After the encounter death of Kishanji, the Maoists have apparently lost their power to challenge the Bengal government. The cadres are demoralized and it is reflected in the series of recent surrenders. At a time like this, one of the most senior Maoist leaders, Ashok alias Chandi Sarkar, has been released from prison. The rebel party is looking up to this veteran leader for its revival in Bengal. The 67-year-old former state committee member speaks to Caesar Mandal…
Has Lalgarh failed to advance the Maoist movement in the state?
I don’t think that Lalgarh upsurge has failed. It’s true that we are on the back-foot. Many of our party workers and leaders are behind bars or martyred. We even lost a leader like Kishanji. His death is undoubtedly a major jolt to the organization across the country. But despite these severe losses, we will be able to recover, since a large section of the masses is still with us. The people of Lalgarh and the entire Jangalmahal are waiting for another spontaneous movement.
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Is the bonhomie with mainstream political parties, especially Trinamool Congress in Nandigram and Lalgarh, a key reason for the failure of the Maoists in Bengal?
No. It was never against our party line. We have a specific direction that for the sake of revolutionary movement, the party may join hands with the grassroots level workers of other political parties who are in distress. It was a strategic alliance in Nandigram and Lalgarh, where a large section of people from the Trinamool grassroots joined the resistance. The same question was raised after the Garbeta episode, where the former ruling party, CPM, took our help. But we knew that soon after getting their domain back, CPM would make an all-out effort to wipe us out.
If you were aware of this, how did the Trinamool-led government inflict such heavy damage on your party soon after being sworn in?
It’s true that we have suffered more organisational losses during the new regime than in previous years. Such strategic alliances need to be planned very carefully after identifying the real friend or the right person for the organization. In Lalgarh, the party definitely made mistakes.
Do you think that the reins of the Lalgarh movement went out of the hands of your party leadership?
The Lalgarh upsurge was a spontaneous flare-up of the grievances of Jangalmahal people. In the field, it is difficult to bridle all the acts. It’s true that more control was needed, but I am not the right person to comment as I was not in Lalgarh. There were definitely some faults and my party leadership is probing them. But I would again say that the apparent crushing of Lalgarh’s upsurge is temporary, since the government could not solve the basic problems that gave rise to the movement. The land will raise the voice of protest once again.
Your comrades are under pressure across the country. Even your party headquarters Abujmad is under attack. You have lost a number of senior leaders…
Temporary setback is a part of revolutionary movement. Since 2005 we have lost important leaders like Kishanji and Azad. Unlike revolutionary organizations in other countries, since the spring thunder – the Naxalbari upsurge – Indian revolutionary parties have always lost their leadership.
It’s a mad trend of Indian movement that despite such serious losses, the mass support helps us survive. No one can say that we have lost control over our domain. In other states like Chhattishgarh, Orissa and Jharkhand, my party comrades are brilliantly taking on the tremendous state repression and advancing the organization. We are getting stronger. New leaders are emerging and the resistance will get more intense.
Our party will soon reply to the state forces with a major blow. Wait and see.
Do you think it will be easy to revive the Bengal unit when most of the senior leadership is in jail or killed?
At present our organization in Bengal is far behind other states. It’s not easy to recover from such losses, but not too difficult either. I am not saying that in a few months we will be able to reconstruct the state committee and other area committees, which have suffered major damages. I can’t even say that we will soon be able to counter the state forces. The situation is not easy to regroup and plan a fresh stir. But I can assure that we will be back with a stronger organization. Because there are millions of victims of oppression and it’s our job to spearhead their grievances towards a movement.
What’s your immediate plan to rebuild the party in Bengal?
At present, mass movement is very important. We would inspire people to build up a strong mass resistance to release the political prisoners. It’s now our immediate goal.
We have to keep in mind that with the time, the nature of the class struggle is changing. Problems are changing and accordingly party will have to act.
What’s your view about the recent split in Nepal Maoist party?
The only thing I can say that if the leaders of the new party had split a year ago, then there would have been less loss in the organization. It should have been done long before when the party adopted Prachanda’s parliamentary politics line. I congratulate the new party for going back to revolutionary line leaving parliamentary politics.
Can you rule out a party insider’s hand behind Kishanji’s death?
Some mistakes were definitely committed that led to the death of Kishanji. For long, the party was worried about his security. The party alerted him and he had the expertise to handle such hazards. Perhaps, for some practical reasons, he could not follow all the security directiveslaid down by the party. Your hint is very clear – whether party workers present there had betrayed or not. I would say it was not easy for the persons you hint at to trap him. We are probing what had happened. The truth will come out soon.
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