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Jharkhand – Tribals being armed to fight Tribals #WTFnews

                                             “Tribals to be trained in guerrilla warfare to fight Maoists in state”     

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Stan Swamy

The newspaper report goes on to spell out govt’s plan. Two special battalions comprising of youths from the primitive tribal groups in the state will be recruited and trained in advanced guerrilla warfare to fight the Maoists in the forests.

They will help the security forces in anti-insurgency operations.  The reason for choosing these e tribal  youths is that they  are born and brought up in forest areas and are well aware of the surroundings and have the capability to survive in odd situations.


Following  important questions arise: (1) who are the ‘Maoists’ in Jharkhand? (2) who are the Adivasis? (3) who are the Primitive Tribal groups in Jharkhand and what is their present socio- economic condition? (4) what does the Supreme Court say?


(1) who are the ‘Maoists’ in Jharkhand?

It is common knowledge that most so-called ‘maoists’ in Jharkhand are local Adivasis. Some of the top leadership may have come from outside the state but the cadres are mostly Adivasis and some Moolvasis. This can be proven by the fact that from 1st January to 30th June 2014, a span of six months, 243 persons were arrested in Jharkhand under the charge of being Maoists or helpers of Maoists. Of them, 186 (77%) are local Adivasis.

In so- called  ‘encounters’,  more than 10 persons were killed of whom 7 (70%) are Adivasis.

It is proof enough to conclude that for the government Adivasi is automatically Maoist.So repression of the Adivasi community goes in the name of ‘action against maoists’.

(2) Who are the Adivasis?   

The answer is given by no less a body than the Supreme Court of India. In a ground breaking judgment [Criminal Appeal No: 11/2011] the court observed that “the original inhabitants of India were not the Dravidians but the pre-Dravidians Munda aborigines whose descendants presently live in parts of Chotanagpur (Jharkhand), Chattisgarh, Orissa, West Bengal, etc., the Todas of the Nilgiris in Tamil Nadu, the tribals in the Andaman Islands, the Adivasis in various parts of India (especially in the forests and hills) e.g. Gonds, Santhals, Bhils, etc. … The injustice done to the tribal people of India is a shameful chapter in our country’s history.

The tribals were called `rakshas’ (demons), `asuras’, and what not. They were slaughtered in large numbers, and the survivors and their descendants were degraded, humiliated, and all kinds of atrocities inflicted on them for centuries. They were deprived of their lands, and pushed into forests and hills where they eke out a miserable existence of poverty, illiteracy, disease, etc. And now efforts are being made by some people to deprive them even of their forest and hill land where they are living, and the forest produce on which they survive.” [thus far the exact words of Supreme Court. Emphasis added].                                                          Is it any wonder then that the Adivasis are no more prepared to go on suffering the exploitation and oppression by the ruling capitalist class which is using the govt as a convenient tool to usurp the mineral-and-forest-rich land to reap immense profit.

When the corporates, the business class, the urban middle class, the govt bureaucracy from top to bottom, the police & para-military forces, most of the print & electronic media, most political parties all have become his enemy, where else can the poor Adivasi turn to except the ‘comrades’ (jangal-bhai) who offer at least some protection from being completely exterminated.

(3) Who are the ‘Primitive Tribals’?     

The Primitive Tribal Groups are the most neglected section of the population in independent India. In Jharkhand they are the Asur, the Birhor, the Birjia, the Korwa, the Hill Pahariya, the Paharia, the Savar and the Sauriya Pahariya. The total population of the primitive tribes in Jharkhand is 1,94,8351 .

These tribal groups are nomadic and still in the food gathering stage. They roam about in the forests for their livelihood. Because of their nomadic nature, literacy, healthcare and settled agriculture have been delayed to them. If these groups are not taken care of, they may entirely be wiped out. Practically all the primitive tribal groups have shown a negative population growth.

This is due to low birth rate and high mortality, high infant mortality, susceptibility to diseases, low health status and threat from endemic diseases like sickle cell, anemia and infertility to mention a few.

The literacy rate is less than 10% and among women it is as low as 2% to 3%. [Alex Ekka A Status of Adivasis/Indigenous Peoples Land Series – 4 JHARKHAND, AAKAR BOOKS & The Other Media, 2011, pp.21-23]

First of all, the very labelling is wrong. Whether they come under general Adivasi or Primitive Adivasi, they all are Adivasis. The ST & SC Order (Amendment) Act, 1976 declares 30 tribes to be scheduled for the state of Jharkhand, including 9 primitive tribal groups. The languages spoken by some of the general as well as primitive tribes  are closely related. They also live in close geographical proximity to each other, mingle with each other in weekly bazaars etc.

So they are one people. It is a cruel injustice to not only segregate them from one another but also place them against each other to serve the political convenience of the ruling class. Seeing the present plight of the primitive tribes, the govt should be forthcoming with meaningful and effective efforts to lift them out of their dire  economic poverty  and social weaknesses. A speedy implementation of Forest Rights Act, 2006 whereby each family will have at least 2 hectares (5 acres) of patta land will go a long way towards a self-sustaining economy.

 (4) What does the Supreme Court say?     

In the context of delivering its verdict on Special Police Officers (SPOs) in Chattisgarh, the court observed that “the fight against Maoist/Naxalite violence cannot be conducted purely as a mere law and order problem… The primordial problem lies deep within the socioeconomic policies pursued by the State on a society that was already endemically, and horrifically, suffering from gross inequalities… This necessarily implies undertaking all those necessary socially, economically and politically remedial policies that lessen social disaffection giving rise to  such extremist violence…” [SC – WRIT PETITION (CIVIL) NO(s). 250 OF 2007]  On this basis, the court ordered the disbanding of the SPOs in Chattisgarh and stoppage of all funds by Central govt as honorarium.

To conclude, shall we say that Instead of abiding by what common human sense would dictate and SC’s directive, the govt’s proposal to handpick some youngsters from the primitive tribal adivasis and train them in guerrilla warfare to fight, and shall we say kill, other adivasis in the pretence of fighting Maoists will be the  unkindest cut of all. It should be resisted tooth and nail.


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‘Operation against Maoists will be intensified in Jharkhand’ #WTFnews

Press Trust of India | Dhanbad | July 6, 2014 3:47 pm


Chief Secretary Sajal Chakraborty held Maoists responsible for obstructing execution of welfare schemes in rural areas.

Jharkhand government has decided to intensify operation against the Maoists and ruled out any dialogue with the left-wing guerrillas in the wake of the elimination of a CRPF officer by the rebels on July 4.

“The Maoists don’t have any ideology and it appears they are a gang of looters. Now there will be no talks with the Maoists. Action against them will be intensified,” Chief Secretary Sajal Chakraborty said at a press conference here on Saturday.

Stating that the sacrifice of CRPF Assistant Commandant Hira Kumar Jha would not go waste, Chakraborty said that the security forces would fight the Maoists to finish the menace.

“He (Jha) has proved his ability as an officer, sacrificing his life fighting the enemies. The Maoist incidents will not be tolerated at any cost. We’ll not tolerate any political interference in the ongoing drive against them in Jharkhand,” he said.

Committing to root out Maoism in the state, he held the Maoists responsible for the malnutrition of children and for the poor health of people in remote villages by obstructing execution of welfare schemes in rural areas.

Director General of Police Rajeev Kumar said the drive against the Maoists would be stepped up.

“Police will fight till the menace is completely rooted out,” he said.

