Lalgarh

Where injustice prevails, Rebellion is justice!

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Archive for October, 2009

Debates on Lalgarh: Sujato Bhadra, Kishenji, Amit Bhattacharya

Posted by Admin on October 28, 2009

These were published in the Bengali daily Dainik Statesman. The first came out on 26 September 2009, and the second and third came out in a single issue, that of 10 October 2009. Translated by the Radicalnotes team.

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1. An Open Letter to the Maoists – Sujato Bhadra

The present writer is an Indian citizen, associated with the civil rights/human rights movement in West Bengal for some decades. You are probably aware of the fact that recently in this state your armed activities and the more violent and more cruel repression subsequently adopted by the state by making your activities as a pretext has given rise to a debate.

As you know, the civil society became vocal in its criticism of police repression and terror in the Jangal Mahal area including Lalgarh in last November (2008). The charter of demands placed by the People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities got the wholehearted support from the civil society and many organizations. The civil society was conscious about the happenings that took place since 18 June; it raised its voice time and again against repression perpetrated by the joint forces, stuck to the demand for the withdrawal of joint forces and placed demand to the government for sitting in a dialogue with all the parties. We have strongly opposed the ‘terrorist’ tag being affixed to your organization (by the state). The dissident part of the civil society was also much vocal demanding the repeal of the UAPA. In a nutshell, the position of the civil society against state repression and terror is zero tolerance. Many of us are in no way subscribers to the ‘Ticking bomb situation’ model.

The basis of our protest is our adherence to democratic values, consciousness emanating from humanitarianism and morality. Such elements, we feel, should also become part and parcel of politics guided by class outlook. It is these thoughts that have made me feel that some of your activities suffer from lack of logical thinking. Some events even severely hurt out consciousness and gave us pain.

Your party was confronted with such questions earlier also. You have replied to the open letter from the ‘Concerned citizens’ of Andhra Pradesh, I have also gone through your reply to the questions raised (centring round Chhattisgarh) by some eminent persons (Ramchandra Guha and others). At that time you worked as an underground party. Recently, after the promulgation of the ban on you and the draconian black law, the situation, no doubt, has become more difficult for you. Now there is no legal avenue for us to know your views and to respond to them from our side. We appreciate the fact that you have to carry on in the face of such a suffocating atmosphere and state terror. While sharing your anguish, I bear doubts about some of your activities. I am placing those things, keeping in mind the difficult situation you are in. My request to you is to give these (critical observations) some consideration.

In one of your leaflets on ‘Maoist violence’, the following is stated: “…violence has a class-orientation, it is never neutral…only armed struggle and people’s war would develop and spread people’s democratic struggles…our work in not violent, it is people’s violence to get rid of violence, which is part of people’s war” (dt.18-07-09).

I do not subscribe to this political view. I am not even opposing this standpoint from an alternative political outlook. I, on the contrary, would raise questions by keeping myself within your logical structure: one can talk about notion of violence and deal with it at the theoretical plane; problems crop up at the time implementation and the social impact that necessarily follows from it. It is related to the intense reaction that has been generated within the supporters of Lalgarh and other democratic movements.

Why only you, many philosophers throughout ages had clearly maintained that justice could be established through violence only(?). For example, Sartre has written: “Violence is acceptable because all great changes are based on violence” (The Aftermath of War p.35). He forgot to add that history itself had shown that a society created through violent means could not live for long. Whether anything good can be achieved through violence is also very much doubtful. The concept “End justifying the means” rejects the notion of justice and morality; and the result is that “the means outweigh the end”.

You have declared in quite unequivocal terms that the heroic people of the area (Jangal Mahal) under the leadership of the CPI(Maoist) conducted trial in people’s courts and meted out to those lumpens (hermads of the CPM) the punishment they deserved for being police informers (Press Release dt.16-08-09).

Our opposition is over the question of this capital punishment. Many people and civil rights bodies throughout the world including India mustered public opinion for the final abolition of capital punishment (legalized murder). As a result, the majority of the countries in the world (224 countries) have abolished death sentence. The reason is that as a form of punishment, this practice is barbarous and cruel. Over and above, it also does not act as a deterrent. Beheading does not allow the victim any chance to rectify oneself. Not only that, there could also be possibility of error in judgement. If it is found after carrying out the punishment that the condemned person was innocent, nobody can return his life. On the contrary, such violent punishment makes the society more inhuman and more violent. Long time back, Tom Paine remarked: “The people by nature are not violent, they only reproduce the cruel methods used by the state”. We strongly oppose this cruel method/means adopted by the state. Side by side, we also hold that if notions such as ‘eye for an eye’ or ‘life for a life’ take root in the minds of the oppressed people in this unequal and deprived society, then there is the outburst of violent mentality from the side of the people; this is happening now. You represent the advanced elements striving for social transformation. What should be your role as the vanguard? Will you submit to that violent emotion, or will you uphold advanced democratic values and guide the people under your influence along that path?

What is the organizational structure of the ‘people’s courts’? Is it that the accusers themselves are judges and they themselves are the butchers? It is important to remember that in the judicial system set up by the state, there are certain recognized stages, judicial procedure, regular and separate judicial structure, a higher court of appeal and the right to clemency in the hands of the president. Despite all these, we demand abolition of the system of legalized killing. How can we thus and from what democratic, human rights or the values of just trial accept such trials in ‘people’s courts’ and the meting out of punishment?

