Revolution in South Asia

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India’s Flames of People’s Anger: Lagarh Update #2 part 1

Posted by n3wday on August 16, 2009

Lalgarh_adivasis_India_bow_arrow_CPI_Maoist_Peoples_Committee_against_police_atrocitiesThanks to D for making us aware of this. The previous articles leading up to this one are available here and here. We are breaking this post into three parts because of its length. This is part 1. Part 2 and 3 will be available soon.

Singur to Lalgarh via Nandi gram: Rising Flames of People’s Anger against Displacement, Destitution and State Terror

Lalgarh Update 2

Amit Bhattacharyya

Preface

We are bringing out this Update 2 which is in continuity with our earlier Update 1 (published in June 2009) to the original booklet: Singur to Lalgarh via Nandigram Rising Flames of People’s Anger against Displacement, Destitution and State Terror by Prof. Amit Bhattacharyya. He has quickly put together these two updates as the people’s struggle in the Lalgarh-Jangalmahal region of West Bengal is unfolding into a historical uprising with very many new creative forms of dissent.

Encouraged by a great response from various sections of people from all over India in receiving these booklets, we are publishing the Update 2 quickly. We are also encouraged to see the translation of these booklets into various languages like Oriya, Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam, Hindi, Punjabi etc.

What started as a struggle in November 2008 against displacement and police atrocities in Lalgarh has now acquired manifold dimensions of a larger people’s struggle. Keeping in view the significance of this people’s struggle, we are placing these updates before the people in struggles or those who are interested in people’s struggles at a time when media coverage of the developments in Lalgarh has dwindled to two-line news items or literally no coverage outside West Bengal. We hope this Update 2 will give an idea of what is going on in Lalgarh-Jangalmahal, though by no means it is a comprehensive report as no outsider is allowed by the West Bengal and Central Governments to go to the area of struggle to have a firsthand knowledge.


We publish these dispatches on Lalgarh struggle because we believe that there is a symbiotic relationship between the struggle of the adivasis of Lalgarh-Jangalmahal and all other struggles against displacement, destruction, destitution and decimation that are going on in various parts of the country.

However, the views expressed by the author in these series of reports on Lalgarh are his own. Various people’s movements against displacement participating in Visthapan Virodhi Jan Vikas Andolan shall not necessarily agree with all the views expressed here.

We are thankful to the author for giving us this opportunity to publish these reports.

Visthapan Virodhi Jan Vikas Andolan

People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCAPA)

In Lalgarh Update 1, we dealt with the salient features related to the state-sponsored war against the people or the Battle for Lalgarh till 23 June 2009. The ensuing state terror in Lalgarh very much resembles many more battle fronts in others parts of the country where people have been resisting displacement, destruction, destitution and decimation. In fact, the situation in Lalgarh-Jangalmahal has been brewing for decades to explode particularly under the regime of the ‘left-front’ led by CPI (M) which perpetuated brutish exploitation on the tribal population with a view to puff up the moneybags of their leaders.

The present banner of revolt raised by the adivasis in Lalgarh-Jangalmahal is symptomatic of struggles elsewhere in the country in our contemporary space and time. The struggles of Singur and Nandigram in West Bengal or Kalinganagar, Kashipur or J agatsinghpura, Niyamgarh and other regions in Orissa or the struggles of Bastar adivasis against large scale mining and gigantic industrial plants or the struggles of adivasis in North-eastern Ghats or mountain ranges in Andhra Pradesh against large-scale aluminium mining or the struggles of adivasis of Jharkhand – all have a lot in common – that they have initiated an uncompromising struggles to save themselves irrespective of the consequences and support they may be given or not from the democratic sections of the rest of the society.

Interestingly in all these regions the Indian state has deployed its mighty armed forces with a view to brutally suppress all these struggles with impunity. Today, the valiant struggle of the adivaisi of Lalgarh-Jangalmahal is pitched at a high level after consecutive defeats, at least temporarily for now, of the Indian state forces in Bastar, Kashipur, Kalingarnagar, Jagatsinghpura, Singur and Nandigram.

What is undercurrent in all these struggles is the democratic aspirations of the most oppressed people of this country. The present wave of struggles of the wretched of this country is for their survival and against destitution planned by our ruling elite for the oppressed.

