How CPI-M is losing its grip over rural Bengal
Life is coming full circle for the ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist in West Bengal.
There was a time when the Marxists had shown scant regard for human opposition in their relentless quest for rural power. Today, they claim to be hapless victims of the same policy, with Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress scripting the story.
This one began with Marxist party workers massacring 11 landless labourers at Nanoor in Birbhum district in 2000. It is fast approaching a rather different climax.
Business Standard brings you a three-part series on how the Trinamool is gaining political supremacy through these tried and tested methods in rural Bengal.
Violence lurks in every corner of Nanur, in West Bengal's Birbhum district. It is the latest battlefield in the ongoing turf war between the ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist and its main political rival, the Trinamool Congress.
Image: West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya
Violence is an inevitable corollary
On June 29, matters came to a head. Former CPI-M MLA Ananda Das was killed in broad daylight by a group of armed people in Nanur.
According to preliminary reports, the attack was a sequel to one on a local TC leader, Phulu Sheikh, shot at by a group of armed men, allegedly belonging to the CPI-M, a few days earlier.
What appeared to be a stray violent incident in a small pocket of rural Bengal is actually of much broader significance, a recent visit to Nanur and adjacent Kirnahar and Bolpur confirms.
It is evident that there is a pattern in the series of violence and political killings taking place in rural South Bengal. After losing successive electoral battles, the ruling CPI-M is losing its grip over rural society. The TC is replacing it and establishing its authority. Violence is an inevitable corollary.
Image: Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee
The police administration has got the message
Thus, Nanur in Birbhum and Mongolkot in Burdwan, two contiguous blocks divided only by a river, are fast turning into a battlefield. Das' murder tells the populace and the local population: 'This is TC territory. We will control it henceforth.'
The police administration has got the message and is in passive mode.
The terrorised local CPI-M and activists of its front partner, the Revolutionary Socialist Party, have begun fleeing the area and taking shelter in nearby Kirnahar and Bolpur towns.
"People from Nanur have started coming to Kirnahar and staying here. Some of them are buying land and houses, pushing up the land price suddenly," said Animesh Banerjee, a retired college teacher in Kirnahar.
Image: Trinamool activists at a rally
The fearful people of Nanur are tightlipped
Ashesh Khan, a general medical practitioner in Kirnahar, said: "We have stopped visiting patients' houses after 8 pm. Unless we are given police protection, we can't even venture out in the night."
Khan, who was born and brought up in Kirnahar and whose father was also a successful physician, said a local branch of the 40-member Indian Medical Association took the decision.
The fearful people of Nanur are, by and large, tightlipped. Two weeks earlier, Tapan Hore, the RSP MLA representing Bolpur, and Shyamali Pradhan, CPI-M zonal committee member and Nanur Panchayat Samity Sabhapati, met the district police superintendent at Suri.
They gave him a memorandum: That the elected panchayat representatives in Nanur were unable to go to their respective offices and villages because of lack of security. They said teachers, local traders and contractors were being forced to pay to be permitted to go to work. According to some in Nanur, the school teachers have to pay Rs 5,000 and others considerably more, even as much as Rs 50,000. Those bearing the banner of the armed units of the TC are accepting the money.
Image: Political violence and protests continue unabated
Widespread extortion, stocking of ammo
In their memorandum, they asked the SP to recover arms from the villages and take measures against the attackers / criminals.
They made similar requests to the sub-divisional and district heads of the civil administration. According to one in the delegation, the SP had readily acknowledged that extortion was going on.
He even said the administration had specific information about the villages where arms depots have been built up.
The officer said he had sent a secret report to this effect to state police headquarters, appending a list of the villages where raids should be conducted to recovers arms and ammunition. Shyamali Pradhan declined to speak on the subject.
Image: A police barricade
Motorcycle-riding armed cadres are switching sides
There was also no clear response from the police administration on why no action was taken.
In the absence of any pro-active intervention by the district administration, groups of armed TC hirelings have violently replaced the CPI-M in Nanur and are now expanding their area of control in contiguous areas in Birbhum, Burdwan and Murshidabad.
According to the district administration, some areas under Ilambazar and Labhpur in Birbhum have already changed hands.
The CPI-M is putting up a last-ditch battle at Mongolkot in Burdwan, but it is only a matter of time. It can now be clearly said: The motorcycle-riding armed cadres, who had been the CPI-M vanguard in keeping rural Bengal under party control, have now begun shifting their allegiance to the emerging political force, the TC.
Watch this space for Part II of the series on Tuesday.
Image: Trinamool Chief Mamata Banerjee addresses a public rally