Read more here-

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Chhattisgarh – Ex-Salwa Judum members face Maoist threat


KUTURU (BIJAPUR), July 5, 2014
Updated: July 5, 2014 02:52 IST


Salwa Judum founder Madhukar Rao at his barricaded
home in Kuturu with his bodyguards. Photo: Pavan Dahat
Salwa Judum founder Madhukar Rao at his barricaded home in Kuturu with his bodyguards. Photo: Pavan Dahat

Sitting in his barricaded house adjacent to the police station in Kuturu village in Bijapur district of South Bastar and surrounded by heavily-armed bodyguards, Madhukar Rao laughs when he says he is “waiting for death”.

Mr. Rao was one of the founders of the anti-Maoist militia Salwa Judum in Bastar — “a people’s resistance movement” — which was begun under his leadership in Ambeli village.

“If they can kill Mahendra Karma [another founder and face of the Salwa Judum in Bastar], then we are small players,” Mr. Rao said, pointing out that other Salwa Judum functionaries had either been killed by the Maoists or forced, like himself, to live under tight security. “At times, police deploy Road Opening Parties (ROP) for me,” says Mr. Rao.

Following allegations of human rights violations, the Supreme Court in 2011 declared the Salwa Judum illegal and unconstitutional and ordered that it be disbanded. Members of the outfit have been regularly targeted by Maoists for its “anti-tribal” actions. Mahendra Sadgul, who headed Salwa Judum in Bhopalpatnam area, was shot dead in 2008. Budhram Rana, another leader in Bijapur area, was killed some two kilometres away from his house. Chinaram Gota of Faresgad village was killed along with his bodyguards in 2011.

“But the biggest jolt to Salwa Judum was the killing of senior Congress leader Mahendra Karma last year,” says Ajay Singh, who headed the outfit in the Bairamgad area and has now been provided Z category security cover. Mr. Singh and another senior Judum leader Vikram Mandavi managed to escape from Jiramghati attack last year.

“We threw away our mobiles and identity cards to escape identification, but we are named as the main targets in their meetings,” Mr. Singh told The Hindu.

Chaitram Mattami, who actively participated in Salwa Judum activities in the Dantewada area, lives a secluded life and refuses to meet journalists. “He won’t meet you unless he is sure about your identity. He will be in Dantewada, but he would tell you that he is in Raipur or Jagdalpur,” said Bappy Ray, a Dantewada-based journalist.

Even Madhukar Rao has been attacked four times by the Maoists. The most recent attempt on his life was made on April 9 this year.

“ How long will we manage to escape? Only few of us are alive now,” rues Mr. Singh, who charges the Raman Singh-led Chhattisgarh government with being “opportunist”.

“There was a time when the CM shared the stage with us and said he would give complete support, but now we have been left to the mercy of God with a few bodyguards,” said Mr. Singh.

Read more here-

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Is Maharashtra Police cracking down on social activism in the name of fighting Maoism ?

The ‘Maoists’ In Our Midst

Is the Maharashtra Police cracking down on social activism in the name of fighting Maoism, asks Ushinor Majumdar

2014-06-07 , Issue 23 Volume 11

Delayed justice? Sudhir Dhawale spent nearly 40 months in jail before he was acquitted

Delayed justice? Sudhir Dhawale spent nearly 40 months in jail before he was acquitted. Illustration: Mayanglambam Dinesh

A few days after Delhi University professorGN Saibaba was arrested by the Maharashtra Police and accused of having Maoist links (Silencing dissent with a ‘Maoist’ tag? by G Vishnu, 24 May), a Mumbai-based activist, Sudhir Dhawale, who had been in jail since January 2011, was acquitted from similar charges by a sessions court. There is a striking similarity in the way the police went about their work in the two cases, both under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).

Around eight months before Saibaba’s arrest, the police had raided his residence in Delhi University’s North Campus, purportedly looking for evidence linking him with the Maoists. The police had secured the search warrant after the arrestof two other activists, Hem Mishra and Prashant Rahi, from Maharashtra. The wheelchair-bound Saibaba had then expressed apprehension that the police could plant some incriminating evidence to haul him into jail in a false case. After his arrest in May, the police claimed that the interrogation of Mishra and Rahi had led to their nailing the DU professor, who was later suspended from his teaching job.

Similarly, Dhawale’s arrest on 3 January 2011 was based on an alleged confession by another activist Bhimrao Bhowte, who had been picked up a few days earlier along with four other activists on 26 December 2010. Dhawale, 45, was arrested from the Wardha railway station, two days after he arrived at the city to address a gathering of the Yuva Ambedkari Sahitya Sammelan.

Saibaba, 48, has been a vocal critic of Operation Green Hunt, the government’s counter-offensive against the Maoist insurgency. Starting as a direct engagement of the security forces with armed formations of the Maoists, the counter-offensive seems to have acquired new dimensions over time, with critics calling it an attempt to suppress any form of activism, legal or underground, that gives voice to the predominantly tribal population in the remote, forested terrain of central India.

Counter-insurgency officials and advisers consider Left-leaning intellectuals to be the torchbearers of radical ideology and, therefore, the greatest threat. They see people like Saibaba and Dhawale as “urban Maoists”, who galvanise people’s sympathies for the same causes that the Maoists claim to fight for.

Soon after Mishra’s arrest last September, the outlawed CPI(Maoist)’s Western Regional Committee spokesperson Srinivas had alleged that the police was trying to “terrorise intellectuals and activists”. “First, it was TISS student Mahesh Raut, then Mumbai University student Harshola Potdar and now it is Hem Mishra,” said the Maoist leader, claiming that the persecution was aimed at clearing the way for corporate mining interests in Surjagarh, Kamderi and Korchi in eastern Maharashtra.

There had been several encounters between the Maoists and security forces last year in this region. The Maoists had claimed that the encounters were fake and that “by arresting activists, the administration wants to instil fear in them and suppress the truth about the arrests and killings”.

However, the line between legitimate dissent and outlawed Maoist activity runs through a grey zone that needs to be reinterpreted. For instance, Dhawale toldTEHELKA that he had been a part of the Maoists’ frontal organisations and agrees with the Marxist-Leninist-Maoist ideology, but does not support any form of violence. Dhawale’s lawyer Surendra Gadling points out a Supreme Court directive that the doctrine of association by guilt cannot be applied to such cases.

As a student in Nagpur, Dhawale was a cultural activist with the Vidyarthi Pragati Sangathana and Ahwan Natya Manch from 1985 to 1994. During that period, he had met many senior Maoist leaders, including alleged politburo member Kobad Ghandy, who is currently lodged in New Delhi’s Tihar Jail. Later, when the Maoists stopped operating in Nagpur, Dhawale moved on to other forms of activism. At the time of his arrest, he was working as a Dalit rights activist.

“In Maharashtra, there are village-level committees of an organisation called the Mahatma Gandhi Tanta Mukti Abhiyan, which are similar to the khap panchayats (caste-based councils) of north India. The upper-caste Marathas run these as an instrument of oppression against any form of assertion by the Dalits,” says Dhawale.

The chargesheet against Dhawale names eight other accused, all of whom were cultural activists rooting for Dalit rights. While the mainstream media only reports incidents of violence and extreme oppression, several insidious forms of discrimination in the rural and forested belts remain hidden. No wonder, activists such as Dhawale often find themselves on the same page as the Maoists because both sets of people believe they are fighting for the same causes. Many such people eventually end up in jail, waiting for trial in cases hobbled by the lack of evidence.

