorious defeat with dignity after an uninterrupted rule of 34 years. As a last-ditch attempt, the Stalinist forces are trying to terrorise people into submission. The famous statement of Edvard Radzinsky on Joseph Stalin comes to mind: “Terror is the quickest way to new society”.


CPI(M) claims to have democratised the power structure to the grassroots level through the panchayat system. While this is true to some extent, the Stalinist party has spread two other things at the same time – corruption and armed cadres. While organised corruption has helped the party to amass huge wealth in terms of real estate, armed party cadres have helped to keep people’s mouths shut. In one way or the other, this has been admitted even by senior CPI(M) leaders themselves. Only a few days back, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, while addressing a party rally in the North 24 Parganas, called on his party cadres to keep distance from these two evils. One can remember the erstwhile chief minister Jyoti Basu openly admitting that Badshah Alam, who attacked Mamata Banerjee and fractured her head, was a CPM man. Only a year back, the then chief secretary, admitted that huge tracts of land were being grabbed in Rajarhat by the power of guns (in hands of CPI(M) cadres). Daylight action in Nandigram on March 14, 2007 by “chappal-wearing police” has established this fact beyond any doubt even in courts of law. The situation prompted the then Governor of the state and Mahatma’s grandson, Gopalkrishna Gandhi, to describe it as one of ‘cold horror’.
The recent spurt in violence started with a failed attack on Khejuri-Nandigram from Shunia Char (reclaimed land on river) on November 24, 2010. About 200 armed men (Harmads) entered Kamarda village and started hurling bombs. They burnt Trinamool Congress party offices and started indiscriminately firing in the air. Their motive was to terrorise Trinamool supporters and gain control over their lost ground. But spontaneous and united opposition from villagers forced them to flee. The villagers were led by chief of TMC youth wing and local MP Subhendu Adhikari. Armed cadres tried again and again. But they had to retreat each time leaving several people injured in the process. Both side used bombs and firearms. The attacks have taken place despite the MP and MLAs writing in advance to the police, the chief minister and the chief secretary apprehending such attacks.


Just after the chief minister's war cry at a party rally, “Hoi Bampantha, noi mrityu (Either Leftism or death),” trouble erupted in Raina and Mangalkot of Burdwan district. Purnima Majhi’s face is today unrecognisable after Harmads charged bombs on her face in Mangalkot. Her only offence was to stumble upon a group of bomb-makers in the middle of the night while she was on her way to the paddy field to relieve herself. Two other Trinamool activists, Hasmat Mollah and Kajal Mallick, succumbed to CPI(M) attacks. Since the Lok Sabha polls, in Burdwan district alone, about 26 Trinamool workers have been killed in political violence. Close on the heels of the Mangalkot incident, armed CPI(M) cadres attacked as many as three villages in the Khanakul, Arambagh and Purshura areas of Hooghly to ‘liberate these villages’ from Opposition hold. Trinamool activists had to flee in face of the waves of attacks surrounding their villages. Interestingly, in all the cases, the state police played either the role of a mute spectator or that of passive protector of the Harmad goons. The vernacular press carried reports of political clashes in Nadia, Murshidabad, North and South 24-Parganas. Trinamool Congress cadres were targeted at Sashan in North 24 Parganas, some of them died.
In Birbhum district, the CPI(M)-backed Harmads not only targeted Trinamool activists but also supporters of Left Front ally RSP. The RSP has bitter relations with CPI(M) in South 24-Parganas too where a kin of a RSP minister was killed along with few more RSP activists and their houses were burnt during the last Panchayat elections. Similarly, another Left Front partner, CPI, is facing Harmad attacks in parts of Hooghly and East Medinipur districts. The Arambagh-Purshura-Khanakul area saw pitched battles between CPI and CPI(M), some CPI supporters fell to Harmad attacks.

What is beyond the realms of rationality is that senior leaders of the Stalinist party are themselves making provocative statements in public and inciting cadres. While the chief minister – who after the Red bloodshed in Nandigram had said that the people got “paid back in their own coin” – uttered “either Leftism or deaths”, state secretariat member of the party Gautam Deb, who is minister in-charge of public health engineering, challenged the Opposition several times in the open. Land and land reforms minister Abdur Rezzak Mollah is calling upon “black-haired well-built youths of villages” to manage polling booths during the forthcoming election. Addressing a rally, he said the party could return to power if these youths guaranteed at least 20 Assembly segments where the Left Front were likely to be defeated.
 
