October 21, 2009

W. Bengal Law Minister visits Maoist affected West Midnapore

West Midnapore, Oct 21 (ANI): West Bengal Law Minister Rabilal Maitra visited West Bengal’s West Midnapore district on Wednesday. The visit was held a day after armed Maoists stormed a police station at Sankrail in the district and killed two police personnel besides abducting another police officer.

The Maoists, including women combatants, attacked Sankrail Police Station and robbed at least 19 firearms and several rounds of ammunition. The officer-in-charge of the police station was taken hostage.

Maoists have been demanding the release of an elusive tribal leader Chhatradhar Mahato, who has been spearheading an agitation since November last year against alleged police excesses in West Midnapore’s troubled Lalgarh area. Mahato, leader of so-called 'People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCAPA)', which has been spearheading agitation against alleged police atrocities, was nabbed from Pirka region, near Lalgarh village.

Police nabbed Mahato when he was about to give an interview to a journalist. Mahato had been giving regular interviews when the paramilitary forces and the state police had launched the anti-Maoist operations in Lalgarh, the place declared as a liberated zone by the Maoists, on June 19 forcing him to go underground for some time.

Mahato had a free run for nine months with the police withdrawing from the camps, before the paramilitary troops recaptured Lalgarh from the Maoists who were fuelling the local agitations.


KOLKATA,21st October,2009: The process of holding a series of rallies and demonstrations against the anarchic tactics of the Trinamul-‘Maoist’ combine has continued with fervour across Bengal. The jangal mahal has witnessed lengthy marches whilst the rural and urban areas elsewhere were the scenes of mass meetings where the speakers were members of the central and the state committee of the CPI(M). The district of Hooghly where the opposition ha started to attempt at machinating anarchic conspiracies has seen big rallies held across the entire region under the aegis of the CPI(M) and the Left Front.

Nonetheless, the killings of CPI(M) workers have continued as the opposition becomes more and more desperate. Trinamulis have killed comrade Sheikh Hasibul at Arambagh. Comrade Subir Ali Mollah faced martyrdom in the hands of Trinamul assassins at Rajarhat in north 24 Parganas. Hutments of kisans and khet mazdoors have been out to the torch in several districts if south Bengal.

Elsewhere in the jangal mahal, a witness to the murder back on 28 August of CPI(M) worker comrade Mongal Soren was hacked to death by suspected ‘Maoists’ on 20 October. Even a child was not spared by the Trinamuli goons at Dhaniakhali in Hooghly. Eight-year-old Rahul Ruhidas was killed simply because they could not get to his father, CPI(M) worker, Ranjan Ruhidas.

In a grisly event, on 20 October, two police personnel were killed by a gang of ‘Maoists’ at Sankrail in the Jhargram sub-division of Midnapore west. The policemen were on duty at the station when they were riddled with bullets and the killers abducted the officer-in-charge of the police station. They looted arms and ammunitions from the station and also robbed a bank nearby.

Later, appearing in one after another of the big media television channels, the self-styled ‘Maoist’ leader ‘Kishanji’ said that the OC ‘is held as a prisoner of war,’ and called for the release of all ‘Maoist’ activists held on such charges as murder and conspiracy to murder, from jail.

Biman Basu, secretary of the Bengal unit of the CPI(M) has condemned all the killings, abductions, and mayhem indulged in by the killers of the rainbow opposition in Bengal and has called upon all the CPI(M) units, at all functional levels, to organise protest demonstrations against the counter-democratic acts. Campaign against the price rise and food security is also continuing in Bengal in different forms. All Left mass organisations are also campaigning on the issue along their own organisational demands

Interesting has been the role of the Trinamuli chieftain’s favourite media channel, the Star Ananda in this regard. While the chief herself would not make any comments on the Sankrail incident in condemnation, she even desisted from a rally she was scheduled to address in downtown Kolkata later on that day, the channel suo motu issued a ticker at the bottom of the screen noting that the chief was ‘heart-broken, and grief-stricken.’ At what or from what she suffered those feelings, however, never received a mention in the hurly-burly of getting to initiate a blame-game against the Left Front government as being responsible for all ‘Maoist’ attacks.

Earlier, a TV channel has trod onto the secret blueprint of a game-plan of the rainbow opposition at Salt Lake. In the guise of a festival anniversary meeting, the Trinamuli chief, her chosen foot-soldiers, known ‘Maoists,’ and the creamy layer of the ‘civil society,’ were to meet top ‘Maoist’ leaders at a rendezvous in a certain quarters of the township. On espying the TV cameras running, the Trinamulis and their ‘Maoist’ musclemen heckled the TV camera crew as well as the young woman who was the reporter for the channel. The goons even had the temerity to lodge a complaint at the nearest police station that the TV crew were sent to ‘kill their leaders.’

In order to put up a smokescreen to hide this found misdeed, the Trinamuli leader of the opposition along with two other MLAs descended on the Writers’ Buildings and staged a dharna before the office of the personal assistant of the chief minister and loudly called for the chief minister’s arrest, no relevant ‘reasons why’ were never a part of the shouting brigade. Later, the police had these worthies removed and later released them on PR bonds.

Using the pretext of the arrest, the Trinamulis took to the streets the next day, burnt buses, wrecked vehicles, put up road blocks, and generally did their worst to bring life to a standstill, failing expectedly in the attempt. Biman Basu has called these tactics ‘semi-fascist and terroristic’ and has said that ‘such moves would encourage the forces of anarchy of every description in the state.’ Biman asked the Party units to be voluble in their protests against all attempts at to organise attacks on the democratic fabric exiting in Bengal.(INN)

October 20, 2009

Maoists kill one police official, kidnap two in West Midnapore

KOLKATA, 20 oct, 2009: In a blatantly daring operation, the banned CPI (Maoist) cadres on Monday killed one police official of the Sankrail police station in the Maoist-infested West Midnapore district injuring another seriously and kidnapped the officer-in-charge of the police station and one assistant sub-inspector.
The gang of about 25 armed Maoists including some women, attacked the police station and also looted arms and ammunition including a few sophisticated AK 47 and AK 56 rifles before they escaped on motorcycles into the dense jungles. The armed Maoists also looted more than Rs 9 lakh from a nationalised bank’s Kesiapara branch which was very close to the police station.
They have also put up posters in the Sankrail police station demanding release of Chhatradhar Mahato, leader of the Peoples Committee against Police Atrocities (PCPA). CPI(M) central committee member Md. Salim have condemned the incident. West Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee held an emergency meeting at the Writers’ Buildings immediately after the reports of Maoists attack reached the state administrative headquarters. He also expressed sorrow over killing of the police official. West Bengal chief secretary Ashok Mohan Chakraborty said their first job would be to rescue the abducted police officials. Joint forces, however, reached the police station on Tuesday night.
Maoist leader Kishenji has admitted that the killing of the police official, attack at the police station and kidnapping of the police officials have been their handiwork. He also threatened the state administration not to make any attempts to send any senior official at the area. "If such an attempt is made, the abducted police officials will be beheaded." Tuesday’s incident at Sankrail police station was the most dreaded operation the Maoists had carried out in Lalgarh and the entire Jangalmahal ever since the joint operation by the central force and state armed police had begun in the region in July this year.
The police station was attacked only a few days ahead of the proposed visit of senior state government officials at Lalgarh to supervise the operations being carried out by the West Midnapore district administration. Incidentally, the director general of police, Bhupinder Singh was also in West Midnapore district on Tuesday when the Maoists attacked the Sankrail police station and killed one police official. Singh was holding a meeting with senior district police officials at Midnapore town. He and the superintendent of police, West Midnapore district Manoj Verma, rushed to the Sankrail police station immediately after they came to know about the attack.

The police station is surrounded by thick forests and the Maoists had taken this advantage to attack it which was supposed to provide support base to the Central force and state armed police personnel in carrying out flushing out operations against the Maoists. The Maoist activists, all on motorcycles and carrying sophisticated arms and ammunition with them, attacked the police station all on a sudden at about 1-30 p.m. They took not more than 20 minutes to complete their operation in which some female Maoist activists also took part.
Police sources are not ruling out the possibility of the fact that the Maoist squad which conducted operation at the Sankrail police station was hailed either from adjoining states of Jharkhand or Bihar. The West Bengal police have already contacted the two neighbouring states and sought their help to nab the Maoists, whom the police suspects, have crossed over the Bengal-Jharkhand border.
West Bengal governor Gopal Krihsna Gandhi, in a statement, has condemned the attack on the police force. "The killing and abduction of police personnel in West Midnapore is a despicable act. Left wing extremists must realise that no just causes can be secured by such diabolisms, retribution will overtake them."
The Maoists had gunned down the second officer of the police station, Dibakar Bhattacharjee at the police station. They have abducted the officer-in-charge, Atindranath Dutta and one assistant sub-inspector Swapan Roy and had not released them till late on Tuesday evening.

War on Maoism by other means

Marcus Dam
KOLKATA: A team of officials will be visiting the Lalgarh area of West Bengal’s Paschim Medinipur district on Tuesday as part of the State government’s plans to expedite development work in the region. Joint security operations by paramilitary forces and the State police are under way in the region to flush out Maoists and activists of the Police Santrash Birodhi Janasadharaner Committee.
The State government has been planning for greater development of the region that has been severely affected by months of strife in the wake of left-wing extremism. The joint operations by security forces against the Maoists had begun on June 18.
The delegation will visit the area and discuss with the authorities how to take the development process forward and restore the confidence of the people in the local administration, Chief Secretary Ashok Mohan Chakraborty said here on Monday. Officials had earlier visited Lalgarh and held talks with district authorities on development initiatives that included rural electrification, digging of tube-wells and improving of health care facilities.
The delegation will, among other things, take stock of the progress made on these initiatives, it is learnt. The government is trying to put in place development plans not just for the Lalgarh area but the entire tribal belt in the south-west region spanning parts of adjoining Bankura and Purulia districts.

Mr. Chakraborty, accompanied by Home Secretary Ardhendu Sen and the Director-General of Police Bhupinder Singh will be visiting the area on October 27 to discuss administrative and security issues with officials.

