November 9, 2009

TMC creating lawlessness in West Bengal: CPI(M)

Press Trust Of India
Kolkata November 06, 2009, 0:04 IST

The ruling Left Front in West Bengal today took a swipe at Union Home Minister P Chidambaram for telling the state government to ensure law and order, saying it was the Trinamool Congress which was responsible for "lawlessness".

"I have not heard or read of what Chidambaram has said. If he has given such advice, the state government should deal with the situation accordingly. As per the Constitution the responsibility of maintaining law and order lies with the state government," Left Front chairman Biman Bose told a press conference here.

"If the state government asks for Central help, the Centre can help," Bose said in a barb directed at the UPA government of which Trinamool Congress is an ally, soon after Chidambaram asked Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacherjee to ensure law and order in the state following yesterday's clashes between TC and CPI(M) members in Hooghly district. "The Trinamool Congress is creating lawlessness in the state for the past few months and is resorting to falsehood to confuse the people," Bose, state secretary of CPI(M), said.

Bose said that the state government was showing any laxity in dealing with the situation.

On Chidambaram's earlier statement that the communists and the Naxalites were once comrades, Bose said, "he is confusing facts. He should look at old files which clearly document how the naxalites formed an outfit after parting from the CPI(M).”

Poland interested in modernization of West Bengal coal mines

New Delhi,Wednesday, 04 Nov 2009: Economic Times reported that Poland is keen to strengthen its business partnership and cultural ties with India. It is interested to participate in India’s drive towards modernizing coal mines and defense sectors where the private sector has been roped in as an important partner. The embassy in Delhi wishes to play facilitator in forging JVs between Indian and Polish companies.
Mr Piotr Klodkowski Poland’s ambassador to India said that Poland, with its expertise in developing underground coal mines through the longwall technology, construction of washery, mine safety and rescue measures can be an effective partner of India in developing coal mines with modern technology.
The Polish ambassador said that "As there is huge scope for improvement in the coal mining sector in West Bengal, which is one of the major coal producing state in India, Poland is keen to share its expertise in this field if it is asked for this by the state government. This will be conveyed to the state chief minister Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharya who I would meet on Wednesday.”

1600 crores for Maoist-hit districts

KOLKATA,4th November,2009: The state government plans to spend Rs 1,600 crore in this financial year for the development of the three maoist affected districts West Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia, even though officials conceded that they were facing much difficulty to implement development works in the three districts according to plans.
Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee will hold crucial meetings in West Midnapore on the prevailing law and order situation and will make a review of development schemes this this weekend. Going by the government claims, the CM has a tough task cut out for him. For a bounty of Rs 1,600 crore spread over four months before March 2010 means spending Rs 400 crore a month for the three districts that works out to a little above Rs 130 crore for each district. However, state officials are still not sure how to spend this huge amount when block level officers fear to tread in the Maoist-dominated villages.
A little arithmetic explains how difficult is the job spending Rs 4.2 crore a day in each of the districts. Sources in the CM's secretariat said that the government plans to execute development works. "The fact that the block level officers were facing difficulty came up during the last review meeting," a senior official said. Fact is that the task force of government officials set up to spearhead development work has submitted a plan to build civic infrastructure in these remote places. But the implementation met with a jolt due to Maoist disruption.
The CM will hold three meetings in West Midnapore on November 7 and November 8. The first meeting would be on the prevailing law and order situation with the district SP. The second meeting will be with the district magistrates, superintendent of police of the three districts where law and order situation and development schemes would be reviewed. The third meeting would take place on November 8 where the chief minister would meet the BDOs of some of the sensitive blocks of West Midnapore.