A closer look at Dhawale’s case is quite revealing. The police had initially accused him of putting up posters for the People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army, the armed wing of the CPI(Maoist). That charge had to be dropped later as Dhawale proved that he was at a public event in Mumbai on the day of the alleged offence.

A day after Dhawale’s arrest, the police raided his residence and seized electronic devices, including storage devices, in which they claimed to have found Maoist literature and pamphlets such as Prabhat, a magazine published by the outfit’s Dandakaranya Special Zonal Committee.

During the trial, the court rejected the police’s claim that Bhowte had identified Dhawale as a Maoist. There was no signed confession or any other documentary evidence to the effect. The courts have repeatedly observed that in the absence of proper gathering of evidence, the police often extract false confessions from the accused in custody.

Dhawale’s lawyer Gadling also proved that the materials seized from Dhawale were tampered with and most of the so-called Maoist documents were available online. He also argued that possessing banned literature and sympathising with Maoist ideology was not sufficient reason for conviction. In 2011, the Supreme Court had held that “mere membership of a banned organisation will not make a person a criminal unless he resorts to violence or incites people to violence or creates public disorder by violence or incitement to violence”.

While Dhawale was released after nearly 40 months in jail, 44 undertrial inmates, including seven women, continue to languish in Nagpur Central Jail, waiting for a verdict in similar cases. “The Centre sanctions a huge amount of funds for counter-Maoist operations. When the police fail to apprehend armed Maoists, they arrest unarmed activists to justify the expenditure,” says Gadling.

One of the biggest challenges before the newly-formed Narendra Modi government is to end the Maoist conflict, which is one of the promises made in the BJP manifesto. During the UPA-2 regime, the then rural development minister Jairam Ramesh had remarked that the first step towards that could be to free around 6,000 “innocent” tribals who have been lodged in jails in Maoist-related cases.

“Recently, Sonimata Kowase, a tribal woman was released after awaiting trial for four years. I had to arrange for someone to accompany her to her village because she could not go back on her own. Her family had not visited her in Nagpur jail even once as they could not afford the train fare,” says Gadling, who is fighting the cases of many such tribals.

Meanwhile, the Maoists’ central committee, their top decision-making body, has released a statement condemning the arrest of Saibaba because he spoke out against police atrocities. The police, however, claim they have records of Internet chats between Saibaba and Maoist leaders.

Saibaba has been held under the UAPA, India’s anti-terror law. The courts are usually reluctant to grant bail to those charged under this law. So, it is doubtful if Saibaba will get bail easily, if at all.

[email protected]

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‘Dr. Saibaba to go on hunger strike in prison


G. N. Saibaba

The HinduG. N. Saibaba


New Delhi

Delhi University professor G. N. Saibaba, who was arrested by the Maharashtra police for alleged Maoist links and taken to the State, will go on a hunger strike from Thursday if conditions of his confinement do not improve.

This was announced by his family, colleagues and social activists at a press conference here on Wednesday.

“When his brother visited him on Monday, he heard that they were keeping him in an unsanitary, solitary cell without any helpers and convenient toilet facilities. His medicines, also prescribed and provided by the police doctor, were being denied to him. He is 90 per cent disabled, he was inflicted with polio when he was five, and is a wheelchair user and cannot move properly without assistance. He is also a heart patient, suffers from high blood pressure and has chronic and severe pain in his lower back,” said his wife Vasantha.

She added that Dr. Saibaba, who comes from a poor family, was the sole bread-winner of his family and they were now apprehensive that the university would suspend him and cut off their income.

“They have been trying to evict us for a long time. In the middle of summer last year, the vice-chancellor, who talks about globalising the university and bringing in world-class facilities and standards, got our electricity and water supply cut. The police have twice questioned us in our own house. When they came for the search last time, there was one man in police uniform and there were some others in plain-clothes who just pushed their way into our house,” she said. Many among those present questioned Delhi University’s silence on the matter, when the professor was allowed to be “abducted”, and the manner in which the authorities had sought his eviction last year. They said dissenting voices were sought to be crushed.

Documentary film-maker Sanjay Kak said: “He was someone who brought voices from the other end to city dwellers like us. I first met him when he was organising a protest against Operation Greenhunt.”


Sumit Chakravarti, an activist who was present along with representatives of the Delhi University Students’ Union, said: “He even spoke up against the new four-year undergraduate programme. The government has brought about a new law regarding the manner in which the disabled people should be treated, but here it is violating every thing about it.”

University teacher Karen Gabrielle said: “The Delhi University Community against Police Repression stands in solidarity with Dr. Saibaba and his family and opposes the systematic targeting of democratic voices by the police force.”

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The Marxvadis in Wasseypur #mustread


May 4, 2014, Javed Iqbal

(49 of 66)

A Marxist Coordination Committee party office in Wasseypur, Dhanbad of Jharkhand.

There are 17 independent candidates and 15 party-affiliated candidates in the Dhanbad-Bokaro Lok Sabha seat in Jhakrhand, which went to the polls on the 24th of April, 2014, where there were often long queues. Before polling day, there were more makeshift election offices in Muslim-dominated Wasseypur in Dhanbad than there were schools, health centers and anganwaadis.

When you enter Wasseypur’s main road before polling day, it was carnival season. Every party, from the Congress, the Jharkhand Vikas Morcha, the Trinamool Congress, to the Marxist Coordination Committee have two to three to four or five makeshift offices, one after another, opposite one another, with of course the exception of the Bharatiya Janta Party, who’ve just put up their flags, and the Aam Aadmi Party, who has no visibility. All cramped, competing for space, and in every other moment another party vehicle passes by blaring songs and exhortations, trying to win the favour of the Muslim voter.

In a free school Disha Education Center, run by human rights lawyers, government servants and small businessmen, a voter awareness camp was run on the 15th of April, after children were asked to bring their parents to the meeting. Little children were made to recite three things to their mothers, sisters and grandmothers (no men showed up) –1. ‘Vote dehna chahiye,’ (You should vote) 2. ‘Vote acha candidate ko dena chahiye’, (Vote for a good candidate) 3. ‘Agar acha candidate nahi hai, toh NOTA button dabana chahiye(If there’s no good candidate, then press the NOTA button).’

One boy kept getting the third part wrong, ‘Agar acha candidate nahi milta to?(What if there are no good candidate?) ’ Asked a teacher.

‘Vote nahi dehna chahiye! (You shouldn’t vote)


Speaking to the mini-meeting of the women from Wasseypur, all from BPL families, they had no idea about who their incumbent candidate was, or who was going to win, or anything about this ‘Modi wave’. They did not know that Lok Sabha Minister Pushpati Nath Singh from the BJP, won the previous elections with 58,047 votes defeating second place Chandrashekhar ‘Dadai’ Dubey of the Congress (who is now running on a TMC ticket), nor did they know that their Congress candidate is Alok Dubey. Nor did they know who was AK Rai, a charismatic Marxist trade unionist, three time MLA, and three time MP from Dhanbad, who is responsible for the organized coal miners in Dhanbad to earn around Rs.40,000 to Rs,60,000 a month, who’re the only miners in the country who talk about the stock market while having their chai breaks. AK Rai, is today in the twilight of his life, who still managed 85,457 votes in 2009 without campaigning for a single day, with the rumour that his election campaign budget was Rs.25,000.