They will review the progress of the operations against the Maoists, some of whom continue to be in hide-outs in the forest even though areas in Lalgarh that had remained out of bounds to the police and the civil authorities since November 2008 had been reclaimed by the security forces. The future of the security operations were discussed by West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee at meetings with the Prime Minister and the Home Minister in New Delhi earlier this month.
THE HINDU, KOLKATA, October 19, 2009

October 18, 2009

Foreign spies may have sneaked into Lalgarh

Caesar Mandal, TNN 17 October 2009, 11:00am IST
KOLKATA: Two English-speaking foreigners had sneaked into Maoist-dominated Lalgarh in April this year and stayed undetected for weeks after the security forces started their crackdown on June 18. Police and intelligence agencies have been thrown into a tizzy after this revelation.
The identities of these two foreigners have not yet been established, nor what they were doing there. The duo apparently changed locations repeatedly between Bengal and Jharkhand and went around asking villagers about the troubles in the area and whether they knew anything about Maoism. Officials here are worried about the possibility that they might be foreign intelligence agents.
What caught the police's attention first was two locally made toilet commodes discovered during a raid in Bahdodihi village near Ghatsila, Jharkhand, bordering West Midnapore and Purulia in Bengal. Police were immediately suspicious because local people do not use such things. They asked around if any outsiders were in the area. They were stunned to know that two gora sahibs' had been there since April. One of them called the other David'. They spoke in English and often talked to villagers with the help of an Indian interpreter.
Villagers of Patamda in Jharkhand told police that the foreigners regularly visited the local marketplace and even came to their homes, took pictures of the locality and talked to them about their poverty and Maoism. When students of local missionary schools asked the sahibs where they had come from, the duo said they had come to do some research work on behalf of a foreign agency.
Jharkhand Police found their traces in Jharkhand's Chakulia and Lalgarh in Bengal. When PCPA leader Chhatradhar Mahato was arrested from Lalgarh, police specifically asked him about the two foreigners. He apparently admitted knowing some foreigners were around, but claimed he had not met them. A lot of foreigners journalists and NGO workers had come to Lalgarh during the agitation, Mahato said.
Officers believe the mysterious duo entered Jangalmahal from the Jharkhand end, when police were busy preventing rights activists such as Medha Patkar and Gopal Menon from entering Lalgarh. Intelligence agencies indicate that these foreigners came in with the Maoists and had been working among the tribals for months before the Lalgarh operation.
The Bengal CID is sending a team to interrogate arrested Maoist leaders in Jharkhand to learn more about the foreigners and cross-check the information with what Mahato and arrested Maoist leaders have told them. According to police, Maoists have been getting funds from within the country and abroad including a Norway-based agency but the cops are yet to nail them.
CPI(Maoist) politburo member Kishanji, however, rubbished such claims and said that foreigners had never come to the organization during this phase. Police in two states, though, are sure about the presence of the sahibs' in Lalgarh and other Maoist-dominated areas.
Meanwhile, Police produced PCPA leader Chhatradhar Mahato before a Jhargram court for examining his handwriting. Mahato was asked for a specimen signature, but he refused to give one.
The prosecution, on October 1, had submitted a petition, showing some hand-written documents that were seized from Mahato's residence. It said that comparing it with the PCPA leader's handwriting was very essential, as police firmly believe that the documents were written by him.

Congress declares candidates for West Bengal

New Delhi: Congress today declared its candidates for the by-elections to West Bengal assembly. For the assembly by-polls in West Bengal, Bishun Munda has been made the candidate from Goalpokhar, Golam Rabbani from Sujanpur and Hamidur Rehman from Sujanpur assembly seat, a party release said.

West Bengal Govt to go ahead with Nayachar chemical hub plans

KOLKATA,17th October,2009: The Lok Sabha poll reverses notwithstanding, the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government hasn't given up on its industrialization hopes around the proposed chemical hub at Nayachar. It is readying to draft a changed agreement for the Petroleum, Chemicals and Petrochemicals Investment Region (PCPIR).

The chief minister convened a high-level meeting at Writers' Buildings on Friday to do the needful. Among those who attended were other members of the Cabinet sub-committee on industries finance minister Asim Dasgupta and industries minister Nirupam Sen. Others present were land and land reforms minister Abdur Rezzak Mollah, urban development minister Asok Bhattacharya, Left Front chief whip in the state Assembly, Md Masin, and industries secretary Sabyasachi Sen.

According to sources, the meeting was on several industry-related issues, including the PCPIR. Nandigram had figured prominently as the venue for the mega chemical industrial estate and the PCPIR that was to come up near Haldia when the plan was first floated in 2005, and the subsequent agreement was drafted on these lines. After the bloody resistance to the choice of venue (which, experts feel, was a major cause for the Left's reverses), the government has decided to keep its promises unchanged, keeping an eye on the 2011 Assembly elections.

Nayachar is a 64 sqkm island on the Hooghly in East Midnapore. Prasoon Mukherjee, director of New Kolkata International Development (NKID) which through a joint venture with the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation (WBIDC) is to develop the infrastructure on the island had earlier said the PCPIR is an expense account for NKID, but the government is bent on going ahead with the project.
A senior Writers' official revealed that the revised agreement, with Nayachar as the changed venue, will now have to be clinched between the state, the Centre and NKID. He said those attending the meeting discussed the draft as well as other industry-related issues, such as granting subsidy to Cals Refinery, which will partner the PCPIR. NKID is a 50:50 joint venture between Mukherjee's Universal Success Enterprises Limited, a company registered in Singapore, and Indonesia's Salim Group. Real estate developer Unitech Limited also had a minority equity interest in NKID, but it has recently sold its stake in the firm.

CIL to buy equipment worth $2 bn in 5 years

KOLKATA, 17th October, 2009: Coal India (CIL) will procure spares and equipment worth $2 billion from the overseas market in the next five years. This will mainly be procured to beef up production levels by 175 million tonne, and take up at least 134 greenfield mining projects.
Confirming the development, CIL chairman Partha S Bhattacharyya said: “We intend to increase production capacity by as much as 35 mt every year over the next five years. This will require sourcing equipment from overseas — equipment that is not manufactured in India. The cumulative value is expected to be about $2 billion over the next five years.”
Going by the target, CIL is slated to touch a total production level of 570 mt by the end of the next five years. “To achieve this, we have to source high capacity open cast mining equipment, including high capacity dumpers, shovels and dredgers for mines. All these are not manufactured in the domestic market. A part of the procurement will also go into replacing existing old equipment,” said a senior CIL official.
Incidentally, CIL’s effort to take over the ailing Durgapur-based Mining and Allied Machineries Corporation (MAMC) is yet to fructify. The proposal was taken up to start manufacturing underground mining equipment at the plant since there are no established makers as on date. Once, MAMC’s debts are waived by the Centre, CIL and its partners, including Damodar Valley Corporation (DVC), will be able to manufacture open cast mining equipment, too.
“It will help substitute imported equipment for both open cast as well as underground mines. However, we are still waiting for the government’s clearance,” said NC Jha, director technical at CIL. “Since MAMC is a BIFR case, the joint takeover proposal by BEML, CIL and DVC to take over the firm will now have to be passed by the high court, following which needs to be cleared by the Cabinet. BEML intends to take 48% in the company, while CIL and DVC will take 26% each,” said a CIL official. Incidentally, MAMC owed the West Bengal government about Rs 100 crore, which has already been waived. Central dues stand at about Rs 1,200 crore, and will require a Cabinet clearance.

Can't allow Writers' to turn into a circus : Buddhadeb

Kolkata, Oct 16 (PTI): West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today ordered arrest of four Trinamool Congress MLAs on a dharna in the state secretariat, saying he could not allow the building to be turned into a "circus".
"I could not comprehend what they wanted and immediately asked the police to remove them from the Writers' Buildings which can't be turned into a circus maidan," the chief minister said shortly after the arrest of Trinamool Congress general secretary Partha Chatterjee, who is the Leader of the Opposition and three party MLAs.
Bhattacharjee told reporters that he was informed by the Chief Secretary Ashok Mohan Chakraborty and Home Secretary Ardhendu Sen that the MLAs had turned down a request for talks and refused to lift the dharna. Sen said the arrest was made at the instruction of the chief minister.

High drama at Writers' : Trinamool MLAs held for sit-in at Buddhadeb’s office

Kolkata, Oct 16: Four Trinamool Congress legislators, including Leader of Opposition in West Bengal assembly Partha Chattopadhyay, were arrested for staging a sit-in before Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s office here Friday, as confrontation in the politically fragmented state extended to the heart of the metropolis.Amidst high drama, the slogan-shouting legislators arrived at the state secretariat Writers’ Buildings minutes after Bhattacharjee left for home for lunch, and began the sit-in demanding his arrest for allegedly “masterminding” political violence across the state.

It was a virtual replay of the incident on Jan 7, 1993, when Chattopadhyay’s party supremo Mamata Banerjee - then a union minister of state and a Congress leader - sat before erstwhile chief minister Jyoti Basu’s chamber at Writers’ Buildings with a deaf and dumb girl, who she claimed was raped. After several hours, police had swung into action and bodily lifted Banerjee out of the secretariat.

On Friday, as news of the Trinamool legislators’ arrest spread, party workers took to the streets in large number across the state, and demonstrated at key intersections from 5 p.m. as part of a two-hour agitation announced by Banerjee in the event of the four legislators’ arrest.

However, Bhattacharjee, who returned to his office late afternoon cordoned off by heavily armed police personnel, termed the whole incident as “opposition circus”. “I got to know about the whole incident when I was in the car on my way home. I was surprised. I discussed the issue with the chief secretary and the home secretary who tried to persuade them to come to the discussion table,” Bhattacharjee said.

“I showed patience hoping good sense will prevail. When I returned I saw the mess and immediately took a decision to remove them,” Bhattacharjee told reporters here. “I gave the direction to remove them as such a thing cannot go on. I cannot allow the Writers’ corridor to be the ground for opposition circus,” he said.

The Trinamool legislators, led by Chattopadhyay, protested against the “objectionable comments” of former Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) MP Anil Basu at a public rally in Hooghly district’s Khanakul area Thursday evening. “Basu directed the police to arrest Trinamool supporters. If a former CPI-M Lok Sabha member can give such directives to the police, why will the police not arrest the chief minister, who is also the home minister of the state, responding to the demand of public and opposition parties?” Chattopadhyay asked.