What made Chhatradhar Mahato a political fugitive

by Monobina Gupta
1 November 2009, Times of India ‎

The Delhi-bound Rajdhani Express, held up by Maoists for seven hours in West Midnapore, had this emblazoned on it: 'Chhatradhar Mahato is a good man. He is not a criminal'. Mahato, chief of the People's Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCPA), was imprisoned just months ago, in the aftermath of the violence that followed West Bengal's election results. The slogan on the train reinforced speculation that the PCPA wanted Mahato's release - by fair means or foul.
In general, there is enormous curiosity about Mahato, who till a few months ago, did not seem to fit the bill of a gun-toting Maoist. He can certainly talk the talk. When i met Mahato in Lalgarh in March, he spoke a democratic language far removed from guns and killings. When i arrived, Lalgarh was abuzz with news of the police having picked up three villagers (supposedly Maoists), and the murder of a PCPA activist.
Mahato was under a tree in verdant Lalgarh, busy with an organizational meeting. A smartly dressed, lanky man, he wore sunglasses and sat with comrades stuffing envelopes with hand-written notices for the PCPA's next public meeting. Mahato's brother is Sashadhar, a Maoist fugitive. But Mahato himself was a political non-entity till the mass uprising in Jangalkhand following brutal police attacks on common villagers and tribals in the wake of a Maoist plot against chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee in November 2008. The sudden political upheaval catapulted Mahato to the position of PCPA chief.
He said he would talk to me after lunch. The PCPA ran a community kitchen inside a mud hut and activists ate rice and vegetable curry there. This was where i met a relaxed Mahato. For a man who had been relatively unskilled, till recently, in the art of communication, Mahato talked with clarity and precision, dissecting issues, separating the strands of violent Maoist politics from the PCPA. He appeared to be getting used to his new public profile - addressing press briefings at the Kolkata Press Club and engaging with Mahasweta Devi and other intellectuals in the city. His political trajectory began with Congress.
Born in 1964, the eldest of three brothers, Mahato studied at Ramakrishna Mission Vidyapeeth and Midnapore Day College, where he had his first taste of activism as a member of Congress' student wing, the Chhatra Parishad. Those who know him well say he was a follower of Mamata Banerjee, then a Youth Congress leader. Mahato never finished college.
Later, he would join the Trinamool Congress. In 2001, when the police began randomly picking up tribals on the charge of being Maoists, Mahato's political beliefs underwent a drastic change. By 2009, even as much of the media conflated the PCPA with the Maoists, Mahato and initially the Maoists themselves, continued to insist they were distinct organizations and had different agendas.
It is true Lalgarh barred police from entry, in line with the PCPA's diktats, but the movement remained democratic, Mahato claimed, insisting the protest could not be grounded merely as a form of resistance to police atrocity. "We cannot make it the sole cause. There are development concerns - access to drinking water, more tube-wells; the issue of autonomy of Jangalkhand," he said. In addition to their original 13-point charter of demands, the PCPA later adopted a nine-point programme seeking community rights over forests and land, recognition and promotion of the Santhali language, development of the Santhali script and autonomy for the Jangalkhand area.
Mahato was clear about the extent of influence Maoists had on the PCPA. He admitted "the Maoists are there" but claimed "they are not controlling the movement. PCPA is an autonomous body. We take our own decisions after consulting village-level committees." Ten-member committees, half of which were men and the other half women, were active in the villages.
He emphasized the movement's principled refusal to allow political parties to enter Lalgarh with banners. The rallying symbol was the PCPA, the ultimate authority, he said. Did Mahato believe in 'revolutionary violence' as preached by today's Maoists? He did not seem to fit either mould - that of the founding fathers of the 1967 armed insurrection and that of their contemporary 'progeny', the Maoists.
First, Mahato never explained the Lalgarh movement in the language of Marx or Mao. 'Class struggle' and 'armed insurrection' were never the spine of his arguments. Instead, he emphasized the need to resist police repression and bring long-delayed development to the tribal backwaters.
Second, unlike the Maoists, Mahato never spoke of capturing the Indian state through insurrection. Interestingly, the PCPA and Maoists fundamentally differed in their approach to the 2009 general elections. Mahato said the PCPA was not calling for the elections to be boycotted as this would benefit only the CPM. It was a position at odds with that of the Maoists. The PCPA demanded the elections be held without a police presence. Mahato shared his comrades' apprehension that forced police entry could trigger a violent confrontation in Lalgarh. But the violence after the elections appeared to elide the distinctions between the PCPA and Maoists. Mahato and his comrades condemned state violence but seemed to turn a blind eye to Maoist killings. This is how Chhatradhar Mahato became the 'Most Wanted', a political fugitive.
Monobina Gupta's book on contemporary Left politics in West Bengal will be published next year.

Trinamool, Maoists jointly unleashing violence: Jyoti Basu

KOLKATA, 1 NOV 2009: With the crucial by-election to 10 Assembly seats in West Bengal barely nine days away, CPM patriarch Jyoti Basu today charged Trinamool Congress with joining hands with Maoists to unleash violence in the state.
"Everyday our workers are getting killed. Common people, police personnel, doctors, nurses are also slain. Our party office is burnt. Trinamool Congress and Maoists are doing this together. They are taking law into their own hands," the nonagenarian leader said in a statement. Describing the coming Assembly by-polls as "very important", Basu said, "Democracy is under attack, peace is disturbed. We had restored peace and democracy in 1977 with people's support".
Seeking support for the Leftits, Basu said, "Our result in the last Lok Sabha election was poor. Some of our sympathisers and friends had voted against us. It is not their fault. We could not take our view points properly to the people". Basu's statement, which came after the CPM-led Left Front's successive poor showing in the Lok Sabha, Assembly by-elections and municipal polls, also admitted that there were some mistakes on the part of party.