He was recently in the news (or minimal news), after dacoits had robbed his landlord’s home at Noondih village, in January, taking Rs.2,600 and his prized HMT watch, literally making him bankrupt. He responded that they were probably ‘more needy’ than he was, and it is a known fact that he had refused the Minister’s pension, advocating that none should ever receive one.

This year though, Israr Khan, a trade unionist in the Footpath Rozirote Parjan Sangh, himself from Wasseypur, is confident that the new generation of the Marxist Coordination Committee, with teacher/organizer/farmer Anand Mahato, as their candidate, along with support from the Nitesh Kumar’s JD-U, is going to challenge the big powerhouses who’ve written off the Marxist Coordination Committee. Anand Mahato, 68 years old, has all those criminal cases to his name, that a leader of people’s movements against displacement has, from sedition to obstructing public servants to rioting; most relating to the shutting down of the Sindri Colliery where 10,000 workers were kicked out of their jobs in the year 1995-1996. He was the sitting MLA from Sindri during the confrontation with the CCL, and was even imprisoned for ‘andolan’ activities.

Israr Khan, or ‘Mister Khan’ as he is known, used to be a Congress worker until the party was responsible for the demolition of countless shops on the streets of Dhanbad in 2004. He joined the Marxists eight years ago and is obviously one of the reasons there are countless red flags in Wasseypur, competing with Saffron, the Tiranga and the Yellow-Green of Jharkhand Vikas Morcha. ‘Joh log thode samajdaar hote hai, woh Marxvadi soch mein aa jaate hai (Those people who are a little intelligent end up believing in Marxist ideas)’, he responds to the question of acceptability of Marxism amongst the Muslims of Dhanbad, who’re visibly more affected by the Mafia than by the Marxvadis.

In their election offices in Wasseypur, almost all the people who’ve moved towards the MCC, are disgruntled ex-Congress workers or ex-JVM workers, or unorganized workers, who’re visibly angry with both the Congress and the BJP, and the lack of development in the area.

Israr Khan has himself been making efforts to build a base amongst the Muslims of Wasseypur, to add to the MCC base of coal miners, displaced populations, safai karmacharis and adivasis across Dhanbad and Bokaro district. Their mandate has displacement first, and then corruption, communalism and inflation, and with countless coal mines in the district, and lands that are meant to be returned to the adivasis, there is a strong belief amongst them that the party will do well in the coming elections. On the 14thof April, over 5,000 people had congregated in a MCC public meeting for ashahadat divas for Gurudas Chatterjee, an MCC MLA who was murdered by the coal mafia in 1998, (the meeting was of course reported by no local media except Hindi-daily Prabhat Khabar).

In Wasseypur, the Muslim votes are divided. While all parties are confident they will get the Muslim vote, the residents mostly grumble about their roads where cars driving through stumble like drunks, or could stare down chasms like suicidal stock brokers. The famed mafia on the other hand, are just neighbours people don’t really want to talk about. ‘Faheem boss’ from Gangs of Wasseypur fame, has been a part of the Congress-led INTUC is currently in prison along with his next-in-line son, Iqbal.

I toured the party offices in a warm afternoon in Wasseypur, where each TMC office, from where labour minister Chandrashekhar ‘Dadai’ Dubey is running, has a carrom board which is perpetually entertaining the youth of Wasseypur. The three I had gone to in Wasseypur were all but empty with the exception of young boys playing carrom. (There is a huge population of Bengalis in Dhanbad-Bokaro and some feel that the TMC is going to take their vote.)

In the Congress office, everyone claims they’ve always been with the party and their response to the media’s coverage on scams after scam committed to Congress governments, on ‘ghotala (scams)’, was that ‘ye sab gumrah kar rahe hai (They’re all misleading us). They seemed to have more trust on the Congress’s efforts to reduce ‘mehngai (price rise) and that their other main issue was articulated repeatedly as ‘sukoon (peace), indicating their reservations about Modi coming to power.

‘Gujarat mein dekhe hai, ki kya vikas kiya? (Have you seen what progress there is in Gujarat?),’ said Tahir Hussain, a private teacher, ‘Ja ke aap dekhiye waha ke kisan ko kya hua. Aap shehere mein thoda vikas kar diye toh bahut vikas kar diya? (Go and see what was happened to the farmers there. You do some development in the cities, and that is a lot of progress?)’

‘Media hi sabh chalarahe hai, Tv kholiye subha, Modi, shyam ko kholiye, Modi. Aare aage koi hai! (They’re running the media, turn on the TV in the morning and Modi, turn it on in the evening, Modi. Is there anyone else?) Exhorted another Congress supporter.

At the Jharkhand Vikas Morcha office, the supporters felt that the vote is being wasted on the Congress because their candidate who had previously won seats in Dhanbad, had shifted to the TMC, and Kalam Khan, a contractor and supporter would add, ‘JVM mein aadha adhikar hai, aur hum 90% jeetenge. Kaaran hai, ki hum log wahi par vote denge, ja bajpa ko takkar denge. (JVM has half the power, and I’m 90% sure we’ll win. Because, we’ll vote for whoever can stand up to the BJP) ’

‘Babulal Marandi, JVM ke leader, woh be RSS mein the na? (Babulal Marandi, the JVL leader, was also in the RSS, right?)’ I asked

‘Teh na! Teh! (He was, no! He was.) He replied.

He would continue to add what is spoken across Wasseypur. That no one knows who is Alok Dubey of the Congress, and the Congress should have just fielded Daday Dubey, who the voters of Wasseypur know, and have voted for in the past. That he had taken the TMC seat, ensures that the vote would split for both parties and would have no chance of defeating BJP, thus everyone should come to JVM, said Mr.Kalam Khan.

A sentiment found in Congress supporters too.

‘Congress ko ma chudake, nikal jayega BJP. (Fuck the Congress’ mother and BJP will get ahead)’ Said Mohammed Manjoor, a shop keeper, ‘Bahut Dada Dubey ko vote dere hai, bahut log Congress ko dere hai, saale sab BJP ko jita denge! Muslaman bhi salle vote BJP ko vote dere hai! (Lots of people are voting for Dada Dubey, and lots are voting for Congress, the bastards will make BJP win! Muslims are also voting for the BJP!’

Across the day, it was becoming more and more evident, that every individual felt a need for Wasseypur to vote together, but there was a ‘batwara(division)’ of votes, and an anxiety in many people, unsure of which party has the strentgh to defeat the BJP, a sentiment found amongst the majority. But without any unity, without any political party working to organize the people of Wasseypur on their own terms, there would be no collective mass, and what is a voting base, is merely a supermarket for votes.

‘Muslims look at how the elections are going, which party is strong, and then vote en masse towards that party,’ say many observers of Wasseypur, but at an independent meeting held on the 21st of April in Wasseypur, the only consensus was that there is no consensus.

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Nepal parliament passes amnesty bill

Former Maoist rebels and security forces accused of rights abuses in the country could get amnesty under the new law.

Last updated: 27 Apr 2014 15:28

Any offer of amnesty would, however, need the victim’s approval, according to the bill [AFP]

Former Maoist rebels and security forces who committed torture, killings and other crimes during Nepal’s decade-long civil war could be granted amnesty under new legislation approved by parliament, a lawmaker said on Saturday.

Lawmakers late on Friday passed a bill in parliament to set up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission and a Commission on the Disappeared, aimed at healing wounds from the decade-long conflict that ended in 2006.