“We want immediate action against Anil Basu for his comment as he is not part of the state administration. How come he gives instructions to the police, and the police obey him?” Chattopadhyay said, calling Bhattacharjee a “political joker”.
As the situation intensified, startled police officers rushed in reinforcements and a large number of heavily armed personnel of Kolkata Police were deployed before the chief minister’s chamber and the secretariat’s main gate to prevent any ugly turn of events. Kolkata Police Joint Commissioner (Headquarters) Jawed Shamim and Deputy Commissioner (Detective Department) Damayanti Sen also went to Writers’ Buildings to bring the situation under control.
In a bid to add more punch to the agitation, Mamata Banerjee spoke to a section of the electronic media and condemned the violence allegedly triggered by the CPI-M, and supported the demand for Bhattacharjee’s arrest. She threatened to launch a bigger agitation if her party legislators were arrested.

“The whole of West Bengal will be in flames if any of our leaders is touched by the police. Trinamool Congress activists will hit the streets in thousands if such thing happens,” she said, terming Bhattacharjee as a “leader of state-sponsored violence”.The tension soared as it got close to 4 p.m., the time when Bhattacharjee daily returns to the secretariat post-lunch. Later in the evening, top Trinamool leaders and legislators demonstrated at various points in the city and courted arrests. Traffic was thrown out of gear, inconveniencing commuters.

Condemning the act of the opposition legislators, state CPI(M) secretary Biman Basu said: “Trinamool Congress activists are creating nuisance across the state by holding road blockades and street corners. “We urge people to unitedly protest against this political vandalism of Trinamool Congress for the sake of maintaining law and order situation of the state,” Bose said in a statement.

CPI (M) moves EC alleging poll code violation by Trinamool

Kolkata, Oct 16: The Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) Friday moved the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) complaining of “open violation” of the model code by top Trinamool leaders in three areas of West Bengal’s Serampore assembly constituency, which is set to hold by-polls Nov 7.
In a letter to the CEC, Navin Chawla, CPI(M) state secretary Biman Basu alleged that Union Minister of State for Shipping Mukul Roy and Trinamool MP Subhendu Adhikari had approached areas in the assembly constituency Oct 12 “in convoys of 20 vehicles with some of the vehicles flashing red lights, …with the minister’s car flying the national flag”.

Basu accused the leaders of proclaiming that “11 CPI(M) leaders be beheaded and their heads displayed at prominent places”. He claimed the two leaders had also declared that atrocities will be perpetrated on the women members of the families of CPI(M) leaders and followers and their houses would be “burnt down”.

“We note in this connection that Trinamool members and supporters lined up the route of the two leaders, and attended the meetings armed with revolvers, guns, rifles and explosive devices in order to create panic and fear among the people,” Basu said in the letter. “Please have these very serious issues looked into for an early action,” the letter said.

पत्रकारिता कैसे की जाये?

Thursday, 15 October 2009 17:54
पुण्य प्रसून बाजपेयी
भड़ास4 मीडिया

शोमा दास की उम्र सिर्फ 25 साल की है। पत्रकारिता का पहला पाठ ही कुछ ऐसा पढ़ने को मिला कि हत्या करने का आरोप उसके खिलाफ दर्ज हो गया। हत्या करने का आरोप जिस शख्स ने लगाया संयोग से उसी के तेवरों को देखकर और उसी के आंदोलन को कवर करने वाले पत्रकारों को देखकर ही शोमा ने पत्रकारिता में आने की सोची। या कहें न्यूज चैनल में बतौर रिपोर्टर बनकर कुछ नायाब पत्रकारिता की सोच शोमा ने पाल रखी थी।

बंगाल के आंदोलनो को बेहद करीब से देखने-भोगने वाले परिवार की शोमा को जब बंगला न्यूज चैनल में नौकरी मिली तो समूचे घर में खुशी थी कि शोमा जो सोचती है वह अब करेगी। बंगला न्यूज चैनल '24 घंटा' की सबसे जूनियर रिपोर्टर शोमा को नौकरी करते वक्त रिपोर्टिग का कोई मौका भी मिलता तो वह रात में कहीं कोई सड़क दुर्घटना या फिर किसी आपराधिक खबर को कवर करने भर का। जूनियर होने की वजह से रात की ड्यूटी लगती और रात को खबर कवर करने से ज्यादा खबर के इंतजार में ही वक्त बीतता। 13 अक्तूबर की रात भी खबर कवर करने के इंतजार में ही शोमा आफिस में बैठी थी। लेकिन अचानक शिफ्ट इंचार्ज ने कहा ममता बनर्जी को देख आओ। बुद्धिजीवियों की एक बैठक में ममता पहुची हैं। शोमा कैमरा टीम के साथ निकल गयी। कवर करने पहुची तो उसे गेट पर ही रोक दिया गया। ममता बनर्जी की हर सभा में गीत गाने वाली डोला सेन ने शोमा दास से कहा '24 घंटा' बुद्धदेव के बाप का चैनल है इसलिये ममता से वह मिल नहीं सकती। लोकिन शोमा को लगा, कोई बाईट मिल जाये तो उसकी पत्रकारिता की भी शुरुआत हो जाये। खासकर बुद्धिजीवियों की बैठक में अल्ट्रा लेफ्ट विचारधारा के लोगों की मौजूदगी से शोमा का उत्साह और बढ़ा, क्योंकि घर में अपनी मां-पिताजी से अक्सर उसने नक्सलबाड़ी के दौर के किस्से सुने थे।

शोभा को ममता में आंदोलन नजर आता। इसलिये उसे लगा कि एक बार ममता दीदी सामने आ जायें तो वह इस मुद्दे पर बाइट तो जरूर ले लेगी। लेकिन गेट पर ममता का इंतजार कर रही शोमा दास का खड़ा रहना भी तृणमूल के कार्यकर्ताओं को इतना बुरा लगा कि पहले धकेला फिर डोला सेन ने ही कहा - 'तुम्हारा रेप करा देंगे, किसी को पता भी नहीं चलेगा। भागो यहां से।' लेकिन शोमा को लगा, शायदा ममता बनर्जी को यह सब पता नहीं है, इसलिये वह ममता की बाईट के इंतजार में खड़ी रही और ममता जब निकलीं तो उत्साह में शोमा ने भी अपनी ऑफिस की गाड़ी को ममता के कैनवाय के पीछे चलने को कहा। लेकिन कुछ फर्लांग बाद ही तृणमूल के कार्यकर्ताओं ने गाड़ी रोकी और शोमा पर ममता की हत्या का आरोप दर्ज कराते हुये उसे पुलिस के हवाले कर दिया। यह सब ममता बनर्जी की जानकारी और केन्द्र में तृणमूल के राज्य-मंत्री मुकुल राय की मौजूदगी में हुआ। शोमा को जब पुलिस ने थाने में बैठा कर पूछताछ में बताया कि ममता बनर्जी का कहना है कि तुम उनकी हत्या करना चाहती थीं तो शोमा के पांव तले जमीन खिसक गयी। उसने तत्काल अपने ऑफिस को इसकी जानकारी थी। लेकिन ममता बनर्जी ऐसा कैसे सोच भी सकती हैं, यह उसे अभी भी समझ नहीं आ रहा है।
लेकिन इसका दूसरा अध्याय 14 अक्टूबर को तृणमूल भवन में हुआ। जहां 'आकाश' चैनल की कोमलिका ममता बनर्जी की प्रेस कान्फ्रेन्स कवर करने पहुंची। कोमलिका मान्यता प्राप्त पत्रकार हैं। लेकिन इस सभा में तृणमूल के निशाने पर कोमलिका आ गयीं। कोमलिका को तृणमूल भवन के बाहरी बरामदे में ही रोक दिया गया। कहा गया 'आकाश' न्यूज चैनल सीपीएम से जुड़ा है, इसलिये प्रेस कान्फ्रेन्स कवर करने की इजाजत नहीं है। कोमलिका को भी झटका लगा, क्योंकि कोमलिका वही पत्रकार है जिसने नंदीग्राम के दौर में 'समय' न्यूज चैनल में रहते हुये हर उस खबर से दुनिया को वाकिफ कराया था, जब सीपीएम का कैडर नंदीग्राम में नंगा नाच कर रहा था। जब सीपीएम के कैडर ने नंदीग्राम को चारों तरफ से बंद कर दिया था जिससे कोई पत्रकार अंदर ना घुस सके, तब भी कोमलिका और उसकी उस दौर की वरिष्ठ सहयोगी सादिया ने नंदीग्राम में घुस कर बलात्कार पीड़ितों से लेकर हर उस परिवार की कहानी को कैमरे में कैद किया जिसके सामने आने के बाद बंगाल के राज्यपाल ने सीपीएम को कटघरे में खड़ा कर दिया था। उसी दौर में ममता बनर्जी किसी नायक की भूमिका में थीं।

कोमलिका-सादिया की रिपोर्टिग का ही असर था कि सार्वजनिक मंचों से एक तरफ सीपीएम कहने लगी कि 'समय' न्यूज चैनल जानबूझ कर सीपीएम के खिलाफ काम कर रहा है, तो दूसरी तरफ ममता दिल्ली आयीं तो इंटरव्यू के लिये वक्त मांगने पर बिना हिचक आधे घंटे तक लाइव शो में ममता मेरे ही साथ यह कह कर बैठीं कि आपकी रिपोर्टर बंगाल में अच्छा काम कर रही है। कोमलिका को लेकर ममता बनर्जी की ममता इतनी ज्यादा थी कि ममता ने कोमलिका को सलवार कमीज तक भेंट की और साल भर पहले जब कोमलिका ने शादी की तो ममता इस बात पर कोमलिका से रुठीं कि उसने शादी में उसे क्यों नहीं आमंत्रित किया।

लेकिन 14 अक्टूबर को इसी कोमलिका को समझ नहीं आया कि वह एक पत्रकार के बतौर अपना काम करने के लिये प्रेस कान्फ्रेन्स कवर करने पहुंची है, तो उसे कोई यह कह कर कैसे रोक सकता है कि वह जिस चैनल में काम करती है, वह सीपीएम से प्रभावित है। नंदीग्राम और सिंगूर के आंदोलन के दौर में कोमलिका ने जो भी रिपोर्टिंग की, कभी सीपीएम ने किसी न्यूज चैनल को यह कह नहीं रोका कि आप हमारे खिलाफ हैं, आपको कवर करने नहीं दिया जायेगा। कोमलिका के पिता रितविक घटक के साथ फिल्म बनाने में काम कर चुके हैं और नक्सलबाड़ी के उस दौर को ना सिर्फ बारीकी से महसूस किया है, बल्कि झेला भी जिसके बाद कांग्रेस का पतन बंगाल में हुआ और सीपीएम सत्ता पर काबिज हुई। नंदीग्राम से लालगढ़ तक के दौरान सीपीएम की कार्यशैली को लेकर शोमा दास और कोमलिका के माता-पिता की पीढ़ी में यह बहस गहरायी कि क्या वाकई ममता सीपीएम का विकल्प बनेगी और अक्सर कोमलिका ने कहा - लोगों को सीपीएम से गुस्सा है, इसका लाभ ममता को मिल रहा है।

लेकिन नया सवाल है कि अब ममता से भी गुस्सा है तो किस तानाशाही को शोमा या कोमलिका पंसद करें। यह संकट बंगाल के सामने भी है और पत्रकारों के सामने भी। क्योंकि अगर दोनों नापंसद हैं, तो वैकल्पिक धारा की लीक तलवार की नोंक पर चलने के समान है। तो सवाल है, पत्रकारिता कैसे की जाये?