The armed forces in Jammu and Kashmir and the north-east think that all the people living there are ‘suspect’; they raise big hoardings to declare ‘Suspect all’. Are you not acting in the same way? In your judgement, each and every CPM supporter or individual is part of the hermad gang and engaged in spying for the police forces. Unless they surrender to the people, they would be given death sentence. Such a method could be the manifestation of your power; but it is devoid of sense of values. You have already meted out death sentence to many ‘informers’; nobody knows how many more will have to meet the same fate before the rest of the lumpens would surrender to the people. This is because everything depends on what you think about it. You have stated: “To set those lumpens free would mean handing over the struggling and revolutionary masses to the joint forces’ (Press Release dt.16-08-09). Let us state in the light of what the psychologist Christopher Bolas has said: “Every time the killer strikes, it is his own death that he avoids”. It means that such attacks come from a sense of fear and apprehension. The question is: if you have a social base in the area, then it is possible to socially isolate the informers. On the other hand, if your political opponents carry on ideological struggle, and they are physically liquidated by branding them as such, then it will appear that some type of acute ‘irrationality’ pervades throughout your activities. In reality, Lalgarh has become a valley of death, and from there the message of death is travelling round. Is there no way to combat espionage other than liquidating them? Could not the people adopt the method of exposing those informers under your leadership? Marx had to close down his Das Kapital write a whole book named Herr Vogt in order to expose espionage. And Mao was in favour of beheading only a few.

In that case, propaganda and exposure will, on the one hand, not exert any negative social reaction, and, on the other, the state will also not able to get any illegal but apparently social sanction to ‘liquidate’ you. If that is not done, then we will be faced with a terrible situation: unmoved, indifferent human mass. In a situation attended with violence, counter-violence, repression and counter-attack, it will not be possible to mobilize democratic people and raise the voice of protest. We belonging to the third force (those who are neither with the state nor with you ideologically) would find ourselves in a helpless situation. Had we been able, as an alternative, to unite and create a tide of democratic movement against the ruthless state repression in Lalgarh, then we would have found in our ranks that civil society which was imbued with democratic values and inspired by the teachings of Singur and Nandigram, and thus would have ensured the victory of the weak over the strong. In the initial period (November ’08 to June ’09), it was in fact achieved.

You have passed your judgement on some eminent persons and decided to mete out death sentence to them. As you stated, it was the demand of the people. There was an attempt on the life of the chief minister through the Salboni blast. It is true that the chief minister is accused of committing genocide. It is also true that after 14 March massacre in Nandigram, posters and placards were raised demanding ‘Hang the chief minister”. But all of us realized that such outbursts were the manifestation of immediate intense emotion. But if that is interpreted as the serious, logical demand of the people to kill him, then, I am forced to state, this is totally childish. To brand someone as ‘authoritarian’ and then to attempt to kill him, is equally ludicrous and manifestation of anarchist philosophy. Let us remember that Marxist philosophy was established in the world by negating anarchist philosophy. Whether there is any philosophical or theoretical recognition of such individual-centric attack from Marxism to Maoism is not known to me.

Mao Tse-tung’s favourite military strategist Karl von Clausewitz wrote that like politics, war also has a specific aim; but that war at the same time negates that politics; the contending parties get busy parading their forces. War and annihilation bring destruction, but that not only to the enemy, but also inflict severe damage to your own side. And there is also no end to this war.

Friends and foes act always by treating each as a ‘unholy force’. The question is; while getting rid of the unholy, we ourselves are getting influenced by that force. We should not forget that great note of caution: ‘Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And when you look long into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you” (Beyond Good and Evil). Counter-violence, counter-attack—these are the natural reactions of human beings. That does not require any special kind of philosophy. Philosophy, on the other hand, can control that reaction with logical thinking, can make human values and notions about morality indispensable elements in formulating policies. I feel that you suffer from serious limitations on this issue.

In the recent period, the police arrested two of your important members, but did not produce them in the court in time. Through your press release, you had quite rightly claimed that the police had violated law by not producing them in court within 24 hours and appealed to civil rights bodies for intervention. You have rightly thought about fake encounters. In the face of a public outcry, the police were forced to produce them in court. Before that, you have also made appeals to the intellectuals to come to Lalgarh to see with their own eyes the barbarity perpetrated by the joint forces in Lalgarh.

By doing so, you have admitted that if, even within this structure, the process of ‘rule of law’ is kept operative in the proper manner and if democratic voice is raised in its support, then it is possible to resist in some cases the illegal, anti-human rights activities and bad intentions of the state. Should it not be our task to strengthen all democratic forums of this type, so that it is possible to ensure the implementation of state-declared commitments to safeguard civil rights of the people? The more such space widens, the more will it be possible to prevent fake encounters, the killing of struggling people and to isolate and defeat the ‘Culture of impunity’.

If instead of doing so, we kidnap someone, oppress him and after that kill him and throw his body in the streets, then we ourselves become oppressors like the state. You will have to accept responsibility for the trauma that the children undergo when murders take place before their very eyes. Such a brutal method of murder can never be accepted by the sensitive people. How can thus we be able to enable people to dream of a society based on human values in place of the ugly face of the state? How can that dream be fulfilled by following the same condemnable, mean method?

You have claimed that Jangal Mahal has posed the questions to the whole people: “Would you support the repression by the joint forces in Lalgarh, or would you support the resistance and protest movement of the heroic people under the leadership of the People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities against the joint armed forces and the resistance forces including the hermads?’ (Statement dt.16-08-09). You have made appeals to all to stand by the side of the Lalgarh movement.

Many of us have consistently been supporting the movement against police atrocities and the demands of the Lalgarh people unconditionally. That is not the question. Many of us also do not consider your extension of support to that movement to be unjust.

The problem has started with the transformation in the character of the movement. It relates to your practice of violence. Needless to say, you have been using the typical Marxist ‘binary’ model of seeing it as a contradiction between the two—either one is on this side or on that side or on the side of the enemy; none among you is prepared to accept the fact that there could also be third, fourth or fifth position and stand by the movement. Scholars have written so many things on this ‘history of seeing’!