The story of the struggle of the people of Lalgarh-Jangalmahal today is synonymous with the stories of our contemporary struggles elsewhere in the country. But then, the story of Lalgarh is also a story of two contending Indias—one of which is the vast multitude of people of the country rendered impoverished in more than 60 years of rapacious exploitation of the ruling elite, and the ruling elite themselves who were created, trained and maintained by their colonial/imperialist masters.

Let us continue with the story of Lalgarh as it is unfolding before our eyes after what is being narrated in the Update one of the book, Singur to Lalgarh via Nandigram: published by the Visthapan Virodhi Jan Vikas Andolan, in April 2009.

‘Operation Lalgarh’ and Resistance by the People

It was no easy task for the joint armed forces to deal with an invisible ‘enemy’. One CRPF jawan admitted to a media person that it was difficult to confront the ‘enemy’ in guerrilla war, where one could not distinguish between the villagers andthe Maoists. As the forces are haunted by the spectre of mine traps, they are unwilling to proceed unless safe passage is guaranteed by minesweepers of the paramilitary troops (Bartaman, 25 June 2009). The forces started from Goaltore police station on 24th and no sooner did they advance up to Gorabari, they got the news of thousands of villagers coming out from the jungles and were forced to retreat in haste to the police station. On that day, Sidhu Soren, the PCAPA leader told a newsperson that they were prepared to counter any attack from the joint armed forces of the Indian state (Bartaman, 25 June 2009). The PCAPA made it clear by organising a meeting attended by eight thousand villagers at Dharampur just 8 kms away from Lalgarh police station to assert that they will not be cowed down by state’s show of strength, violence and fire power (Dainik Statesman, 25 June 2009).

According to news reports, on 24th June, the armed Maoists attacked the house of one Bankim Mandal in Kurni village under Balarampur police station in Purulia district. Bankim is a member of Danrda local committee of the CPI (M) and a liquor dealer. As he was not found in his residence, his liquor shop was blasted (Dainik Statesman, 25 June 2009).

The strategy of the joint armed forces is to take control over the towns, set up as many base camps as possible, consolidate their forces and then wait for the proper time to enter the interior villages after ‘sanitising’ the jungles and mud roads with the help of CoBRA forces. As an English daily described:

“The moment you cross Kalaichandikhal, where the Chief Minister’s convoy was ambushed on November 2, 2008, it’s like stepping into a war zone. Schools have turned into bunkers. Machine-gun nests have been set up on roof-tops. Whole villages have been emptied out. Only the old and infirm remain. Stealthy figures slink away from homes as soon as you step into the threshold. Lalgarh seems to be holding its breath before the last blow”. (TOI, 26 June 2009).

According to news reports, as soon as operations by troops started in Lalgarh and adjoining areas, the Maoists have spread out to other areas. According to central intelligence reports, there are about 700 armed Maoists in other districts like Bankura and Purulia. Till then they were unable to capture a single Maoist leader, although they have arrested twenty people in Lalgarh alone. Meanwhile, six companies of CRPF had arrived in Goaltore along with a mine-resistant armoured vehicle to initiate operation from that side. What is particularly disturbing for the government is that rainy season is about to set in, and that will put an end to all military operations for the time being (Ananda Bazar Patrika, 26 June 2009). That will, as the government knows well, enable the Maoists to regroup. Meanwhile, some landmines were located and defused after a lot of effort. One four-foot-long mine, placed at a strategic point between Pingboni and Kadashole and packed with 10 kg of explosives, was detected with ultra-sophisticated electronic equipment and defused after a two-and-a-half-hour struggle. It was an indicator, according to media reports, of the kind of danger and obstacles that lie before the security forces in their attempt to capture the territory along Katapahari, Barapelia and Lalgarh (TOI, 27 June 2009). The Maoists blasted mines near Kadashol village and there was a heavy exchange of fire, while the CRPF had to fire mortal shells in response. (Bartaman, 27 June 2009).

