The Lalgarh Movement has withstood ONE YEAR of state terror since the Joint Operations started in Jungal Mahal a year back on the 18th of June 2009. This one year entails the most brutal fascist repression by the state police, CRPF, & CPI(M)’s harmads on the adivasi people of Lalgarh. This one year has been, more importantly, also one of heroic and stiff resistance of the fighting masses in the face of the brute mercenary forces of the state. Last year, near about a week before the commencement of the Joint Operations we had the privilege to visit Lalgarh (from the 7th to the 10th of June). Villagers even then were aware of the impending onslaught on their movement but were also determined to fight back most valiantly to defend their independence. And it is the same determination and resolve with which they stand by their movement today in spite and despite the continuing attempts by the state and the center to crush the resistance.
The Lalgarh movement, as we know, started as an unprecedented collective response by the people against the atrocities committed by the goons of the ruling CPM and the police as well as the acute underdevelopment that prevailed in the region. Alongside, it rejected the ‘development’-paradigm of the state that entails the gifting of land/forest resources to the corporate of the likes of Tata and Jindal. Following the landmine attack on the convoy of the chief minister by the Maoists, a fresh assault was launched on the common villagers in Lalgarh by the police which provided the grounds for the formation of the PCPA in November 2008. This marked the beginning of a unique and qualitatively distinct people’s movement for jal, jangal and jameen in the entire Jungal Mahal that spread like wildfire.
The fight that ensued and still continues is a struggle between two different orders. While the struggling people are tearing down the vestiges of the old repressive society, they are at the same time laying the foundations of a new one. On one side is the dictates of the neo-liberal agenda facilitated by the state and its agents, while on the other side lies the formidable resistance being launched by the most exploited and impoverished sections of the society-primarily the adivasis. Moving beyond the two struggles of Singur and Nandigram that were a resistance against state repression to defend against corporate takeover of land and livelihood, the Lalgarh movement has opened up new possibilities of a revolutionary social transformation, with its vision for an alternative people-centric development. The movement has unleashed the creative potentials and the initiative of the oppressed people, who were kept subjugated for centuries by the rulers of the land, the latest of them being the social-fascist CPI(M).
This Lalgarh movement has been successful in breaking down the old structures of power, and building in their place people’s institutions which are truly democratic in nature, ensuring the active participation of the masses in resistance. Formation of people’s committees, people’s assemblies, building necessary infrastructure in health and irrigation, creating opportunities for livelihood, distributing land, fighting alcoholism, superstitions and malpractices within the society, are just a few achievements of the Lalgarh movement within a short span of time. It is this vision of a growing alternative people’s power that has threatened the ruling classes and thereby exposed the ideological shadow-boxing of the parliamentary parties (Congress-TMC-CPM). To crush this resistance, they have joined hands against the people and have launched the Joint Operations in Jungal Mahal as elsewhere (in the shape of the Operation Green Hunt). The joint forces have been perpetrating all forms of violence and atrocities in this period.
But the people in Lalgarh over the course of their struggle have used their creative energy to build up an organized structure that has also generated the strength, as we see today, to sustain as well as defend itself in the face of the continuing state repression. On the face of growing state repression, they have organised themselves into people’s militia’s, which is taking on the armed force of the state with traditional weapons. The qualitative leap and the continuing vitality of the heroic Lalgarh movement against all odds prove the invincibility of the people’s struggle and carry forward the revolutionary legacy of Naxalbari.
FASCIST STATE REPRESSION AND PEOPLE"S REVOLUTIONARY RESISTANCE
“In this 15 months of rebellion people have been loosing their limbs, eyes and even lives every now and then. Is it Sonia or Manmohan or Chidambaram or Mamata or Buddadev…who will take the responsibility of this hellish brutality?” –Second Letter by PCPA addressed to APDR, Lalgarh Manch & Intellectuals supporting the Struggle of the People.
Ever since the entry of the Joint Forces in Jungal Mahal, the fighting people were subjected to various forms of atrocities and state terror, indiscriminate arrests, kidnap, rapes, plunders killings and arson of an unprecedented magnitude. This one year of ‘occupation’ has seen a permanent 144 and a rampant militarization in this entire region. And closely toeing the CRPF and the police, this year has also seen the infiltration of the harmads in large numbers. These mercenary brigands have the license to unleash their terror, kill and plunder under the protection of the joint Forces and thereby have full immunity from the law. These state sponsored Harmad camps are vehemently opposed by the local people who demand their immediate disbandment. But, the Joint forces either deny their presence or even grants legal sanction to them. The CPM, the Police Super and DG Bhupinder Singh maintains that the forces are there to establish the rule of law for which the Harmad camps are ‘essential’. In reality the terror unleashed by this nexus of paramilitary and the harmads in order to ‘uphold the rule of law’ has impeded the normal social-cultural-economic life in Jungal Mahal. It has crippled the education system of the children; jeopardized the everyday rituals and festivities or ‘paravs’ of the adivasis; deterred the farmers to attend to their fields in the fear of gun-shots; driven thousands of arsoned villagers into relief camps, and so on. All of these go unreported behind the glitters of the corporate media through an active disinformation campaign.
