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Archive for the ‘Bengal’ Category

Basu-Mamata ‘jugalbandi’ failed to address basic issues, say Nax…

Posted by Indian Vanguard on June 13, 2007

KOLKATA — Maoists have vehemently criticised a landmark meeting between Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee and Marxist elder statesman Jyoti Basu to sort out nagging differences between the opposition and the government over the state’s controversial industrialisation programme.

“The Basu-Mamata jugalbandi left key issues in Singur and Nandigram untouched”, the CPM (Liberation) state secretary Kartick Pal said.

“The people of Nandigram and Singur are not bothered about who is holding meetings with whom. They want to know when those responsible for the March 14 genocide (in Nandigram) will be punished”, he added.

Stating that violence again erupted in Nandigram since Sunday night, he said people there would not accept “any decision taken at any peace meeting” unless Chief Minister, Buddhadev Bhattacharya, and local CPI(M) MP Lakshman Seth resigned.

Alleging that the state government had forcibly taken over land for the Tata Motors project in Singur under the Land Acquisition Act, he said “owners of 287 acre do not want to hand over their land. Besides 3,500 agricultural workers would be affected. They will not accept any meeting unless the land is returned to them.”

Unless the government revised its land acquisition policy, any discussion on Singur would be fruitless, he said. Pal said his party would organise demonstrations in front of the offices of all district magistrates on June 26 to oppose the state government’s policy and to demand the resignation of the chief minister.

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Maoist activity spreads to North Bengal now

Posted by Indian Vanguard on June 13, 2007

KOLKATA: After having successfully established their strongholds in West Midnapore, Bankura and Puruliya districts of West Bengal, the Maoist forces for the past one year have concentrated on establishing their network in the closed tea gardens in north Bengal.

The rebel group is utilising the poverty of the people to shore up their base in the area. The Intelligence Branch (IB) of the West Bengal police has recently submitted a report to the state home department stating that the Maoist forces are gathering strength by roping in workers of the closed tea gardens under the banner of “Majdoor Kishan Sangharsh Samity” (Worker-Farmer Conflict Committee).

According to the report, the group is inducting locals for advanced guerrilla ambush training. Confirming the receipt of the report, state home secretary Prasad Ranjan Roy said the state government will take all possible steps to tackle the problem.

The areas where the Maoist groups have strengthened their network are Malkani, Kalchini, Bamandanga and Raymatang among others. Sources in the IB informed DNA that a four-member high-powered Maoist cell has been given the responsibility to organise their network among the workers of the closed tea gardens.

According to an IB official, the police gathered the information from secret Maoist documents discovered recently from a residence at the Malkani area.

“The intention is clear. The Maoists are trying to use the ire of the workers against the tea garden owners for organising and strengthening their network in the region,” he said.


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W.Bengal: Land to curb Maoist influence

Posted by Indian Vanguard on June 12, 2007

Statesman News Service
MALDA, June 11: To curb Maoist influence in Bankura, Purulia and Midnapore districts, the state government has plans to distribute more land among the landless of the three districts.
“Last year 3,000 pattas were distributed among the land less in the Maoist affected districts. Going by our experience it can be said, the exercise has made the people happy,” the state land commissioner Mr PK Agarwal, said during a distribution of records programme at Kaliachak today.

According to him, his department has allotted Rs 30 crore in the last financial year to all districts to provide land to landless cultivators but the project is yet to be implemented fully.
When asked about the system of returning land acquired by the state government to farmers unwilling to offer farm land for the Tata small car project in Singur, he said: “ It is not possible to return acquired land right now. But they can be rehabilitated.”

Addressing the “record of rights” (patta) distribution programme at Manikchak panchayat samiti today, Mr Agarwal said the state government has stressed to distribute land to landless farmers in West Bengal, the pioneer state in the country and the department achieved more than the targeted figure of 10,000 acres last year.” According to him a total of 85,000 pattas were distributed last year.

The government has planned to distribute 16 decimal lands to each landless person after buying land from others if there is no available vest land in the respective district. The Malda district has received Rs 1 crore for this purpose, Mr Agarwal pointed out.

The government has also launched a plan for the ‘record of right holders’ pattadar so that they can receive loan from the banks at four per cent rate of interest where private moneylenders generally claim 36 per cent interest.

The bankers would issue credit cards to them and based on the cards the pattaders would be able to buy seed, fertiliser and other components for cultivation.

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Urban Guerillas

Posted by Indian Vanguard on June 10, 2007

It was a small item in that day’s newspaper. But to Dipanjan Rai Chaudhuri, the news about peasants killing a policeman in Naxalbari in north Bengal on May 25, 1967, literally leapt out of the page. Rai Chaudhuri, then a 23-year-old student at Calcutta University, was part of a growing number of youth in elite colleges who were fired by revolutionary ideology but were increasingly getting disillusioned with mainstream Communist parties.