The security forces entered Ramgarh town on 27 June reportedly after the CoBRA commandoes cleared the passage for the police and paramilitary troops to march into Ramgarh. A back-up team from Lalgarh police station was repelled with double ambushes including an attack by women Maoists (TOI, 28 June 2009). According to one report, minutes before the troops entered Ramgarh, one CPI party office was destroyed by armed Maoists (The Telegraph, 28 June 2009). On the road to Ramgarh from Kadashole, the village that the security forces took on 26 June, a freshly painted poster in Bengali was pressed back with four stones on the black asphalt.

“The people are urged not to use this path. It is laid with mines. Signed, the Communist Part of India (Maoist)” (The Telegraph, 28 June 2009).

One Bengali daily carried front-page news of women welcoming the troops by sounding conch-shells and giving water to them as if to show that they would now be rid of the ‘Maoist terror’(Ananda Bazaar Patrika, 28 June 2009). Another daily in an editorial however, asked:

“Those who welcomed the police, quenched their thirst—are they residents of that locality, or well-to-do middle class people residing in a semi-muffasil town? There were no Murmus or Mahatos among them, there were only Basus and Mitras” (Ekdin, 30 June 2009). (Persons with ‘Murmu’ or ‘Mahato’ surnames are adivasis, while those with ‘Basu’ and ‘Mitra’ surnames are upper-caste Hindus).

It is known from many sources that some of these people, quite well-dressed, which is unusual in such a critical situation, who reportedly welcomed the troops, were actually brought from Medinipur town and produced before the media to give such a false impression. An English daily stated:

“The tribal hamlets of Ramgarh were emptied. There is a clear tribal and non-tribal divide in the town. The people on the streets welcoming the troops were mostly non¬tribals” (The Telegraph, 28 June 2009).

An English daily stated that the panic that gripped the security forces is to be seen to be believed.

“In Lalgarh town, where the IRB has been roped in for perimeter security, jawans stood facing the Jhitka forest—the dreaded Maoist lair. You couldn’t mistake the nervousness in their young faces. Some were edgy, gripping the rifles tightly turning sharply at every noise, and rubbing their sweaty palms on their newly issued battle fatigues. One of them got a sharp rebuke from his section leader for heading a few steps deeper into the forest to relieve himself” (TOI, 26 June 2009).

According to another news report, a team comprising of ten CoBRAs and 50 BSF and state troopers that went to Godamouli forest in Sijua ran into a hail of bullets and had to beat a retreat. This, according to the report, was “the first instance of a tactical retreat by central forces in Lalgarh and the portent of the pitfalls of letting the guard down” (The Telegraph, 30 June 2009). One state officer stated: “It was too late into the day and it had started raining as well… We would have got trapped in the forest had we proceeded this afternoon”. He had to admit that the guerrilla attack of 29th came as a surprise. The security establishment was hoping to overrun the Maoists in the forests by sending small CoBRA teams to lie in wait for fugitives being pursued by other forces.

“But the Maoists turned out to be smarter…While we had planned to wait for them in the jungle and attack them, they reached there ahead of us and caught us off guard” (The Telegraph, 30 June 2009).

In course of this military operation, no Maoist could be caught; this has prompted the government to think that the Maoist leadership must have fled to Jharkhand. According to one report, contrary to what the state government has been saying, the Maoists including Kishanji and Bikash, are very much present in Lalgarh and have regular contact with the local people. It is reported that the Maoists held a meeting at Mohulboni with the villagers and had lunch on the occasion of Hul Dibas, a local tribal festival. The information that the police could come back was not new to them. “Let them enter, but how long do you think the central forces would stay. They will have to go back. We are waiting for that day”. “They have said they are not going away to Jharkhand. We have been assured that they are with us”, said a villager in the new temple. It was also learnt that the jungle, where the Maoists were holed up, extended all the way to Goaltore through Jhitka and Salboni. Sources said the attack on 29th on security forces at Sejua near Salboni was the handiwork of this squad (HT, Kolkata Live, 1 July 2009).

Chhatradhar Mahato accused the government of targeting not just the Maoists, but also members of the PCAPA. The jawans are raiding villages, beating people, forcing them to locate Maoist stronghold, failing which they are threatening people with dire consequences. The CPI(M) hermads are behind the forces to take control over villages and are using the ‘Majhi Marwa’ — the Santhali social organization — against the PCAPA (Ekdin, 27 June 2009).