The legislation had drawn fire before its passage from UN human rights chief Navi Pillay who warned earlier this month that amnesties for serious abuses would “weaken the foundation for a genuine and lasting peace in Nepal”.

Under provisions of the legislation, those found guilty of serious crimes during hearings by the commissions could receive a full pardon, said Ram Narayan Bidari, a Maoist lawmaker.

Bidari was present in parliament when the bill was passed by a minimum two-thirds majority.

“The commissions will investigate cases of war-time crimes related to rape, murder, abduction, et cetera, and recommend whether they qualify for amnesty or not,” Bidari told AFP news agency.

The commissions will examine all pending war-crimes cases and decide whether to forward them to a special court that will be established under the new legislation, Bidari said.

“Even if cases have been filed in court or police investigations are under way, now these cases will be brought under the new commissions,” he added.

Victim’s approval

The civil war between Maoist rebels and the army left more than 16,000 dead, with both sides accused of serious human rights violations including killings, rapes, torture and disappearances.

Victims’ rights groups have accused politicians of bowing to demands from Maoist lawmakers to include an amnesty provision in the bill, despite recommendations from a government-appointed panel against one.

Any offer of amnesty would still need the victim’s approval, according to the bill, which will now be forwarded to President Ram Baran Yadav for his signature.

The Maoists and the government agreed to set up commissions focused on peace and reconciliation when they signed a peace deal.

An earlier Maoist-led government in 2013 passed legislation that sought to grant amnesty to those responsible for major human rights violations, but the Supreme Court rejected the provisions.

Although courts have issued arrest warrants and guilty verdicts in several cases of rights abuses during the war, no one has been sent to prison so far.




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A parallel conversation: Martyrs, rebels, and peasants


A performance during the shahaadat diwas in Chotanagpur region, Jharkhand, to honour Bakhtar Say and Mundal Singh.

Anumeha YadavA performance during the shahaadat diwas in Chotanagpur region, Jharkhand, to honour Bakhtar Say and Mundal Singh.

Anumeha Yadav

Anumeha Yadav

Anumeha Yadav

The amicable relationship some villagers have with the Maoists, panchayat institutions, as well as large NGOs operating in the vicinity of the villages seems an unusual co-existence in Jharkhand.

It was a weekday when I got a call from Manohar* (name changed), an invite to attend ashahaadat diwas in Chotanagpur region the next day. Two months back, Manohar had helped us get in touch with the CPI(Maoist) for an interview. As he said, shahadat diwas was a day to commemorate martyrdom. I was unsure if it was the rebels’ leaders’ lives the ceremony was meant to recount, but had little opportunity to ask till I was on the road with him the next day.

A few hours out of Ranchi as we reached the forest, the road gave way to a dirt track winding through rocky outcrops. Mahua trees were in bloom, its yellow seeds scattered on the ground. Sal was sprouting fresh green leaves.

Vote ke jariye sarkaar ke rang badalta hai, shoshan-shaashan bandh nahin hota hai – Bhakpa (Maowadi)” (“Voting will change shades of governance, not repression”), the banned CPI(Maoist)’s message for boycotting elections scrawled in large brown letters on the wall of a hut painted white. The hut’s inhabitants went about their routine.

The path soon gave way to a large clearing. Here, at the base of a hill, the villagers – men dressed in white shirts and dhoti, women in sarees, musicians with drums, dancers with plastic flowers in their hair – were under one tent, and in front of them were two six feet-high statues under a bright blue and yellow canopy.

It was only then that it became clear the farmers from several villages around the hills had gathered to celebrate the lives of two of their ancestors, whom they described as the first from Jharkhand to fight the British. They recounted that Bakhtar Say and Mundal Singh had been executed, defeated by the British in April 1812 – nearly 45 years before what I had learned in textbooks to remember as the first year of Indians’ rebellion against the British, the Mutiny of 1857. “Bakhtar Say and Mundal Singh of Navagarh and Panari Pargana amar rahein,” began Govardhan Singh of the village path pradarshak samiti that has been organizing the function every April.

Who were the two? What had they done? Was their any direct link between the Maoists’ presence in the area and this public ceremony? And how did this affect the politics, voting of these interior villages? I wondered as I watched ceremony those gathered had organized to honour their first freedom fighters.

The story I never knew

This is how the organizers described the story of Bakhtar Say and Mundal Singh’s lives.

Bakhtar Say and Mundal Singh, two landowners, fought against the British in Chottanagpur region 1812 onwards. When the British government ordered Govind Nath Shahdeo, the king of Chotanagpur, to pay Rs.12,000 as tax to the East India Company, Bakthar Say refused on behalf of the peasants of the Navagarh Raidih area. This provoked a fight in which Bakhtar Say killed Hira Ram, the Ratu courtier sent to collect this tax.

The magistrate of Ramgarh then sent an army from Hazaribagh under Lieutenant H. Odonel, while reaching out to the kings of Jashpur and Sarguja (in present-day Chhattisgarh) to surround Say from all sides. At this time, Mundal Singh reached Navagarh to help Bakhtar Say. The battle lasted two days. Say’s army made up of farmers of the area held off the British, something the kings and rulers of Navagarh, Panari and Gumla had failed to do.

But a month later, E. Rafreez of Ramgarh Battalion planned a second charge against both, leading a large army. This battle lasted three days. Say and Singh were forced to seek shelter with Jashpur ruler Ranjeet Singh. The latter betrayed their confidence and they were arrested and taken to Calcutta where they were executed on 4 April, 1812.

A Google search for the two’s names to read or corroborate for oneself yields nothing.

A carnival

The sun climbed higher but the people kept coming in hundreds. By late afternoon, the numbers had increased to thousands. Those who took turns to speak paid homage, and compared Say and Singh’s revolt to the struggle of tribal villagers who spent several years in jail in Latehar and Chaibasa prisons charged by forest officials for collecting firewood from forests. Others compared the struggle of Say and Singh against the British in the 19th century to the displacement of lakhs of Jharkhand’s tribals in the last hundred years, reflecting the feeling many describe as Jharkhand’s “repeated colonisation” – first by the Biritish, then the ruling governments, and now by large mining firms.

“Political leaders visit and try as they may to talk sweet, they will have to answer about our displacement,” Munna Kisan, the village shahadat diwas committee convenor, a frail old man wearing a white shirt over dhoti and canvas shoes, spoke animatedly.

Manohar, who has spent some time in jail on charges of being a Maoist, asked questions that have been absent from the political and TV debates preceding elections: Why do a majority of women in the country still have khoon ki kami (anaemia)? If even a single school or wells had been built in the village every year since Independence, would things not be different? Why were gram sabha resolutions on use of land and trees flouted despite Constitutional provisions? Were leaders living in Delhi capable of ever understanding the lives and priorities of Jharkhand’s villagers?

As the villagers watched, several young men dressed in shirts and trousers came and watched from afar. The organizing committee members identified the men as from the local squad of the CPI(Maoist). The carnival grew bigger. The karam dances grew more vibrant. The festivities would go on all night. Nagpuri artists were expected to perform at night. The villagers said they had collected over Rs.1 lakh to organize the meeting. The “party” (Maoists) had contributed additional funds. To celebrate two martyrs the villagers associated with the Indian freedom movement, I wondered…

A peculiar relationship

“The maoists are samaaj sewi (social workers), except they carry guns,” offered the panchayat’s young woman mukhiya when I asked her about the presence of armed squads in the hills surrounding the village as we shared a big lunch of dal, rice, tomato chutney, and washed it down with sattu (gram flour and water). When I asked if the rebels had tried to constitute committees within the village as is common in pockets of Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh, she said the krantikari kisaan samiti had existed since several years but had made no active effort to carry out public works in the village.