This, according to several commentators, is not only heating up the already charged atmosphere but also instigating youths to be more aggressive. The students’ wing of CPI(M), which is already facing routs in half of the colleges which they were used to grabbing without any contest, are getting engaged in verbal duels and beyond with rival students' bodies. The other side, the Trinamool Chhatra Parishad and Chhatra Parishad (NSUI’s state wing) are being dragged into the turmoil too. A student of Andul Jagajjanani College in Howrah has lost his life. Another student of Ashutosh College has lost one eye and is now undergoing treatment in Hyderabad. About 50 cases of students’ clashes over union elections have been reported. In many cases, clashes took place when senior party leaders were present. Professor Rajat Majumder says, “Whom do you blame when the hands of the politicians are blood-stained? They can try to wash those but will not be successful.”
 
“Now, the situation has become such that even government staff are not being spared,” says Dhruba Sen, leader of a Left-wing state government employees’ organisation. “The BDO of Itahar was manhandled by CPI(M) leaders. The injured BDO filed an FIR with the police and seven CPM leaders were arrested. Their offence was non-bailable but on the very next day, they got bail. And now the policemen are saying they did this for the BDO’s safety. The BDO rejoined duty and soon requested the district magistrate to transfer him somewhere else as he felt insecure in Itahar.”

Let's turn our attention to Lalgarh or the greater Jungle Mahal area where Harmads from several adjoining districts are active in the open and are being allegedly shielded by the police. A report few months back listed 52 camps and counted presence of 1620 Harmads in 7 blocks of Jhargram. A latest unofficial report claim about 90 Harmad camps (86 according to Union home minister P. Chidambaram) and more than 2,500 armed CPI(M) Harmads. Eminent novelist Jaya Mitra questions: “This is the CPI(M)'s version of the Salwa Judum. Salwa Judum has been banned by the Supreme Court but the CPI(M)'s Red Brigade continue to operate with impunity.” Local scribes of different newspapers claim that more than 100 people were killed by the CPI(M) in less than a decade before the Lalgarh revolt. And after the Joint Force entered the scene, killings have increased manifold, they hold. Now, CPI(M) and Maoists both are killing villagers. There was only a brief let up while the Police Santras Birodhi Janasadharaner Committee (Peoples’ Committee against Police Atrocities) was controlling the area.

Sources in the Union Home ministry say that as the joint paramilitary forces are in action, the Union home ministry has to keep a watch on the situation there. Central Intelligence agencies are reporting directly to Delhi on a daily basis. Governor M.K. Narayanan, an ex-IB sleuth and a former National Security Advisor, is also reportedly keeping eyes on developments. Being reported from several sources, Chidambaram wrote to Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee on December 21: “In an apparent effort to regain lost ground, a sizable number of armed cadres were recruited, trained and deployed in West Midnapore district. There is evidence to show that Harmad camps are mostly located in CPI(M) party offices and houses of local CPI(M) cadres. It is a matter of grave concern that these cadres have been provided with firearms...”

The Union home minister also mentioned, “Besides, in the run up to the elections, there has been a perceptible increase in clashes between supporters of the CPI(M) and the TMC (Trinamool Congress). According to our figures, up to December 15, 2010, TMC cadres who have been killed and injured number 96 and 1,237 respectively. Likewise, CPI(M) cadres, who have been killed and injured number 65 and 773 respectively. And Congress cadres who have been killed and injured number 15 and 221 respectively. These numbers present an alarming picture and point to a virtual collapse of law and order in parts of West Bengal.” He also raised the vital question which has been raised by the state Opposition over a year: What is the need of Joint Forces in Jungle Mahal if CPI(M) deploys armed cadres to maintain law and order?
An angered and cornered chief minister sent out more of a political and less of an administrator’s reply where he contradicted figures of Trinamool. Conspicuously, the chief minister remained silent on the issue of CPI(M)’s armed camps but objected to the use of the language ‘Harmad’. Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee also contradicts the casualty figures of her party, “I have the list of names of 246 party workers who have been killed since the parliamentary elections,” says the railway minister.

