Revolution in South Asia

An Internationalist Info Project

BBC: Maoist ‘rampage’ in West Bengal

Posted by Mike E on June 16, 2009

Burning the house of CPI(M) leader

Burning the house of CPI(M) leader. The CPI(M) has been the oppressive ruling party in West Bengal for decades.

First appeared on BBC. (Thanks to Shine the Path)

Hundreds of Maoists backed by thousands of villagers have seized the ruling party’s last stronghold in a troubled part of India’s West Bengal state.

Armed rebels are reportedly patrolling roads around the village of Dharampur in the Lalgarh area after police fled. Three people were killed, reports say.

Rebels have been entrenching themselves in Lalgarh since last November and now have almost total control of the area.

Maoist-linked violence has killed 6,000 people in India over the past 20 years.

The rebels operate in more than 180 districts across east and central India and are seen as a major threat to national security. Last week more than 20 police were killed in the eastern state of Jharkand.

The Maoists say they represent the rights of landless farmhands and tribal communities.

‘Ransacked’

The BBC’s Amitabha Bhattasali in Calcutta said that as hundreds of workers from the state’s ruling Communist Party of India (Marxist), or CPI(M), fled the Lalgarh area, Maoists claimed it as their first “liberated” zone in West Bengal.

One of the police posts was later set ablaze and the Maoists were reported to have demolished the house of a local communist leader.

“The Maoists went on a rampage yesterday in Dharampur village and ransacked our zonal secretary’s home and party office before setting it on fire. Three of our men are dead and six more still missing,” a CPI(M) official said.

The village of Dharampur was the last bastion for the ruling communist party in Lalgarh. Other villages in the area had been under Maoist control since November.

Our correspondent says that taking control of Lalgarh is part of a long-term plan for the Maoists.

The area encompasses vast tracts of the forests of West Midnapur, Purulia and Bankura districts of West Bengal and adjoins parts of the states of Jharkhand and Orissa.

Arrests

Lalgarh has experienced considerable unrest for a number of months.

The violence began last November when police arrested some local residents on suspicion of attempting to assassinate the chief minister of West Bengal state, Buddhadeb Bhattacharya, after he narrowly escaped a landmine explosion set off by suspected Maoist rebels.

A Peoples’ Committee against Police Atrocities (PCPA) was subsequently formed to protest against the arrests. They launched violent protests and strikes against the local police.

The police and state administration have been virtually non-existent in most of Lalgarh since then. Polling booths could not be set up for recent general elections so voters had to cast ballots outside the area.

Our correspondent says the insurgents and the CPI(M), which has been the state’s dominant political force, have been fighting a turf war.

In the past few years, he says, the Maoists have extended their influence with guerrilla commanders camping in the area and providing basic military training to local youths.

11 Responses to “BBC: Maoist ‘rampage’ in West Bengal”

  1. hegemonik said

    This is at the moment understandably taking a backseat to the news from Iran. I’d suggest keeping watch, however.

    The latest on the situation is that the village of Lalgarh faces an assault from state forces, including the vaunted COBRA force (formed specifically to fight in the Red Corridor).

    IBN has news on what the tribal-Maoist alliance is doing to defend the town.

    This is all very inspiring and scary. The CPI-(Marxist) are being rightfully repudiated by the people they dispossessed. This was a long time coming. Here are a couple stories on the background of the Lalgarh movement:
    Lalgarh, an Icon of Adivasi DefianceBackground of the movement

  2. n3wday said

    I agree, this is very exciting.

  3. Green Red said

    There is great difference between spontenuous massive actions and well planned protracted struggles. And while sympethizing with Iranian victims, for real communist revolutionaries serious solidarity movement need to be made in other countries, especially first world lands.

  4. hegemonik said

    The forces of the central government have arrived in West Bengal. They are attacking outlying areas.

    Coverage:
    The Hindu story, and a gallery
    IStream video

  5. Leber said

    Instead of demolishing the buildings of previous power, the Maoists and tribals could have established peoples councils there. What is the gain of destroying a building, instead of occupying it?

  6. hegemonik said

    Update from the BBC:

    Clashes at Maoist ‘area’ in India

    Indian security forces have clashed with protesters in the Lalgarh region of West Bengal state, where Maoist rebels have taken control.