The perfectly amicable relationship the villagers seemed to have with the Maoists, panchayat institutions, as well as large NGOs operating in the vicinity of the villages seemed an unusual co-existence, peculiar to Jharkhand. Would the alliances of those with similar aims though different strategies here survive and evolve to question future rulers and governments?


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In Search of good samaritan – Dr Samir Biswas

Dr Samir Biswas – courtesy
Wednesday, 26 March 2014 – 6:05am IST | Agency: DNA

He greets his patients with loud curses as they stagger in — sick or drunken — to his chamber. He reserves his choicest expletives for those who visit him close to death. He ministers to them tenderly, gruffly waiving his doctor’s fees, often buying them their medication from his own pocket, and making arrangements for them to reach home safely. Dr Samir Biswas, 68, carries his years lightly. Stories about him have become the stuff of legend in the collieries of Asansol, West Bengal. No patient is turned away from his door without treatment even at some ungodly hour, this reporter was told. The locals fondly recall his resounding laughter, recount incidents of his gobbling up more “chops” than youngsters at roadside stalls, while simultaneously discouraging patients from these forbidden snacks with a wink. He greeted the womenfolk with a rousing “Boudi!” (sister-in-law) as he entered their homes and their hearts; they swear he is a saint in disguise.

The elderly remember him affectionately as “amar (my) Samir”, his words reigniting their will to live. Even the money-savvy and hardened colliery officials admit that he is a “good man”, a notion as alien to that coal-mining region as green fields. Is this same man, Dr Samir Biswas, a marked troublemaker condemned by the three regimes that have come to power in West Bengal? His defiance was evident even as a young internee with Left leanings when he was jailed in the 1970s by the Congress government. During the Left Front rule he was a “wanted person” in 2010 for treating Maoists. Finally, the police under the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) party arrested him in December 2013, handcuffed like any hardened criminal. Can this doctor, who treated all who needed medical help, be blamed for treating “Maoists”? Can he be a dark mind that researches books on lethal bombs, instead of how to save the sick and dying? As I travelled to Asansol “in search” of the man who operated in Asansol, the second largest city in West Bengal, an industrial town of coalfields and railways, I was full of confusion. Who was the real Dr Samir Biswas? Was he a closet Maoist, an evil impersonator hiding behind his mask of a popular doctor? Or a doctor following his Hippocratic Oath to the letter? It was not difficult to “find” Dr Biswas.

His presence was palpable in the homes of retrenched workers near the once-bustling and now defunct factories overgrown with shrubbery. As it was in the cluster of poor Adivasi villages around Barmoundia colliery, a region perpetually shrouded in red dust of the coalfields, where Dr Biswas had lived and worked as a government doctor in a health clinic in Panchgachia for 40 years. Few knew that he was a brilliant student of the prestigious Nilratan Sircar Medical College in Kolkata, and had left a potential life of luxury to work among the poor miners and factory workers.In the workers’ colonies surrounding the long-closed Hindustan Pilkington Glass factory, Dr Biswas remains a legend — both as a doctor and as a good man who restored to hundreds of retrenched workers a sense of dignity. Most importantly, the miners and factory workers felt they actually mattered when Dr Biswas would ask security guards of powerful colliery officials to wait in the queue for an appointment for their bosses. For the first time, they realized they were equal as human beings. They had the right to treatment as much as those officers.

To him a worker, a staff member or an official were the same. Dr Biswas’s love for dogs and books is folklore — and perhaps his undoing. Everyone speaks of how his home sheltered dogs ranging from purebred Alsatians to seven street mongrels, four of them disabled and crippled. Yet, he did not discriminate between his dogs, caring for them equally — a principle which he perhaps carried too far with his patients. He opened his humble home-cum chamber to those who needed a meal or a bed, not discriminating against his patients based on status or political affiliation — some with Left leanings — and paid with his freedom. Yet, not surprisingly, when Dr Biswas was arrested, the local TMC MLA too joined the huge crowd that blocked the road in protest. Dr Biswas’s passion for books ranged in interests from poetry and the classics to cinema. One of the encyclopedias on his bookshelf was on how to manufacture bombs and pistols.

“You will be branded as a terrorist,” his friends had joked, and Dr Biswas had responded with his trademark guffaw. The police did not find it funny, however, and on December 12, 2013, arrested him on charges of sedition, for allegedly treating “Maoists” — among them it was rumoured the slain Maoist leader Koteswara Rao or Kishenji — and for possessing material on how to manufacture lethal weapons! One appreciates the irony of Dr Biswas when one compares the reverse trajectories of his fate and that of a former Naxalite and now a member of the ruling TMC and a Lok Sabha candidate from Asansol. While the doctor is condemned for not discriminating between his patients, this politician reaps the rewards of switching allegiance and enjoys her position as the Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s shadow.

Clearly, it pays to be close to the ruling party.In a region where there is no doctor and no health care for the poor, Dr Biswas’s ministration to the needy is perceived as a subversive act against the State, a dangerous signal to those who risk working in rural communities. When the State is confronted by those who refuse to conform, the easiest trick in the book is to denounce them: the doctors of treating Maoists, the lawyers of protecting criminals, the teachers of coaching terrorists, and the media of bias. As this article goes to the press, the news of Dr Biswas’s release on bail trickles in.

My bet is he will continue to live life on his own terms: with his beloved books, dogs and his patients, and the conviction of the Hippocratic Oath which has been the cornerstone of his life.


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#Sundayreading – From the Pen of the Resistance : The Lalgarh Uprising

[This is a book review, written by Bernard D’Mello, that was published in EPWFor obtaining a copy of the book, please contact us : communications [at] sanhati [dot] com -Ed]

Letters from Lalgarh by the People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities, edited and translated by Sanhati (Kolkata: Setu Prakashani in collaboration with, 2013; pp 182, Rs 70.

The Letters from Lalgarh contains a set of six dispatches written by the People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCAPA) to various organisations and intellectuals in Kolkata over the period March-September 2010, during the occupation of Jangalmahal by the Joint Forces of the West Bengal and union governments. One might like to read these letters as a testimony of the repression and resistance that Jangalmahal witnessed over these months, as the Sanhati editors put it, in the Introduction. One might also consider these letters as part of the documentation of the Lalgarh uprising, a task that the Sanhati Collective has engaged in with a sense of dedication and commitment its activists can legitimately feel proud of.

Have All of ‘Us’ Become Maoists?

Upon the completion of 10 years of underground work (the long, patient organisational work that precedes the firing of the first shots, as Ho Chi Minh would have put it) amongst ordinary adivasis and moolvasis in the Lalgarh and surrounding blocks of the district of West Midnapore in West Bengal, in a dramatic flash, the Communist Party of India (Maoist) – CPI(Maoist) – lit a prairie fire there. On 2 November 2008, when the then Chief Minister of West Bengal, Buddhadev Bhattacharjee, along with two central government ministers and a host of officials, was returning after a foundation stone-laying ceremony at the site of a proposed steel plant by the Sajjan Jindal business group at Salboni in the district, Maoist guerrillas detonated a landmine that narrowly missed its target.

The Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPi(M))-led Left Front government had allotted 4,500 acres of land to the project even as the government’s land reform programme of allotting pattas (formal rights) for cultivable forestland and forestland under cultivation to the poor tribal peasants was kept in cold storage. The deeply felt resentment of ordinary adivasis and moolvasis only grew. The demands of India’s big bourgeoisie (the project had even been given the status of a special economic zone, bestowing a whole host of fiscal and other concessions to it) were more important than the needs of these ordinary people whose political consciousness was being sharpened by the Maoists slowly but surely since 1998.

The provincial intelligence bureau knew this and the police unleashed a reign of terror in the Lalgarh area just because the people there were deemed to be sympathisers of the Maoists. Even schoolkids were beaten and charged with “waging war against the state” among other things. But worse was to come. In a mid-night swoop on 6-7 November 2008, in the villages in Lalgarh block, the police kicked and beat – with their lathis and butts of their rifles – a number of women, among whom were Chintamani Murmu and Panamani Hansda who were badly injured, Chintamani in the eye and Panamani suffered multiple fractures in the chest. The adivasis, over here, the Santals, have been subject to police oppression over generations, but now, with the Maoists around, their sense of dignity could no longer be crushed. 7 November was the Russian Revolution anniversary day – the establishment- Left led by the CPi(M), masqueraded as a “revolutionary force” in a big show of strength, even as, here in Lalgarh, the real thing was brewing with the tribal people outraged at the CPi(M)-led government’s sell-out of their “ancestral land”.

At first more spontaneous, by mid-November 2008 the PCAPA was formed to lead the mass struggle in Lalgarh and the adjoining areas. (Apart from Lalgarh, the uprising spread over Binpur, Jhargram, Belpahari and Jamboni blocks over the first month since the outbreak on 7 November 2008.) A 12-point charter of demands was drawn up, among which was that the superintendent of police of the district and those responsible for the atrocities on the women should hold their ears and crawl with their nose facing the ground in apology and that the chief minister too should also tender an expression of regret. Significant on the list, apart from the call for the removal of police camps, was the demand for the withdrawal of the false cases and charge sheets filed since 1998 against people who had been framed as Maoists.

But what was really heartening were the direct forms of people’s democracy in practice – each village now had a gram (village) committee with five women and five men in it. Two persons, a man and a woman from each village were a part of the central coordinating committee; the utterly democratic manner of taking and ratifying decisions; making officials sit on the ground on hand-woven mats on equal terms to negotiate with the committees. All this brought into sharp focus the contrast with the practice of rotten liberal-political democracy by the mainstream political parties in India.

The other aspect was that, in Jangalmahal, the CPI(M)-led Left Front had abysmally failed on the “development” front – the public distribution system had collapsed, the primary health centres were almost non-functional, even potable water was not easily accessible – while the PCAPA-led mass movement, with the meagre resources at its command, was able to run health posts with doctors from Kolkata coming in once a week, construct and repair embankments, dig ponds, set up tube wells, teach the local language in some schools, a lot of all this through shramdaan (voluntary labour).

With such modes of direct participatory democracy, the movement spread further – to Goaltore, Salboni, Nayagram, and even to Garbeta, a CPI(M) stronghold. Students came out in solidarity. But the traditional local leadership of the Santals, the Majhi Madwa, and Jharkhandi political parties, who came to take advantage of the mass outrage to convert it into a vote bank, were asked to back off. The CPI(M)’s “divide and rule” tactics failed, but the party repeatedly made the charge of Maoist involvement to justify what was on the anvil – state and state-sponsored terror. Nevertheless, the spread of the struggle, the roadblocks and the bandhs, the attacks on CPi(M) offices, and so on ultimately forced the government to remove the police camps – the camps had occupied school buildings among other places.

Very soon, within a month, 10 of the 12 demands were met. Even the chief minister was forced to apologise. But the two main ones, the apology of the superintendent of police and his men who had committed the midnight raids and the excesses remained, as also the demand for the dropping of the cases/charge sheets filed against so-called Maoists since 1998. The struggle thus went on, and indeed, practically the entire state machinery was kept out of operation in the areas of struggle for months. In keeping with the changing dynamics of the situation, the PCAPA and the CPI(Maoist) together, in tandem, for a while, seemed to have struck an astute balance between political mobilisation, armed actions, and social welfare/“development” activity.

But the situation was on edge. In progressively taking over CPI(M) strongholds, the Maoist leadership was working towards banishing the ruling Leftists from the area. However, in doing so, it was precipitating a crisis of the state. That moment came on 14 June 2009 when the target was the “White House”, the “palatial” (in sharp contrast to the deprivation all around it) house of Anuj Pandey, the CPI(M) zonal secretary. He was in control of Dharampur, whether it was getting work in the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, below-the-poverty-line ration cards, deciding who would be the beneficiaries of welfare programmes like the Indira Awaas Yojana, he was in the saddle, and, of course, locally he directed the CPI(M) harmads – armed goons who enforced the party’s writ. That is why the Maoists chose to destroy the “White House”, for it was a symbol of the “Ancien Régime”. The grand finale was when the Maoist leader Bikash, an AK-47 slung over his shoulder, made a public declaration that, indeed, the Maoists were leading the movement.

Perhaps the CPI(Maoist) knew of the impending entry of the Joint Forces, as a result of a joint decision of the Congress Party-led government at the centre and the CPI(M)-led West Bengal government. The occupation of Jangalmahal by the Joint Forces brought about a sea change in the Lalgarh movement, especially in the balance between mass political mobilisation and alternative development activity, on the one hand, and armed resistance, on the other. With the entry of the Joint Forces in the manner of an occupation army and the conduct of the CPI(M) harmads in the manner of local collaborators, the CPI(M) began recapturing its territorial strongholds. But even as the Maoist guerrillas and the Sidhu-Kanhu militia (the latter, of the PCAPA) resisted the Joint Forces and the CPI(M) harmads, even carried out ambushes and landmine explosions, the tempo of mass political mobilisation and social welfare/development activity by the PCAPA became a real challenge to sustain.

In fact, the resistance took a fresh turn with the Maoists’ People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army (PLGA) raid on a camp of the Eastern Frontier Rifles at Silda (in West Midnapore district) on 15 February 2010. Condemnation of the Maoists in the commercial media assumed hysteric proportions. Three months later, the Gyaneshwari Express train was sabotaged on 27-28 May leading to its derailment, and with an oncoming goods train hitting the loose carriages, nearly 150 passengers died, and predictably, the Maoists were blamed,1 this to buttress the “discourse of counterinsurgency”. Disease metaphors – “deadly virus” and so on – of colonial vintage had a field day, for both the West Bengal and the central governments did not seem to want the public to know the truth.