Naxalbari was like a clarion call to Rai Chaudhuri — who retired as head of the department of physics in Presidency College in 2004 and was one of those who featured in V S Naipaul’s India: A Million Mutinies Now — and many of the best and brightest of his generation. “We were elated. We had only read about the armed peasant struggles in China and Vietnam. Now it was actually happening here in our land,” says Rai Chaudhuri. Soon posters supporting Naxalbari appeared in College Street and elsewhere. Slogans such as ‘China’s Chairman is our Chairman’ suddenly sprouted on Kolkata walls. The lawns of Presidency College became a meeting ground for students from Calcutta and neighbouring areas, and the informal group came to be known as the Presidency Coalition.

By April 1969, a Maoist party — the CPI(ML) — had been formed and Naxalite leader Charu Majumdar’s call to liberate the countryside was finding ready takers among students. The rules as framed by Majumdar — himself a college dropout from Siliguri and a veteran of the Tebhaga movement — for the young organisers were clear: Stay only in the house of a landless or poor peasant; stay secretly right from the first; and never expose yourselves. The rural stint did not always go down well with city-bred students. Dipesh Chakrabarty, a Presidency College student of the 1960s who now teaches in University of Chicago, recalls: “Many of the urban youth who went to liberate villages came back within weeks with acute bowel problems.”

For those like Rai Chaudhuri, who decided to stay on, life was hard. “The CPI(ML) had been formed by then, and the line of ‘annihilation of class enemies’ had taken shape. The idea was that after killing a hated landlord in an area, the action would itself act as an ‘organiser’. After one or two circuits, I was sent to a new area where there had just been an annihilation. I tried sincerely but could not reap any organisational harvest from that action,” he says. This was also the time brutal killings became part of life in Bengal. Indeed, one of Majumdar’s favourite dictums was: “One who has not smeared his hands red with the blood of the class enemy is not fit to be called a Communist.” Calcutta, in particular, lived in daily fear of Naxalite violence.

The violent turn to the movement and the subsequent police brutality alienated some of the urban youth. “While I supported Maoism, I did not have a taste for the cult of violence that Charu Majumdar preached. Also, I did not have the courage to face the prospect of police torture,” admits Chakrabarty. The distaste for violence among some students is confirmed by Arun Mukherjee, who had an intimate knowledge of the psyche of the young activists. As deputy commissioner of police in the special branch from 1969-72, he was in charge of interrogating arrested Naxalites. Mukherjee, who has just released a book on the period, believes that the egregious violence propagated by Naxalite leaders deeply unsettled many students from middle-class families. He cites the case of a Presidency College student who developed “serious mental aberrations” after committing an act of brutal annihilation.

This was also the time when members of the underworld joined the Naxalite movement — sometimes actively encouraged by the police — leading to an upsurge of violence. There were many students who were shot in cold blood and several more put behind bars. In end-1971, Rai Chaudhuri — who by then was married and had a daughter — was arrested with another prominent Naxalite leader, Asim Chatterjee — better known as Kaka — in Deoghar. After having spent 11 months in jail, Rai Chaudhuri was released on the condition that he and his family leave the country. In August 1972, Rai Chaudhuri was taken straight from jail to Dum Dum airport to board a flight to London where he went on to complete his PhD.

Not everyone was as fortunate as Rai Chaudhuri. For some students, their careers were virtually finished. There were, however, many who picked up the pieces of their lives and moved on. There was, for instance, Amal Sanyal who sat for his university exams from prison and later settled down in New Zealand. Chakrabarty joined IIM Calcutta in what he says was a “peculiar mood that combined elements of self-denial with those of self-affirmation”. Some like Kaka stayed in active politics and even contested elections.

But for most of the youth from elite colleges who dedicated the best years of their lives to the cause of revolution, the Naxalite movement fundamentally changed their lives. Rai Chaudhuri recently took to the streets to protest the police firing in Nandigram. Chakrabarty’s involvement with the Subaltern Studies project would never have happened without the Naxalite movement. While the fires of revolution sparked by Naxalbari have spread and taken on a different character, the events that happened 40 years ago still remain a source of inspiration for the 1960s generation.

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Summer of ’69 in St Stephen’s

Posted by Indian Vanguard on June 10, 2007

If it were some other time, the graffiti could have passed as some Stephanian’s idea of a prank. Scrawled across the main tower of St Stephen’s college building was the message, “China’s path is our path, China’s chairman is our chairman.”