We are condemning the continuous state violence and the repression perpetrated by the main ruling party in this state. Along with it, we have also felt that that your declared presence has pushed into the background the focus of the direction of people’s upsurge and movement under the leadership of the People’s Committee. On the other hand, there are some negative elements inherent in the armed resistance under your leadership that stand in the way of getting mass support against state violence. Whether you realize it or not, we do not know. While standing in the 21st century—an era of human rights consciousness, in any resistance movement, particularly those with arms, certain universal unchallengeable notions, which we may call ‘minimal absolutist view’, should have to be recognized. Discarding those notions as ‘bourgeois’ at the time of formulation principles would only be suicidal.

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Response from Jangal Mahal – Kishenji

The human rights movement in Bengal started in the early 1970s after the setback of the Naxalbari movement. The next few decades were one of vacuum in the revolutionary movement; it was in that context that human rights movement developed.

The human rights movement played a glorious role for four decades, standing by the side of oppressed masses. In those days, Sujatobabu stood in the forefront of that struggle. Civil rights movement in those decades took some shape. That model was the model of standing by the side of the oppressed masses.

However, as there was a resurgence of revolutionary movements in Andhra Pradesh and erstwhile Bihar in the 1980s, civil rights movement, by degrees, was beset with a crisis. That was the time when the masses rose to shake off the image of ‘oppressed masses’ and asserted their identity as the ‘resisting warrior masses’. Thus old model of civil rights movement could not fit in the new situation. The state started clamping down on human rights activists to keep the movement within specified limits. That gave rise to debate and contradiction within human rights movement. The glorious representative of human rights movement at that stage in Andhra Pradesh was Ramanathan R. Purushottam.

Human rights movement in Bengal still remained untouched by that crisis. This is because revolutionary movement in Bengal, as yet, had not regained its relevance in the political scenario.

Today the movement in Lalgarh-Jangal Mahal has raised a question before the human rights movement. Will the civil rights activists, who are accustomed to stand by the side of the ‘oppressed masses’, equally not be successful in standing by the side of the ‘resisting warrior masses’? The movement in Lalgarh-Jangal Mahal has brought to the fore two main questions:

1) Should the people’s movement, in the last analysis, be allowed to be exploited to make room for mainstream leaders/lady leaders? Or will the people be able to channelize it in a way that helps in the resurgence of the people themselves?

2) Should the people fighting against fascist rule be satisfied with saving their skin by holding the hands of leaders/lady leaders along the constitutional path? Or will the people protect themselves by destroying the fascist fortresses like that of Bastille?

Violence or non-violence? This had never been an ‘issue’ in Indian politics. What is called ‘democratic politics’—the practice of violence in that mainstream constitutional politics far surpasses the practice of violence in revolutionary politics. Thus in the language of law, this is a ‘non-issue’. It is to bury the two main issues raised by the Lalgarh movement that the state policy-makers’ circle has put forward this ‘non-issue’.

The right to self-defence is recognized even in bourgeois law. The right to kill the attacker for self-defence is recognized, though that right is used as pretexts to kill revolutionary masses and revolutionaries in the hands of the state. But when the oppressed masses turn into resisting warrior masses and come forward to exercise that right, the whole context changes.

What is meant by fascist rule? It is rule by a coterie of a handful of political leaders and bureaucrats. At the grassroots level, it takes the form of combined terror perpetrated by state forces and Gestapo forces of the party.

Let us keep in mind that fascism is a well-organized centralized system. Even if there is any loophole, then fascist system would penetrate through that loophole into the village and bring with it murder, rape and destruction of houses by fire. The right of self-defence of the masses demands that no shadow of the hermads exists in the villages, no loophole is allowed to be created through which they could penetrate any time. Today we are witness to the hair-raising serials associated with genocide, terror, rape and house-burning like Hitler’s Gestapo forces in the wake of the emergence of ‘salwa judum’ in Chhattisgarh, ‘Nagarik Suraksha Samiti’ in Jharkhand and ‘hermad forces’, ‘ghoskar bahini’, ‘Santras Protirodh Committee’ in the Jangal Mahal area of Bengal. These are part of everyday life–the operation by the joint forces, the setting up 80 to 90 bunkers, big hermad camps, with modern weapons like LMGs under police protection around Keshpur and Gorbeta to recapture Jangal Mahal. All these are known thanks to the media. On the other hand, the state is moving with moneybags from one village to another to create an informer and covert network, the police forces are creating a terror by beating up people indiscriminately, all the schools have been converted into police camps and thereby a war situation is being created. In such a war situation, can the yardsticks of just principles remain the same? Can the yardstick be the same for a normal situation and a situation when fascism rules? Civil war and fascism bring changes in human lives. The notions and yardsticks about just principles also undergo changes temporarily.

In order to tire out informers, the people are adopting a number of methods. On the other side, the state is also trying everything in its power to whet their greed. Thus the number of informers being killed is also mounting. Had there been some proper system in Jangal Mahal today, the number of informers getting killed would have been far less. In different parts of Dandakaranya, informers are being detained in people’s prisons.

As long as the joint forces did not enter the area, no need was felt to liquidate the spies in such a large number. After the intrusion of the joint forces, the situation has changed. Likewise, the notion of self-defence has also changed.

We are also opposed to death sentence. However, the notion of just principle in a normal situation is different from that in a war situation. In the war situation, freedom of thought, consciousness, initiative and innovation is much limited in scope.

Sujatobabu has observed: “Your pronounced and armed presence has pushed the focus of the speed and movement of people’s upsurge led by the People’s Committee to the background”.

