September 15, 2009

‘Maoists’ Unabated Barbarism in Jangal Mahal Area

By N S Arjun

LALGARH(WEST MEDINIPUR),13th September,2009: RATAN Mahato, a school teacher in Pirakata village, 25 km away from Lalgarh town, was a CPI(M) supporter. And for this ‘crime’, the ‘Maoists’ had made him hold his ears and do squats publicly in July 2009, ordering that he immediately quit the Party. Although Mahato had distanced himself from the Party, he did not put up posters proclaiming his quitting the Party as was demanded. Around 20 of these blood-thirsty goons returned to Pirakata on the night of August 25, 2009, and brutally slit his throat after severely beating him up for not obeying their order.

This gory incident is only one example of continuing barbarity of ‘Maoists’ in the jangal mahal area comprising the forest areas of West Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia districts. Despite the central and state police forces' joint operation and presence in Lalgarh area, the killings, the burning down of CPI(M) offices, the looting of houses of CPI(M) supporters beatings and kidnaps etc continue unhindered. After sunset when the forces return to their base camps, the armed 'Maoist' squads take over. They conduct marches in the villages, flashing their AK-47s and INSAS rifles, terrorising the poor tribals. And among those in the killer squads are members of the 'People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities’ comprising Trinamuli, Jharkhand Party activists. Trinamuli/Jharkhandis in day-time and Maoists by night! This nexus, of course, had become clear when Trinamuli activist Chatradhar Mahato became secretary of the People’s Committee. His younger brother Sasadhar Mahato is a zonal commander of ‘Maoists’ while the secretary of the committee is a ‘Maoist’ action squad member.

But why is this reign of terror continuing even after deployment of central and state armed forces in good strength in these areas? After the first phase of joint operations against the ‘Maoists’ in Lalgarh in mid-June, there was some improvement in the situation with the state administration bring able to make entry and establish apparent control of the area. Some relief was provided to the people in terms of delivering food rations and rendering health services. The people gave good reception to the security forces. However the situation deteriorated from the first week of July as the security operations got bogged down and entered into such a mode that their actual purpose was not being served. Occasionally, encounters do take place but the hot pursuit and neutralisation of the criminals is not happening.

It is pertinent to recall here the hue and cry raised by the Trinamul chief and key union cabinet minister Mamata Banarjee immediately after the first phase of joint operations started yielding results. She openly demanded cessation of these operations and withdrawal of central forces from Lalgarh. Disregarding the advice of the state government, two union ministers, Sishir Adhikary and Mukul Roy, accompanied by the leader of opposition in the state Partho Chatterjee went to Lalgarh on July 28, 2009 along with a jumbo team and held public meetings demanding withdrawal of security forces. They charged that the central government was strengthening the CPI(M) by sending these forces. On the same day they held a closed-door meeting with activists of People’s Committee, among whom were known ‘Maoist’ elements. What transpired in the meeting is not known but the consequences have been very clear. There has been a spurt in the killings of CPI(M) supporters, their torture, looting, burning of property etc after this closed-door meeting. It is clear these elements were reassured by the central ministers presence and backing.

Simultaneously there has been a lag in the security forces’ operations. The CRPF adopted a particular modus operandi here which not only prevents speedy pursuit of culprits but also could alert them about the impending search operation. After the experiences in Chhatisgarh, the CRPF decided to move only in large formations here for any operation. Also, there is a condition that an equal strength of state police force should accompany them. The forces have so far arrested around 45 persons but only very few among them are ‘Maoists’. This situation is being utilised by the ‘Maoists’ to expand their areas of domination. In the recent past they could extend to two more Gram Panchayats. The 15-day long strike called by them from August 18-31, 2009 demanding withdrawal of security forces saw some areas of Jhagram also getting affected. It is learnt that they are conducting around seven armed training camps in the surrounding jungles in which even 16-year olds are being imparted weapons-training. Is there a linkage between the spurt in the incidents of violence and a perceptible lag in the operations of the central security forces? Has Trinamul Congress pressure for cessation of all operations by security forces and their withdrawal worked? At this stage one can only surmise.


Unlike in any other state they are operating in, the ‘Maoists’ face organised people’s resistance in Bengal to their barbarities against the poor and the weak. This resistance is led by the CPI(M). This, in part, explains the entire thrust of 'Maoists' on terrorising the villagers from any form of association with the CPI(M). That the ‘Maoists’ are not entirely succeeding in this is apparent from an incident in Nepura village, 10 km away from Lalgarh, on September 7, 2009. A former CPI(M) MLA and member of CPI(M) West Midnapore district committee, Durga Tudu, was sought to be attacked by five armed ‘Maoists’. Even as they were approaching his house with guns slinging on their shoulders, more than 40 villagers spontaneously resisted them with whatever they could lay their hands on – axes, sticks, rods etc. Clearly outnumbered and seeing the rage of the villagers, the ‘Maoists’ tried to beat a hasty retreat. But three of them were caught by the villagers with their guns and thrashed and later handed over to the police. The media has commented that this is the first instance in Lalgarh where the 'Maoists' had to face such a situation. But even earlier also such incidents of resistance took place. During our visit to Salboni recently, we met with one such comrade from Babubasha village under Salboni PS limits. On June 23, 2009, six armed “Maoists’ came to his house and called him out. They beat up his two sons who were sitting on the verandah when they tried to obstruct them. Both the sons bravely fought the ‘Maoists’ with bare hands. Hearing the commotion, hundreds of villagers gathered and chased away the armed goons some 2 km into the forests. Now, the Party is sheltering the entire family of this comrade. CPI(M) West Midnapore district secretary Professor Dipak Sarkar said that the Party has moved out around 5000 such comrades from these areas and is taking care of them. He said the Party is campaigning all over the district against the terror unleashed by these forces. A one-lakh strong procession under the aegis of the Left Front was held in the district headquarters, Medinipur, on August 16 which created a good impact on the people. Similarly all mass organisations have been conducting mass programmes mobilising the people against terror and anarchy. However, he underlined that this problem is a very serious one and needs to be tackled with much patience and sacrifices. He expressed the confidence that ultimately the people will overcome these forces of terror and anarchy.