Meanwhile, in the late night of 3 July, according to government, four Maoists were held from Ghatberakerua near Purulia’s Ajodhya Hills, one of whom was a woman. They are Malindra Besra, Gostho Gope, Haradhan Kumar and Mala Kumari — all in their early twenties. On 4 July, Chhatradhar Mahato on behalf of the PCAPA has given a call for general strike (bandh) on 8 July in the three districts of West Medinipur, Bankura and Purulia to protest the arrest of thirty PCAPA workers, the warrant issued against him and the harassment caused to city intellectuals, who went to Lalgarh during the joint operations and has sought the support of all political parties (TOI, 5 July 2009).

Tales of Brutality Perpetrated by the Police, Troops and CPI (M) Hermads Wearing Half-pants

The joint military operation is nothing but a state-sponsored war declared against the people of Jangalmahal. Since they failed to isolate the Maoists from the people, they are committing barbarity even of the most sadistic kind to humiliate, terrorise, maim and starve the poor people of the land so that they could never raise their heads and fight for dignity again. In the name of maintaining peace, they are doing everything to see to it that peace is destroyed. In the name of taming the Maoists and to enforce the ‘rule of law’ both the central and state governments and the hired CPI (M) goons have been breaking laws with impunity and letting loose hell that would put to shame even the most despicable of the lot. What the two governments are actually aiming at is to establish the ‘peace of the graveyard’. The so-called ‘Operation Lalgarh’ has been creating such a psychological trauma in the minds of the people that it would have serious implications for the future. Biren Mal, a resident of Pirrakhuli village, told a reporter:

“The last time I saw such fear and terror was during the British rule. This was such a peaceful place. We led simple lives. Look what they have turned us into. We are like hunted animals” (TOI, 26 June 2009).

The tales that follow, needless to state, are only the tip of the iceberg; untold stories will be told after those come to light.

Tale1: Anilbaran Saha (age above 60) is a resident of Pingboni, Goaltore. He taught English in a local school and has retired. On 1 9th, there was an exchange of fire between the police and the Maoists near Pingboni. The forces thought that gunshots were fired from his house. So he was dragged out of his house and subjected to abuses of all types. The experience he faced for some hours before he was ultimately let off, was so humiliating that he preferred to die (Ananda Bazar Patrika, 23 June 2009).

Tale 2: Ashok Kadma is a resident of Pingboni. He is still staying in his hamlet with cattle stock. He said; “Never did I see such things happening. On Friday (i.e.19 June), the police resorted to indiscriminate firing on all sides. I had to run away for fear of life”. Since then, he had been suffering from trauma that police forces are coming. Throughout the 20th he ran from pillar to post. As there was no police operation till Sunday afternoon, he summoned courage to get back home. But no sooner did he start cooking rice, news spread that forces were coming, and he was forced to flee again (Ananda Bazaar Patrika, 23 June 2009).

Tale 3: Reporters wrote that all the hamlets in village after village in the Goaltore block were seen locked up with no one in sight. Ashok Kadma told the media that in the name of search operations, many houses have been ransacked; the mirror placed on the trunk of a tree in a roadside saloon was broken (ABP, 23 June 2009).

Tale 4: In Hariharpur village on the evening of 21 st June, Swapan Singha was going to Lalgarh bazaar in a bicycle to buy puffed rice and batasha (sugar candy of a Bengal variety) for ritual purposes (Puja). He was dragged down from the bicycle and searched by the CRPF and beaten up badly (ABP, 23 June 2009).

Tale 5: Dulal Mal of Pathardanga village, Lalgarh, has had the same experience. On 20 June, he went to the veterinary physician in Block Sadar with his goat. On his way back home he was beaten up by the CRPF soldiers. One CRPF jawan had died due to sun-stroke. The CRPF accused Dulal and others of his type of being responsible for their colleague’s death and subjected him to utter humiliation (ABP, 23 June 2009).

Tale 6: Belpahari area in West Medinipur has been bearing the brunt of state attack. This is the region near the Jharkhand border which was witness to activities by the CPI (M-L) People’s War from the late 1 990s and early 2000s. It was also the area of activities by PCAPA. The police forces were boycotted by the traders and other people. On 23 June, the police broke down the people’s check-posts set up by the committee and ransacked shops, beat up local residents including women (ABP, 24 June 2009).

