LALGARH: The Bastion of People’s Resistance against State Repression
Posted by Admin on June 26, 2009
Continued state repression had been underway in Lalgarh and its adjacent areas from November 2008, after the landmine blast on the convoy of Buddhadeb Bhattacharya, while he was returning from the inauguration of the SEZ of Jindal Steels in Salboni, about 50 kilometres from Lalgarh. In the name of arresting ‘Maoists’, the police went on a rampage arbitrarily arresting villagers, most of them adivasis, and beating them up mercilessly, leaving three persons dead with many gravely injured. These well-planned brutalities have been targeted particularly against women and children. Following this the people had formed the Pulishi Santrash Birodhi Janasadharoner Committee (PSBJC) or the People’s Committee against Police Atrocities to resist the fascist onslaught of the CPI(M)-run state machinery.
Lalgarh and other areas were made out-of-bounds for the security forces in order to prevent them from carrying out their atrocities. In this moment of sharply divided battle-line between the adivasi peasants and the State reminiscent of the great Naxalbari uprising, DSU felt the need to visit Lalgarh with the aim of extending solidarity to the ongoing people’s movement, and to bring out the ground reality that has been deliberately overlooked or maliciously obscured by the mainstream corporate media and pro-state forces. A nine-member DSU fact-finding team visited Lalgarh from 7th to 10th June 2009. The team visited over 25 villages in that region and interacted extensively with the people. From these interactions it had become clear that the incidents of police atrocities in November last year were not unique, but merely a continuation of such state and police terror that the people of the region have been subjected to since 2000. What is unique this time is the people’s resistance, which has taken an organized and sustained shape this time around.
The history of police atrocities: The people in all the villages we visited conclusively verified police torture. They described how the police used to enter their houses very late at night, and in the name of ‘raids’ and ‘checks’ vandalized their houses and mercilessly beat them up, how any movement of the villagers at night even to look for their cattle was enough to act as proof for them being ‘Maoists’. Almost every family had one or more members who had been booked for being a ‘Maoist’. We were told about the 90 year old Maiku Murmu of Teshabandh who was beaten to death by the police way back in 2006. Young school girls were regularly molested by the police in the pretext of ‘body checks’. Women were forced to show their genitals at night during ‘raids’ in the pretext of confirming their gender. Before every election 30-40 people from every village would be picked up as ‘Maoists’ in order to weaken the opposition to the ruling CPI(M). The incident of police brutality in Chhotopelia, where a number of women were ruthlessly beaten up and one of them Chhitamoni lost her eye, acted as the last straw. The arrest of three students on the baseless charge of ‘waging war against the state’ further enraged the people. Lalgarh have now risen up-in-arms against this long drawn atrocities and organised oppression of the CPI(M) and the entire exploitative system they represent.
CPI(M)’s white terror: For the villagers, police terror was coupled with the terror unleashed by the social-fascist CPI(M). In fact, the police and CPI(M) are not just in alliance with each other, they meant one and the same thing for the villagers. In Madhupur, the local panchayat office had been turned into a camp of the harmad vahini [armed CPI(M) goons]. They told us how the ‘motor cycle army’ of the harmads roamed around the villages, terrorizing people, tearing down their houses, firing in the air, and beating people up, exactly the same way they used to operate in Nandigram. The police not only stood as mute spectators whenever the harmads went on a rampage, it supported them in all possible ways. The harmads even used police jeeps to move around. To return these ‘favours’, the local CPI(M) cadres acted as informers for the police. We met one villager whose house was demolished by the harmad, during which he kept calling the police for help, but they never came. Similarly, they narrated the incident of Khash Jongol where the harmads open fired on a village meeting and killed three people, injuring three others. It was only after an armed resistance was put up by the villagers, that the harmads were forced to retreat to Memul and then to Shijua. It is the same CPI(M) which is today shamelessly describing the resistance in Lalgarh as ‘anarchy’, whereas all this while its own cadres were perpetuating a reign of terror on the people. Recently the local CPI(M) leaders with active help of the police floated the so called Maoist Resistance Force with 200 cadres to terrorize the masses and collect ‘taxes’ on the stretch of the highway they controlled. Abhijit Mahato, which SFI celebrates as a ‘student leader’, along with many others were its local ring leaders. This way, the state and CPI(M) wanted to replicate the notorious Salwa-Judum style operations against the militant adivasis of West Bengal. It is therefore no surprise that masses themselves have now decided to retaliate and punish such criminals.