Sujatobabu! The state has snatched away your right to openly enter Jangal Mahal area with only one objective. That is to indulge in disinformation campaign. Had it been otherwise, you would have been able to see that everyday thousands of people have been taking part in processions, mass gatherings, gheraos and demonstrations in every nook and corner of Jangal Mahal. Despite repression by joint forces, the system initiated by the People’s Committee is giving inspiration to the people. The creativity of the masses has increased even after the arrest of Chhatradhar Mahato. You would have seen how irresistible people’s movement has become. The inherent strength of the people’s movement, people’s initiative, their intense consciousness have truly been instrumental in writing the epic of struggle. If you are willing, we are ready to arrange everything for your visit to Jangal Mahal and provide security. Come, see with your own eyes, put them in writing, change your outlook. And turn upside down the frontier of human rights movement.

When the decision to form central coordination to take steps for curbing the Maoist movement and to silence 100 top leaders is taken and when the retired DG of the BSF, Prakash Singh openly expresses his displeasure with such a move, it shows that the state has been waging war, and war has to be fought in some particular way. In order to counter the decision of the state to silence top 100 revolutionary leaders (Prakash Singh himself has explained what it means in police parlance to make one ‘silent’), the need to take military action against top leaders of the state arises.

Sujatobabu, has stated that no change achieved through violent means has ever been long-lasting. We are not giving his remark much importance. We do not feel that he himself seriously believes in it. Most of the epochal changes in history could not be accomplished without violence. It was through violence that the ruling dynasties of the medieval age came to an end. Let me conclude by citing one example—that of slave Dred Scott against American slavery, the defeat in which made the civil war inevitable. It is the lust for power and property that made violence inevitable in all ages.

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Violence and Non-violence – Amit Bhattacharyya

In the letter of 26 September (2009), captioned “An Open Letter to the Maoists” written by Sujato Bhadra, human rights activist, the author has completely messed up the cause and effect of the Lalgarh movement. In Lalgarh or Jangal Mahal, state repression was not the outcome of the ‘armed activities’ of the Maoists; rather, it was state repression, deprivation and sense of humiliation and years of pain and exploitation that has forced the people to support the ‘jungle party’, to become Maoists and to adopt ‘armed activities’ as the means of resistance and the realization of demands. What is actually implied in the author’s statement is that since armed resistance or counter attack would invite more severe state repression, it is better not to get armed at all.

The author then referred to the application of violence and the meting out of death penalty through trial in people’s courts. Here he has harped on several issues.

What transpires from his statement—and that I also the view of many others—is that ‘democratic’ struggle should be peaceful, and, if takes a ‘violent’ turn or gets ‘armed’, then it would lose its ‘democratic’ character and become an undemocratic one. The question is: is it a fact that only peaceful movements are ‘democratic’? And if it is ‘armed’ and ‘violent’, then it becomes ‘undemocratic’? What do History and practical experience tell us? Generally every person (barring the ruling clique and their faithful servants) wants peace, wants to have food and clothing and live in dignity; nobody wants violence or bloodshed. It is the repressive state that forces them to take up arms.

One of the main features of the Lalgarh movement is armed resistance (with firearms and traditional weapons) in the face of violent attacks launched by the state. There the state is waging a war against the people and the people in their turn are keeping up resistance to the best of their ability. Some CPM cadres and hermads have been killed. The Maoists declared that all of them were police ‘informers’; that they were warned before, but did not listen, so they were given death sentence in people’s courts. Whether they were police ‘informers’ is not known to the present writer. However, what is quite clear is that during the last 32 years, the gap between the ruling CPM and the police administration has vanished into thin air. Two years back, when female members of the Nari Mukti Sangha had been sticking posters in the Bagha Jatin railway station, they were encircled by CITU/CPM cadres, taken to the party office and then handed over to the police. During the same period, the members of the women’s wing of the CPM and some cadres tried to hand over five members of the Matangini Mahila Samiti residing in Jadavpur, Kolkata to the police. These mean attempts prove that the CPM cadres were playing the role of police informers.

The author is against death sentence. I believe, why only he, many people are generally against death sentence. His question is: as 224 countries have abolished death sentence, why should the Maoists still keep it as a form punishment? Here the author has committed a major error. This question is reasonable to countries and established governments; but how can it be applicable to those who do neither have any country nor an established government? The present writer is in total agreement with Sujato on one point: there should be thorough investigation before making any move; the loss of lives on the part of and damage to innocent people is totally undesirable.

In the opinion of the author, ‘a society formed through violent means is short-lasting’. My question to him is: Where at all has fundamental social transformation taken place and that too became long-lasting? Granted that in countries like Russia and China, where society was changed through violent means, there was change in colour. However, was the application of violent means responsible for those societies being short-lasting? Or was it due to the inherent contradictions in the new societies? History teaches us that fundamental social transformation did never take place without war and armed uprisings.

The author has raised the question of the social impact of violence. Why should he speak here only of some urban intellectuals who are detached from the struggle? What about the impact on the people of Jangal Mahal, those adivasi students who have been daily subjected to state violence? Would he not also talk about the resistance struggle by the people, of those people of the area who, like the people of Nandigram, have been spending sleepless nights and standing up to the challenge of the hermads and the joint forces?

The problem with the human rights activists is that they never challenge the existence of the state; on the contrary, they accept its legitimacy and demand that it should ‘put into practice its declared commitment’. Influenced by post-modernist thinking, they see only the tree, but fail to see the forest; to them, the Lalgarh movement is just a conflict between state repression and counter-violence perpetrated by the ‘armed opposition group’. But the lalgarh movement is at the same time a struggle against the plunder of the country’s natural resources by foreign capital and domestic comprador capital, a struggle for attaining pro-people development (setting up of health centres, construction of roads, dams and water reservoirs, implementation of land-to-the-tiller programme etc through people’s initiative and voluntary labour).