Go convince PM, Buddhadeb tells Mamata

KOLKATA, 31st OCT, 2009: Taking a dig at Union Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee’s persistent demand for withdrawal of security forces from the Maoist-affected areas in West Bengal, Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said here on Saturday that she should try and convince the Prime Minister and the Union Home Minister about her demand.

Addressing a mass convention organised by the West Bengal Left Front Committee, Mr. Bhattacharjee said: “The Prime Minister has already acknowledged the Maoists as the country’s biggest internal threat. Perhaps the Trinamool Congress understood the point but unfortunately the party is hand-in-glove with the Maoists starting from Singur, Nandigram and till today.”
Pointing out that more than 65 supporters of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) were killed in the Lalgarh region in Paschim Medinipur district over the past two months, he charged the Trinamool Congress-Maoist combine with perpetrating violence in several parts of the State even as he appealed to the Trinamool Congress to sever ties with the Maoists.

“We have pledged to the people of the State to rescue the State from the Maoist menace and we are confident about achieving the same,” Mr. Bhattacharjee asserted.

Left Front State Committee chairman Biman Bose criticised the role played by a section of the media for “misinterpreting facts according to its own sweet will”.

Referring to the rapid increase in the prices of essential commodities across the country, Mr. Bhattacharjee said the United Progressive Alliance government at the Centre which came to power with its “ aam-admi” slogan is unable to check the spiralling prices even when it claims to have brought down the inflation. Stating that the State Government had spent more than Rs. 1000 crore to subsidise foodgrains , he expressed the inability of any state govt to continue with such huge amount of subsidies for long. “During my meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on October 24, I requested him to stop forward trading in foodgrains by large corporate houses and also make the Essential Commodities Act more stringent to check hoarding,” Mr. Bhattacharjee said.

He added that the Prime Minister had assured him of discussing the matter with his Cabinet and also on holding meetings with the States’ Food Ministers.

Maoists have ‘always been hostile to CPI(M): KARAT

NEW DELHI, October 31st, 2009: Reacting sharply to Home Minister P. Chidambaram’s comment that the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) till recently considered Maoists as “comrades in arms”, the Left party’s head Saturday said he “has chosen to ignore the history of the Maoist movement”.

“Far from being the CPI(M)’s ‘comrades in arms’, the Maoists have always been unremittingly hostile to the CPI(M),” party general secretary Prakash Karat said in a statement.

“After they (Maoists) split away from the CPI(M) in the late 1960s, the ultra-Left elements in West Bengal targeted the party and hundreds of CPI(M) cadres and supporters lost their lives due to their depredations in the early 1970s,” Karat said.

Expressing surprise the home minister had “chosen to ignore the history of the Naxalite/Maoist movement”, Karat said it was “amusing to see Mr. Chidambaram claiming that the CPI(M) saw the Maoists as their allies in fighting the bourgeois Congress”.

Taking a political swipe at the CPI(M), Chidambaram Friday said: “Till the last session of parliament, CPI(M) had different views of Maoists. They thought they (Maoists) were comrades-in arms fighting the bourgeois Congress. They have woken up now.”

Karat refuted the home minister’s claims saying they were “misplaced” and the “fact is that the earlier (United Progressive Alliance) UPA government led by the Congress was propped up for four years with the support of the CPI(M).”
Don’t equate Maoists with Laskhar, Jaish

The Communist Party of India (Marxist) Saturday said Maoists cannot be equated with the Laskhar-e-Taiba or the Jaish-e-Mohammed militant groups.

We have always held that the Maoists have to be fought ideologically and politically apart from resort to firm administrative measures when they indulge in violence, CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat said in a statement.

The Maoists cannot be equated with the Laskhar-e-Taiba or the Jaish-e-Mohammed. The fact that Home Minister (P. Chidambaram) has offered to talk to the Maoists, if they stop the violence, itself recognises this difference, Karat said.

Criticising the laws that have draconian provisions, Karat said such laws have been used against hundreds of innocent people, mainly from the Muslim community in the name of fighting terror.

Chidambaram Friday said the government had not asked the Maoists to lay down their arms, but reiterated his appeal to the left wing radicals to halt the ongoing violence and come forward for talks.