Anuj Pandey, CPI(M) Binpur zonal secretary, (under which zone Lalgarh falls) expressed similar resolve. As the man top most on the hit list of these goons, he is remarkably unassuming and unnerved. He reeled off the names of comrades killed or kidnapped, by the 'Maoists' in his zonal area. His own home in Bharatpur village has been razed to ground and looted. Under precarious conditions, he is immersed in organising people's resistance to the 'Maoists'. Many people in the villages under 'Maoist' control are dissatisfied and angry due to various reasons. Primary among them is the stoppage of all sort of development activity or services by the administration due to this terror. Moreover, there is blatant extortion/looting by these elements. In fact, recently the 'Maoists' shot dead two of their Jharkhandi colleagues over a dispute about extortion money. There are also serious charges of siphoning of government money by the panchayats ruled by Trinamuli/Jharkhand Party leaders to procure arms for the 'Maoists'. But to channelise this dissatisfaction into a fight against these forces requires the presence of the CPI(M) in these areas. There is talk of a coordinated 'major offensive' against 'Maoists' by security forces stationed here along with the forces in neighbouring Jharkhand. It remains to be seen when that is going to happen and how successful it is going to be in creating confidence among the people.

Some Recent Incidents of Violence

Every other day in Bengal, some or other CPI(M) leaders / activists / sympathisers / supporters are being shot or hacked to death or kidnapped by the murderous goons of Trinamul-'Maoists' combine. Below we give a list of a few of these recent attacks.

August 30: 'Maoists' beat up a woman panchayat chief in Purulia, Latika Hemambra because she had not obeyed their diktat a year ago to quit the CPI(M). Around 8 p m, about 30 goons, armed with rifles, single-barrel guns and revolvers, marched to Nodudi village in the Ayodhya hills of Purulia. When they reached the village — Latika lives there — they warned the people not to step out of their houses.

On reaching Latika’s hut they kicked open the door. Latika, 32, and her husband Gopal, a CPI(M) worker, were sleeping in the courtyard. “We asked you to quit the CPI(M) a year ago. But you did not,” the Maoists yelled at her. Then they started hitting the couple using their rifle butts. “‘If you don’t quit the party now, you will be murdered’, they proclaimed and went away firing their guns in the air.

From there they marched 10 km to Jitinglahar village to CPI(M) branch secretary Debiprasad Hansda's home. Debiprasad was sleeping with his father Hiralal, 68. As soon as his mother opened the door, about 10 rebels rushed in, pushing her aside. Debiprasad’s parents fell at the feet of the Maoists, begging for their son’s life. They kicked the 45-year-old CPI(M) leader awake, then shot him twice in the chest. He died on the spot. “They told him this was the price of his association with the corrupt CPI(M). Then they shot him twice,” wept Hiralal, according to newspaper reports.

August 29: Two CPI(M) supporters were shot dead by 'Maoists' in West Midnapore and Purulia, both rebel strongholds. Lakshmi Kanta Kumar, a 50-year- old CPI(M) local committee secretary was waylaid by a group of Maoists when he was returning home in Arsa, Purulia, about 360 km from Calcutta. He was murdered near a CRPF camp in Mudali, which is near Arsa. According to reports, five assailants on motorbikes fired at Lakshmi from a close range, killing him on the spot. The assailants fled under the cover of darkness, In another incident, an armed gang of Maoists killed Bidyut Baran Das in Binpur, West Midnapore. The assailants stopped Bidyut, 48, a poultry seller and supporter of CPI(M), when he was returning home on his bicycle and pumped bullets into him,

August 28: Mangal Soren, DYFI activist in Binpur, who was mobilising public opinion against a Maoist-backed bandh was gunned down while he was tilling his land. Five 'Maoists' came on motorcycles and shot him from close range. The blood-thirsty hoodlums then hacked him with axes. An axe flew out of the hand of one of the attackers and hit another farmer at a distance. After the gang left, villagers put the two on a trekker and rushed them to hospital, but Mangal Soren died on the way. Soren was actively campaigning against the strike in West Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia called by the People's Committee demanding withdrawal of security forces from Lalgarh.

August 19: The houses of CPI(M) local committee member Bankim Singha and chief of the Baita gram panchayat Suman Singha were attacked by ‘Maoists’. This despite both the leaders announcing that they had quit the party a month ago following Maoist threats. Fortunately, both of them were not present at the time of these attacks. After ransacking and breaking the furniture with axes and rods, the goons looted jewellery and money. On the same day the CPI(M) local committee office in Malbandhi was also attacked and burnt.

August 15: ‘Maoists’ shot dead a CPI(M) leader, Ramkrishna Duley, in a Bankura village about 25 km from Lalgarh. The 47 year old leader was returning home from his field in the afternoon when two men cycled up to him on a dirt road and opened fire. Duley was killed 500 metres from his home in Sarenga. He is the first CPI(M) man to be killed in Bankura since the security forces moved into Lalgarh.