लेखक पुण्य प्रसून बाजपेयी मशहूर पत्रकार हैं। इन दिनों वे 'जी न्यूज'में बतौर संपादक कार्यरत हैं। उनसे संपर्क punyaprasun@gmail.com This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it के जरिए किया जा सकता है। उनका यह लिखा उनके ब्लाग से साभार लिया गया है। अगर आप उनके इस लिखे पर कोई कमेंट करना चाहते हैं या दूसरों के कमेंट को पढ़ना चाहते हैं तो क्लिक करें- पुण्य प्रसून का ब्लाग

Politicians polarize media in West Bengal

The media was viewing an assault on itself in the light of political allegiance rather than protection of its rights. And that is the real tragedy. AJITHA MENON reports on a Trinamul assault on a 24 Ghanta reporter and cameraman, and rues the partisan media responses it evoked.

Posted Friday, Oct 16 14:58:36, 2009 on www.thehoot.org

Cutting across party lines, politicians humiliate, insult and even assault journalists with aplomb in West Bengal. The latest has been the assault and threat on a women journalist and her cameraman by a central minister and Trinamul Congress workers on October 13th, outside the house of painter Shuvaprasanna, where Trinamul Congress leader Mamata Banerjee was holding a meeting. Shoma Das of 24 Ghanta news channel, had her bag and phone snatched, and her mouth gagged by party workers.

Central minister Mukul Roy was caught on record saying “I will not allow a CPI(M) channel to work here. Is it Buddhadeb Bhattacharya's father's channel?”. Aside from the indecent language, the statement made it clear that journalists would be allowed to work only if they worked for media organizations with political leanings that the Trinamul approves of !

However, even more shocking was the role played by intellectuals and other journalists present. Shuvaprasanna, an internationally known artist, made obscene comments about the woman journalist's parentage for allowing her to “roam free at night”, once again exposing how hollow all the talk about respecting women and women's rights in Bengal truly is. Trinamul workers also assaulted the cameraman accompanying the woman journalist, and smashed his camera. One of the women workers of the party also threatened the journalist saying “I will have you raped by our party boys if you don't behave”.

But the worst was yet to come. Trinamul Congress leader and Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee called the police and filed a General Diary against the journalist, alleging attempt to murder. The journalist and her cameraman were taken to the police station and kept there for five hours “for questioning”, without even being allowed to visit the washroom. The journalist did file a counter General Diary alleging assault by Trinamul workers. The next day her home was raided by the police.

However, the really horrifying revelation was in the behaviour of the other journalists present on the spot. Most of them knew the woman journalist and her cameraman in question and both of them were carrying valid House Cards. However, in a stunning display of how the media is polarized on organizational as well as personal levels today, some reporters put out news stories on the alleged murder attempt on Mamata Banerjee without making any mention of the targeted assault on the journalist and her team. None of them bothered to adhere to media ethics where investigation and verification are considered cornerstones of credible reporting.

Be it Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee twisting the ear of a photo-journalist or Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya insulting a senior journalist by calling him a rat or even the most recent and demeaning action by Trinamul Congress leader Mamata Banerjee, what is emerging clearly is that a polarized media is conducive to the political agenda of different political parties, when it suits them, to deny the journalists the Right to Information and Freedom of Expression - in effect gag the free press. The simple fact is that when one media house or journalist is targeted, others either enjoy the show, or remain silent and even gleefully report the incident in a manner that carries no credibility.

The office-bearers of the Press Club, Kolkata and several senior editors were seen giving phone-ins and TV interviews condemning the action by the Trinamul Congress, however, all the ire was directed against the politicians without any sign of introspection. Wouldn't it have been more effective to send a clear message to journalist employees not to tolerate or support the violation of their and other journalists' rights to work, information and expression?

Furthermore, only those media organizations which opposed the Trinamul Congress's policies were seen carrying the condemnations. Others, who support the party were of course sticking to the murder attempt story! The media was viewing an assault on itself in the light of political allegiance rather than protection of its rights. And that is the real tragedy.

Ironically, after all the condemnation that took place through the day on Oct 14th, following the incident, in the evening two more women journalists were thrown out of the Trinamul Congress Bhavan where a party meeting was being held. Pragya Saha and Komolika Sengupta of Akash Channel, belonging to the same media group as 24 Ghanta, were humiliated for belonging to a particular channel, while about 50-odd reporters and photo- journalists looked on mutely. The matter even didn't get coverage in the so-called free press!

Don't stage a boycott or even a rally or a procession - it will only bring forth political allegiances of media organizations to the forefront and in the end media is all about covering news, not boycotting it. But the organizations can at least empower the journalists with the right to support colleagues on ground zero, even if it is through verbally asserting the person's right to work, right to information and freedom of speech and expression. Reporters, cutting across media organizations and their political affiliations, admit to wanting to support colleagues in such situations but say they refrain for fear of losing their jobs!

Most of the field reporters say they expect to be assaulted, insulted or humiliated by parties fearing exposure or from those with vested interests. However, as the three women journalists recently insulted by the Trinamul Congress said, it's the betrayal by one's own fraternity which is truly unacceptable and heart-rendering.

Its amazing that when such incidents occur, we, the media, look to politicians to protect our rights - making it a no-show from the very beginning considering the fact that politicians survive on the divide and rule policy.

Can we not at least unite on this one ground of right to work with freedom of expression, cutting across our organizations' political policy, and implement it ourselves by offering a media support network for this?

WB govt denies TC claim of conspiracy to kill Mamata

Kolkata, Oct 15 (PTI): The West Bengal government today denied the Trinamool Congress claim of a "conspiracy" to kill party chief Mamata Banerjee when a car trailed her convoy while she was returning home from a meeting at Salt Lake on Tuesday night.
"The complaint filed by the Trinamool Congress is not true," Home Secretary Ardhendu Sen said here. The police had earlier said that the car with a press sticker belonged to Bengali news channel, Chobbis Ghonta, which was seeking an interview with the TC chief.
TC general secretary Mukul Roy alleged yesterday that there was a "conspiracy to kill Mamata". Sen said that he had received a report on the incident from IGP (Law and Order) Surojit Kar Purokayastha and was expecting another from DIG (Presidency Range) S N Gupta tomorrow.

Mamta targets channel over 'plot' to kill her

KOLKATA,14th October,2009: Trinamool Congress, the main opposition in West Bengal, has got into a scrap with news channel 24 Ghanta, accusing a journalist and two cameramen of trying to kill railway minister Mamata Banerjee. The party has filed a police complaint against the TV crew for allegedly ˜following Mamata’s car. The channel has filed counter complaint against TMC.
According to sources, it all started with a brawl between Union minister of state for shipping Mukul Roy and the TV crew in front of painter Suvaprasanna’s house in Salt Lake’s BH Block at night 1-15am. The artist had invited Mamata and her senior party colleagues and media crews to cover the event. Mamata emerged around 10pm. According to Soma Das ( TV crew member), Roy briefed her about the incident. Mamata listened to him and got into her car without a word. "Her convoy left the house and we followed her...The Trinamool leader charged us and accused us of being supari killers.," said Soma. Mamata then called police saying some people had come to kill her.

India state changes madrasa rules

By Subir Bhaumik BBC News, Calcutta
Madrasas or traditional Islamic religious schools in the Indian state of West Bengal are to switch to English as the medium of instruction.
The programme will be introduced in phases, state Minority Affairs Minister Abdus Sattar announced. "We believe in modernising our traditional form of education so that our boys and girls can compete with the best," he told the BBC. He said that 10 madrasas in the state will make the switch this term . The remaining 566 madrasas will follow within a few years.

Curriculum modernisation

The overwhelming majority of madrasas in West Bengal are either government-run or government-approved - both are subject to rules promulgated by the state's Madrasa Education Board (MEB).

Only a handful are completely independent and do not fall under the board's remit. Seventy madrasas in West Bengal opened this year - 34 exclusively for women. Mr Sattar, himself once a madrasa teacher, said the modernisation of the curriculum in religious schools has been taking place for a while and modern science and mathematics have already been introduced. He said that both the US and Pakistan have sent teams to study the West Bengal madrasa system to study the impact of earlier changes.

"But without English as the medium of instruction, our students cannot get the best education. So we recommended the use of English as the medium of instruction in all government madrasas and those approved by government," said Sohrab Hossain, chairman of the MEB in West Bengal.
When the Marxists first came to power in the state, they did away with English at the primary level of education. But two decades later, they reversed their decision and reintroduced English at the primary level.

Their move came after huge criticisms that students from West Bengal were suffering in all-India competition, both in jobs and higher education, due to lack of proficiency in English. Muslims compromise 26% of West Bengal's 80 million people - they are mostly poor farmers or small traders who can only afford to send their children to madrasas to get an education. "So unless we modernise the madrasa system, we will not be able to provide quality education to most Muslim aspirants," Mr Hossain said. "Our madrasas don't produce the Taliban, they will produce engineers and doctors."

