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'People will rethink about the Maoists'

July 02, 2009 11:18 IST
General Secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Dipankar Bhattacharya sees Lalgarh in West Bengal as a laboratory where the state is testing its strategy against people's movements across the country.

And he thinks the presence of the Maoists is not helping the cause of the tribal people.

In this interview to rediff.com's Krishnakumar P, Bhattacharya, who has been general secretary of the party since 1998, calls the bluff of the Congress, Trinamool Congress, the Communist Party of India-Marxist and the Maoists, all of whom he claims are working against the interests of the Adivasis.

How do you assess the situation in Lalgarh?

We haven't had direct access. But reports from parts of Lalgarh have been quite disturbing. Like the one that says thousands of people have been rendered homeless and more than 600 have been injured. There are reports of torture. We have been trying to send a team to get a clearer picture. Whatever is already happening is quite disturbing.

Do you see a repeat of this incident happening in other places in the near future?

This is, as far as the central government is concerned, clearly a test case. Because it looks like it is premeditated on the part of the state.

Of course, the statements and some of the actions of the Maoists facilitated the central government strategy. But it is certainly going to be one of a countrywide phenomenon. They have called it (Maoism) the single biggest internal security threat.

Quite definitely, Lalgarh marks the beginning of a countrywide state strategy. It reminds me of the 1970s where a similar kind of situation existed. They wanted to contain the Marxist-Leninist movement. West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh were the two laboratories. We saw arrests and custodial killings. That strategy was perfected on the Left and eventually grew into the Emergency.

It always starts with Left and revolutionary forces. It doesn't really end there. It then assumes much bigger dimensions where the entire free press and the democratic movement are at a receiving end.

Do you see a political angle to the current situation?

Of course. They (the Centre) think they can kill two birds in one stone. If you look at the West Bengal election, the three most widely discussed names were Singur Nandigram and Lalgarh.

Singur was against land acquisition. Nandigram was against the SEZ (Special Economic Zone). Lalgarh was absolutely about police atrocities. And now the Trinamool Congress, after defeating the Left in the election, if they really cared for the people of the West Bengal and the verdict should have done something about the people's demands. They wanted police atrocities to end.

Instead of taking any single step, this is the Trinamool's way of saying thank you to the people of West Bengal. It is a premeditated thing on the part of the Congress and the Trinamool.

Is this also a case of the Maoists trying to play the media to their advantage?

They can never play the media to their advantage. They have already burnt their fingers in Andhra Pradesh. In 2004, when they agreed for talks with the state government, there were 18 hours of live telecast from their hideouts. That was the beginning of the end of Maoism in AP. The state seized the opportunity and the whole leadership was wiped out.

In the current situation, the Maoists have demonstrated their incompatibility. Their actions and ideas are incompatible to a democratic set up. The people of Lalgarh are waging their own war and the Maoists are claiming to be at the forefront.

Sometime ago, they said they wanted to kill (West Bengal Chief Minister) Buddhadeb Bhattacharya. They don't realise that the people are completely capable of teaching a lesson.

This is what they do. They made an attempt on (then AP chief minister Nara) Chandrababu Naidu. AP was a lab of the World Bank and had implemented every single agenda of the World Bank. There was poverty, farmers were committing suicide and there were mass protests. Instead they tried to kill him. Their whole emphasis on individual killings, absolutely, takes the focus away from the problems of the people.

Even in Lalgarh? Now?

What is happening in Lalgarh, though there are elements of Maoist involvement, is the revolt of the Adivasis. The Indian independence struggle is replete with accounts of Adivasi revolt.

The Indian State has failed them almost in a similar way. If you look at the Indian State from the point of view of an Adivasi, these 60 years has not changed anything. The State has been equally brutal. They have their pride and sense of identity. And when they revolt, you should expect a level of militancy.

Basic issue was that the officials should be given some punishment. The West Bengal government set up a committee under R D Meena. He investigated. They found all those allegations to be true.

But then after that, it is appalling that the state gives Rs 50,000 for a woman who lost her eyes and Rs 15,000 for nine women who were tortured. The Adivasis want to be vindicated.

This is where the State completely fails to appreciate their sense of pride and dignity. Instead of doing that they reduced it to a Maoist vs state battle. It is actually a State versus people battle.

Home Minister P Chidambaram has said that only when police action succeeds can development happen in an area... I think Chidambaram himself is a test case. Which is why a man who lost the election was declared the winner after manipulation. On the one hand he says, the State has not declared a war. On the other, he asked political leaders and activist to keep away from Lalgarh.

Even in Sri Lanka, the media had some access, even if it was embedded. But here, what is he trying to do? Aparna Sen and other activists have been booked for violating Section 144. Is it some crime that they were trying to reach the people? The way he has been briefing the media looks like he is giving updates from war.

What will be the fall-out of the Lalgarh standoff?

We have to make a distinction between the Maoists and tribals. If the tribals find the Indian government's policies unacceptable, the government has to look into it. The Maoists have now taken advantage of this. But they are only exposing their weakness. This is what they did in Orissa.

They (the Maoists) killed the VHP (Vishwa Hindu Parishad) priest (Swami Lakshmanananda). And then when the violence unleashed by the VHP actually started, they were not there to defend the people. Once again here, they say we are leading it. I think it is the rights of the people that one should focus on.

The people will have a rethink about the Maoists. They will not lose ground because of the State. The way they are responding to people's problems is why they will lose ground.

Is this the end of the road for talks?

The states might talk irrespective of the stand of the central government. The Maoists in 2004 made a departure from their stand and issued a call for the people to vote for the Congress. The Maoists were instrumental in some way in the Congress victory. The state then invited them for talks without any precondition for laying down arms.

So then today, why is the state shying away from talks. Here they want the situation to continue. This is the game-plan of the Congress. They want the CPI-M to face the anger of the people. The Congress will then play the benefactor and welfare card. The CPI-M will be left to face the heat of the people.

Krishnakumar P