India’s Maoist dilemma: the case of Lalgarh

Published on openDemocracy, by Aaradhana Jhunjhunwala, July 8, 2009.

The ongoing security crisis in West Bengal exposes the cracks in Indian democracy, stemming from a volatile mix of poor governance, petty politics, and a fundamental breakdown in credibility
A battle rages on in the Indian state of West Bengal, between Maoist guerillas called the Naxalites (Naxalbari is the name of a village in West Bengal where the movement was born in 1967) and national and paramilitary forces. The Naxalites, a banned outfit deemed as “a terrorist organization” by the central government, had proclaimed the Lalgarh area of West Midnapore district in Bengal, with its 44 villages, a “liberated zone” on 16 June 2009 …

… Playing politics with the Maoists:   

Bengal’s main opposition party the Trinamool Congress and its leader Mamata Banerjee picked up 19 seats in the recent national elections and is part of the coalition ruling at the centre. In her agitations against state brutality in Nandigram in 2007 and against poor land acquisition policies in Singur in 2008, Banerjee is accused of receiving help from local Maoist groups. The PSBJC’s convener, Chhatradhar Mahato was once a member of her party and his older brother is a high-ranking Maoist operative sought by the police. Hence, the Left Front has been quick to accuse Banerjee of allowing the Maoists to penetrate Bengal.

However, in an interview with Livemint, Koteswar Rao, head of guerilla operations for the CPI (Maoist) dismisses the claim that his group had been receiving support from the main opposition party in the state. The Maoists claim to support only the people, and in particular the adivasis or tribals in Lalgarh and its adjoining areas. However, CNN-IBN has Rao on record saying that Banerjee should refrain from allowing the central government to send paramilitary forces to West Midnapore, as she would lose the people’s support.

Whether Banerjee was seeking help from Maoists during her earlier agitations at Nandigram and Singur is unclear, yet many in Bengal’s administration are more than convinced and accuse her of bringing the guerillas into the state’s internal politics. Banerjee, now the Minister of Railways in Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s cabinet, denies allegations of collusion with the Maoists for her own political gains. She points out the Left Front’s poor governance and the poor behavior of its cadres as the primary reasons behind the unrest in Lalgarh. For the moment, she is happy to let the state government deal with the Maoists as she doesn’t want either side to use her as a pawn to blame the consequences of their decisions on.

“Good” or “evil”? … (full long text).

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