Story from BBC
Published: 2009/10/16 16:00:01 GMT

Trinamool negating UPA govt's anti-Maoist efforts: Yechury

New Delhi : Claiming that the Maoists were getting "complete support and protection" from Trinamool Congress, CPI(M) asked Congress and UPA to explain why the Mamata Banerjee's party continued to remain in the Union Cabinet despite "negating" the government's assessment of the Left extremist threat.

Apart from legitimising the brutality of Maoist violence, Trinamool Congress was "directly negating the assessments of the Prime Minister and the Union Home Minister that Maoist violence constitutes the greatest threat to India's internal security", CPI(M) Politburo member Sitaram Yechury said.

"Yet, the Trinamool Congress ministers continue to remain in the Union Cabinet. The UPA and the Congress party owe an answer to the country," he said in an editorial in the forthcoming issue of party organ 'People's Democracy'.

"The Maoist-Trinamool nexus has become so integrated that one of the Maoist leaders in an interview openly declared their desire to see Mamata Banerjee as the next Chief Minister of West Bengal," Yechury said.

"It is, therefore, little wonder that Ministers in the Union Cabinet belonging to Trinamool Congress are pressurising the Union government to withdraw the central security forces which are currently in joint operations with the state security forces against the Maoist activities," he said.

West Bengal signs tripartite pact for tiger conservation

KOLKATA: After some initial objection, West Bengal government has signed a tripartite agreement with the Centre and the tiger reserves in the state for better conservation of the big cats. Subrat Mukherjee, field director, Sunderbans Tiger Reserve and his counterpart in Buxa Tiger Reserve R P Seni, who were authorised by the state government, signed an MoU with the National Tiger Conservation Authority yesterday.

Chief Wildlife Warden (wildlife) S B Mondol told PTI here today that earlier the state government signed an agreement with the Centre for tiger conservation. Now it has been replaced by the tripartite pact between the state government, NTCA and field directors of tiger reserves.He said the state had earlier opposed the signing of the pact, arguing it was not necessary as the state has a good record in conservation of the wildlife.

The state government will get funds following signing of the pact."Earlier also we got funds for tiger conservation. Since last year we had been requesting the Centre for increasing the quantum." Mondol said that the state had received Rs 1.5 crore last year from the Centre for conservation of tigers. This year the state had requested for doubling of the amount, he said.

West Bengal to get its first wetland eco-park in Sonarpur, near Kolkata

KOLKATA: West Bengal will soon have its first Wetland Ecological Park in Sonarpur adjoining Kolkata where many of the animals from the Alipur Zoo will be housed, a top official said Tuesday.

State Principal Chief Conservator of Forests Atanu Raha said the state government has taken up an initiative to develop the wetland park and identified a lowland area for it. ‘We have decided to set up a Wetland Ecological Park at Bhagabanpur area near Sonarpur in South 24 Parganas district. We held a high level meeting today (Tuesday) and have also surveyed the proposed area,’ Raha said.

‘Once the wetland eco-park is developed, we’ll be able to shift a large number of animals to that place from Alipur Zoo. ‘There will be no cemented construction at the eco-park. We’ll put all the wildlife animals there in a better wetland environment.’ Asked about the time frame for the project, Raha said that work was progressing fast.

‘I can’t say any time frame as of now. But we’ll try to implement it as early as possible. The government will also involve the local people for developing the project,’ he said.

Battle against Maoists being undermined by intellectuals

October 17th, 2009 by IANS
By Amulya Ganguli
Lenin described as “useful idiots” those bleeding heart liberals who were soft on the Communists despite the latter’s avowed objective of launching a violent insurrection to overthrow the supposedly rotten bourgeois system.

A similar indulgent, romantic attitude is discernible among Indian intellectuals with regard to the Maoists. The track record of these insurgents in killing hundreds of policemen, blowing up railway stations and transmission towers and uprooting railway lines appear to earn the forgiveness of the city-based intelligentsia because the rebels are believed to stand for the cause of the poor.

Perhaps the most prominent among the supporters of the Maoists is Sahitya Akademi award winner Mahasweta Devi, who is well known in West Bengal for her insightful writings on the tribals and was even mentioned recently as a possible Nobel Prize winner.

There are others like filmmaker Aparna Sen, theatre personality Saoli Mitra and poet Joy Goswami, who are sympathetic towards the Maoists. They may offer proforma condemnation of their violent acts, but by also criticising the state for its harsh response, as Chhattisgarh social activist Binayak Sen did recently, they partly justify the violence of the Maoists. The latter, according to them, are expressing the fury of the impoverished masses against the state, which represents the oppressive bourgeoisie.

However, it isn’t only the intellectuals or civil libertarians or media personalities who are critical of the centre’s, and especially Home Minister P. Chidambaram’s, decision to launch an all-out offensive against the Maoists. Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee, too, is of the same mind although her focus is only on West Bengal.

Like the others, she also wants the centre to put greater emphasis on a dialogue with them since not all of them are “bad”. The reason for her gentle approach is easy to understand. Since the Maoists had helped her in her campaigns against the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government in Singur, Nandigram and elsewhere, she evidently owes them a debt of gratitude. It is the Marxists who are Maoists, she has said. She has also warned that Bengal will burn if Mahasweta Devi is arrested.

If the lenience of the human rights activists is due to an inability to gauge the true purport of the Maoist menace, the Trinamool Congress leader is driven solely by cynical calculations where she is ready to sup with the devil if it can help her rout the Left in West Bengal.

Her tunnel vision makes her impervious to the danger of the Maoists emerging as Frankenstein’s monster to undermine the Indian state, which they regard as neo-imperialist.

If Mamata Banerjee is driven by politics, the writers and academics are of the opinion that unless the core problem of poverty is solved, the Maoists cannot be defeated. So, they want the government to focus on socio-economic development instead of sending in the paramilitary forces.

There is a grain of truth in their view, for the Maoists have evidently exploited the deprivations of the poor, and mainly the tribals, to establish their bases and brainwash them with the Marxist doctrine of a class war.

That they have had a large measure of success is without doubt. Otherwise, it would not have been possible for a ragtag bunch of anarchists, who had splintered into numerous groups after Charu Mazumdar’s death in 1972 to mobilise in the way that they have done.

Today they are said to be present in 231 of the country’s 626 districts while the strength of their armed cadres has doubled to 20,000 men and women in the last five years. What is more worrisome is that they are far better equipped than what the Naxalites were in the late 1960s and early 70s when home-made pipeguns and improvised bombs were their main weapons.

It is, however, fatuous to believe that poverty-elimination should be attempted before any police action because the insurrectionists will simply not allow the government or even the non-government organisations favourably disposed towards them to undertake any kind of sustained development work in the areas under their control.

What is more, even if they have used the lack of development to mobilise cadres, their basic doctrine has nothing to do with material progress, but with the destruction of the bourgeois state. As such, even if there is social and economic progress, the Maoists will not fade away although their capacity to lure the poor in the countryside to their side will be weakened.

Until now, they have been helped not only by the poverty in the tribal areas of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Orissa but also by the failure of the state governments to assess their potential till it was too late. Besides, the initial efforts to counter them with the help of poorly-trained and ill-equipped police personnel were bound to fail. It is only now that the centre is planning to deploy special forces and even use helicopters in the operations against them.

Considering that the army was deployed in the 70s for “area domination” when the Naxalites were much weaker, it is noteworthy that such a step has not been considered. The reason perhaps is that the civil libertarians are much more active than before. In addition, the Argus-eyed television cameras will bring the scenes of military presence to rouse the intellectuals even further. The government, therefore, is evidently playing safe for the present.

(17-10-2009 Amulya Ganguli is a political analyst. He can be reached at aganguli@mail.com)

October 14, 2009

Trinamool and Congress split by-poll seats 7:3

KOLKATA, October 14, 2009: The Trinamool Congress and Congress combine would contest the West Bengal assembly by-elections with a 7:3 seat-sharing ratio, union Finance Minister and veteran Congress leader Pranab Mukherjee said Wednesday.“We’ve decided to field Congress candidates in three out of 10 assembly seats - Goalpokhar, Kalchini and Sujapur assembly constituencies. Trinamool Congress candidates will fight in the rest of the seats,” Mukherjee told a press conference held at the state Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) office here.

“Our alliance is still on with the Trinamool Congress and we will contest the by-elections together in the state,” he said. Senior state Congress leaders Wednesday met here to discuss the political and organisational strategies the party would take in the coming days. The meeting, chaired by Mukherjee, was attended among others, by senior Congress leader Pradip Bhattacharya, Deepa Dasmunsi and Shankar Singh.

Asked whether Left Front’s support to Congress-led Siliguri Municipal board had impacted relations with the Trinamool Congress, Mukherjee said: “It was a local matter and the entire thing was done at a local level.” “There’s no question of taking Left support.”

Joint Operation Against Maoists to Continue in WB

New Delhi, Oct 12, 2009: The joint anti-Maoist operations by Central paramilitary forces and police in West Bengal will continue with the Centre deciding to keep 17 companies of its forces stationed in the state.
"My only demand was that the 17 companies (about 1,700 personnel) continue to remain stationed in the state and carry out the joint operations with the state police. The Home Minister (P Chidambaram) has accepted it," West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee told reporters here.
The decision came after Bhattacharjee met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today and Home Minister P Chidambaram and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee here yesterday. Bhattacharjee strongly recommended continuance of the joint operations in his state along with simultaneous action in Jharkhand, saying West Bengal Police would otherwise not be able to consolidate the gains made against Maoists in West Midnapore, Purulia and Bankura.
"Without simultaneous operations in Jharkhand, it will be difficult for the police to hold on to the gains," he said, adding that the security forces would soon start operations in areas bordering Jharkhand, where most of the Maoist infrastructure, training camps and strongholds are located. Bhattacharjee's meeting came days after the prime minister said talks could be held with the Left extremists only if they lay down arms. "This has been my consistent position too," he said.

