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Violence in Lalgarh – overtones of a Salwa Judum style conflict?

By Partho Sarathi Ray, Sanhati

It is a matter of grave concern that the situation in Lalgarh and adjoining areas is taking the overtones of a Salwa Judum – like condition. The CPI(M)-created and led Gana Pratirodh Committee and Adibasi-o-anadibasi Aikya committee, are mounting increasing attacks on members of the Peoples’ committees against police repression, which is exemplified by the recent murder of Nirmal Sardar. A few hours ago there was firing by CPI(M) cadres on a public rally of the Peoples’ Committees in Ramgarh, and reportedly four people have been killed with many more injured. This game of playing adivasi against adivasi is taking the situation to a boiling point. Yesterday, Nandalal Pal, an influential leader of the CPI(M), had been gunned down in the same area, allegedly by Maoists. With the ploy of resisting the Maoists, these Salwa Judum like vigilante groups floated by the CPI(M) are creating turmoil in the entire Jangalkhand area.

The Telegraph reports:

Three tribals were killed in restive Lalgarh in West Midnapore today in a clash between a resistance group and CPM activists carrying the body of a leader slain by suspected Maoists.

The tragedy is threatening to reopen the wounds in Lalgarh that was under a Nandigram-style blockade for over a month from November 7.

Today’s bloodletting traces its roots to the Maoist attack on the chief minister’s convoy on November 2. The alleged police excesses that followed gave birth to the People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities in Lalgarh. The committee had declared the area out of bounds for the police even after the blockade with felled trees was lifted in December.

However, in today’s CPM cortege of at least 12 cars and 40 motorcycles, there were some policemen.

“Our supporters stopped the policemen escorting the convoy. Our intention was not to stop the convoy. But some CPM workers and policemen started shooting. Those killed are our supporters,” committee leader Chhatradhar Mahato said.

The CPM, which suspects Maoists backed the tribals in the clash in which bullets and arrows flew, alleged the committee’s supporters had fired first. Mahato denied the allegation.

West Midnapore police chief Rajesh Kumar Singh did not say who fired first but insisted it was not the police.

The victims were identified as Rajaram Mandi, 55, his son Lakhiram, 25, and Gopinath Soren, 37.

The CPM activists were returning with the body of zonal committee member Nandalal Pal, shot dead by suspected Maoists yesterday, after the post-mortem.

“When the procession reached Khas Jangal around 2.30pm, it was stopped by the committee’s supporters, including women,” a police officer said. The agitators allegedly smashed the windscreen of a police jeep.

“The tribals opened fire and shot arrows at our workers. Our supporters managed to flee with Nandalal’s body,” said Dahareswar Sen, a CPM leader.

Later in the evening, the agitators placed tree trunks on the main road connecting Lalgarh with Ramgarh, the site of a police camp, in about 15 places. “We will block roads across Lalgarh again tomorrow,” Mahato said, demanding that the camp be abandoned.

During the month-long blockade in November, security officials had expressed the fear that Maoists from Jharkhand were using the cover to replenish supplies.

CPM leaders said this evening they would not let the situation escalate. “We don’t want more trouble. We want the tribals with us. But we must remember that our partymen cannot just sit back and take all the beating,” state secretariat member Benoy Konar said.

Trinamul Congress chief Mamata Banerjee dubbed the killings “state-sponsored terrorism”. She said she would visit Lalgarh if the situation did not improve in a day or two.

Background material

Background article on Lalgarh movement by Partho Sarathi Ray
An introductory article on Lalgarh by Koustav De from Monthly Review

Chronological progression

Lalgarh movement faces State terror – Koustav De
Feb 5: Police camp shift demanded by tribals
Feb 2: Violence in Lalgarh – overtones of a Salwa Judum style conflict? – Partho Sarathi Ray
Jan 29: Lalgarh and a basic problematic of people’s movements – Dipanjan Rai Chaudhuri
Jan 26, 2009:Member of the People’s Committee killed while having tea
Jan 23, 2009: An open letter to the rebels of Lalgarh from Shramik Sangram Committee [PDF, Bengali] »
Jan 12, 2009: Damages announced for Lalgarh women The Telegraph
Jan 8, 2009: Tribals continue to boycott administration in LalgarhExpressindia
Dec 19: Police back in Lalgarh, so are protestsThe Statesman
Dec 14: Lalgarh: probing the scale-down of the revolt and the need of the hour – Partho Sarathi Ray
Dec 7: Lalgarh blockade stoppedThe Statesman
Dec 4: Ominous developments: impending two-pronged attack of the police and the CPI(M – Partho Sarathi Ray
Dec 4: Lalgarh: A leaflet from Shramik Sangram Committee [PDF, Bengali] >>
Dec 2: Lalgarh – nature of the movement, facets of impoverishment, bid for power, and the future – Dipanjan Rai Chaudhuri
Nov 30: Novel methods of participatory democracy and gender equality in Lalgarh; tribals elsewhere stand up; development issues resonate – Partho Sarathi Ray
Nov 27: Indian Tribes after Sixty Years – A study by Walter Fernandes
Nov 26: Agitation spreads to Birbhum – The Statesman
Nov 25: We talk of patricipatory democracy, Lalgarh is practising it – Sumit Chowdhury
Nov 23: The Charter of Demands, as circulated by the Peoples Committee Against Police Oppression – Suvarup Saha
Nov 23: Pictures from Dalilpur Chowk
Nov 20,22: Violence in Bankura; venue of negotiations under contention – Mainstream media reports
Nov 19: Mass meetings in Belpahari and Chakadoba; movement spreads despite negotiations – Partho Sarathi Ray
Nov 18: Uprising spreads further, supported by migrant adivasis; CPIM stokes Bengali regionalist sentiments – Partho Sarathi Ray
Nov 16: Peoples Committee Against Police Oppression formed, uprising spreads near Garbeta – Partho Sarathi Ray
Nov 15: Spins of the corporate media, and the true story of Chotopeliya village – Partho Sarathi Ray
Nov 15: Some reports from mainstream media
Nov 14: Movement spreads to Midnapur, Jhargram cut off – Partho Sarathi Ray
Nov 13: Background of the movement – Partho Sarathi Ray.

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