Halt Lalgarh operation, demand rights groups
Posted by Admin on August 8, 2009
They termed the operation as a ploy to isolate the tribals and pave the way for corporates to take control of the mineral-rich resources Sadiq Naqvi Delhi Hardnews
“Everybody sees us as a market and not as a people,” Arundhati Roy, author, said.
She was speaking at a convention against the State’s offensive at Lalgarh and adjoining areas held at Gandhi Peace Foundation on Thursday.
It was organised by the Lalgarh Movement Solidarity Committee, a group of various organisations and student groups
“Earlier, after the November landmine attack directed at West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee when he was returning after inaugurating a Jindal steel plant at Salboni, State tyranny has gained massive proportions. Police and CPM harmads allegedly created havoc in tribal area of Lalgarh in West Midnapore on the pretext of catching Maoists, who they believed have mingled with the tribals,” said Amit Bhattacharyya of the Committee for Release of Political Prisoners.
Later, finding no other way of ending this oppression, the tribals of Lalgarh launched a resistance and formed the People’s Committee against Police Atrocities (PCPA) headed by Chhatradhar Mahato. Police was not allowed to enter the area and local CPM leaders were hounded and their palatial houses razed to the ground. Seeing the disturbed situation of the area, a joint action was launched by the Centre and the state to flush out the Maoists and bring back the area under the control of the state government. Nearly 5,000 troops were deployed to challenge the guerrillas who were reportedly supporting the locals in their resistance.
The intellectuals expressed their worries about security forces taking control of jungles and destroying the unique culture and distinct identities of the different tribes inhabiting them. They termed it as a project to isolate the tribals and pave way for corporates to take control of the mineral-rich resources of the country.
“This is nothing new in the Brahmanical thought process. Tribals have never been allowed to be a part of the development process and have been considered uncivilised and unworthy of being a part of the modern society. Barriers of the language and culture have never allowed them any space,” said Madan Kashyap, poet. He went on to add, “The CPM is not aloof of this thought process. Student leaders have taken control of the party leaving no space for the grassroots leaders working among the peasants. Consequently, the party has distanced itself from issues of the tribals and rural population.”
Drawing attention towards the proposed post-monsoon offensive against the Maoists, Sumit Chakraborty, editor of Mainstream, termed Lalgarh Operation as an experiment to test waters as to how the Indian middle class takes it. “The government wants to check out how the middle class reacts to this onslaught.” he said. He attacked the State’s policies for being responsible for the spread of radical ideologies. Maoism is thriving in areas reeling under extreme poverty. Moreover, SEZs and other neo-industrial policies have led the population to part from their lands and houses leading to massive displacement of people. Most of the time, paltry compensation is paid in lieu of the land.
Retired professor KR Choudhary of the Visthapan Virodhi Jan Vikas Andolan termed the struggle of Lalgarh as one of the finest examples of resistance guided by revolutionary forces. “The tribal population has been subjected to untold miseries. They are the first victims of industrialisation and they will continue to fight for their rights.” he said. “Singur, Nandigram and now Lalgarh – they show that the struggle of the people is a success,” he elaborated.
Raj Kishore of the Revolutionary Democratic Front termed the struggle as a fight between the people’s and the State’s model of development.
While accepting the presence of Maoists in the region, Bhattacharya said, “Maoists were engaged in development activities like building roads and health centres for the locals. He said that nothing would have happened if the administration would have conceded the just demands of the locals.”
Hardnews learnt that PCPA had put forward unique demands like the then superintendent of police of West Midnapore must apologise holding his ears and also policemen who assaulted women must be made to crawl on the ground with their noses rubbing the soil. Later, some more demands of development of the native Santhali language and protection of natural resources were added to the list. But, none of the demands were accepted by the authorities.
Bhattacharya accused Anuj Pandey, local CPM leader, of financing goons who killed members of the PCPA. He said something very sinister is going on in the Lalgarh area because nobody is allowed to enter the area. Even eminent social activists like Medha Patkar and Gopal Menon were detained by the police.
All the organisations demanded immediate halt of the Lalgarh operation, compensation to the affected people, commencement of dialogue with the locals and repeal of the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (amended), 2008.
Meanwhile, launching an attack on the neo-liberal market dynamics and the hysteria surrounding India as the new superpower Arundhati Roy said, “India has become a talking point in the capitalist societies. The big question for them is will India be able to save the ailing world economy in these tough times.”
She questioned the source of funds for the election campaigns of the major political parties. “More than 90 per cent of the independent candidates lost the elections and 10 times more money than the US presidential elections was pumped in the Indian elections. She called for diverse forms of resistance to counter the oppression and said mining and related activities are responsible for most of the genocides in the world