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by Dipanjan Rai Chaudhuri, Sanhati, 13 June 2009

June 13, 2009

The people’s uprising in Lalgarh has entered difficult days. The exclusion of the state police from an area where previously they used to beat up people and arrest them on false cases, and the setting up of gram level committees with equal representation for men and women leading up to the Pulishi Atyacharer biruddhe Janasadharaner committee marked a level of popular initiative never seen in post-colonial times. The volume of people’s participation, too, in tens of thousands, was unprecedented. The decision of the Janasadharaner committee to start health services and small irrigation projects squarely confronted the corrupt and, in this area, virtually non-existent state-sponsored development work with development by the people for the people.. The debacle of the CPI(M) in the panchayet and Lok sabha elections created a space for the partial political power demanded by the people.

The CPI(M) in this region, including Keshpur and Garhbeta, is now formed of armed gangs, generically called the ‘Ghoshkar Bahini’, which, together with the police, has been killing members of the Janasadharaner committee, and trying hard to bring back the disobedient people of Lalgarh under their thumb.

Parallel to the work of the committee, the Maoists, who enjoy great prestige and support in the jangal mahal, have been carrying on their usual programme of killing bad gentry and police spies (mostly CPI(M) leaders), and neutralising the CPI(M) cadre. The use of murder as a part of politics, some particularly unfortunate killings of quite innocent people, and a de facto bar on all other political organisations have made civil society uneasy. The Maoists have defended their actions as essential to the unfolding of a people’s war against the state, and have indicated their indifference to the feelings of civil society.

More-over they have claimed leadership of the Lalgarh movement and have called for the formation of a people’s militia. After this declaration the Janasadharaner committee seemed to embark on a spree of expanding their area of operation with predictable clashes, as they moved outside their sphere of influence, with the police and the CPI(M)’s armed gangs. The police seem to have regained their enthusiasm for arrest and torture. The Janasadharaner committee made, perhaps an inadvertent, sortie into Chakulia in Jharkhand. Jharkhand police promptly arrested some demonstrators, detained a few, alleging Maoist connections, and there was a case of custodial rape. The Janasadharaner committee has made some other moves carryng doubtful benefits. They wished to demonstrate their following to the people of Kolkata and brought people in busloads, ending up in a face-off with the police, who refused permission the next time to bring traditional weapons. Then, again, in Lalgarh, they asked government employees in BDO’s offices and other such places to give donations adding up to lakhs of rupees..

What had started as a people’s movement of great potentiality, bringing questions of self-determination and the right to resist state terror and maldevelopment through people’s organisations, is now on the defensive. The state which was paralysed in the changing political scene by the sheer numbers of demonstrators has again gained the initiative, in its present task of restoring hegemony to the armed gangs of the CPI(M). The Maoists are at home in a turf war of this kind . Development of a guerrilla zone is part of their programme. It is for the Janasadharaner committee to decide whether it will come back to its original programme, whose basic aim of resisting police atrocity found a resonant chord in the minds of the entire people of West Bengal. Lalgarh needs a shield of such people without delay, for a Nandigram-like invasion seems imminent. To set up the shield a dialogue with civil society is of immediate importance.

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