WB Govt to provide boost to handloom products

October 31, 2009 (India)
In order to provide more competence to the state’s handloom products in international markets, the State Textiles and Handloom Department of West Bengal intends to work on designs of the famed traditional handloom products to enhance their demand. Ms. Arati Ahuja, the state textiles and handloom secretary, said that efforts would be taken to improve the designs of handloom saris to make them marketable in domestic as well as overseas markets. However, this improvement would be done by keeping the traditional patterns in mind as the handloom products designed in artistic way are unique in weaving patterns and designs. In this regard, the state government has initiated communications with national institutes such as the National Institute of Design (NID) and National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT), which are globally recognized design institutes. Apart from this, the government has also decided to organize an International handloom exhibition for the first time in the state in February 2010, for which it has also initiated talks with the Apparel Export Promotion Council (APEC) under the Union ministry of textiles to organize the international exhibition.

Fibre2fashion News Desk - India

Yechury seeks better Central coordination to tackle Maoists

NEW DELHI, 30 OCT, 2009: Contesting the claim that Maoists and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) were once allies, CPI (M) leader Sitaram Yechury on Friday said Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram should ensure better coordination between West Bengal, Orissa and Jharkhand to defeat Maoists instead of joining issues with his party.

“I don’t understand why the Home Minister has joined issues with the CPI (M). As far as the CPI (M) is concerned Central and State forces are jointly conducting operations against Maoist violence in West Bengal. On that there is no dispute at all. Our issue is that after Union Minister of State Shishir Adhikary informed the media that he had prior knowledge of the Rajdhani Express being stopped, this should be seriously investigated because he is a member of the Union Cabinet.”

“Even earlier, there were reports of political patronage by the Trinamool Congress (TC) to Maoists and this sort of statement by a TC Union Minister confirms the suspicion. This is the issue we want to bring to public notice,” the CPI (M) leader pointed out.

Drawing attention to the fact that most Maoist attacks in West Bengal took place along its borders, Mr. Yechury wanted Mr. Chidambaram to ensure coordination between the West Bengal, Orissa and Jharkhand governments, and through such joint efforts, overcome Maoist violence.

On the observation that the CPI (M) belatedly realised the danger of Maoism and it was once part of a joint movement with the Maoists, Mr. Yechury wanted the people making such statements to refresh their history.

Naxalites were a small section of activists who had separated from the CPI (M) in 1967 and the party was the prime target of their “mindless attacks” in the late 60s and 70s. The violence died down after the Maoists were ideologically following a campaign conducted by the CPI (M).

According to the Maoists, the CPI (M) was providing legitimacy to bourgeois democracy and must be weakened or eliminated. Though born in West Bengal, the Maoists could not sustain the movement because the Left Front government addressed the basic issues of the people.

The present lot of Maoists have been brought from outside through political patronage by the TC, Mr. Yechury alleged.

Bengal Aerotropolis project gets first tranche of land

KOLKATA, October 30, 2009: Bengal Aerotropolis Projects Ltd (BAPL), which will be setting up the country’s first greenfield merchant airport near Durgapur in West Bengal, has got the first tranche of land of 533.5 acres.

The project, which had hit hurdles following objections raised by Coal India Ltd (CIL) over the issue of its coal deposits getting blocked by the proposed airport city, now expected to start construction by March 2010 and become operational by September 2011, Arvind Pande, Chairman, BAPL, said.

CIL sources said that the project size had been reworked to protect most of the licence areas of Eastern Coalfields Ltd., a subsidiary of CIL.

However, concerns regarding the project locking up coal deposits allotted to other companies remain. While coal deposits spread over 2.63 km was getting locked up now, keeping in mind the interest of only coal which is extractable in the near future, some amount has been sacrificed it was learnt. The 99-year lease agreement was signed between BAPL and West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation (WBIDC), a release said adding that the integrated project was spread over about 2,300 acres and the acquisition of remaining land was expected to be over in the next few months.

Changi Airports International has picked up 26 per cent equity in BAPL which is its first investment in India, the release said. Mr. Pande said the project had already received clearance from the Civil Aviation Ministry and had attained financial closure.

Wipro's Bengal project gets new site

KOLKATA,Oct 30 2009: Wipro has decided to come back to Kolkata at the alternative site offered by the state government, much to the relief of the West Bengal government. Wipro’s confirmation has come in less than a month time of West Bengal government scrapping the much-hyped IT Park project which was supposed to IT biggies Wipro and Infosys.
Wipro officials on Friday met the Managing Director, Housing Infrastructure Development Corporation (HIDCO) and formally communicated their consent to take possession of the alternative land (50 acre) albeit at a concessional price. On September 7, West Bengal government had scrapped its much-hyped ‘Kolkata Link’, a modern IT infrastructure project, over a land scam. On September 17, FC reported that West Bengal government offered alternative lands to Wipro and Infosys. The alternative land is also at New Town, Rajarhat.

