June 27, 2009


KOLKATA: The Bengal government and the Midnapore west unit of the CPI (M) have been engaged for the past couple of days in extending food, drinking water, clothing, and related rehabilitation and relief material to the 3000-odd families or around 15,000-odd rural folk who had been forcibly ousted by the ‘Maoists’ and their Trinamul sympathisers in the guise of the ‘people’s committee.’

The affected people belong to principally the four blocks of Lalgarh, Goaltore, Salboni (where the proposed steel industries unit yet hangs fire), and Jhargram. Six kilos of rice is provided to each affected family, and here it is a declared policy of the pro-poor Left Front government that the administration would not look for political affiliation even if well-known for notoriety.


When the families approach the relief centres with containers and bags, they are each of them treated to a large dollop or three of the ubiquitous khichdi on sal leaves that the starving innocent visibly relish, with a second or even a third servings. We found it very moving how entire families- even the walking sick - and thin-visaged bahus with children on their back, tribal-fashion, stand patiently and in all politeness, no shoving here, in queue for hours together to await their turn of the rice, occasionally dal, and of course the servings of khichdi that were much appreciated by everybody around, eyes ashine with the sheer pleasure of digging into the victuals. Plenty of drinking water was around for taking long swigs and ten carrying home in two-litre plastic bottles

These are the people who were forced by the predators from the neighbouring lawless areas on the other side of the state border to starve, and to take up bows and quivers of arrows in a bid for ‘revolution.’ Unwilling to bear arms against anyone, the peaceable people, as we were told in tales that were filled with pathos, were tortured, kept in a condition devoid of the basic means of life, and then muscled in to rob them of the little they had by way of household items – a few much-dented, and scrubbed-thin metal utensils, earthen water pots with long narrow necks, a pestle or two and a stone slab with a rough-surface to grind lentils and rice on, a extra sari, a spare dhoti or two, perhaps also headgears bedecked in tender care with the long and sweeping tail-feathers of the waterfowl, and very occasionally the prize possession - a charpoy.

Central forces carrying INSAS stens and having a variegated nomenclature, ‘specials,’ ‘cobras,’ ‘strakos,’ ‘greyhounds,’ led by cordons thrown up by the hordes of state police squads armed with AK-47 rifles, uncoiled past us in two-by-two formations from Pidakata rural zone either to mount anti-landmine trucks or to go ahead on foot, disappearing into the thick of the forestry. Some of the police personnel were in mufti, t-shirts, denim trousers, and ‘sports’ shoes prevailed-- which made a strange sight to us of ‘civilians,’ carrying AK-56 rifles, GPS-equipped man-packs, and pouches of survival kits strung around their waists. One lives and learns.

Not much of the much-feared-in-the-corporate-media ‘Maoist’ military opposition could be seen. From what we heard, and we dared not flout the state government’s strict instructions never to tag along with the force, although our corporate counterparts irresponsibly did, that when the ‘fierce warriors’ of the extreme left did appear, it was in a most amateurish fashion. They ran without covers, they took pot shots and stayed rooted on-the-spot completely exposed, were clad in bright red or orange coloured clothing that was easy target for the professional sharp-shooters in the ranks of the ‘cobras,’ and 12 or maybe more were picked off and killed on the spot before the rest 50-odd ‘braves’ simply ran, dragging the bodies ignominiously away. By the time, the combined forces reached the Lalgarh police station, led by the Midnapore range DIG, the ‘armed’ opposition has become distinguished by its absence.

A boring drama of the absurd was played out all the while on the air waves, in several TV channels, over one ‘Kishanji,’ supposedly a ‘supreme leader’ of the ‘Maoists,’ occasionally sounding quite plaintive and pathetic while calling in a thin, high-pitched, reedy voice for an end to the ‘police aggression,’ and asking piteously of the Trinamuli chief to ‘please, please, help us out.’ The appeal was echoed by the once-all-powerful-leader of the ‘people’s committee,’ the Trinamuli goon Chhatradhar who in turn appeared on TV as pale, bleary, and somewhat devoid of cognitive abilities, especially when he was solicitously told by the scions of the corporate media that the police ‘were out to kill him’ (a lie if ever there was one). We are told that the man broke down and started to whimper about him being caught between a rock (the ‘Maoists’) and a hard place (the Trinamulis who now disown him.)

As we file this report, the police are regrouping for mopping up ‘ops’ if there is need for any. ‘Kishanji’ and ‘Vikash,’ the two Maoist leaders who appeared almost daily on most TV channels have quietly slinked away from Midnapore west to Jharkhand, in the company of their lackeys, and thence to Andhra Pradesh. The anti-Communist ‘civil society’ a few of whose members met ‘Kishanji’ and came back quite unimpressed, are crest-fallen. State secretary of the Bengal CPI (M) Biman Basu has said that the Left Front was against the banning of the ‘Maoist,’ stressing the need for a political battle ahead while the administration looked to the safety and security of the people. At the moment, all is quiet, and peaceful, on the western side of the red clay zone of Bengal. (INN)

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