Mamata's Arrest Demand a Case of 'Juvenile Disorder': Buddhadeb

New Delhi, Oct 12, 2009: West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today described as "juvenile disorder" Mamata Banerjee reportedly demanding his arrest saying violence occurred in the state whenever he was away."I don't reply to such questions (on Banerjee's reported charge). It is a case of juvenile disorder," Bhattacharjee told reporters.
To a question on Trinamool Congress chief's opposition to the joint operations against Maoists, he said, "it is unfortunate. A Union minister should not speak such language, especially when the prime minister himself has called Maoist threat as the greatest challenge to internal security.""When the prime minister himself is making an observation, ministers should follow," he said, adding Manmohan Singh knew who was making what kind of statements."I have been trying to avoid comments on what the Railway Minister says. I don't take it seriously," he said.
Asked about his opinion on Trinamool slogan of 'Ma, Maati, Maanush', Bhattacharjee said, "don't you know it is the name of a famous 'jatra' (open air theatre)? It is not her (Mamata) creation."On Maoist leader Kishenji's statement that he had spoken to Bhattacharjee, the chief minister said, "he is a liar. He says I have had a telephonic talk with him. How can a liar be a leader of a party?"He reiterated his earlier position that talks with Maoists could be held only if they gave up violence.
On the Gorkhaland issue, Bhattacharjee said another round of tripartite talks would be held in December to discuss the issue.At a meeting between the Centre, the state government and the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha in August, it was agreed that the proposal for creating a Hill Council under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution would be dropped.

Did Kobad Ghandy visit Lalgarh?

Hindustan Times
Kolkata, October 14, 2009
Did Kobad Ghandy, the UK-educated politburo member of the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist), visit Lalgarh, the place in West Bengal that’s the hub of Naxalite disturbances? To get an answer, a team of Criminal Investigation Department (CID) officials from the state is going to Delhi to interrogate the 63-year-old Maoist.

Lalgarh is located 160 km south-west of Kolkata.

The police sensed the possibility of Ghandy having a Lalgarh connection after they learnt from local people about “a very important person of the organisation” visiting the area.

According to the police, the Maoists used to hire a car for this “very important person”.

“The Maoists usually do not take the risk of hiring cars for members of their organisation. But they did it more than once in Lalgarh in March-April — before the Lok Sabha elections. This indicates that the visitor was neither familiar with the area, nor able to negotiate his way through forests,” a top official of the West Bengal police said.

“He was picked up from railway stations nearby like Salboni and Chandrakona Road. At that time many top leaders of CPI (Maoist) gathered in Lalgarh, taking advantage of there being no policemen,” he said.

“During interrogation by the Delhi police, Gandhy mentioned Lalgarh and gave some information about this tribal-dominated region. We cannot reveal these inputs now. We suspect that Gandhy had links with Kolkata,” the police officer said.

Ghandy was arrested in Delhi on September 20.

Though the Delhi police haven’t so far confirmed Gandhy’s visit to Lalgarh, they have sent some inputs about the place they obtained while interrogating him.

“Whether Gandhy visited Lalgarh or not isn’t a big issue. Even if he had, the visit wouldn’t have made much impact on the events there.
But from the way the movement was designed and engineered, it seemed that it received support from urban intellectuals, and that makes the involvement of ideologues like Ghandy likely,” a senior CID official told Hindustan Times.

Gandhy used to get support from urban intellectuals and organised foreign funding.

Immediately after his arrest in Delhi, Koteshwar Rao alias Kishanji, the 50-year-old Maoist leader in Lalgarh, demanded Ghandy’s release.

Before the joint forces of the Centre and the state started operations on June 18 in Lalgarh, the police could not enter the zone for about eight months.

October 13, 2009


KOLKATA: A Trinamuli central minister accompanied by a Trinamuli MP visited the Arambagh-Pursura-Khanakul area of Hooghly where recently an AIKS worker Sheikh Hasib-ul had been brutally killed by Trinamuli goons and their lumpen associates. Arambagh witnessed a massive strike on 11 October in protest against the dastardly murder and the looting of the houses of the area plus arson that had followed under the aegis of the Trinamulis.

The entire train of event – carefully planed by the assassins and their Kolkata-based patrons no doubt – recalled to our mind the 1990s when the then Pradesh Congress had run riot in the same agrarian belt and had let loose a reign of terror for many months. There should be no doubt in anybody’s intelligence that a grisly re-run of the earlier events is about to be engaged in by the Trinamulis and their lackeys.

On 12 October, a central Trinamuli minister with a Trinamuli MP as his sidekick descended on the area with a convoy of 20 SUVs loaded with anti-socials and lumpens. The vehicles carrying the minister and the MP had flashing red beacons on top, and the minister’s vehicle also had the National Flag fluttering from the top of the bonnet. The convoy was accompanied by several police cars, which too had flashing red lights.

All this, as Biman Basu, secretary Bengal CPI (M) pointed out in a letter to the Chief Election Commissioner, with copy marked to the chief electoral officer of Bengal, blatantly and openly flouted electoral norms as well as the concerned Model Code as the area falls under 180-Serampore Assembly constitutionally where elections are due on 7 November.

Holding a series of public rallies later in the afternoon, the two Trinamuli leaders had the temerity to call upon the goons who make up their political outfit, in Hooghly and elsewhere in Bengal, to behead the following CPI (M) leaders of the Hooghly district, mentioning each name with vituperative and vitriolic adjectives. The CPI (M) leaders so named are:

1. Benoy Dutta, MLA, Arambagh
2. Gopal Koch, chairman, Arambagh Municipality
3. Mozammal Hossein, zonal secretary, CPI (M), Arambagh
4. Bansi Badan Moitra, MLA, Khanakul
5. Azizul Huq, CPI (M) district committee member, Hooghly
6. Jaideb Maity, Khanakul CPI (M) zonal committee member
7. Asit Patra, chairman, Hooghly Zillah Parishad
8. Kshitish Patra, chairman, district primary education council
9. Bhajahari Bhuinya, secretary, CPI (M) zonal committee, Khanakul
10. Soumendra Nath Bera, MLA, Pursura, and
11. Sukhendu Adhikari, secretary CPI (M) zonal committee, Pursura

In addition, the two Trinamuli leaders publicly declared that women members of the families of CPI (M) leaders and followers in the areas would be subjected to gang-rape, and that their houses would be burnt down. Biman has pointed out these threats as well to the ECI calling for immediate remedial action as fit. A response from the ECI is awaited as we file this report.

We note in this connection how Trinamuli members and supporters lined up the route of the two Trinamuli leaders, and attended the meetings the duo addressed, complete with lethal weapons including pistols, revolvers, guns, rifles, and explosive devices in order to create panic and fear among the people of the Assembly constituency areas and the surrounds.


KOLKATA,13th OCTOBER: Meeting on the morning of 13 October at the Muzaffar Ahmad Bhavan, Biman Basu presided, the Bengal Left Front finalised the list of LF candidates for the by-elections scheduled for 7 November in Bengal.

Nine of the 10 seats fell vacant when the incumbent members won Lok Sabha seats. One constituency fell vacant following the passing away of the late comrade Subhas Chakraborty, i.e., Belgachia east in Kolkata.

Name of Constituency Candidate Party
11-Kalchini (ST) Benoy Bhusan Karketta RSP
21-Rajgunj (SC) Dhanapati Roy CPI(M)
29-Goalpokhar Ali Imran Ramj FB
48-Sujapore Mohd Esar-ud-din Mondal CPI (M)
85-Bongaon Pankaj Ghosh CPI (M)
139-Belgachia east Ramala Bhattacharya Chakraborty CPI (M)
148-Alipur Kaustav Chatterjee CPI (M)
180-Serampore Prasanta Mukherjee CPI
211-Contai (SC) Satyendra Nath panda CPI
213-Egra Prabodh Chandra Sinha DSP

Biman Basu revealed that a small booklet would soon be published and circulated widely as the ‘Appeal’ of the LF to the voters of the concerned Assembly seats. The district LF units would finalise the joint campaign very soon following meetings of the respective units.

Biman also announced several programmes to be held in the forthcoming weeks and months.

These are:

· TU convention, 20 October, Mahajati Sadan, Kolkata
· TU protest day 28 October all over Bengal
· Howrah LF procession and rally 28 and 30 October, Kolkata and Howrah
· Mass convention highlighting the state’s demands from the centre, especially the issue of price rise, anarchy, and law-and-order, 31 October, Indoor Stadium, Kolkata, and
· LF mass rally, 16 November, Indoor stadium, Kolkata


B PRASANT From KOLKATA : Police investigations reveal that the CPI (Maoist) has plans afoot to attempt and assassinate Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee in Kolkata. There is another plan in the pipeline to mount an assault on the Writers’ Buildings with hundreds of trained armed cadres. The interrogation of a couple of top level left sectarian leaders has led the police to these conclusions. Suicide attacks, too, are not ruled out.

Speaking to People’s Democracy, Biman Basu, state secretary of Bengal CPI (M) said that the ‘Trinamulis and all their associates, cohorts, lackeys and underlings, here and abroad, including the self-styled ‘Maoists’ are planning all the while to assassinate our Party leaders and workers. ‘This,’ said Biman ‘is a condemnable and comprehensively counter-democratic exercise.’

Biman continued to say that ‘they have done so in the past and the present disclosure clearly depicts that these reactionary forces and their patrons in the ruling classes and the big media, have not learnt any lesson, are continuing apace to engage in nefarious acts of commission. There is need to isolate them and identify them as the enemy of the people.’

The ‘Maoists’ confessed that this time the fresh ‘place of occurrence’ (‘PO’ in military parlance) has been chosen to be Kolkata city and its surrounds for the performance of the nefarious acts that these goons have carried out with impunity in Midnapore west in particular, in the past, especially the recent past.

The assassins organised and held a series of meetings very recently, probably last week, in a house (location unrevealed) in downtown Kolkata. At least one of the meetings saw the national-level leaders of the criminals present including the shadowy figure of ‘Kishanji.’ The ‘Maoists’ came to and went away from the rendezvous in luxury vehicles of a wealthy and well-known person who resides in the city and is known a great anti-CPI (M) frame of mind.