Wipro officials also met the state IT minister Debesh Das. “They told me that they would like to develop a world class state of the art facility at this parcel of land,” Das said. "The people of several walks of life indeed want to see WIPRO to expand and Infosys to step into the state. The decision of WIPRO to start its second campus in West Bengal is quite encouraging. As said by WIPRO, I believe that this facility will augment the employment opportunity of the state to a considerable extent and will boost up the economic activities in the state. It will pave the way for the young aspiring techies of the state to be employed in their own state after their studies," Das added.

The new plot, offered to Wipro is just 15 minutes drive from the airport and on the side of a 6-lane road. It is within a complete modern township with all facilities. It may be noted that in the vicinity of this area, about 300 acres of land has already been allotted for IT and IT infrastructure companies.West Bengal government has also offered alternative location to Infosys as well. However, there has been no official communication from Infosys in this regard so far.

Mamata shielding Maoists: Bengal CM

Kolkata, 30 Oct, 2009: West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacherjee, a senior leader of the Communist Party of India-Marxist, on Friday alleged Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee’s party, the Trinamool Congress, was conspiring with Maoist rebels to dislodge his Left Front government.

Bhattacherjee alleged the Railway Police’s failure to name Maoists in the FIR lodged for the hijacking of the Rajdhani Express train on October 27 proved this. "The CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force) named the Maoists and the group backed by it in the FIR. Why not the Railways? It is ridiculous that the Railways have said that they did not know who did it," Bhattacharjee told a Left Front rally in Kolkata.

"(Maoist leader) Chhatradhar Mahato's outfit PCPA, which is a creation of the Maoists held up the Rajdhani, but the names of the outfit did not figure in the Railways FIR," he said but didn’t name Banerjee in his speech.

The Railways were trying to shield the Maoists and the group backed by them, he alleged. "The Trinamool Congress is working with the Maoists to finish the Left Front. They think that they would be able to dislodge the Left Front government by joining hands with Maoists. We will unmask the Trinamool and the Maoist. We take up the challenge," he said.

The Maoist-backed PCAPA (People's Committee Against Police Atrocities) on Tuesday allegedly held up the Rajdhani Express for more than four hours at Banstala Halt near West Midnapore's Jhargram station. The over 500-PCAPA members squatted on the tracks and forced out the train's drivers at the halt station near the Antapani jungle.

After several tension-filled hours, which saw a police team proceeding to the spot ambushed by the Left wing rebels, Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) troopers and state policemen finally took over the train. None of the passengers was injured. The train reached New Delhi on Wednesday night, almost seven hours late.

PM under fire over Mamata's Naxal stance

Mail Today Bureau
New Delhi, October 30, 2009

Manmohan Singh's parrying of questions relating to Mamata Banerjee in Srinagar on Thursday afternoon was clear evidence that the government is no longer immune to the implications of a cabinet minister playing footsie with the Maoists. The Prime Minister was quizzed on Banerjee's reported remarks that there were no Maoists in the country. " I have not seen this statement. Obviously, the Maoist threat is a reality and the government is dutybound to deal with it," he said.
The PM then went on to stress that the Maoist issue had to be dealt with in a holistic way that included enforcing law and order and carrying out development in tribal areas. But the Trinamool Congress chief apparently has more pressing concerns than the government's discomfiture.The prime among them is the 37 assembly seats in the Maoistdominated Purulia, Bankura and Midnapore districts in West Bengal. Trinamool Congress is not the party of choice for the voters of this region.
However, the anti-Maoist offensive in Lalgarh has inflamed a suppressed ire against the ruling party, and Mamata is keen to harvest electoral benefits.So the railway minister refrained from categorically distancing herself from the radical outfit. Indeed, her initial response to the Rajdhani Express hijacking was to blame the CPM. " The Maoists have denied their involvement in the incident. It might have been done by CPM cadre," Banerjee had said in New Delhi. She also addressed those behind the abduction as " friends".
The CPM seized the opportunity to demand a probe into the train hijack and charge Trinamool with " patronising and protecting" Maoists. In an editorial in the party mouthpiece People's Democracy , the CPM asked the PM to explain the role of central ministers in this regard.Clearly conscious of the dangers of such accusations, it was left to P. Chidambaram to fight the CPM's offensive.
The Union home minister attacked the Left, saying that its leaders like Prakash Karat should first ask the West Bengal government about what was happening in the state.But his ministry asked the railway ministry to ensure that at least a dozen armed escorts are posted on all Rajdhani, Shatabdi and other superfast trains running through Naxalitehit areas. It also warned railways there were intelligence inputs about Maoists targeting more trains in the next six months.