Tale 7: Anil Bez, aged 50 plus, is a resident of village Guri in Lalgarh. He was returning home after visiting his son-in-law’s house at Sarenga. He was picked up by the security forces and he now desperately wants to forget those horrible four hours when he was under their custody. What did the forces did to him in the name of ‘imposing the rule of law’? Santosh Singha, his son-in-law, a resident of Bejdanga in Sarenga, told the media in a hushed voice: “My father-in-law’s house is in Guri village in Lalgarh. My father-in-law, Anil Bez came to my house. When he left for his home on Tuesday morning (i.e, 23 June 2009), the jawans arrested and took him to their camp. He was hit with fists, slapped, his hands and face were tied up and he was beaten black and blue and kept in a sleeping posture on the floor of the roof of the camp for four hours”. He was released at about 10 in the morning and could barely summon all his strength to reach his son-in¬law’s house, bruised, battered and humiliated (ABP, 24 June 2009).

Tale 7: Penchera village is adjacent to village of Bejdanga. In the morning of 22 June, Bablu Mishra (aged 32) was loitering in front of his house around 9 PM. He was picked up by the jawans, taken to their camp, beaten mercilessly throughout the night, showering abuses of all types. He was set free around 10 next morning with the threat that in case the tale of torture is revealed, he would be killed (ABP, 24 June 2009).

Tale 8: Madhusudan Singha, Prasanta Pratihar, Dipak Singha and Subhas Singha are the residents of Bejdanga village. They went to the field to respond to nature’s call. They faced the wrath of the jawans. Barin Singha and Lakshman Pratihar said that in the name of search operations, the jawans are knocking at the door at the dead of night and showering unbearable abuses (ABP, 24 June 2009).

Tale: 9 In Kuldiha village, when a police team raided a house a few days before 25 June, the family desperately tried to salvage whatever little food-grains they had. A man told his son: “Gom bosta ta sorie de (move the sack of wheat)”. “The police heard ‘bomb bosta (sack of bombs)’. They ran away at first and then came back to beat us. They kept asking where we had hidden the bombs’, said the villager, requesting not to be named (TOI, 26 June 2009).

Tale 10: The first target of the jawans in Pathardanga village was the daily-wage labourer Manoranjan Mal (aged 30) who stayed back when the other males had fled the village. The police kicked the door of his house and broke it open. They began slapping and punching Mal, his wife Jharna Mal told the press. “Tor ghore IED rakha ache (you have a bomb in your home)”, a policeman shouted as Jharna and her two sons cowered. The ‘search’ began, with the police flinging utensils around and tearing the mattress apart. Then they came across the sack of 30kg of relief rice from the government. They ripped it open, spilled the rice on the floor, stamped on the grain and emptied a can of kerosene over it. “This was our month’s supply but now the rice is inedible. This is why we hate the police so much. That was all the rice I had to feed my two sons”, Jharna said at the committee’s Kantapahari camp. Manoranjan Mal, whom the police had taken away, is now in detention (The Telegraph, 29 June 2009).

Tale 11: Jipita Soren of Pathardanga village said she was alone when the police barged into her hamlet. “They threw my dinner— a bowl of cooked rice—on the floor and stamped on it” (The Telegraph, 29 June 2009).

Tale 12: Kamalmoti Tudu of the same village said that the police poured water on her firewood, so she couldn’t cook. “In the evening the Maoists came and said they would look after us” (The Telegraph, 29 June 2009).

Tale 13: At Kadashole, the forces assaulted a couple, forcing them to flee, leaving behind their two-year-old daughter Sujaya. While Shibu Hembrom, the girl’s father, is still missing, his wife Ratimoni fled to a relief camp across the forest and sought help from officials there. On 28th evening, a team of district officials rescued the child from the forest (TOI, 29 June 2009).

