Revolution in South Asia

An Internationalist Info Project

Inside views on the West Bengal Uprising

Posted by n3wday on March 10, 2009

Indian Villagers Bengal UprisingThis is an edited version of an article from the January-March 2009 edition of People’s Truth. Many thanks to Ka Frank for sending this our way.

Inside View of the Uprising in Lalgarh, West Bengal

In November 2008, the tribals of Salboni, Lalgarh broke out in a veritable uprising against the police repression unleashed after a bomb blast injured six security personnel of a leader of the CPI Marxist (the reactionary ruling party in West Bengal). We reprint below reports from the daily paper The Statesman during late November, with our commentary.

On Nov 20th, the Statesman reported: When the Midnapore West district police are in two minds over attending a meeting tomorrow called by the Police Santras Birodhi Public Committee (PSBPC) of Lalgarh at Dalilpur Chowk, an interior village in Lalgarh, on security plea, the CPI (Maoist) held a day-long meeting on Singlohar Hilltop at Laljal, 25 km from Belpahari town, today.

In the Maoist meeting, organised for the first time in broad daylight, unlike previous occasions, the outfit is believed to have prepared a blueprint on the Lalgarh issue, in which a good number of heavily-armed action squad leaders, including some women members, were present. The meeting was an open challenge to the police as two camps of the Central forces are situated at Niguria on the east and at Jamtalgar on the west, each about 5 k.m. from the hill site. A 15-member team of Maoist cadres from Lalgarh riding five two-wheelers are also reported to have attended the meeting.

Later, at a public meeting in the afternoon, which was attended by about 10,000 people from 40 or 45 villages of Belpahari and 15 or 16 villages from adjoining Barikul block, speakers charged up the villagers mentioning cases of police torture on innocent people in Belpahari, Binpur and Lalgarh areas of the district.

They were reminded that as many as 87 such cases had occurred over the past 10 years in the district and there were seven rape cases in Belpahari block. But the police did not entertain the complaints as ruling party cadres were involved. Reminding the villagers of their political line, the Maoist leaders asked them to join the agitation against police torture and not to have truck with any political party.

The Statesman reported: Only yesterday, the state home secretary had said that investigation would be conducted against police excesses in Lalgarh, if specific complaints were received. This seemed to have added fuel to fire.

Since 15 days the areas of Lalgarh have virtually been witnessing an uprising which slowly spread to neighbouring areas. In Nandigram style the tribals have blocked off the entire area by digging up the roads and felling trees. The state could not enter the area. The situation turned so desperate that the local SP demanded a transfer, and when this was not granted he resigned and went to the press.

The ongoing agitation by the tribals in Midnapore has led to a collapse of civic life in most parts of Jhargram sub-divisionand has terribly affected those in Lalgar, Binpur, Jhargramand and Jamboni blocks. Supply of essential commodities in remote ares has been choked after the roads were cut off by the tribals on Sunday last. Tree trunks have been dumped on state highway 9 thus blocking the way, electricity and telephone lines have been disconnected ~ particularly in Lalgarh. The people of the area are thus facing severe communication and security problems over the past eight days.

This stalemate has given rise to several questions like, who governs the area? ~ the civil administration or the indigenous people under the banner of the Sara Bharat, Jakat Mahi-Madowa Juran Gaounta, an adivasi organization run by the Maoists behind the curtain.

The charter of demands placed by the organisation leaders at least indicate so. They have demanded that all cases filed against the “innocent” natives of the area between 1998 and 2008 be withdrawn and the tortured families be duly compensated with unconditional release of the detained people, including those in 2 November blastcase. Besides, their other demands included, Lalgar policemen who tortured the Adivasi women of Lalgar villages during raids in connection with the 2 November landmine blast be punished and the superintendent of police, Mr Rajesh Kumar Singh, seek pardon in public from the villagers for the atrocities committed on the affected. Also, they be assured that during raidswomen won’t be tortured.

According to The Statesman: As the Midnapore West district administration refuses to concede to the demands of the Police Santras Birodhi Public Committee (PSBPC) or solve the Lalgarh imbroglio, a parallel administration is springing up in the district.

The PSBPC is forming “Gram Committees” (GCs) in the villages of Belpahari, Binpur, Lalgarh, Jamboni, Salboni, Goaltore and adjoining blocks, akin to those run in Andhra Pradesh and Chhatisgarh by Maoists.

The PSBPC today announced the formation of 65 GCs in Belpahari block, with more coming up soon, each comprising 10 members, five men and five women. A decision in this regard was taken at a meeting of the CPI (Maoist) at a meeting in Laljal, Belpahari, yesterday.

