Association For Protection of Democratic Rights member and civil rights activist Sujato Bhadro has his hands full these days.
Bhadro, along with other APDR members, are busy appealing to the state government to release People's Committee Against Police Atrocities leader Chhatradhar Mahato. They are also trying to chart out a course of negotiation between the Maoists and the state government.
Bhadra had written an open letter to the Maoists in the wake of the Lalgarh crisis, eliciting a response from their leader Koteswar Rao alias Kishanji.
In a conversation with rediff.com's Indrani Roy Mitra, Bhadro discussed why Mahato's arrest is unjust, how the Lalgarh crisis can be resolved and how political parties are using the impasse to gain mileage.
Why are you demanding Mahato's release?
His arrest is an unjust act that violates human rights. There is no plausible charge against him.
But there is a murder charge against him. Prabir Mahato, a Communist Party of India-Marxist worker, was abducted from Dharampur in Lalgarh and murdered on June 14.
Is there any evidence that Chhatradhar murdered him? The state government has no concrete proof.
Remember what Chhatradhar's counsel Koushik Sinha told the media recently, 'Chhatradhar Mahato was not named in any First Information Report in the Prabir Mahato abduction and murder case. But the police added his name as one of the co-accused. The court ordered the production warrant on Monday and police produced him to show his arrest.'
Why do you think the state government is trying to implicate him?
To shift the people's attention from the main issue: That the Left Front has not done anything for the tribals of the area is an open secret that may cause the Front substantial damage in the forthcoming polls. Hence, this nautanki (charade).
How do you think the Lalgarh crisis can be resolved?
Only through negotiations. Security forces can flex their muscles but cannot achieve peace.
There are two ways to deal with the crisis: By improving the living conditions of the tribals and also by inviting both the PCAPA and Maoists for talks.
No one is advocating unconditional surrender to their demands, but what's the harm in listening to what they want?
You don't support the violence perpetrated by the Maoists, right? Your open letter to them clearly said so.
Not at all.
In fact, in the letter, I had said, 'Why only you, many philosophers throughout ages have clearly maintained that justice could be established through violence only. For example, Sartre has written: Violence is acceptable because all great changes are based on violence (The Aftermath of War page 35). He forgot to add that history itself had shown that a society created through violent means could not live for long'.
Whether anything good can be achieved through violence is also very much doubtful. The concept 'end justifying the means' rejects the notion of justice and morality; and the result is that 'the means outweigh the end'.
Therefore, you think the solution lies in negotiations?
Remember, in 1985, a treaty for peace was signed with the Mizo National Front and the MNF was given the opportunity to govern the state.
Don't we know what happened in Nepal? How long will we turn a blind eye to the Maoist issue? We have to strive to bring these people into the democratic system.
Coming back to Lalgarh, do you think a civil movement is needed to improve the state of the tribals in the area?
Of course. We at APDR are always trying to influence the intelligentsia to speak for the tribals. People need to take to the streets to uphold the causes of the tribal population.
Just as public opinion had swayed the country during the Rizwanur Rahman death case and the Nandigram killings, people of this state need to uphold the tribal issue. We cannot afford to be apathetic to such a grave problem.
What is the state of human rights in Bengal?
Human rights are being violated in Bengal every minute, may be now, even as we talk.
On March 5, 2008, five APDR members -- Sidhartha Sengupta, Bijaya Chandra, Prasanta Halder, Arup Dutta, Ratna Bhoumik -- were detained for 17 hours at the Nandigram police station on false allegations raised by Communist Party of India-Marxist cadres that they were Maoists.
What type of a democracy are we living in?