But it wasn’t some other time.

It was 1969-70. The idea of rebellion was infecting young ‘petit bourgeois’ minds everywhere. The upheaval at Paris’ Sorbonne University and the anti-Vietnam war protests across US campuses were already the stuff of legend. Closer home, Naxalbari had exploded into national consciousness.

So when the high wall of St Stephen’s College —that rarefied oasis for the nation’s elite — was used as a pad for radical propaganda, it confirmed what most observers already knew: an influential section of Stephanians had fallen to Naxalism. Slogans appeared on lecture-room blackboards, writes Daniel O’ Connor, a British priest who was the college pastor from 1963 to ’73, in Interesting Times in India. One such work read, “Reactionary teachers, we will have your skin for shoes for the poor”!

Contemporary insiders put the number of core Naxals in the college at the height of militancy at no more than 30 — not a big figure, but by most accounts, the single largest Maoist presence in all DU institutions. In 1968, history student Arvind Narain Das had run for president of the college student’s body elections on an openly Naxal platform. He won. “We were ready to storm heaven,” Dilip Simeon, a leading member of the group, was to write later.

How a revered ‘pillar of the establishment’ fell to ‘revolutionary activity’ is an enigma. Certainly, the college’s democratic ethos aided the process. And there were individual influences. Awadhesh Sinha, a history student who joined in 1965, was one of the first to turn radical. Says Rabindra Ray, another early convert, “Awadhesh was known as ‘Commie’ Sinha. Ironically, he joined the IAS in 1970 and was vilified in an ugly incident at the coffee house.”

The group’s ideological hangout was a barsati near the campus where a lecturer at the university’s Psychology department stayed. Ajit Pal was a Marxist iconoclast who never joined any party. “Palda, as we called him, was a mesmeric motivator. He was our mentor, guide and organiser,” says a member of the group.

By 1970, their activities were entering a more serious phase. A distressed parent approached O’ Connor asking him to persuade his son to give up his politics. “By then, they (the students) were well into the vortex and almost out of hearing,” writes the pastor. The campus was tense. TOI reported a ‘plot’ to burn the college library and bomb the chapel. “We didn’t know it then, but some students and teachers close to us were spying for the police,” says Ray.

Just then, Das and Ray went ‘UG’ (underground). Some 12-13 Stephanians followed, leaving studies to join the revolution between 1970 and 1971. Das and a few others were arrested; the rest returned on their own — disillusioned and scared. Rajiv Kumar, an Economics student, was in third year when he left for Bihar in mid-December, 1970. For three months, he stayed with CPI-ML sympathisers, including a bricklayer in Munger. “One of the reasons for my return was the prospect of being asked to kill people,” he says. “We were a bunch of romantics who just didn’t know that we were being fed with lies.”

Ray remained a ‘revolutionary’ till 1975. “It was easy to get in, very difficult to get out. I had to painfully think my way out. Marxism-Leninism Mao thought is rubbish,” he says. Ray was to later write a book, Naxalites and Their Ideology.

“It’s difficult to retain that kind of blind faith,” says Simeon. “Yet, coming out was cathartic. It was soul-destroying to realise that the Chinese Communist Party was working in its own self-interest, and not for world revolution.”

Simeon has fictionalised his ‘UG’ experience as an itinerant cleaner in a truck plying on the GT road. The short story, ‘OK TATA, Mobiloil Change (and World Revolution)’, appeared in Civil Lines 3. At one point, the cleaner’s ustad, the driver of the truck, finds his world turned on its head when his lowly assistant suddenly starts singing the Internationale along with a couple of French hitchhikers!

It was that kind of a time.

PS: Awadhesh Sinha is additional chief secretary in the Maharashtra government. Das, Ray and Simeon went on to do their PhDs. Das, a journalist and sociologist, died in 2000. He was 52. Ray teaches at Delhi School of Economics. Simeon joined Ramjas College as a teacher in 1974. In the ’80s, he was attacked brutally while leading an agitation. He is now a senior research fellow at Nehru Library. Rajiv Kumar did his DPhil from Oxford and is director of ICRIER. Ajit Pal retired in 1991 and lives in Delhi.

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West Bengal: Cops survive Maoist blast

Posted by Indian Vanguard on June 8, 2007

Statesman News Service
MIDNAPORE, June 7: A 10-member police team had a close shave when the CPI (Maoist) triggered a land mine explosion seconds before the police jeep reached the spot where the mine was planted at Lalgarh in West Midnapur today.

