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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2678

Ban Maoists, Indian Govt tells West Bengal

From S Murari, Chennai

Chennai, 20 June, ( As special armed police of the West Bengal Government and the Central para-military forces continued their operations for the second day on Friday to flush out Maoist rebels from Lalgarh in West Midnapore district, 150 km from Kolkatta, the Government of India asked the State Government to ban the outfit.Talking to reporters in New Delhi, Home Minister P Chidambaram said " I don't know why the West Bengal Government has not banned Maoists as other States have done. There are voices in the State for the ban and it is for the Government to take a decision".

Mr Chidambaram said:" The Communist Party of India(Maoists) have taken to arms. This is not the way to function in a democracy. We are dealing with a situation in which a militant organisation is challenging the writ of the civil administration. We are engaged in an operation to re-establish the civil authority."

He also said the Maoists, who had exploited tribal grievances over land alienation for industrialisation, as well as the local people should heed the appeal of West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and hold talks with the Government.

Conceding that the people of the area had grievances, the Home Minister said: "That is something to be addressed by the government of West Bengal. If anyone wishes to talk to the State Government, they should come forward and do so. We will be very happy to facilitate such talks."

Saying that no time-frame could be fixed for the operation against armed Maoists, Mr Chidambaram said "The forces are moving towards Lalgarh. They are moving cautiously. We are also appealing to the people, particularly the tribals, through loudspeakers and handbills that the forces are not against them."

He denied that the Trinamool Congress and the Congress, which scored handsome gains in West Bengal in the recent Parliament elections, were behind the Maoist rebellion.

The Marxist-led coalition government in West Bengal, which initially hesitated to use force against gun-toting Maoists who along tribals with their traditional pointed sticks and bows and arrows attacked the local CPM office, killed four CPM cadres and forced the closure of the local police station early this week, started the flush-out operation on Thursday after consulting the Centre and getting the go-ahead from the left front in the State.

Lalgarh has been on the boil since last November when a landmine exploded on the route of the convoy of Bhattacharjee and then central ministers Ram Vilas Paswan and Jitin Prasada.

The convoy was targetted as the Ministers were returning after inaugurating the Jindal Steel Works' special economic zone (SEZ) in Salboni in West Midnapore district. Around 5,000 acres of land have been acquired for this project. A large portion of this land was vested with the government for distribution amongst landless tribals as part of the land reforms program and also included tracts of forest lands.

In effect, what happened in Lalgarh last November was a repeat of agitations against allotment of forest or farm land for industries for a chemical hub in Nandigram and for the Tata's small car project in Singur. The Trinamool Congress-led agitation led to Tatas moving out of Singur while Nandigram witnessed a blood bath with CPM led militias, backed by the police, unleashing unprecedented violence. Eventually, Mr Bhattacharjee had to cancel the chemical hub project in Nandigram.

Though the Ministers escaped unhurt in the landmine attack in Lalgarh, the local police unleashed a reign of terror for months on end on the tribals, suspecting them of links with the Maoists. As a result, the tribals came together under the banner of People Against Police Atrocities Committee. This kind of organised resistance, the Government believed, was not possible without the Maoists, who are active in three adjoining districts of West Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia, masterminding it.

Reflecting the public mood, Arati Murmu, a woman who was assaulted by the police when she went to block the Lalgarh police station last November, had this to say: “Whenever there is a Maoist attack, the police raid our villages and torture our women and children. For how long will we suffer this oppression by the police? All of us are Maoists, let the police arrest us. Today we have come out.”

Now that the Government is hitting back with full might, the tribals are in jitters. An old man was caught on camera, saying that the Maoists were forcing them to take up arms and as a result, they were not able to return to their villages.

- Asian Tribune -

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