Violence in Bengal Once Again

After the chapter of Nandigram closed, West Bengal is now caught in the shackles of violence led by the resurgent Maoists. The Maoist threat and spread of political violence in the state has now become a matter of serious concern, not just for the State government but for Centre as well.

The Maoists have their stronghold in the vast tracts of the forests of Midnapur, Purulia and Bankura districts of West Bengal and also in parts of the states of Jharkhand and Orissa.

Trouble erupted in Lalgarh (West Bengal) after police arrested some local residents and allegedly harassed some tribal women on suspicion of attempting to assassinate the CM of West Bengal, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, after he narrowly escaped a landmine explosion set off by suspected Maoist rebels, near Bhadhutula.
The Maoists subsequently formed a People’s Committee against Police Atrocities (PCPA) to protest against the arrests.

These Maoist led mobs are on a bloody rampage, piling up bodies, killing CPI-M’s leaders and workers, ransacking the ruling party’s offices, pulling down houses and blowing up property. But the State govt seems to be in no mood to do something to stop this bloodbath and retain law and order there. This show of inaction by the government has further encouraged the Maoists to proliferate their activities.

Lalgarh is experiencing a considerable unrest for a number of months now and the situation is deteriorating continuously. The Maoists have formed a three-tier human shield, with women and children in forefront, men behind them and the naxals forming the rearguard. They have dug up roads to disconnect the troubled area from rest of the district. They now aim to create a liberated zone in the area.

The state has so far been ineffectual in handling the Maoist takeover of Lalgarh which has resulted in the collapse of governance and rule there. Police force has vacated many posts in many places, fearing from the attacks. The stunned State government is now seeking help from Centre. Eleven CRPF companies have already been deployed there, though there was a demand of fifty. Maoists, however, have warned the government that if paramilitary forces move in the area, they would replicate Operation Lalgarh in other states as well and there would be a bloodbath all over the country.

The situation is grim and political games have already begun. Mamata Banerjee led opposition party, Trinamool Congress is battling to capture the turf from weakened CPM cadres, taking full advantage of the opportunity. The ruling party, CPI-M is playing the blame game to come clean out of this. Sitaram Yechury, a senior leader of the ruling party has blamed the Central government for allowing the situation to worsen. But this time, this strategy won’t do for them. They are accountable and answerable to West Bengal for what is going on there.

CPM is facing an angry backlash from the Maoists, who have gained support from local villagers also. For nearly two decades, the party ruled the state, but as the rebellions allege, they never let people reap the so-called benefits of democracy. The government do take notice of the serial blasts done by Maoists, killing of the political leaders and workers, torching up of houses by them. But never ever has it tried to look into the reason, the root cause of their taking up arms and resorting to violence against the police force of their own country.

It is not that all the rebels are illiterate, poor people ready to give up their lives. Some of them are well educated, unemployed youth, who couldn’t get any work to feed their families because the family members of the politicians occupied the jobs that were meant for them. They are not just rebels; they are the ignored section of the society, crushed by the inefficient and corrupt political system of their state. And finding themselves impotent to do anything about this, they finally resorted to arms and violence.

This violence is not started by them. It was ignited by the so-called political leaders who are now facing the heat of it. Three CPM workers were killed a day earlier in full public glare and many had been kidnapped and are still missing. Since November 2007, 69 CPM workers have succumbed to the attacks of Maoists.

This intermittent gun battle might turn into a full-fledged war, if the nature of the government remains callous towards the needs of the tribal people. And it’s not just the case for WB- other states like, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh, also face attacks from Naxals.

If India aspires to shine and move ahead to prove itself to the rest of the world, it has got to look into the needs of all sections of the society, not leaving even a single community ignored. If India wants to grow, the growth must be inclusive, so that no one takes up arms and become a threat to his own nation.

Sucheta Sharma