A senior police official said the police team was returning to Ramgarh after covering a political agitation at the Lalgarh BDO’s office. Around 3.30 pm when the police jeep was speeding down the Ramgarh-Lalgrah road the explosion took place at a place between Lokat and Dharampur. The driver managed to apply the brakes of the vehicle a few metres away from the blast site.

“Had the mine blasted just 15 seconds later there could have been heavy casualties. Only the vehicle was damaged and its window glass was shattered due to the impact of the blast,” an officer said.
Soon after the blast the Maoists hiding in the nearby forests opened fire on the police team. The officers also retaliated. The police team was soon joined by a team of EFR jawans who were also returning from the same assignment.

There were however no reports of any injuries or casualties in the gun battle. An officer said “The gun battle could have also taken some lives but luckily there were no civilians on the road at that time”.
The mine suspected to have been planted in a pit of the road was triggered by a remote control device. The blast was so serious that under its impact a 10 feet pit developed on the road which was under repair.

The Statesman

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Undertrials Clash With Police In Bengal Jail

Posted by Indian Vanguard on June 2, 2007

Saturday 02nd of June 2007 A group of undertrials led by a Maoist leader and a Kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO) militant clashed with police at a prison in West Bengal Saturday over poor facilities in the jail.

Many of the inmates of Malda Correctional Home in north Bengal got injured in the clash and were admitted in the jail hospital.

The incident occurred after the group of prisoners had a heated exchange with the policemen over the lack of facilities.

Later, the war of words led to a scuffle and the situation turned grave with the police resorting to heavy baton charge to disperse the irate jailbirds.

‘It was a minor skirmish between inmates and the jail officials who were demanding some facilities in jail. The situation initially became violent but later it was taken under control after the police used baton and dispersed the disgruntled prisoners,’ West Bengal Minister for Social Welfare and Jail Biswanath Chowdhury told IANS.

According to Malda jail sources, tension was brewing since Friday as the inmates had been constantly demanding better facilities for them.

Jail officials said undertrial Maoist leader Animesh Chakraborty and KLO militant Malkhand Singh attacked the police which led to baton charge.


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Back-to-back Maoist strikes stun Lalgarh, West Bengal

Posted by Indian Vanguard on May 29, 2007

Midnapore, May 28: Barely 24 hours after they attacked the house of a CPM leader, Maoists killed the father-in-law of another in a raid mounted last night.

Manik Mahato, 68, was shifted to Midnapore Medical College and Hospital with stab wounds, but succumbed to his injuries this morning.

Manik’s son-in-law Upen Mahato is a CPM local committee member.

The incident took place at Jamda village in West Midnapore’s Lalgarh area. The place is only 2 km from Nera village, where an attack on CPM zonal committee member Sheikh Khaliluddin was foiled on Saturday-Sunday midnight.

Khaliluddin’s bodyguards and some 20 villagers with bows and arrows had fought off Maoists.

Shaken by the twin attacks in such a short span, villagers in the Lalgarh area are blaming the police for doing nothing to fight the threat.

“We suspect that it was the same gang that attacked Sheikh Khaliluddin’s house on Saturday night. We have reports that there were some local pe-ople, too, with the guerrillas. We are trying to identify them first,” West Midnapore superintendent of police R. Rajsekharan said.

CPM district secretariat member Dahareswar Sen ac- cused the Jharkhand Party (Naren) of orchestrating the attacks.

“The party is taking help from Maoists to create terror in the CPM-dominated Belatikri village panchayat area. Bypolls were held there on Sunday.”A group of nearly 30 Maoists stormed Upen’s house around 11.30 pm last night.

“My mother (Bilasi), father (Chunaram) and father-in-law tried to prevent them from breaking open the door. Some of them fired through the cracks. My mother was hit in the back and my father-in-law in the right palm. As they held themselves against the door, they stuck in a spear through a crack that pierced my father-in-law’s chest,” said Upen.

The CPM leader said the firing stopped after about half an hour. “When I came out, about five of them chased me. I started running for my life and managed to escape.”

When the police finally arrived around 12.30 am on Monday, they were surrounded by angry villagers.

“There have been three attacks on me over the past two years but I haven’t been given a bodyguard. Even after the attack at Nera village, there was no additional deployment of police,” Upen said.

SP Rajsekharan said that isn’t true. “The police rushed to Jamda from Gopalpur as soon as they heard the gunshots. Our men removed the injured people to hospital.”

The Telegrap

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Maoist activities mount in Purulia

Posted by Indian Vanguard on May 25, 2007

Statesman News Service

PURULIA, May 24: The spate of Maoist activities in Purulia and its adjoining areas, especially in the villages, has terrorised the people of the district.