Tale 14: Residents of Sarenga told media persons that on 18 June 2009, one company of paramilitary force arrived at Sarenga along with state police, and started to route in different parts of Sarenga bazaar area. In the mean time when a procession of the women’s wing of the PCAPA entered the bazaar area, they were attacked by the jawans. Unprepared in the face of such brutality, the women got scattered and some entered a private nursing home to protect themselves. The jawans also pursued them into the nursing home, dragged some of them, beat them up and booked them on several cooked-up charges; many among them are still in jail (Ekdin, 29 June 2009). That was the beginning. Since then, the number of arrests on the charge of being ‘Maoists’ has been increasing every day.

Tale 15: On 21 June, four persons were arrested on the charge of planting landmines at a place near Kangshabati canal. The villagers of Khayerpahari village assert that none of them were in any way involved in the act. The fact is that they were arrested from the Khayerpahari club organized by the PCAPA around 11 am in the presence of many other people. As that club does not have any legal electrical connection, the members hooked it from the side poles to plug in a TV set. On that day, when those four people were watching the TV, they were picked up along with the wire through which electrical connection was drawn. They were implicated in a case whereby they were alleged of planting mines with that very wire (Ekdin, 29 June 2009). This, according to the top brass of the West Bengal bureaucracy, is how the ‘rule of law’ is to be established.

Tale 16: This war against the people had forced a pregnant woman to flee her home, to take shelter in a relief camp organized by the PCAPA and give birth to a baby. Here is the story as related to a media-person. Mrs. Parvati Kisku gave birth to her baby on 25 June in a relief camp set up by the PCAPA at Narcha, which is located 1km short of Kantapahari. Her husband was not by her side during the time of delivery, neither was a doctor or a midwife present. It was left to some women staying in the camp to help her through labour. In lack of any kind of facilities they had to use a piece of broken glass to cut the umbilical chord. As the security forces marched by on 29th morning on their way to Kantapahari, Parvati was spotted sitting in the courtyard of the Narcha primary school with her son on her lap, both of them visibly weak. At first she would not say anything, but quizzed a few times, she said: “We have severe shortage of food here”, and turned her attention to her son who had already developed rashes on his body. Her mother-in-law refused to disclose her son’s name, or his whereabouts. She even declined to name their native village. “We are staying here for the last eight days. We are living in a painful condition. But we cannot go back to our village as the police will torture us again, said Mrs. Jaba Kisku. The reporter rang up the top boss in charge of the operation and some others. An ambulance was sent; but Parvati refused to take any help from the government who was responsible for her plight. Parvati was taken inside by other women. They said: ‘She will not go to Lalgarh. Her son is fine. Please do not bother us”. When asked whether they would allow a doctor to come and examine the child, they were still hesitant. The BDO, of Binpur Mr. Sourabh Barik tried to speak to Parvati over phone, but she refused. Some other woman spoke to the BDO and declined to take any help for the ailing mother and her child (The Statesman, 30 June 2009). As the baby was born at night, she was given the name Ratri or night (Dainik Statesman, 30 June 2009). Parvati lives in Chhotopelia village — the cradle of the present movement where the Lalgarh police let loose a rampage on 5 November 2008.
Parvati later told another reporter: “In our village, hundreds of children are born at home without any medical supervision. The government has never bothered about us. Now they are putting up a show of sympathy. We won’t take their help”. The reporter commented: “The aversion to anything to do with the government is understandable when the elderly woman in charge of the daily needs of the camp between Kantapahari and Lalgarh narrated how an expectant Jashomoni Mandi was kicked in the stomach by policemen raiding their village last November…Jashomoni, 22, gave birth to a son last night” (The Telegraph, 1 July 2009).

Tale 17: Dr. Jatin Pratihar of Kantapahari is a very popular doctor in the locality. The top brass of the marauding jawans believed that he was closely associated with the Maoists and treated their wounds. The police claimed that Dr. Pratihar treated the wounds of Sambhu Mandi and Purna Murmu, who sustained injuries during the encounter with the joint armed forces at

Kadashole. So on 29 June, under the leadership of Siddhinath Gupta, Special IG (Operation), a huge police and paramilitary force encircled his house and searched and ransacked it as if they are raiding the house of a hardened criminal. The patients who were there at the chamber were taken aback by the way the jawans ransacked the house. According to his wife, he had just left the house for the relief camp at Kantapahari Vivekananda High School. His next-door neighbour is Nirmal Pratihar. That house was also raided under the leadership of Shyam Singh, Deputy Superintend of Police, Maldah (Bartaman, 30 June 2009).