To get a proper picture, casualty figures among Maoists, Police Santras Birodhi Janasadharaner Committee (PCPA) and security forces also should be taken into account. Official figures say about 328 Maoists & PCPA supporters and 27 Jawans have lost their lives up to December 26 this year. In fact, West Bengal stands second to Chhattisgarh in inflicting damage on Maoists. Rights activists and intellectuals claim that most of those killed as ‘Maoists’ are innocent villagers. “CPI(M) is branding those non-CPI(M) youths as ‘Maoists’ to gain their political mileage,” says Prof. Sumit Chakraborty, convenor of the Lalgarh Mancha. The reason behind such violence is not too hard to find. The area returns 44 legislators to the state assembly. Majority of these seats elected CPI(M) and its allies even in the last polls. However, the result may turn against the ruling front this time if a free and fair election is held. Looking at the state of lawlessness in West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee's call for early and immediate election seems more plausible today in light of the Union home minister P. Chidambaram's latest missive to Writer's Building.

While the political parties fight their never-ending bloody battles in quest for power, the Maoists continue their policy of annihilation and the State continues to militarily combat ‘Leftist Extremism.’ Only, the innocents become the victims of the game. Their blood flows. Their houses burn in the fire of revenge. Their children bear the burnt throughout their lives. May be Nabarun Bhattacharya’s famous poem of the 70s can help restore sanity: “Ei Mrityu Upatyaka Amar Desh Na / Ei Raktasnato Kasaikhana Amar Desh Na (This Valley of Death Is Not My Country / I Disown This Blood-Drenched Slaughterhouse As My Nation).” 

The situation calls for president’s rule and early elections
DR. MALAY CHAUDHURI, Chief Consulting Editor, The Sunday Indian

Looking at the television pictures of Khejuri, a block under the district of east Midnapore, West Bengal (situated next to Nandigram, made famous by the killing of 14 people in 14 March 2007), I can't help asking myself the question: Am I living in India or in some distant part of Africa, where killings happen every now and then, propelled by ex-colonial powers for neo-colonial interests of their own? It has been written in all leading papers of West Bengal that truckloads of people enter villages in Khejuri armed with weapons, primitive as well as modern, backed by ‘harmads’ (CPM goons hired by the party for specific purposes, brought from neighbouring states or districts). They are supported by the local police either actively or by remaining passive allowing them to destroy, burn down houses, kill people who oppose them. It is written in CPM's paper Ganashakti that these people actually lived in Khejuri before the Lok Sabha elections of 09.

In that election, Trinamool candidates won the majority of the seats and a Trinamool party member became the MP of Khejuri. In the post-election scenario, many cadres and active supporters of CPM were evicted from their respective villages as they had participated in various shenanigans organised by the "party" amounting to politico-social tyranny of villagers (for example, not allowing labourers to work in the fields of those boycotted by the party for one reason or the other). Apparently, these displaced persons are now returning to their respective villages, but led by CPM ‘cadres’ and ‘harmads’. Displaced villagers should of course come back to their houses, supported and guided by the local police to protect them from the onslaught of those who drove them away. These displaced people cannot however come back with the support of party cadres or harmads and that too with weapons of all kinds. What happened in the villages of Khejuri is a sort of a civil war. If this happens and continues to happen in different areas of West Bengal villages, then it certainly calls for intervention by the central government, which should consider imposing President's rule, if necessary, and setting up the stage for the upcoming elections, which is the root cause of the rise in the killings. When the local police cannot impose the rule of law, the Centre has the duty to uphold the Constitutional rights of the citizens. It seems various political calculations to perpetuate present administration at the Centre have prevented the Central government from imposing law and order in one or the other part of the country, throwing the citizens of those parts to wolves of various hues – sometimes Stalinists of West Bengal, sometimes semi-communal political forces in Mumbai and elsewhere.

If 60,000 central reserve forces can peacefully organise voting that is free of rigging in a state like Bihar now, and even in Bengal a year and a half back organising elections in five phases, it seems that a maximum of three lakh central reserve force will be required to maintain law and order in a state of the size of West Bengal or Bihar. Assuming an expenditure of Rs 2,50,000 per annum per person on wages and weapons, it will cost only Rs.7,500 crore per annum, which is only a little more than one per cent of central government's annual budget. This expenditure is a must and most necessary if rule of law is to be maintained whenever one part of India goes outside the purview of civilised democratic norms.
 

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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017