On 16 September last (2009), the English daily from Kolkata The Statesman organized a discussion on a theme captioned ‘Surely the Maoist is not one of us’. There in his speech, Prof. G.Hargopal said: “When a landlord takes away a villager’s wife, keeps her in his house to sexually abuse her and orders the husband to go away when he pleads with him for returning his wife to him and his two children, what is he supposed to do? Mouth platitudes about non-violence and peace? Or take up arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them? In one such case, a youth in Andhra Pradesh went straight into the jungle, organized a group of about 25,000 people, killed the landlord and ended up being Maoists”(The Statesman 17-09-09).

History teaches us that violence, murder—all these existed in the past and will continue to exist at present. All of us individually want peace; nobody wants violence or murder. Despite this, these will continue to stay irrespective of our wishes, and would influence the direction of History and leave behind their negative or positive imprint on the way.

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The Sankrail episode: The story of the arrested women

Posted by Admin on October 28, 2009

By Partho Sarathi Ray. Oct 27 2009, Sanhati

On 20th October, 2009, Maoists attacked a police station in Sankrail, West Midnapur, West Bengal, taking the O.C. Atindranath Dutta as a prisoner, and demanding the release of fourteen women from police custody. This was a media sensation – the debate centered around whether this defined a hostage situation in India’s heartland, whether this was a repeat of Kandahar, and whether the action is an example of violent turf expansion by the Maoists. Subsequently, the women were released and so was the O.C., who has become somewhat of a media celebrity and, much to the wrath of the Government, not condemnded the Maoists.

What is being hidden under all the media blitz is the story of the fourteen women whose release from police custody was ensured by the Maoists.

These women had all been arrested from in an around Teshabandh village on 3rd September after the 2rd September “encounter” between the combined forces and “Maoists” near Madhupur (there is a previous report on this in Sanhati). The PSBJC had claimed that the encounter was really a firing by the combined forces on a rally of adivasis protesting against the rape of a woman. It had also condemned the arrests of these women from Teshabandh, who were subsequently charged with waging war against the state, as being arrests of innocent people.

Today their stand has been vindicated. The public prosecutor didn’t oppose their bail plea at the Midnapore court, although the charges against them, which include rioting with deadly weapons, attempt to murder, waging war against the state, raising funds to wage war against the state, sedition and carrying illegal arms, are all non-bailable ones. This is an effective withdrawal of charges.

Now, the media has access to the stories of the women and people know who these “dangerous” people are, whom the Maoists were so intent on getting released from police custody.

One of them is Subharani Baskey, a grandmother of 55-60 (this correspondent knows her personally – she once treated him to a “nona“, a fruit very similar to the custard-apple, just saltier, from her tree). What she has told to the media now is that she was at her home when she heard a commotion outside as the police were arresting the village women. When she went out to enquire, she was arrested for “waging war against the state” and dragged to the Kantapahari police camp.

You can hear the real story from these women, Padmamoni, a mother of two children, Pratima Patra, Sumi Mandi and the others, about what happened that day. When the police had raided their village, alleging that the “Maoists” had taken shelter there, they had stopped whatever chores they were doing and come out and surrounded the police, not letting them enter the village. They were not protecting Maoists, they were protecting themselves, as according to what Pratima Patra has said, the police entering the village means they would go door-to-door, beating up people indiscriminately, breaking furniture and looting household goods.

Even women from surrounding villages, such as Sumi Mandi, joined them when the news about the raid spread, as is the standard practice in Lalgarh. All these women were arrested, beaten up brutally and taken to the Kantapahari police station where there were charged with the above-mentioned crimes. On the way back to Kantapahari, the police also arrested Ramdulal Mandi, who was walking towards Kantapahari bazar, and charged him with the same crimes. He was also released yesterday. This constant arrests and charging with false cases is the daily reality which Chidambaram- Buddhadeb has imposed in Lalgarh, and now wants to impose on the rest of the adivasi-populated region.

The other thing that we should understand about the reality in Lalgarh is that the adivasis think that the Maoists are their last resort, when everything else fails to protect them from exploitation and oppression, the Maoists are there. This is repeated by hundreds of adivasis when you talk to them, who express their confidence on the “bon-er party“, the “party of the jungles”. This confidence has now been reinforced by this action of the Maoists, where they have ensured the release of these innocent women, rather than their own party cadre, in exchange of the captured O.C.

Moreover, the action of the state which has consistently refused to release these women, and other innocent people who have been arrested in Lalgarh over the past four months, inspite of peaceful protests and demonstrations by the PSBJC and the civil society in Kolkata, but has bowed to the armed might of the Maoists, will further reinforce the idea that it is only a certain language that the state understands, and takes heed of.

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Another PCPA leader nabbed from Hooghly

Posted by Admin on October 18, 2009

ARAMBAG: A top leader of People’s Committee against Police Atrocities (PCPA) was nabbed from his Hooghly hideout on Friday night. Police said
Sibu Murmu was wanted for sedition and murder.

Sibu, the secretary of PCPA’s Bankura wing, had been absconding since the combined forces started operations in Jangalmahal in June. Police said he was sheltered by his elder brother, Shankar Murmu, at the latter’s residence at Dihibagnan Adibasipara in Arambagh.

On Friday night, a joint force of Bankura and Hooghly district police raided the village. Sensing trouble, he tried to flee but was intercepted just outside the village after a chase.