Two armed gangs of Maoist rebels attempted to murder Mr Gobardhan Majhi, CPI-M zonal committee secretary of Balarampur, Purulia; and Mr Manzoor Khan, a member of Purulia district CPI-M committee and a leader of CITU in Balarampur, 50 km from Purulia town, at their respective villages, Padamdih and Rasuldih, about 7 km from Balarampur town.

Mr Manzoor Khan is popular in the area not only as a political leader but also as a sports personality. It is primarily because of his efforts that a local school became the champion in the prestigious All India Subrata Mukherjee Cup football tournament held in New Delhi.

After the attacks, both the politicians fled their villages, sensing danger. Disappointed at not being able to find Mr Gobardhan Majhi, Maoists rebels allegedly tied his relatives and went in search of him. They, however, fled when villagers arrived on the scene on hearing the relatives’ screams.

After three days of the incident, many Maoist leaflets were seized by police at Tentalo village of Balarampur. Thousands of leaflets were also found at Raidih, Berada and Baradih villages of Barabazar block in Purulia district last week. In those leaflets, Maoists threatened allegedly corrupt representatives of people, including MPs and MLAs. Maoists also warned against illegal activities like the country liquor trade.

Meanwhile, the CID submitted the chargesheets against Mr Dipanjan Mukhopadhyay, Mrs Kanika Debnath, Mr Pradip Saha and Mr Gaur Narayan Chakraborty, after three years of the murder of Nilmadhab Das, OC of Bandwan, Purulia.

He was brutally killed on 11 October 2003. The chief judicial magistrate of Purulia Court accepted the appeal of Mr Sagar Mondal, the advocate of the four accused and the hearing will be held on 11 June 2007.

However, Mr Ashok Kumar Prasad, SP, Purulia, ruled out the possibility of Maoist being behind the incidents in Balarampur and Barabazar, judging from the style of operation.
A police officer said: “Let us conduct an inquire first, may be others were behind the incidents”.

The Statesman

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‘Stop torturing us, else we flee towards towns’

Posted by Indian Vanguard on April 22, 2007

Stop torturing us, else we flee towards towns.’ The anger against police spills on to the streets in around 200 villages along Jharkhand-West Bengal border.

Disgruntled by the unleash of torturous treatment to them for allegedly siding with naxalites, the villagers, breaking boundaries of state and region, have joined hands and virtually issued a fatwa against police of the two states warning them to refrain from harassing innocent people. “If you continue with the torturous treatment,” villagers warn police, “We would migrate to the nearby towns to settle, demanding camps and compensation alike the Kashmiri and other refugees.”

What has prompted them to take such a major decision? HT visited few such villages, mostly inaccessible, to hear their grievances. The resentment against police was apt. For, villagers complain that ever next day police of any of the two states would raid their homes and pick up men and youth on suspicion of being a naxalite or aiding the Red Brigade.

During the last one and a half month, Jharkhand police has arrested at least 15 persons from Kesarpur panchayat alone, most of them charged with conspiring and assisting naxalites in killing Jamshedpur MP, Sunil Mahato. Villagers vehemently deny their involvement in the gruesome act, and vouch for their innocence.

Situation in bordering villages of West Bengal including is no different. People in Dwarsini complained that police raid their homes, pick up innocent members of their families, and also loot cash and belongings. A case in point is the arrest of Dumkakocha youth, Sunil Singh for his alleged involvement in the blowing up of Dwarsini Tourist Lodge.

A visibly anguished, younger brother, Anil Singh told HT, “My brother was a yoga trainer with Art of Living (AoL) camp at Ghatsila, besides serving part time for Sahara finance. When Bandwan police raided our home for him, Sunil had in his possession Rs 40,000 cash he had collected from his clientele. They took away cash and other valuables along with my brother for a crime he had never committed.”

With the situation turning worse each day, the aggrieved villagers felt the need to raise a concerted voice against the atrocity by law enforcers, and thus formed Border Jungle Mahal Jan Jagran Samity (BJMJJS). The Samity recently has taken out two massive rallies in the Bengal side protesting against police atrocities, and demanding immediate release of innocent people trapped on naxalism charges. A similar rally is being planned in Ghatsila (Jharkhand) shortly.

“Police torture us in the day, in the night its naxalites. If living in village were a crime, we would love to migrate to towns and cities,” observed BJMJJS chairman, Panchanan Singh. Ram Chandra Murmu, secretary, Majhi Pargana Mahal, supreme socio-religious body of tribals in the area too confirmed police atrocity against innocent villagers.

Police claims the agitations ‘naxalite sponsored’. “The Maoists are instigating villagers for such acts,” DSP Ghatsila, Shailendra Burnwal said.

Hindustan Times

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