Congress backs Mamata on Maoist stance

TNN 30 October 2009,
KOLKATA: Putting their recent differences behind, state Congress leaders came out strongly in support of Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee over her stance on the Maoist trouble in Bengal. CPM leaders have slammed Mamata, especially after the Rajdhani hold-up, saying that she goes soft on Maoists.
"I do not believe Mamata supports Maoists. She has already clarified her stand. If there is any further confusion, I am sure she will dispel that also. The railway minister is a nationalist, democratic and secular leader. She is a UPA partner," state Congress Committee general secretary Manas Bhunia said. Observer added that Mamata's stand against the Maoists on occasions had been harder than that of even CPM. When the joint operations had been launched in Lalgarh four months ago Mamata had wanted Lalgarh declared a disturbed area, which would have paved the way for deployment of the army there. Even after the detention of Rajdhani Express near Jhargram on Tuesday, she spoke about army deployment to control Maoists.
On other occasions, however, she had also suggested that the joint operations should be withdrawn as it was not yielding any result and a dialogue should be started with the Maoists. She had even offered to mediate in such a dialogue. Opposition leader Partha Chatterjee accused CPM leaders of having links with Maoists in the past, which had helped the Maoists to grow in the state. He demanded an inquiry into how CPM was spreading a "reign of terror" throughout the state.

Old names, new faces on CPM canvass trail

OCT 30,2009
Calcutta, Oct. 29: Some of the CPM’s biggest names are out on the streets for the November 7 bypoll campaign.

There’s Biswas and Chakraborty, synonymous for years with the party organisation and labour arm Citu. Then there’s Deb, a name unmistakably familiar in the city’s northern fringes.

This minute they are marching under the hot afternoon sun, the next they are sipping tea at a roadside stall with their comrades.

So Hazra resident Ibha Basu, 78, could hardly be blamed when her eyes widened with surprise at the sight.

Except that Biswas is a young woman of 28, Chakraborty is “in my late 20s” and Deb is 21. They are the daughters of Anil Biswas and Shyamal Chakraborty, and the son of housing minister Gautam Deb.

“Shob to bachcha chheley meye, era ki notun neta netri (they’re all kids, are they the new leaders)?” is what Ibha asked as she saw Ajanta and Usashie lead 400-odd young campaigners in Mamata Banerjee’s citadel, Alipore.
“Youths form an important part of my campaign strategy,” said Kaustav Chatterjee, 30, Alipore candidate and state secretary of party students’ wing SFI.

Shaken by the poribortoner hawa (winds of change), the CPM has decided to present a youthful face in the 10 bypolls, fielding younger candidates and campaigners.

So, Ajanta, 28, an active member of the West Bengal College and University Teachers’ Association, and Usashie, a budding actress who has been paired opposite Prosenjit in Houseful, are canvassing door to door in Alipore.

Saptarshi Deb is campaigning in Belgachhia East for Romola Chakraborty.

“Most people join Left politics when they are students. It’s been the same for me, my father and several senior leaders of our party,” said Ajanta, who was an SFI leader when she was a student of history in Presidency College.

Many of today’s politburo members began their rise up the party organisation since their student days. Prakash Karat was an understudy of A.K. Gopalan while Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and Biman Bose were Promode Das Gupta acolytes.

But with the winds of change blowing across Bengal, the young could no longer be restricted to backroom operations, a CPM veteran explained. The party needed to experiment by fielding them in the election battle.

“At least a third of our candidates in almost every election now will be from the younger sections,” Rabin Deb said. Of the 10 Left Front bypoll candidates, six are in their early 30s and many star campaigners are young.

Even some of the planners are: Ritabrata Banerjee, 30, the SFI’s all-India general secretary, is preparing the blueprint for Kaustav’s campaign.

In a constituency voting Opposition since1982, Kaustav’s chances against Trinamul’s Firad (Bobby) Hakim appear slim. But Usashie is not short of enthusiasm.

“Kaustav is a young candidate and I like him on a personal level. I want to see an honest MLA in the Assembly and that’s why I am here,” she said after a rally at Chetla Park.

As Usashie chatted with young comrades over tea at a stall, standing in the shadow of a hammer-sickle-and-star flag, several bystanders recognised her. “She’s an actress,” some whispered.

So, is dynasty politics gaining ground in the CPM? No, claim the Gen Y campaigners, who wear Fabindia kurtas or shirts paired with Levi’s denims and branded shoes, and communicate through slick mobile phones, Gtalk and Facebook.

“I’m not doing this because I’m someone’s son. I’m just doing my bit for something I believe in,” Saptarshi said.

“Family doesn’t matter,” agreed Ajanta, “it’s how much we have worked for the party and the people that is important.”