Tale 18 and many more: The CPI (M) hermads are back in action like the vultures falling on their prey. Closely following the police the hermads are used to recapture areas that were lost to the people in the Nandigram style. In the villages near Sijua, the police and the hermads operated in unison raiding the village hamlets such as Godamouli, Madhupur, Memol etc. On 30 June. Relief camps were forcefully vacated by the jawans to make room for army camps. The house of Gopinath Soren, one of the PCAPA leaders, was burnt down and he was arrested. Not a single hamlet was spared. The six-month pregnant Simli Mandi and her husband Duhkhiram have left their village Godamouli of Salboni out of fear of police and hermad brutality. Her mother-in-law, Rani Mandi is so much distressed that she has lost her will to cook. On 29th, police and BSF came to her village. They ransacked her house in search of Maoists. “I saved some money and bought a hari (a container meant for cooking food), but they left it broken. How can I cook now?” The trauma suffered by Rani Mandi is shared by all others in the village. On 29 June, this village witnessed a battle between the forces and Maoists. At the end, jawans entered and destroyed every house. It was the repetition of the age-old policy of all repressive, anti-people forces—”burn all, destroy all”. The shop of Mohit Mahato was broken down. Mohit Mal went to respond nature’s call in the forest in the morning. When he heard gunshots, he rushed out and ran towards his house. The police got hold of him and beat him up so severely that his nose and mouth bled profusely. He was arrested (Bartaman, 1 July 2009). Dilip Malik was arrested for having supposed Maoist

links. His wife, Manju Malik is supposedly an active member of the women’s wing of the PCAPA. She used to alert people by sounding conch-shells whenever the police entered the village — a lesson taken possibly from the experience of the Nandigram. She was beaten up and humiliated by the joint forces and the CPI (M) goons.

Mani Mandi of the same village said: “Some of the hermads who entered our village to torture earlier are known faces. Yesterday (29 June) we identified one of them with the police. He was wearing half-pants and had a band held tight to his head. They were kicking and breaking open the doors. Have you ever seen policemen wearing half-pants?” she asked (Ekdin, 1 July 2009). Apart from Godamouli, other villages such as Ghugudanga, Madhupur, Garra, Memul, Babuibasa, Debagram, Sijua, Mandaria, etc. bore the brunt of state terror as well. The police arrested Madan Hansda and Los Mandi from Godamouli village. Their wives said that they were identified to the police by the CPI (M) hermads (Bartaman, 1 July 2009). Police informers indeed!
The police also raided the house of Chhatradhar Mahato twice, ransacked the house and showered abuses of all types on his wife, Anita in Amlia village, 3kms from the Lalgarh police station. First they went to the adjoining Pathardanga village. Manju Mal, wife of Haradhan Mal, had just come from the field and started cooking, when the police dragged her to the next Amlia village to identify Chhatradhar Mahato’s residence. The way the jawans entered his house was narrated by Chhatradhar’s mother, Bedanabala Mahato. “The police encircled the house. ‘Where is your son?’ asked the officer-in-charge of the police station, pointing the gun at me. He broke the emergency light and took out the battery and said: ‘Your son murders policemen with this battery. People’s leader! Your daughter-in-law will be a widow. And then he started beating me with the stick” (Dainik Statesman, 5 July 2009). Although her two sons were traumatised by the police, his wife did not break down and boldly said that she was proud of her husband and was ready to go to jail along with him (TOI, 1 July 2009).

Samir Mahato of Pirrakhuli village narrated, “the police made me go and fetch local liquor for them and forced me to drink it first, fearing they would be poisoned. I don’t drink or smoke, and puked at the first gulp. But they still forced me. They think everyone in a tattered vest and lungi is a Maoist. They are snatching at shadows” (TOI, 26 June 2009). What the joint security forces are doing can be assessed when we see that “in village after village… the local people call the security forces by a different name—‘shontrash bahini’—repressive force” (The Telegraph, 25 June 2009).

Part 2 coming soon…

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