Voice of Jangalmahal

During the occupation, the media dutifully published the versions fed to it by the police in Midnapore and Jhargram, and so, these letters of the PCAPA need to be read to understand how ordinary adivasis and moolvasis felt about the repression, and the manner in which they valiantly resisted. As the Introduction by Sanhati says, the letters, written in a uniquely “earthy tone”, put forth “cogent arguments”; they were the “voice of Jangalmahal” in those dark times. More important, “(i)t is telling that nearly all the signatories of these letters have been killed or are in jail”. Indeed, a month before the first letter was penned, Lalmohan Tudu, the president of the PCAPA was cold-bloodedly assassinated on 22 February 2010 (as per a statement of the PCAPA) when he went to meet his daughter who was to appear in the state board examinations scheduled to begin the next day. Sidhu Soren, who led the Sidhu-Kanhu militia, and four of his comrades were killed on 26 July 2010 while they were asleep in the jungles of Metala (again, according to a statement of the PCAPA). Umakanta Mahato, a member of the central committee of the PCAPA, falsely accused in the sabotage of the Gyaneshwari train, was cold-bloodedly assassinated by Joint Forces personnel, accompanied by CPI(M) men, on 27 August 2010, in the forests of Parulia while returning home (according to the testimony of Sabita Mahato, the wife of Umakanta Mahato). It seems as if it was the implicit policy of the West Bengal and central governments to annihilate the leaders of the PCAPA.

The letters give the reader a glimpse of the pathetic role of the judiciary at the local level, the role of the harmads as collaborators of the Joint Forces in the occupation, the PCAPA’s attempts to continue the implementation of its development programmes in the midst of the occupation, as also, their mass mobilisation in the form of rallies and meetings, and, of course, the role of women in the resistance. The latter, for instance the 35,000 women entering Jhargram on 20 July 2010 “demanding punishment of the perpetrators of the rapes in Sonamukhi” (p 111), the formation of the Nari Ijjat Bachao Committee (Committee to Safeguard the Dignity of Women), women leading a campaign to demolish liquor shops in Ramchandrapur, Chandabila, Nekradoba, Piyalgeriya, Barodehi and other villages, all this in the midst of the occupation is remarkable.

Incorrect Handling of Contradictions

Interestingly, in the course of the first four letters, the Trinamool Congress (TMC) is “identified as part of the ruling clique responsible for sending the Joint Forces into Jangalmahal” (Introduction, p 7), but, towards the end of the fifth letter (pp 140-41), dated 9 August 2010, upon Mamata Banerjee taking the initiative to organise an “anti-terror forum” and a rally to take place in August in Lalgarh to oppose the CPI(M) and its harmads, the PCAPA softens. Letter five says:

We shall remain steadfast with the anti-terror movement-struggle which has been formed with the initiative of the Trinamool leader Mamata Banerjee, intellectuals and human rights organisations (p 140).

Indeed, it was the PCAPA that made Mamata Banerjee’s rally in Lalgarh a success. It was here that she made all the tall promises – to withdraw the Joint Forces, punish the harmads and the police officers responsible for the atrocities committed, and institute enquiries into the killings – that eventually won her the Jangalmahal seats in the state assembly elections. What followed, as we now know, was the formation of TMC’s own harmads, the Bhairav Bahini, a strengthening of the intelligence serving the counter-insurgency, and the capture, brutal torture and assassination of the Maoist politburo member and the party’s main leader of the Lalgarh uprising, Kishenji.

What explains the terrible blunder committed by the Maoists and the PCAPA in allowing Mamata Banerjee and her TMC to gain a foothold in Jangalmahal, which ultimately led to a severe setback for the resistance over there? Surely, temporary, conditional alliances have to be made at certain junctures in the course of a “protracted people’s war”. In such politics, one has to utilise a conflict of interests, even if temporary, among one’s adversaries. The question however relates to the handling of a whole set of contradictions in the course of an alliance with a temporary, unstable, thoroughly unscrupulous and conditional associate.

On Jangalmahal, during the occupation, the whole set of contradictions can be demarcated into three subsets – (1) differences within the revolutionary consensus (between the CPI(Maoist) and the PCAPA, and within each of these entities); (2) disputes with progressive intellectuals and parties who opposed the revolutionary consensus regarding the strategic path to “new democracy” or “people’s democracy” (the other Naxalite parties/factions, some civil liberties and democratic rights organisations, and independent-Leftist public intellectuals); and (3) conflicts with those beyond the pale (the provincial CPI(M) in power in Jangalmahal and in West Bengal, the Congress Party, the TMC, other non-Left parliamentary parties, and “public intellectuals” serving the interests of their political patrons). In our view, handling criticism, difference of opinion, contention and opposition with those in (1) and (2), without clashes, by presenting the facts, reasoning things out, and persuading one’s contenders through resort to reason, is an essential part of “correct” practice of the leadership principle of the “mass line”. As regards (1) and (2), the revolutionaries were essentially handling contradictions among the people, that is, to the extent that the parties in (2) were expressing the will of at least a section of the people through their political practice.

The social-democratic CPI(M) – even though it was in power in the province and was acting as a close collaborator of the “occupying forces” in Jangalmahal – was (is) not beyond reform, unlike the TMC, which is unambiguously in (3). The “social fascist” characterisation of the CPi(M) by the CPI(Maoist) is ridiculous. In Jangalmahal, however, the CPI(M) was acting as a collaborator of the Joint Forces, and thus its contradictions with the CPI(Maoist) and the PCAPA were rendered antagonistic. Nevertheless, even in the civil-war like situation then prevailing in the area, the Maoists could have made the distinction between harmad combatants and CPI(M) non-combatants, and refrained from unleashing political violence on the latter. The alleged excessive killings of CPI(M) non-combatants seem to have unnecessarily escalated the already antagonistic contradictions between the CPI(Maoist) and the CPI(M) to a multiple of what they might otherwise have been, and ultimately, the TMC took advantage of the situation to steal a march over the CPI(M) in Jangalmahal in the state assembly elections of April-May 2011.

Indeed, as regards the TMC, the PCAPA should never have accepted the leadership of Mamata Banerjee when the TMC joined the “anti-terror forum”. Conceding the leadership to Mamata Banerjee gave the TMC the opportunity to wean away some of the PCAPA’s cadre and mass base. And, given the track record of parties like the TMC as regards the sharp contrast between their electoral manifestos (promises) and their conduct as soon as they come to power, a party like the CPI(Maoist) and its mass organisation, the PCAPA, whose cadre and leaders risked their precious lives, should never have had any positive expectations from the TMC. Nevertheless, peace talks, if these could have been forced on the TMC-led government that came to power, would have been beneficial to the people, to the extent that some concessions for the people could have been extracted from the mouth of the tiger, the Indian state, and would have given the resistance movement time to recuperate and reorganise in Jangalmahal.

The PCAPA letters do not give the reader even a clue about whether the CPI(Maoist) was in effective control of the PCAPA or not, or about the nature of the relationship between the leadership of the party and that of the PCAPA. But yes, Letter four does express outrage about the Joint Forces personnel carrying the dead bodies of young Maoist guerrillas, killed while they were asleep in the jungles of Ranjja in June 2010, hung animal-like, hands bound, legs tied, from bamboo poles, the security-force jawans conveying the bodies just like colonial hunters coming back from a shikar once did, with their prized dead game. Letter four says:

Those who were killed were our sons and daughters; they turned Maoists to resist (the) atrocities of (the) harmads. The way their dead bodies were carried after hog-tying them puts any civilised society to shame (p 106).

For those public intellectuals who highlight the crimes and cruelties alleged to have been committed by the Maoists, they ought to learn from Marx, whose response to the “crimes and cruelties alleged” against the “insurgent Hindoos” of 1857 was to set out an account of the daily violence “in cold blood” of British rule in India. The dispatches of the PCAPA show that not much seems to have changed in this respect in independent India, even as we are in the 21st century.


1 The Maoists investigated whether renegade factions had been behind the sabotage, but have found that this is not the case (Maoist Information Bulletin, 20 October-November 2010).


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