Who is really anti-development? This entire region in Midnapore (as also the districts of Bankura and Purulia) is marked by extreme poverty and backwardness. Agriculture is dependent on rainfall, which is scanty. We saw the dysfunctional government canal, which is lying dry. Villagers showed us the pathetic condition of roads which become completely inaccessible during the monsoon. About the state of medical facilities, the less said the better, with not a single functioning health centre for miles. Villagers have extremely limited sources of livelihood, depending largely only on picking of saal leaves and cultivation of limited crops. Starvation-deaths in the neighbouring Amlasol shows the precarious the lives of the adivasis in this region are, while the CPI(M) members continue to amass huge wealth at their expense. This is the real face of the CPI(M)’s ‘pro-poor’ rule of 30 years. Today it is branding as ‘anti-development’ those forces which are challenging the oppressive state machinery. A living proof against this typical propaganda is the developmental work done by the Committee against Police Atrocities. The Committee was formed against police atrocities but has also been carrying out people-centred developmental work in Lalgarh region in the past seven months. On its own has made 20 km of roads with red stone chips (‘morrum’), with villagers volunteering their labour. They have repaired several tubewells, and have installed new ones at half the price than the panchayat. They have also started constructing a check dam in Bohardanga to fight the water crisis. Two major works undertaken by the committee is the process of land distribution and running a health center in Katapahari. The government was supposed to distribute wasteland among the landless, but never did so. Now the Committee is taking initiative in Banshberi and other villages to distribute the wasteland adjacent to the forests to the landless people. We witnessed the distribution of the patta in one village. The Committee has also turned a dysfunctional building in Katapahari into a health center, which attends to more than 150 patients every day. Organs of people’s political power are being developed by the villagers throughout the region, with village after village forming people’s committees to look after their own needs and taking decisions for their benefit in a collective manner. Today in more than 200 villages there exist such committees, which have become the real institutions of people’s democracy. This makes it clear who is in favour of development for the poorer and marginalized classes and communities, and who is against it. As the nodal organisation of the people, the PSBJC is fulfilling the tasks of people-centric development and redistribution of wealth that the ruling classes of the country could never achieve in the last 60 years of so-called independence.
We also observed that the CPI (Maoist) enjoys mass support of the people in this area. Its posters could be seen everywhere. We were informed by the villagers that Maoists have held meetings attended by thousands of people. The villagers seemed very clear about the need for an armed resistance in the face of regular joint attacks by the state and CPI(M), and in anticipation of a brutal all-round assault. The restriction imposed by the state on adivasis against carrying their traditional weapons is another sign that the state is threatened by the collective strength of the oppressed masses of Lalgarh.
The ‘anarchy’ of the state vs. the resistance of the people: Our team was witness to the genuine anger and suffering of the people of Lalgarh. Therefore, we strongly condemn the media branding of the resistance there as ‘anarchy’ and ‘lawlessness’. We also believe that the police, administration and CPI(M) are solely responsible for the current situation in Lalgarh. In the past few days, people have demolished houses of local CPI(M) leaders and some of their party offices in the area. The crowds were jubilant as they tore down the house of CPI(M) leader Anuj Pandey because, as we too witnessed, the common people now have nothing but utter hatred for CPI(M) mis-rule and terror. The sight of the lone palatial house of this CPI(M) leader in the sea of poverty of Lalgarh was a disgusting proof of what the CPI(M) actually stands for in this state. People are demolishing CPI(M)’s party offices with their traditional weapons with the same anger that they are demolishing police camps. Every rally or meeting held by the PSBJC in the area is attended by people in their thousands. Our team was witness to one such big rally on 7th June attended by about 12000 people from various villages across the district, as well as several other meetings across the area during our visit. Inspite of seeing this organized assertion by the adivasis for their dignity and freedom, the CPI(M) has the audacity to claim that the adivasis are being ‘used as human shields’ by the Maoists. They are claiming to have the overwhelming support of the adivasis as proved by their victory in the Jhargram seat in the recent Lok Sabha elections. The hollowness of this claim can be understood by the fact that just about 12 % votes was cast in the region with an overwhelming majority boycotting the polls, and this 12% represents the combined ‘strength’ of all the parliamentary parties in the region, including the CPI(M), Trinamool and Congress!
In the dictionary of the ruling class, ‘anarchy’ and ‘terror’ are words to describe the organized resistance of the masses who have been pushed to the brink. These words are not meant for the armed gangs and mercenary armies of the rulers who attack, kill or suppress people to maintain their iron-grip over state-power and people’s lives. CPI(M) is crying hoarse about their party being ‘attacked’ in Khejuri, but it maintains a silence about the seizure of the huge cache of arms from its members in Khejuri last week. It is an open secret that CPI(M) and Trinamool possess more arms and ammunition than any other political force in the region.
Things stand at a crucial stage in Lalgarh today. With the entry of the central and state armed forces, nothing short of a full-scale war and a large-scale massacre of the fighting people can be expected. Rather than starting discussions on the people’s charter of demands which enumerates the problems faced by people of Lalgarh, the state is resorting to brute force, which is the only answer that it knows to a legitimate struggle of the oppressed. During the first day’s face-off yesterday, more than 50 peaceful protestors have been arrested, and 65 were injured due to the unprovoked assault by the security forces. Following on the heels of the state forces, CPI(M)’s harmads too have entered Lalgarh today and demolished the People’s Health Centre at Chakadoba. SFI is now that a democratic country cannot tolerate anarchy and lawlessness. This democratic country that SFI believes in can most definitely tolerate years of poverty, backwardness, state repression and brutality. CPI(M) and its ivory-tower ‘intellectuals’ can condemn mass movements of the oppressed classes. But the masses of Lalgarh have resolved to continue their fight to the finish. They are finally beginning to taste a life free of state terror and are participating in their own development, which they are ready to protect at all costs. In the different villages we visited, many residents held one opinion in common, ‘we have got independence for the first time’. The fight eventually is for much more than freedom from terror alone. It is a fight to end exploitation of one human by another, and the people of Lalgarh are showing the way to us in that struggle. No amount of fascist state–terror and repression can crush the people’s aspiration for freedom and justice. Red salute to the heroic masses of Lalgarh!