Incidentally, earlier reports from the police sources have already revealed that a couple of dozen-odd persons of the metropolis have kept close touch with the killers and have provided them not merely with news and views but leadership material as well.

Added to these ‘Maoist’-loving individuals are at least four political parties who act as the goons’ patrons and co-conspirators against the CPI (M) and the Left Front government, especially chief minister Buddhadeb. Names and addresses of the individual patrons of the murderers are now made known to the police who prefer not to go public at the moment.

On Saturday 10 October, the Trinamuli supremo gave a long interview to her favourite channel Star Ananda, a Patrika group affiliate. There she invited ‘Kishanji’ for a ‘bi-lateral talk,’ and even went so far as to say that the killers ‘have executed a series of good work,’ without bothering to expand on her cryptic comments.

The chieftain once again spoke of her opposition to the ops of the joint forces at and around Lalgarh. The chief also pointed out that the killing of the goon Nishikanta Mondal in Midnapore east was ‘probably not the work of ‘Maoists’.’ We in this connection remember that the ‘Maoists’ have already expressed their eagerness to ‘see the Trinamuli leader as the Bengal chief minister.’

The entire plan to assassinate Buddhadeb fulminated over the past four months, we learn. The action was to be led by Sasadhar Mahato, the ever-loving brother-at-arms of the Trinamuli goon Chhatradhar Mahato, and by Sasadhar’s wife ‘Suchitra’ who is a hard-core member of the armed squad leadership of the ‘Maoists,’ having received arms training in neighbouring Jharkhand in the Giridih forests.

A question that is obvious for the asking is the modus operandi of so many criminals moving freely in the city, evading, even eluding, the extensive police network, particularly of the plainclothesmen belonging to the special branch (SB), and the criminal investigation branch (CID), plus the central agencies like the intelligence branch or IB.

The police response borders on naïveté but is plausible enough to be mentioned. It is noted that the criminals moved around under cover of the protective kind a large number of anti-Communist ‘intellectuals’ and performing artistes whose photos, it needs mention, deep in consultation with Chhatradhar Mahato in the forest clearings of Midnapore west, have already appeared in the media.

The police have of late taken into custody two individuals from Jadavpur who led and organised two pro-‘Maoist’ outfits. The fora are the ‘Lalgarh Solidarity Manch,’ and the ‘Mass Resistance Manch.’ At least one of the two criminals interrogated has named the top floor of a multi-storied building at Prafulla Sarkar Street near to the place where the vast offices of the Patrika group is located, as a ‘safe house’ for the killers and their adjutants..

Another place of rendezvous has been a building on Lenin Sarani near where the office of a ‘political outfit’ of sorts is located, and the outfit is known for its strong and violent antipathy towards the CPI (M) as well as for their oozing sympathy for the Trinamulis and the ‘Maoists.’ Always in attendance at the meetings among others were the brothers Sasadhar and Chhatradhar. The latter is presently in jail custody after having spent a week or so in police custody.(INN)


KOLKATA: Interrogation by the Bengal police reveals that Chhatradhar has been running a wide network of ‘Maoist’-led extortion ring in the entire jangal mahal of Midnapore west and even in adjoining districts.

The funds amounted to a whopping Rs 15 lakh per month. Money was extracted from the poorest of the poor to the smallholders, khet mazdoors, kisans, and agricultural labourers. The act of extortion was executed with maximum brutality by the so-called village defence squads of the ‘Maoists’ from across the border.

The police sources reveal that there has been continuous bickering and fall-out among the members of the PCAPA, the ‘civil society,’ and the ‘Maoists,’ with the Trinamulis goons interloping, on the basis on which the funds would be utilised (!).

In between, we learn from our trip to Jharkhand that the ‘Maoists’ have started training up a children’s army in the style of the other notorious ‘Maoist’ group of the people’s liberation army run by the brutish thug, ‘colonel’ Charles Taylor of Liberia, in sub-Saharan Africa. Indeed, the modus operandi is remarkably the same. The name and style of the ‘Maoist’ child army in Jharkhand is the ‘child liberation army.’

The children are plied with money and consumables, and then told of the ‘spirit of adventure’ that is associated with wielding automatic rifles, sten guns, pistols, and sharp, cutting weapons. Similar to the African phenomenon, the Indian ‘Maoists’ run training camps’ with residential facilities and recruitment is made from the families of the poorest of the poor of Jharkhand.

We learn that two such ‘camps’ have been located in the jangal mahal of Dhanbad and Giridih. The children thus trained are thought by the police to have been involved in the murder of several Bengal CPI (M) workers in recent times. Further enquiries are going on.


KOLKATA: The Darjeeling district unit of the Left Front shall in the days to come play the role of constructive opposition in the Siliguri Municipal Corporation (SMC). This was stated by Bengal LF chairman and Bengal CPI (M) secretary Biman Basu on 1 October.

Biman Basu stated that it had been observed that the ‘recent elections to the SMC had witnessed the LF winning 17 seats, the Pradesh Congress 15, the Trinamul Congress 14, and an independent a single seat.’

‘In the post-electoral situation,’ said Biman Basu, ‘the Darjeeling LF met and resolved that the LF would play the role of constructive opposition in the present SMC. Thus, the district LF decided not to put up any candidates for the post of the mayor and for other posts.’

‘On the other hand, over the past fortnight, after many a push and pull, the Pradesh Congress and the Trinamul Congress were not able to reach a consensus on a mayoral candidate representing their ‘alliance.’’

‘Subsequently, on the morning of 1 October, an appeal was issued by the Pradesh Congress to the elected councillors of the SMC to support their mayoral candidate. The district LF met and resolved that to end the evolving situation of political instability and uncertainty, the mayoral candidate of the Pradesh Congress would be provided with outside support.’

‘There is no issue involving sharing the new civic board with the Pradesh Congress, at all. The district LF expects that it would be active in the days to come to keep intact the flow of development of the Siliguri civic area.’


KOLKATA(INN): This is our preliminary view especially after a four-day-long motoring trip around the so-called ‘Maoist-infested’ areas of Jharkhand of Ranchi-Morabadi Hills-Jagannathpur-Netarhat. Whatever we had written earlier, we left Jharkhand with no doubt in our mind that it was from here, in Jharkhand that the entire loathsome activities of the left sectarians were conducted.

On the situation in Jharkhand itself, we shall limit our bare observations, as a reporter of a Communist persuasion, to two points: the ‘Maoists’ have penetrated deep into the caste-and-sub-caste hierarchy of the societal structure there. Second, inefficacy of the often counter-productive and anti-people police action, especially lacking a focus of the proper counter-insurgency kind, has allowed the criminals, who enjoy overt support of the land barons of the higher castes, and have a sub-strata of shore up from among such caste groups as the lohars, the kurmis, and the musaharas, in particular – thanks to the oppressive nature of the authoritarian rule of the present régime in the state – and this is a state sans development of any visible sort, to use the hill regions as well as the plain lands of Jharkhand to launch murderous attacks on the Communist-led Left Front of neighbouring Bengal across a very porous border.

‘Maoist’ empathy for the criminal
The large number of hand-written -- in Hindi and English -- posters we saw along the route in the cities and the townships, across villages and around tree trunks near the more frequented dhabas, calling for a release of Chhatradhar Mahato and sundry other ‘Maoists’ taken into custody with unprecedented alacrity by the Bengal police recently when we were away, certainly explained to us the kind of strong criminal hold the ‘Maoists’ of Jharkhand enjoy in that poverty-ridden, over-populated, caste-riven hinterland of Bengal.

The day we left a desolate Hazaribag, we learnt that an inspector of the special branch pf the Jharkhand police, kidnapped by the ‘Maoist’ criminals earlier, had been gunned down and his body left horribly mutilated on the Bundi-Ranchi express highway - as an ‘act of revenge against the arrest of Chhatradhar.’

Earlier, speaking to the students, teachers, and the educational employees of the Ranchi University who unlike, say, their counterparts in the Presidency College or the Jadavpur university on this side of the geographical divide, revealed how they are bitterly apolitical and simply curse the ‘Maoists’ as ‘dacoits,’ and ‘lower caste’ upstarts, thus, supporting in a manner of speaking, the rôle of the armed and dangerous descendants of the erstwhile Ranvir Sena and the Sunlight Sena as the ‘effective counterweight’ of the ruling classes against the insurgents.’

Back in Bengal, we note how Chhatradhar has been warbling as a lark in spring about his closeness to the Trinamulis. Much anti-Communist fluff is being bandied about in the bourgeois media about what the criminal has stated or not stated to the police during the interrogations going on. The same big media has been expectedly sympathetic with the ‘cause’ that the history-sheeter and his backer-uppers elsewhere represented. We learn that until date Chhatradhar has gushed out these principal points amongst other complete non sequitors, blatant lies, and easily identifiable misguiding ‘confessions.’

‘Maoists’ it had been that had set up the People’s Committee against Police Atrocities or PCAPA. This happened on the second week of November of 2008. The committee was to act as the ‘front’ of the ‘Maoists’ and the Trinamulis plus SUCI.

Chhatradhar remained a paid-up member of the Trinamulis until his being taken into custody by the Bengal police. Trinamulis asked Chhatradhar to run from a ‘suitable’ Assembly seat from the jangal mahal, in the 2011 Vidhan Sabha polls. A top leader of the Trinamulis, close associate of the chieftain, went to Chhatradhar’s residence to inform him of this ‘award’ for the anti-Communist activities the villain had performed. Chhatradhar was clear in his mind that he would become the minister of a cabinet rank, once the Trinamulis came to office by whatever means in 2011.

The local Binpur constituency is a reserved constituency for tribals. Chhatradhar is not a member of any tribal community. He was asked to contest from the Jhargram seat where thanks to the process of delimitation which itself the Trinamulis had stood opposed to, the entire Lalgarh block would structure a large electoral segment. The entire plan was coordinated by members of the ‘civil society.’

Chhatradhar was asked to keep in close touch also with the Trinamuli toughs of Keshpur-Garbeta, Nandigram, and Sonachura so that a comprehensive anti-Communist insurgency would be set in motion in south Bengal in a big way as the Assembly polls approached, and this was to begin from the last quarter of this year to be continued till the polls themselves approached in ’11. More violence was on the cards, plus the usual depredations.