Police claimed Sibu had close links with Maoists active at Bankura’s Sarenga. He was booked for seditious activities and the murder of local CPM leader Krishna Chandra Kundu. Police claimed he was also involved when some miscreants had robbed firearms from police on July 17. He has also been accused of ransacking a stage near the Kansabati canal bank, where police were supposed to organize a meeting.

Sibu was produced in court on Saturday. The additional chief judicial magistrate remanded him in three days’ judicial custody. Though the investigating team pleaded to get him in their custody for further investigation, the magistrate declined to grant the police prayer. Sibu was not, however, charged under UAPA.

"In the past two months, we managed to nab at least 25 senior and influential leaders of the tribal outfit. It is a major setback for them," said a senior police officer.

In a bid to break PCPA’s spine, police are now eagerly looking for three other leaders Sidu Soren, Santosh Mahato and Asit Mahato. Asit and Sidu are still playing a key role in organizing villagers against police.

Meanwhile, CID officers went to jail on Saturday to interrogate Chhatradhar Mahato. "We received some important inputs about the movement of top Maoist leaders from our Jharkhand counterparts. We are cross-checking the information with Chhatradhar," said an investigator. Police suspect that Maoist politburo member Koteswar Rao is now hiding at a village in West Midnapore, close to Jharkhand. "In the past few weeks, Rao had probably gone to some parts of Orissa," said an intelligence officer. TOI

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Chhatradhar shifted to Presidency jail

Posted by Admin on October 12, 2009

MIDNAPORE: PCPA leader Chhatradhar Mahato was shifted to Presidency jail from Midnapore Central Jail on Sunday. On Saturday, Jhargram’s acting
ACJM Bishal Mangrati turned down a plea to extend his police custody under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and remanded him in judicial custody.

Though a district police officer said Mahato has been transferred for security reasons, locals believe it was done to monitor Mahato’s visitors. Besides, Pradyut Mahato, the brother-in-law of PCPA treasurer Sukhshanti Baskey, is lodged in Midnapore jail, too. Police are concerned that if they stay together, they may plan a future movement or the jail may be attacked by the Maoists.

On Sunday morning, Chhatradhar’s wife Anita went to meet him. "Though my husband told me that police did not assault him, we are frightened. Police have tortured him mentally, but

till now, they have failed to prove

him guilty. Everyone knows he is innocent and time will prove it. He told me that police have cooked up stories of his possessing huge property and having loose morals, but I know him better. If anyone wants to know about our financial condition, please come to our house at Amliya in Lalgarh," she said.

Suspected Maoists, meanwhile, set fire to a pick-up van loaded with sal leaves at Nayagram under Kotwali police station, around 6 km from Midnapore town, on Sunday.

Police suspect this was done only to scare local people and ensure that their 48-hour bandh across six districts in West Bengal, Bihar and Orissa from Monday is successful. The bandh has been called to protest the murder of their PLGA member Marang alias Bullet Murmu at Goaltore last week.

"We have started an inquiry to find out the culprits," said West Midnapore SP Manoj Verma.

Meanwhile, an Eastern Frontier Rifles jawan, B Chhetri, has been suspended. He has lost his AK-47 and a loaded magazine on September 19. Chhetri was posted at the force’s Salua base camp in Kharagpur.

Police had been informed, but the rifle and the magazine could not be traced. Late on Sunday night, however, they arrested a local drug addict, Rajesh Boro, who reportedly admitted that he had stolen the rifle and the magazine and sold those to some Maoist cadres in Belpahari for Rs 25,000. TOI

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Letter of Protest to Chief Minister of the Government of West Bengal

Posted by Admin on October 11, 2009


To,
The Chief Minister,
Government of West Bengal, Kolkata Date: 6 October 2009

Subject: Memorandum concerning the arrest of Sri Chhatradhar Mahato and the deliberate creation of a fear psychosis among the people by the WB administration

Sir,

We, on behalf of many individuals and organizations, would like to draw your attention to certain disturbing developments with regard to the arrest of Sri Chhatradhar Mahato and its aftermath.

We are constrained to mention that the government seemingly does not exist in West Bengal; only a few police officials and bureaucrats, not the elected representatives, are now running the show.

Perhaps you are aware of the fact that we have already registered our strong protest against the arrest of Sri Mahato, who has been spearheading the people’s movement against police atrocities in Jangal Mahal. We have reasons to believe that he has been falsely implicated in criminal cases and booked under UAPA — one of the most draconian laws in post-1947 India. Read the rest of this entry »

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Lalgarh operation was a mistake: Mamata

Posted by Admin on October 11, 2009

Kolkata, Oct 10 (IANS) Deploying paramilitary forces in West Bengal’s violence-hit Lalgarh was a "mistake" committed by the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, Railway Minister and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee said Saturday.

"I still think that the Lalgarh operation was a mistake. The union home ministry didn’t consult us before beginning the operation in the region," Banerjee told the Bengali TV channel Star Ananda in an interview.

"The Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M)-led Left Front government here is just utilising the central forces to capture these areas with their own armed cadres," she said.

"The centre should immediately begin a process of dialogue with the so-called Maoists to resolve the matter. Both the parties should talk it out sitting across the table."

Terming the whole process as "wrong", Banerjee said the deployment of central forces in the Maoist-affected pockets was not a permanent solution.

"One can only reclaim few Maoist stronghold pockets by the help of army, but he or she cannot bring any change to the socio-political situation in that area," the Trinamool chief added.

Banerjee also welcomed the initiative of union Home Minister P. Chidambaram who had urged the Maoist rebels to stop violence and participate in a dialogue process with the government.