Usashie, a postgraduate in economics from Calcutta University, had a slightly different answer. She was aware of the expectations from her because of her family background, but appeared to keep some distance between herself and her party: “I am clear to myself that I don’t want to parrot the party line alone…. I want to retain my right to criticise the party.”

In contrast, Ajanta made it clear that party ideology and discipline, which she learnt from her father, meant everything to her.

Other than Kaustav, the CPM has fielded two young candidates, Mohammad Esaruddin Mandal from Sujapur and Dhanapati Roy from Rajganj, while the Forward Bloc has nominated young Ali Imran Ramz from Goalpokhor. Two RSP candidates, Binay Bhushan Karketta from Alipurduar and Philip Khalko from Kalchini, are in their early 30s too.

Little signs of the poriborton are evident everywhere in Kaustav’s camp. An SFI leader in his early 20s is using his smartphone to update his Facebook status with Che Guevara’s message: “If you tremble with indignation at every injustice then you are my comrade.”

With inputs from Chandreyee Chatterjee

November 4, 2009


‘Maoists’ Block Train, Harass Passengers, Kill CPI (M) Worker
JHARGRAM: IN an unprecedented move, ‘Maoists’ blocked the Rajdhani Express en route to Delhi in the afternoon of 27 October at the Banstala halt near Jhargram. They threw stones on the train, broke the thick plate glass windows, injured passengers who had been, by then, reduced to hiding for life under the seats.

The turning up of a contingent of the joint forces five hours into the brigandage finally saw the train move, the passengers cursing the hooligans who had caused them untold misery, even depriving them of drinking water, not to speak of food.

The ‘Maoists’ later claimed with a touch or two of depraved pride that it had been they who had held up the train demanding the withdrawal of joint forces from the jangal mahal and release of the criminal Chhatradhar Mahato. The demands of course were never met.

The Railway minister unsurprisingly told a media briefing in Delhi the same afternoon even as the blockade was going on, that ‘Maoists’ were not responsible for the act, and added to say that it had been the Marxists (meaning the Bengal CPI-M) that had done the misdeed.

In a related development, the CID on interrogating the officer-in-charge, Sankrail has found inconsistencies in the latter officer’s statements. He was reportedly unable to clarify why he had not put up a resistance when confronted by a woman activist of the CPI (Maoist) initially and why he was not carrying any side arm.

The fact of the two murdered officers in the Sankrail police station being in casual civil attire and sans fire arms, too, has kept the police puzzled. In addition, there was no sentry mounted outside of the police station. The officer-in-charge is being interrogated further. In the meanwhile, we learn that he was seen having a long conversation with two unknown persons some 300 metres from the police station the day before the occurrence took place and that the persons had their faces covered.

The state government in the meanwhile has continued to pursue with renewed vigour and persistence the cases of the two missing constables of the Bengal armed police who had been abducted by the ‘Maoists’ back in July from the jangal mahal.

The killing continues in Midnapore west relentlessly. Comrade Pratap Nayak, a member of the Andharia gram panchayat and a CPI (M) worker was returning from Binpur haat on 26 October. It was high noon. Comrade Pratap had just negotiated the bend in the bridle path in the thick of the jungle near Dulungadihi when a gang of ‘Maoists’ equipped with sophisticated high-calibre guns confronted him and riddled him with bullets. The killers then sped away deep into the forestry using paths that must have been familiar to them.

Trinamuli-‘Maoist’ Clique Involved In Abduction Case

KOLKATA, 21ST OCTOBER: EVIDENCE at hand is a clear revelation that the Trinamuli workers acted in close cooperation of the ‘Maoists’ in the killing of two police officers and the abduction of the officer-in-charge of the Sankrail police station in the afternoon of 20 October.

We learn from various sources including local villagers of the zone that the gruesome killing of the two police personnel was followed by the abduction of the officer-in-charge at gun-point. He was then taken some couple of hundred metres away from the police station and made to sit under a tree. He had his hands tied behind his back. He was never blindfolded. He was put in charge of local Trinamuli toughs as the ‘Maoists’ led by a former student of a university near Kolkata mounted the looting at the nearby bank.


The officer-in-charge was then taken on motorbike, his hands yet tied, to a ‘safe house’ close by of a Trinamuli goon at Dulungadihi under the Bandhgara gram panchayat. The route cut across the NH 6 at several places and led to the dense forestry area where the village is located. The gram panchayat is ‘run’ by a combination of the opposition groups there with covert outside support of the ‘Maoists’ and at least one splinter group of the Jharkhandis.