Chhatradhar has received Rs 1.5 lakh by way of funds to ‘fight’ the Communists of Bengal and a forum called the Lalgarh Sanhati Manch had been set up to act as an open ‘democratic’ instrument to collect subscriptions and liaise with the big media, especially the news channel of the Patrika group.

In a recent interview to the Patrika, a ‘Maoist’ leader and one of the political masters of Chhatradhar, one ‘Kishanji’ alias ‘Koteswara Rao’ has clearly declared that the ‘Maoists’ would dearly love to ensure that the Trinamuli chieftain become the Bengal chief minister as she was the ‘most suitable candidate for the post.’ Elsewhere, just in case something else happened, Chhatradhar has set up a life insurance policy of Rs one crore, and the first instalment of premium set at five lakhs has been paid, source of funds yet stubbornly unknown.

The criminal has confessed that members of the ‘civil society’ were deeply ensconced in the ‘open’ support group and had demanded as the price of the monetary boost that Chhatradhar lead his goons into Kolkata and organise a show of arms at Esplanade which Chhatradhar duly did but sans any popular sympathy. Indeed, the ‘movement’ went steadily downhill since that show put up by a virtual gallery of rogues, criminals, goons, and hoodlums who were given bows and arrows, scimitars, axes, adzes, plus headbands of roughly-woven gamchhas, to pose as ‘authenticated’ adivasis.

Finally the criminal said that from the time the police ops started in the jangal mahal, the Trinamulis allowed the ‘Maoists’ to come to the fore of the PCAPA and asked Chhatradhar to take a step backward. The ‘movement’ declined further. As the resistance put by the villagers later proved, the stepping back part indeed had to be executed by the ‘Maoist’ goons themselves and, as we write this, the resistance movement continues to grow in an ever-widening arc across the red clay zone of western Bengal, and the people of Lalgarh and its surrounds have come out openly to denounce and denigrate the ‘Maoists’ and the Trinamulis as undesirable, harmful, opportunistic elements - something that fear had kept them from doing over the past months, and years. A march of tens of thousands of people in the Salboni area and at Indus on 3 October is but one example of the people’s power in motion.


October 6, 2009



Chhatradhar Mahato’s arrest is the first major breakthrough since Central forces were deployed in Lalgarh.

KOLKATA: It looked like a scene out of the cinema screen. The Chhatradhar Mahato, convener of the Maoist-backed People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCPA), who had been dodging arrest for over three months, was outfoxed on September 25 by police officers disguised as journalists, at Birkanr village near Lalgarh in West Bengal’s trouble-torn West Medinipur district. This was the first major breakthrough achieved by the police and the joint forces since the operations against the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist) in Lalgarh began on June 18.

Chhatradhar came into prominence after an assassination attempt by Maoists on Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee on November 2 last year at Kalaichand in West Medinipur district near the forested Lalgarh area. The PCPA’s violent agitation, which followed the arrests made in the area after that attempt, paved the way for the Maoists to strengthen their position. At their instigation, the tribal agitators refused to allow the police to enter Lalgarh, and this gave them enough time to entrench themselves in the region.

Beginning in November last year, the PCPA and the Maoists established a reign of terror not only in Lalgarh but beyond, systematically killing not just local leaders of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), or the CPI(M), but also ordinary CPI(M) supporters and those who resisted their diktat. They burnt down houses, ransacked CPI(M) offices, held kangaroo courts and carried out executions in the name of the area’s impoverished people.

As of September 30, as many as 62 people, mostly CPI(M) leaders and workers, had been murdered by the Maoists and the PCPA, 80 people were kidnapped and 160 injured, many of them critically, in the violence. “It is quite clear in the way one particular party is being targeted that the Maoists are using terror to create a political vacuum in the region, which they intend to fill,” a senior police source told Frontline.

Police trap

Chhatradhar Mahato, who organised violent rallies in the tribal belt in the past 11 months, was also the most familiar public face of the Maoists – he held press conferences and updated the media on the situation in Lalgarh.

Taking their cue from this, two police officers claiming to be journalists from a Singapore-based news channel established contact with Chhatradhar and a few local journalists who were in touch with him. They finally secured an appointment for an interview and were taken to his hideout in Birkanr, where they arrested him after the interview.

Though this has queered the pitch for the media, particularly the local press, who may henceforth be looked upon with suspicion by the Maoists, the State police insist that there was nothing wrong or illegal about the trap laid for Chhatradhar. The Jhargram court, where Chhatradhar was produced after his arrest, remanded him in police custody.

Manoj Kumar Verma, Superintendent of Police, West Medinipur, told Frontline: “For us this is a very important breakthrough. Chhatradhar Mahato was responsible for a lot of the law and order problem that exists in Lalgarh today. He was responsible for the entry of the Maoists into the region and for recruiting people; instead of books he gave guns in the hands of children. He also ordered killings and oversaw executions in the so-called jana adalats [people’s courts conducted by Maoists].”

There are 22 criminal cases pending against Chhatradhar in which he is the main accused, including charges under Sections 16, 18, 30, 38 and 39 of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), 1967, for his links with a terrorist organisation.

More cases are likely to be added to the pending ones as, according to Verma, a large number of people who have been arrested recently have named Chhatradhar as the person who gave orders for various crimes. The Government of India decided on June 22, 2009, to include the CPI (Maoist) in the schedule of organisations banned under the UAPA.

Soon after Chhatradhar’s arrest, Maoists called a 24-hour countrywide bandh on October 3, and CPI (Maoist) polit bureau member Koteswar Rao (alias Kishenji) reportedly warned of “dire consequences” if Chhatradhar was not “unconditionally released”. The PCPA announced a 48-hour bandh on September 30-October 1 in the Jangalmahal.

Senior PCPA leader Asit Mahato, who has taken charge of the outfit’s activities in the Lalgarh area after Chhatradhar’s arrest, told Frontline: “The intensity of our agitation has doubled. We wanted to conduct a peaceful agitation of the oppressed people in the region, but the way the administration and the combined forces are behaving we are left with no other option except a bloody confrontation. It is the people of the region who feel this way. We are also thinking of an indefinite strike in Jangalmahal at some point.”

As the news of the arrest spread, miscreants set off a landmine in Kantpahari, a few kilometres from Lalgarh. Four of the six people arrested in connection with the incident are suspected Maoists. In Salboni, not far from Lalgarh, a mob vandalised the houses of three CPI(M) leaders.

On the evening of the same day, two police constables, Sisirkanti Nag and Siteswar Prasad Singh, were abducted, allegedly by Maoists, in Belpahari. Though they were set free the next day, the kidnappers were reported to have initially threatened to kill them if Chhatradhar was not released. Sporadic incidents of violent protests were also reported on September 28, and there have been a few instances of blocking roads by felling trees.

However, the district police chief does not expect too much trouble. “Because of the atrocities committed by Chhatradhar, the people of the region are no longer with him. In the last five days [September 25-30], there has not been much protest in the Jangalmahal, unlike in November last year,” Verma told Frontline.

Is Chhatradhar a Maoist?

In Kolkata, however, there have been some protests led by a group of eminent intellectuals, including writer and social activist Mahasweta Devi, poets Shankha Ghosh and Joy Goswami, theatre artistes Kaushik Sen and Bibhas Chakraborty, and others. They insist that Chhatradhar is a leader of a “people’s democratic movement”.

Earlier too, on June 21, three days after Central forces began their operations, a group of leading artists and intellectuals, including film director Aparna Sen and theatre personalities Shaoli Mitra and Kaushik Sen, held talks with Chhatradhar in the affected area, ignoring a government request and defying a ban under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code.

Chhatradhar himself has never professed to be a Maoist. But the organisation he led, the PCPA, was certainly used as a vital tool by the Maoists to spread their influence in and around Lalgarh. In fact, Chhatradhar served as the political front for the Maoists.

“Chhatradhar has always claimed that he has nothing to do with Kishenji and the Maoists; then why are they calling a bandh and clamouring for his release? He is part and parcel of the Maoist atrocities. We do not differentiate between him and other Maoists, and we have a lot of evidence to prove that Chhatradhar is a Maoist,” Verma told Frontline.

Police claims

Bhupinder Singh, the Director-General of Police, West Bengal, while speaking to the media on September 30, revealed that Chhatradhar admitted, in police custody, to having “links” with the Maoists. He also confessed, the DGP said, that he had a life insurance policy worth Rs.1 crore, that he recently bought a house at Mayurbhanj in Orissa, and that he received funds regularly from Kolkata and outside.

Confessions made in police custody are, of course, inadmissible as evidence in a court of law, according to the Indian Evidence Act. The police, however, were guarded in their statements and said they were still verifying the details of the insurance policy and the accounts held by the PCPA in different banks.

Questions are being raised as to why Chhatradhar, known to have travelled to Kolkata on two occasions earlier this year, was not arrested before. State Home Secretary Ardhendu Sen explained that it was because Chhatradhar’s political activities had undergone an “evolution” since those visits to the city and that he progressed increasingly along the extremist path.

Trinamool stand

Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress seems to have undergone a metamorphosis as far as its stand on Chhatradhar is concerned. In February, Mamata Banerjee, not yet Railway Minister, shared a dais with Chhatradhar. Earlier, too, she had extended unequivocal support to his cause.
But she gradually distanced herself from the movement he represented, and after her significant success in the Lok Sabha elections, she has had practically nothing to do with Chhatradhar and the PCPA.

In July this year, when a team of senior Trinamool leaders, including the Leader of the Opposition in the State Assembly Partha Chatterjee, Union Minister of State for Shipping Mukul Roy and Union Minister of State for Rural Development Sisir Adhikari, went to Lalgarh, they did not even meet Chhatradhar. Soon after Chhatradhar’s arrest, Mamata Banerjee held a press conference in Kolkata on September 30. Chhatradhar was not even mentioned.

Chhatradhar Mahato’s arrest assumes special political significance in the light of the recent announcement by Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram highlighting the urgent need for a nationwide counter-terrorist initiative against the Maoists before they became an uncontrollable force. Chhatradhar’s arrest may well be a precursor of things to come.
Two officers, claiming to be journalists, secured an appointment with Mahato.

FRONTLINE, Volume 26 - Issue 21 :: Oct. 10-23, 2009