"I am interested to play a role to resolve any socio-political issue in the state – be it Lalgarh violence or the Gorkhaland agitation in the northern part of the state," she said, adding that her party will never support "bloodbath" and "vindictive politics". http://mangalorean.com/news.php?newstype=local&newsid=149642

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Condemn strongly the malicious media trial of Chhatradhar Mahato!

Posted by Admin on October 6, 2009

COMMITTEE FOR THE RELEASE OF POLITICAL PRISONERS

185/3, FOURTH FLOOR ZAKIR NAGAR, NEW DELHI-25

Condemn strongly the malicious media trial of Chhatradhar Mahato!

The West Bengal Government cannot violate laws and procedures to deny Chhatradhar Mahato his right to all legally guarenteed safeguards until proven guilty!

The Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners notes with great concern that the government of West Bengal has started unleashing a vivcious character assassination campaign against Chhatradhar Mahato, the leader of the People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities, that have been spearheading the Lalgarh movement. It is this vicious media trial indulged in by sections of the media and the administration, particularly by Bhupindar Singh, DG Police, Ardhendu Sen, Home Secretary and Ashok Mohan Chakraborty, Chief Secretary, Government of West Bengal, ever since he was abducted and arrested by the Special Task Force of WB police on 26 September 2009 from Lalgarh.

While arresting him, the police had broken law on two grounds. It had violated section 50-A of the Cr.PC by arresting him without providing the arrest memo, explaining reasons of arrest and nine other things which are mandatory under Supreme Court order(Justice D.K. Basu vs. Government of West Bengal, 1996); by posing themselves as scribes which is not permissible under the law, thereby acting as imposters which is punishable under the law; and by planting 20 to 22 cooked-up cases against him and booking him under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. The CRPP strongly condemn such actions made by the administration and assert that the WB government is indulging in such slander campaigns with the aim of maligning the Lalgarh movement that had already drawn universal acclaim from different parts of the world.

Very recently, it has started another vicious campaign—that of character assassination of this leader of the people’s movement. The information that police claimed to have got from Chhatradhar are:

1) Mahato has a life insurance policy of Rs.1 crore;

2) He owns a house in Mayurbhanj in Orissa;

3) That the PCAPA has a bank account;

4) A person from Calcutta donated Rs.1.25 lakhs to Mahato’s committee;

5) Police have got names of 160 sympathizers of the committee, including over 50 from Kolkata.

The DGP said that Mahato made these confessions in custody and also admitted to Maoist links. Rights activists and intellectuals in Kolkata were quick to debunk the claim, saying that the ‘confessions’ were extracted through coercion(The Times of India, 01-10-09; The telegraph, 01-10-09).

It goes against the law of this land to leak to the press the so-called confessions made by Chhatradhar Mahato. No confession can stand in a court of law as evidence against the accused. So it is the criminal intent of the senior police officials and the home secretary and the chief secretary to influence the court and the public opinion even before the commencement of the legal proceedings on Mahato in the court of law. This is nothing but condemning someone as guilty through the media even before he is given a chance to defend himself. Besides the violation of the law of the land it is also violation of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights to which India is also a signatory. This vicious media trial would stigmatize the right of Chhatradhar Mahato to be presumed innocent until proven guilty on charges before a court of law. CRPP strongly condemn such vicious propaganda of the state and demand criminal proceedings against all such elements who have misused their positions of power to incriminate illegally a leader of a people’s movement. We also demand legal action against all such media houses who have facilitated this despicable act of the governemnt with criminal intent.

Many of these ‘charges’ that the administration in a despicable manner have been raising through a section of the media have been proved to be patently false with the facts about Chhatradhar Mahato pouring in. First, Chhatradhar does not have such an insurance policy. He himself owns some bighas of ancestral land and used to sell saal leaves. His hut is a broken one; the tube-well in front of his house, like many other tube-wells, hardly works. As he got busy with the movement, he was forced to send his two sons—one reading in Class VI and VII—to sell leaves, which means that the business was not going well. He has an ancestral house in Mayurbhanj. It is a two-storied house, and after division among the members, he was left with only one room in that house. There were times when he literally had to depend on monetary help from the committee to have daily meals. He wears spectacles, one band of which got broken, and he had to go without glasses for days until the committee helped him with money to buy a fresh pair of bands. Journalists who went to his house in Amlia village know how ‘rich’ he is. Second, that the committee has a bank account is quite natural and only betrays its transparency. It was well-known and there was nothing secretive about it. Third, the Lalgarh Manch(forum) has categorically declared at a press conference held on 1 October in Kolkata that they did try to express their solidarity with the movement by various means, besides sending some money; they are sorry to say that they could not do more. Didn’t people send assistance to Spain during the fight against fascist Franco, or to Cuba or to Vietnam? What is illegal then about sending money or medicine to Lalgarh? Fourth, if Mahato maintained contact with the Maoists before ban was imposed on the Maoist party, there was nothing illegal about it. What the administration is actually trying to do is somehow to establish the link between Mahato/PCAPA and the Maoists and then to extend that link with the urban intellectuals , students and the Maoists.

That vicious game became clear in the last one or two days. The government officials went on declaring that some Kolkata intellectuals had assisted Mahato not only by donating money, but also by giving advice on the direction of the movement. Those intellectuals would be called for questioning, to be brought to book and might be booked under the UAPA. These are pure threats, acts of intimidation which should not go unprotested and unchallenged. In fact, the WB government has taken the cue from P.Chidambaran, Central Home Minister, who had recently threatened those who, in his eyes, are sympathetic to the cause of the Maoists and arrogantly declared that the government would utilize the services of the media to start a vilification campaign to show how cruel and bad the Maoists are. That is why they have picked up Mahato and through him are trying to tie the link between the urban intellectuals and the Maoists. In this way they have started a sinister campaign not only to demean the Lalgarh struggle but also to force the intellectuals to dissociate themselves from the people’s movement in Lalgarh by constant threats of arrests and other forms of intimidation.