However, what is most inspiring is that the people of Lalgarh have shown their resolve that they are not prepared to face this state terror lying low. Under the leadership of the PCPA, they are coming out in vibrant rallies protesting against undeclared arrests; random beatings and torture; false cases through branding; harassment of adivasi women; loot of ornaments, money and paddy; occupation of schools and health centers, and other such atrocities. The Joint Forces and the harmads on the other hand are specifically targeting these mass mobilizations with indiscriminate arrests, lathi-charge and even bullets. In order to break the backbone of the struggle the fascist forces are targeting the PCPA leadership and activists. While many of them are being indiscriminately booked under the draconian UAPA as we saw in the case of the PCPA spokesperson Chhatradhar Mahato. Others are being killed in numerous fake encounters as was witnessed in the cold-blooded murder of the PCPA President Lalmohan Tudu. The other tactic being, to arrest villagers through the so called ‘Cordon & Search Operations’ and pressurizing their family members to turn into police-informers. Nonetheless, such brute force and fascist tactics to divide the people have not been able to dampen the spirit of the movement as it surges ahead with every passing day.
“It is not enough today to oppose the practice of dubbing someone Maoist and subjecting them to state terror, it is necessary also to oppose the torture being perpetrated on the Maoists as well as the anti-democratic and anti-constitutional activities of the government. Our organization honours the Constitution of our country. But observe how the Central and State governments themselves flout the Constitution! We demand that whether one is a Gandhibadi or a Maobadi, everyone should be tried before a court according to the constitutional tenets.” –Third Letter by PCPA addressed to APDR, Lalgarh Manch & Intellectuals supporting the Struggle of the People.
BUILDING A PEOPLE’S DEMOCRATIC POWER IN THE FACE OF REPRESSION
One of the most defining aspects of the Lalgarh movement has been the pro-people and participatory alternative model of development that it has successfully practiced from its very inception. During DSU’s visit to Lalgarh in June 2009, we came across numerous such attempts made under the organized leadership of the PCPA with the en-masse participation of the villagers. People were collectively attempting to put an end to the 63 years of historic neglect, underdevelopment and exploitation that the state entailed for them no matter who came to power. We saw initiatives being taken in the field of agriculture and land distribution; irrigation; roads; water, shelter and health; education, culture and social awareness; people’s judiciary; and even environmental issues. But of course, with the commencement of the Joint Operations these people’ initiatives in general, and the health centers in particular, became one of the prime targets of the state forces.
In the last one year, in spite of the relentless paramilitary operations, the PCPA has built up thirty-five health centers all over Jangalmahal and these are being run by its health department. These centers are providing health services and medicine for free to the villagers who earlier had to go 50 km away to Midnapore town for any such needs. The PCPA has also built up a permanent hospital at Chakdoba in Belpahari, a 30 year old demand of the people to which the “leftist” state govt. turned a deaf ear for so long. People from twenty-five nearby villages accelerated the work of this hospital by providing voluntary labour. The Joint forces on the other hand were not willing to tolerate such activities. They closed the health center at Kantapahari, immediately after entering the area. The Joint Forces occupy these centers in the working hours forcing the doctors and their patients to stay away. And alongside, these health centers are being accused of providing treatment to the wounded Maoists and thereby being looted off the medicines. Patients are also being taken as prisoners on the ground of baseless accusations. This is how the state is conspiring to destroy the health facilities and thereby to obliterate the poor people of Jangalmahal. Similarly the development wing of PCPA restored 22 wells within 15 days particularly, in Kalshibhanga and Patree, by bringing people together in a common endeavour. Hundreds of acres of land is being distributed to the landless poor. With the motive to disrupt and destroy these developmental works born of popular initiative, the Joint Forces repeatedly were laying siege on these villages. However, such attempts bring out thousands of villagers to resist such plunderous raids.
The government is falsely accusing through its propaganda machinery that the PCPA is obstructing their development projects. But truth be told, the government had never been bothered about addressing the hardships faced by the people of Jungal Mahal before the movement started, or even after it. And for a fact, no developmental work has ever been opposed by the people at any point of time. The only difference was that with the spread of the movement, the people now started demanding more accountability in the functioning of the local administration that was infested with corruption. Instead of gaining the faith of the people, the state has been targeting the developmental works that the people themselves were introducing. But against all odds, whether the combined attack of the Joint Forces or the marauding raids of the harmads, the persistence of such pro-people initiatives only goes on to testify that the movement has over this one year strengthened itself further among the masses. People are not only looking after their own development here, but alongside are also showing the courage and strength to defend them through whatever means.
“The idea of cooperation flowered in the minds of the people. Thousands of common people are working day after day with common thoughts in mind, towards common goals, and that is strengthening the social bonds among them. However much they try, Chidambaram or Buddha will never be able destroy that bond, neither will they be able to win over the hearts of the people.” –Third Letter by PCPA addressed to APDR, Lalgarh Manch & Intellectuals supporting the Struggle of the People.