Over 85 GCs have been formed in Lalgarh block while those in other blockswill be formed gradually. The whip of these GCs would act in governance of the villages where no development activities will be allowed to be undertaken by the government without their clearance, however lofty be the packages as hinted by the state government. Neither police nor the district administrative officials would be allowed to enter the villages without the permission of the GC to their “free zone” thus formed on the lines of those made in Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, the announcement stated.

In a bid to run the parallel administration through GCs, their long-cherished goal, the PSBPC united the rural folk through prolonged mass movement over their one point agenda ~ “police terror”. Blueprint of this parallel administration through GCs was tactically made through systematic blockade by rampant digging up roads and dumping tree trunks on communication networks to stonewall the entry of police and the administrative officials into the villages for days together.

The Statesman reported: The all-important meeting between the district administration and PSBPC leaders to discuss the 11-point charter put forward by the latter could not be held today following a tug-of-war between the two sides over the venue, dashing hopes to end the 17-day-long stalemate over the Lalgarh issue.

At a marathon meeting, held between the leaders of Police Santras Birodhi Public Committee at Kantapahari and a few thousand local people of 89 villageslast evening, it was decided that unless their demands stated in the 11-point charter were met, the agitation would not be called off.

The Statesman reported: Three zonal CPI-M leaders were struck by arrow in the troubled areas of Sarenga in Bankura late this evening. The leaders were on their way back home to Sarulia after attending a party meeting. The leaders were accompanying a police contingent to Nakhrapahari where the tribal organisations of Bankura had obstructed the Bankura-Midnapore state highway placing tree trunks on the road. The leaders were rushed to Sarenga block primary health centre and the condition of two were stated to be critical. The tribals staged a demonstration in Mejia brandishing weapons for hours.

Bharat Jakat Majhi Marawa, a tribal outfit, started the agitation in the south Bankura villages today to protest against alleged police atrocities meted out on the tribals in neighbouring area of Lalgarh. At around 10 a.m. a crowd of about 2,000 villagers armed with bows, arrows, axe and spears brought out four separate rallies.

According to The Statesman: The organisation spearheading the tribal agitation in Maoist hotbed Lalgrah tonight agreed to a meeting with the administration in any local government building and promised to lift the blockades that have cut off the area from the authorities.

”The talks may be held at Kantapahari or Ramgarh, where there are schools and panchayat offices. But there is one condition: the superintendent of police has to be present,” said Sidhu Soren, secretary of the People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities. “We will wait for two days for the government’s response. If it does not agree, we will lift the blockade but socially boycott the police and the civil administration.”

The organisation had earlier insisted on talks in Dalilpur. Additional district magistrate R.A. Israel, who camped in Lalgrah today, had said in the afternoon that a “jungle raj” prevailed in Dalilpur and the talks could not be held there. “A meeting with your leaders can be held across the table, but not in a jungle or in front of thousands of people,” he told Chhatradhar Mahato, a leader of the committee and brother of Maoist action squad leader Sashadhar.

The blockades would be removed for “the benefit of local people”, but Soren said: “We will not let any official of the district administration or the police enter the area if the talks fail. ”During the “social boycott”, the tribal leader clarified, local people would not sell foodgrain or other essentials to the police, making it difficult for those camping in remote pockets to procure food. Only panchayats would be allowed to carry out development work and not the district administration, Soren added.

West Midnapore district magistrate N.S. Nigam said the government would consider the fresh proposals. Some police officers, however, said that the “apparent climbdown” by the tribals protesting “police atrocities” since the landmine blast on a Union minister’s convoy on November 2 could be to “lure” the force into the tribal heartland. He expressed the fear that thousands could surround the officials who go for the talks and lay siege to the venue. “They might surround us and force us to announce concessions and make unconditional apologies. We’d not like anything that could provoke us to act,” the officer added.

Maoists have already made the island of protest, a free zone. The course of the agitation has been hijacked from local people with the rebels bringing in their sympathisers in hordes. A team of young men and women, including members of the Matangini Mahila Samiti, which had camped in Nandigram for 11 months, reached Dalilpur today. They plan to train the villagers in making the area inaccessible to the administration for a long period, on the lines of Nandigram. One of the speakers told a gathering of 3,000 people at Dalilpur: “Local people will run their own government.”

In a statement, CPI (Maoist) state secretary Kanchan asked the people of Lalgarh to keep their arms ready. Tribals in Bankura blocked the road to Jhargram at two more places, expressing solidarity with the Lalgarh people.

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