December 15, 2008


BHULABHEDA (WEST MIDNAPORE), 12 December, 2008(INN):The entire network of what are non-arterial links between the main roadways is now free of felled trees, ditches, and boulders. Traffic of all sorts’ moves freely. As we return from the red earth of Purulia via Bankura and onto Midnapore west, we see militant processions of adivasi youth, men and women, occasionally children in tow, the Red Flag fluttering in the chill of the first and late wintry breeze from the north-west, as they stride along boldly, arms swinging gaily, slogans emanating from the chapped lips, conviction of courage written all over their faces, along both sides of the roads. ‘We do not want the Jharkhandis and the Maobadis to ruin life for us anymore,’ is the general refrain. The awesomely large and cavernous kettledrums thudded out a thunderous resonance, and the horns sounded the timbre of the forest.

Entering Bhulabeda, I was quite thrilled to see another sight – a sight long, long overdue. Thousands upon thousands of adivasis -- and this time the vast crowd is a happy mix of tribals and non-tribals, of the villages and the townships – all united under the Red Banner. What the self-proclaimed Maoists and their in-closet friends and associates, and patrons in the corporate world should note is the chilling fact, for them and for persons of their ilk, here and abroad, the scorn and hatred the tribal-non-tribal rally-- I would not call it a joint rally, it was a peoples’ rally, vast and moving – exuded for the criminals and the assassins-- all the way. Somehow a feint sense emanating of a feeling of guilt and a sense of having been betrayed earlier all those decades could be felt in these old bones from the otherwise militant ambience around all the time as I alighted from the vehicle I have been travelling in and, in a second, mingled fadelessly yet seamlessly into the power and glory of the people’s march.

The rally culminated in a vast assemblage held under the aegis of the two very organisations that had been in the past bitterly misled and alienated from the mainstream of the struggles of the forest people by the Maoists and the Jharkhandis – the all-India Jakat Majhi-Marhwa association and the Bhumija Munda Kalyan Samity. The rally iterated in strong language and firm tone what has been going around the villages and the hamlets, the gunjes and the townships the last few weeks and months.

The likes of Jharkhandis and Maoists must not find any toehold in the red clay zones. They are not to cross over from the neighbouring districts to where they may continue if the people there so allow, doing the misdeeds of their uniquely anti-people sort. They must not try to communicate to the people this side of the state border in any way. They should not expect any safe haven awaiting them – rather the contrary. They should also come out with a public explanation why they killed so many people-- tribal or non-tribal is not of importance as a point of distinction, the ‘reason why’ is. Every speaker strongly emphasised the public confessional aspect, I did not fail to note despite the slight inadequate fluency in Bengali of the comrade who translated the Santhali for me.

The speakers also dwelt at length on the sensitive topic of destruction of the forest resources including the cutting down of boughs as this meant finis to the process of growth of tussar and resham varieties of silkworms. The speakers also appeared quite sheepishly apologetic in their own way about the felling of trees, some of which worth lakhs of rupees, for the purpose of blocking the roadways.

All of them were also in unison on two other issues: the western area of Bengal must undergo faster development, and the police must not enter the villages without the accompaniment of the Jakat leadership. They iterated that the myth that the Maoists had spread around about the Jakat being unwilling to have the authorities arrest and take into custody criminals was just that—a myth. The rally ended in a befitting way as torches were lit and the assemblage burst into a song with a touching refrain that sent a stab to the softest part of the human heart – kam, khai, emaa lem – roughly translated as ‘give us work please, so that we are able to go to sleep on full stomachs....’ .

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