The next morning, the Trinamuli goons with one or possibly two ‘Maoist’ armed escorts, motorcycled the officer-in-charge to the Lalgarh area under the Binpur I block. They crossed an unused irrigation canal on the way and stopped for some time to revamp their strategy. Extensive conversation was held over satellite phones with two or three ‘Maoist’ commander-level operators in Jharkhand across the porous border. The place of stoppage was Laxmanpur, we learn.

Subsequent to that, the Trinamulis escorted the officer-in-charge to the Buxi village at Dharampur near Lalgarh. The abductors supped at this place and also undertook further confabulations with the ‘Maoists’ more of whom had by then come from across the provincial border including the self-styled supremo, ‘Kishanji.’ There ensued a bitter debate ensued as to the course of future moves.


The opinion that finally prevailed was the ‘moderate’ one among the rapidly splintering ‘Maoist’ ranks, much like the disintegration, internecine squabbles, and finally ‘comradely killings’ period of the late 1960s when the ‘Naxalite’ menace with Pradesh Congress backing threatened the democratic fabric of Bengal, leading an anti-Communist crusade.
We learn that as the ‘Maoists’ have come to find that Bengal was not like the other states, they carry their depredations in, and that here a strong left-democratic movement fulminates, and that is principally the ‘reason why’ the ‘moderate’ splinter among the killers prevailed and it was decided to call for soft terms in order to scrabble around for an excuse to release the abducted police officer.

In the whole process, a small section of the powerful media houses were kept ‘on board,’ and their views sought. The chief of an opposition political group was fully informed of the shape things were going through.


Then, instead of calling for such actions on the Bengal Left Front government’s part as the withdrawal of central forces, something that the Trinamuli supremo had all along harped on, ad nauseum, over her favoured TV network, or, for example, the release of the criminal Chhatradhar Mahato, presently in jail custody and being interrogated relentlessly, the ‘Maoists’ chose not to push the Bengal Left Front government too much and called instead for the release of 70, then 50, and then nine persons who had been in custody on suspicion of harbouring ‘Maoists’ from across Jharkhand and Orissa. The persons in fact were in line to be released without conditionalities as it happened.

Another factor underlined the isolation of the ‘Maoists’ in Bengal. This was their dependence on the Trinamuli network to organise the operation, and to get through to the media and the police with their terms, terms that weakened, as we said, by the hour. The killers also kept in mind the extreme antithetical reaction that had spread across Jharkhand and beyond among the common people especially of the rural stretches over the beheading of the hapless and abducted police officer Francis Induwar in Jharkhand some days back.


What followed after the officer-in-charge was ‘released’ to us newspersons as a ‘liberated’ ‘prisoner of war’ comprised cheap, soap opera drama, and the big media lapped it up, vying with one another to say who had actually ‘held the hand’ of the officer-in-charge first, and who had ‘led him to safety.’ Local sources have already informed us that behind the shroud-covered faces of the ‘Maoists’ on the spot, other than the ubiquitous ‘Kishanji,’ were in fact known criminals who are presently serving the anti-poor cause of the Trinamulis and the Left sectarians in the red clay areas.


Did the Bengal government ‘compromise’ in releasing the women in custody in exchange for the officer-in-charge? The answer has to be sought in the weakness rather that strength of the abductors. On the morning of 22 October when informed of the fact that a large and heavily-armed police contingent was stationed at Purnapani and were advancing on the village where the officer-in-charge was held, Bengal CPI (M) state secretary, Biman Basu who has extensive topographical knowledge of the red clay zones of Bengal told People’s Democracy, that with the Lalgarh border under a tight seal, the push from Purnapani would leave the ‘Maoists’ no choice but to put up a last gasp fight, and go under.

The police chose to back off rather that make the desperadoes go into killing the officer-in-charge out of consideration of political mileage. There is another angle to the story that reveals this. Interestingly, ‘Kishanji’ later told newspersons during the release that the brief exchange of bullets near Purnapani was ‘worrisome’ as the bullets coming in ‘would have killed the officer-in-charge.’ The latter however disclosed after release that he was indeed several kilometres away from where the face-off took place, and only faintly heard the gun shots. Thus, it is clear that had the police advanced, the Trinamuli-‘Maoists’ would have killed the officer-in-charge and then the Bengal Left Front government blamed for the incident. This was not desirable at all.


The Bengal government has in the meanwhile continued to search for the fate of the two police constables, Sabir Ali Mollah and Kanchan Gorai, who had been kidnapped earlier, and the concerned officials said that the search had indeed never have been called off at any point of time. It is nonetheless feared that the two police personnel may well have been taken away to Jharkhand. When asked by newspersons about the condition of the two police constables, ‘Kishanji’ was irritatingly vague saying that since ‘another commander’ was ‘in place’ at that point of time he was not able to come up with any ‘answer or clarification.’

By B Prasant