    Hundreds of baton-wielding police charged and fired tear gas shells at a crowd of almost 3,000 in Pirakata.

    Villagers backed by the rebels have blocked roads to prevent security forces from entering Lalgarh.

    The state government has called in more than 1,000 paramilitary troops to retake the area after police fled.

    Meanwhile, the bodies of four more communist workers have been found, taking the number of party workers killed in recent violence to 10.

    The four bodies were found outside Lalgarh. The men were among six party workers who police suspect were kidnapped by the rebels.

    Maoist-linked violence has killed 6,000 people in India over the past 20 years.

    ‘Bloodbath’ fears

    Reports from Lalgarh say tension is running high in the area as the villagers have formed “human shields” to prevent the security forces from moving in and wresting control of the area.

    West Bengal interior minister Ardhendu Sen has appealed to villagers to allow the security forces to enter Lalgarh.

    “Please don’t get used by the Maoists. Please move away. We don’t want a bloodbath,” Mr Sen said in an appeal to the villagers.

    Separately, rebel leader Kishanji told the BBC in a telephone interview that the federal and state governments should stop troops from entering the area.

    He said the government should hold meetings with the local people to learn about their grievances.

    The tribespeople-dominated Lalgarh area in West Bengal’s West Midnapore district has been under the virtual control of the rebels since November.

    Armed rebels are now reportedly patrolling roads there.

    Over the past few days, villagers backed by the rebels have taken over more villages in the area and burnt down and demolished offices belonging to the ruling Communist Party of India (Marxist), or CPI(M).

    ‘Liberated zone’

    The BBC’s Amitabh Bhattashali in Calcutta says hundreds of CPI(M) workers have left Lalgarh in recent days.

    Maoists claimed it as their first “liberated” zone in West Bengal.

    Our correspondent says that taking control of Lalgarh is part of a long-term plan for the Maoists.

    The area encompasses vast tracts of the forests of West Midnapur, Purulia and Bankura districts of West Bengal and adjoins parts of the states of Jharkhand and Orissa.

    Violence in Lalgarh began last November after West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya narrowly escaped a landmine blast blamed on the rebels.

    Protests were launched when a number of locals were arrested on suspicion of attempting to assassinate him.

  7. Leber, I seriously think that is a very minor point that splits hairs. I think the only true Maoist response is that the masses burning down the buildings of the CPM is “excellent.” People were destroying the symbol of CPM power in that village and it certainly makes sense to me.

    Secondly with the security forces trying to break through and retake Lalgarh, it seems it might have been the best idea to burn down party buildings.

  8. Leber.

    The Maoists in India are not yet strong enough to secure and hold significant areas of India. They controll areas defacto- as the states presence is so weak- but the cant run anything outright.

    Thus they burn and destroy the state structures. They are not yet in a position where they could build and defend physical infrastructure like these offices. But that doesn’t mean they haven’t begun to build alternative political structures, but these are allot more flexible, mobile and underground- to avoid state repression.

  9. n3wday said

    Ben and Leber,

    There is also a question fo symbolism and empowerment. When China made revolution the peasants, after seizing territory often carried out different forms of retribution against the feudal lords, from mass criticisms to outright beating and killings.

    The purpose of this was not simply to shame the feudal lord, but to the give the peasants a sense of empowerment, the feeling that they were a political force and would never live under the boot again. No doubt, destroying the part offices of the CPI(M) is of similar symbolic importance.

  10. hegemonik said

    The thing that I noticed from the videos: the actual damage to property was actually minimal as far as the building structures. They didn’t blow up the offices, and mostly burnt whatever property was inside in bonfires. It suggests to me that they were really aiming at destroying things like the CPI(Marxist)’s files and whatnot.

    The place that I saw get damaged the worst were the (comparatively luxurious) homes of CPI(Marxist) honchos; folks took sledgehammers to one.

  11. Paul said

    Lalgarh – Here is the latest commentary and interviews with representatives of different ruling / opposition parties and journalists on NDTV :

    http://www.ndtv.com/news/videos/video_player.php?id=1127081

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