The CRPP strongly denounces such despicable attempts launched against the Lalagarh people and the urban intellectuals and calls upon the people both in India and abroad to raise their voice against such attempts and put pressure on the government to release Chhatradhar Mahato and all others prisoners from Lalagarh.

In Solidarity,

Gurusharan Singh Amit Bhattacharyya SAR Geelani

President Secretary General Working President

Rona Wilson

Secretary Public Relations

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Lalgarh: Another PCPA top leader brought to Kolkata

Posted by Admin on October 5, 2009

KOLKATA: After bringing tribal leader Chhatradhar Mahato to Kolkata, investigators are now probing the connection between PCPA, the Maoists and
their sympathizers in Kolkata. On Sunday, another top PCPA leader, Sukhshanti Baskey arrested last week was brought to the city for interrogation.

Police claimed that Baskey was the assistant cashier of the PCPA, which was believed to be backed by Maoists.

"Some suspected Maoists and PCPA members, including Baskey, who were nabbed by the district police, will be handed over to CID for investigation," said West Midnapore superintendent of police Manoj Verma.

A day after chief secretary Ashok Mohan Chakrabarti said that those extending support to Chhatradhar Mahato could be booked under Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, officials revealed that two teachers of a city university and a group of 20 university students who used to visit Lalgarh quite often are now under police scanner.

Police sources said that investigators are now trying to find out the sympathizers of the PCPA who are stationed in Kolkata and other metro cities. Police believe that those who helped Mahato and his organization are playing a crucial role in spreading Maoist insurgency across the country.

"The Maoist sympathizers are raising funds and playing a crucial role as the liaison between guerrillas and different other outfits," said a senior police officer who is also member of the special team that is monitoring Maoist insurgency.

Sources said the cell phone details of Mahato have revealed that he had close links with some city-based people, including some intellectuals. But apprehending trouble, police are yet to call them for interrogation because till June 19 when he actually went "underground" Chhatradhar has been known to be a leader of mass organization.

A few days after Mahato’s arrest, Baskey was arrested in Lalgarh and charged for sedition under IPC and UAPA. On Sunday morning, he was taken to CID headquarters, where senior IPS officers grilled them.

Sources said Mahato and Baskey were made to sit together and interrogated to clarify some contradictions in their statements. TOI

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Intellectuals to rally for Chhatradhar: Mahasweta Devi

Posted by Admin on October 5, 2009

Kolkata: The West Bengal government’s veiled warning yesterday to supporters of tribal leader Chhatradhar Mahato on Sunday evoked strong reactions from a section of intellectuals here with noted writer Mahasweta Devi saying a big rally would be held in the city in his support.

"I am not supporting him alone. We will bring out a big rally in Kolkata. We will fix the date and time," the octogenrian writer, a Magsaysay awardee, told a news agency.

She said she had met Mahato on a number of occasions and "during these meetings, I used to advise him to campaign against Special Economic Zones or to demand ration cards for the poor".

"But I am always against the politics of bloodshed and never asked him to do such politics," she insisted.

Mahato was arrested on September 26 by a CID team which posed as journalists to get close to him. Yesterday, state Chief Secretary Asok Mohan Chakraborti had said those supporting Mahato were liable to be punished under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

On claims by the police that Mahato got financial help from his supporters here, she said, "Let them prove that he had got financial support from us. Let them say how much money we have given him."

Describing the state government as "fascist", theatre personality Bibhas Chakraborty said Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee was using the administration to threaten intellectuals after failing to intimidate them politically.

"The (CPI-M) leaders have tried many times to intimidate us, but could not. Now they have unleashed the administration to intimidate us with false propaganda. They are doing this to hide their misdeeds, notably, the recent Vedic Village episode," Chakraborty said.

Asserting that the intellectuals have no connection with Maoists, actor Kaushik Sen said, "When we met Chhatradhar in Lalgarh, we told him to bring the PCPA from the hands of the Maoists to enlist more popular support. We told the government that people at Lalgarh were under threat both from the Maoists and the police."

Poet Joy Goswami accused the government of "targetting" the intellectuals to hide its misdeeds.

"We have always being saying that peace cannot be restored with violence, but only through talks," he said.

Bureau Report

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Mahato’s supporters, associates punishable: WB

Posted by Admin on October 3, 2009

A file picture of Peoples Committee against Police Atrocities Chatradhar Mahato. Photo: Arunangsu Roy Chowdhury. A file picture of Peoples Committee against Police Atrocities Chatradhar Mahato. Photo: Arunangsu Roy Chowdhury.

In a warning to associates and supporters of arrested PCPA leader Chhatradhar Mahato, the West Bengal government on Saturday said that those demanding his release were punishable under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

“The UAPA says that those helping banned organisations in various ways like providing funds and publicity are punishable under the act. Thus, those who are advocating his release are also punishable,” Chief Secretary Asok Mohan Chakraborty told newsmen here.

Mr. Chakraborty was reacting to a question whether the government would take any action against those lobbying for the release of Mahato who was arrested on September 26 under UAPA at Lalgarh.

He said that those associates whose names were revealed by the Maoist leaders and workers last week were also punishable in the eyes of the law.

Mahato’s arrest by CID in the guise of journalists had raised the hackles of the press fraternity which had accused the state government of compromising with their livelihood.

Yesterday, Maoist leader Kishenji had contested the police’s claim that Mahato owned property, had bank accounts and a fabulous insurance policy, challenging the government to seize the property and release the related documents to the press. The Hindu

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