Since the late sixties the growth of the Left movement and the CPI (M) has faced severe attacks from the ruling classes. The premature removal of the United Front from office twice in the late sixties by the imposition of the president's rule with blatant abuse of Article 356 is part of the political history, which was primarily aimed to thwart the rising tide of the movement of the workers and peasants. The most significant development during that phase of politics of the state was the unprecedented mobilisation of the landless, marginal and small peasants for land rights. The big land owning elements opposed the United Front government's thrust to identify ceiling surplus land, its vesting and redistribution among the rural poor. The popular struggle to ensure such a direction of the government was spearheaded by the CPI (M) during those troubled times. What is important to note is the decidedly rightist character of the platform, which was forged to oppose the Left and dubbed efforts to ensure agrarian reform as one, which caused ‘law and order’ problem and provoked anarchy.
But it was also clear that such a blatant rightwing thrust of the opposition to check the rising tide of the militant peasant movement was proving to be futile. It is in that context that the ultra-Left movement surfaced in the tiny hamlet of Naxalbari in the Darjeeling district of West Bengal. Later on, as a sequel to the essentially agrarian nature of the protest, it degenerated into largely armed activities of urban groups of youth and students. That these activities were almost exclusively directed against the CPI (M) and the Left was a foregone conclusion given the experience of the ultra Left anywhere in the world. It was also in the background of such a course of development that the 9th Congress of the CPI (M) noted, “…petty-bourgeois adventurism must degenerate into an anti-working class, anti-revolutionary line and its inevitable destiny was to serve the interests of the ruling classes”. Finally, the movement that started with pronouncement of ushering in a `revolutionary transformation' got completely hijacked by the Congress and paved the way for the period of semi-fascist terror of the seventies.
For the last thirty years since the Left Front government has been in office in West Bengal, the Naxalite movement has generally faded into oblivion. The reasons were obvious. What proved decisive in the isolation of the Naxalites was the successful and widespread land reform that was led by the organised Left. This process got statutory backing when the Left Front government came to power. So the combination of socio-economic development, political and ideological interventions by the CPI (M) and the organised Left led to the situation that prevailed in West Bengal during the last three decades.
The reappearance of the sporadic actions of the Maoist Communist Centre (MCC) and the CPI (ML)-(People's War Group) in the beginning of this decade were however not based on any sustained work of the ultra Left in the largely tribal dominated areas of West Medinipur, Bankura and Purulia -loosely referred to as the Jangalmahal. These activities, which again were mostly limited to carrying out ‘hit and run’ armed attacks against the CPI (M) killing its cadre. These activities were carried out with their bases in Jharkhand, which had a long border with these districts. Subsequent to the formation of the CPI (Maoist) these forays increased. But what has really ensured the scaling up of the Maoist activities and violence with CPI (M) as its principal target has been the open support that they have come to enjoy from the Trinamul Congress.
The Trinamul Congress suffered a major electoral drubbing in the 2006 assembly elections. Apart from the positive support of the people to the policies of the Left Front government a major instrumental factor in the electoral outcome was the TMC's association with the BJP which by the time had come to face increasing political isolation following the 2004 Lok Sabha elections. In fact the Left movement in the country based on the strength of the support it enjoyed of the people of West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura against the communal-fascist politics of the saffron brigade and its aggressive neo-liberal promotion of the ‘Shining India’ paradigm contributed largely to the BJP's electoral predicament. The 2006 assembly elections were also an endorsement of the people to the Left Front's call for setting up new industries.
It had become apparent to the Indian ruling classes and particularly to the most die-hard political opponents of the Left -epitomised by the Trinamul Congress -that the Left in West Bengal cannot be undermined by the traditional rightwing platform, which had been repeatedly attempted and failed in the past. Therefore, the need for an image makeover and refashioning the formal thrust of the opposition platform was initiated. The Trinamul Congress rallied some of the fringe Naxalite groups and the SUCI around it on the question of opposition to use of agricultural land per se for setting up industry and infrastructure.
It is this background, which saw many disparate forces coming together for their own reasons to undermine the Left Front government. The CPI (M)'s opposition to the pro-US imperialist shift in our foreign policy provided great impetus to both the forces of imperialism and the domestic ruling elite who preferred such a shift to engage more actively to lend support to this political project of launching a fresh political offensive. These sections were oblivious of the Left wing pretensions and avowed defence of the rights of small and marginal farmers who had come to overwhelmingly own agricultural land in the state. Incidentally, during the Left Front tenure an unprecedented 84 per cent of the cultivable land in the state was under the ownership of the small and marginal farmers. These advocates of neo-liberal globalisation had no confusion about the real nature of the Left sounding verbiage that the Trinamul Congress and its voluble supremo Mamata Banerjee were spitting. They knew right away that the pathological hatred that the Trinamul Congress harboured towards the CPI (M) and the Left can hardly result in anything but ultimately secure the most favourable atmosphere for the Right once the Left could be undermined.
Since the developments in Nandigram, this sinister nexus was becoming increasingly apparent. The methods, which were employed in Nandigram, pointed towards the involvement of political forces, which were unlike the traditional anti-Left forces. The digging up of roads, the blowing up of bridges and the targeted killing of the CPI (M) activists in Nandigram created that situation where the entire area was out of bounds for the administration much before the unfortunate police firing of March 14, 2007. Later on, the Maoists themselves have revealed details about their involvement in Nandigram. In fact, a document of the West Bengal-Jharkhand Committee of the Maoists had pointed out that there is a growing opportunity for them to unite with different anti-Left political forces and forge an ‘all-in unity’ against the CPI (M) which according to them was a `social fascist' force. It is important to note that as is wont with the ultra Left, they did not find it necessary to elaborate economic, social or political factors leading to such a characterisation. The type of ammunitions that were unearthed, the eyewitness accounts of training given to the Trinamul led Bhoomi Uchchhed Pratirodh Committee, the umbrella organization which spearheaded the Nandigram agitation were tell tale signs of Maoist presence. Of course, subsequently, it did not require any formal investigation to establish such a connection. The Maoist leaders themselves, notably Koteswar Rao, alias Kishanji has made that explicit. Claiming the support that the Maoists had provided to the Trinamul in Nandigram they urged a quid pro quo from Mamata Banerjee vis-a-vis Lalgarh and Jangalmahal. That the Maoists were there and continue to have operational contacts is clear from the manner in which Nishikanta Mondal -the Pradhan of Sonachura gram panchayat – the epicentre of the Nandigram agitation was eliminated by the Maoists. Mamata Banerjee and the Trinamul Congress leadership had tried to shift the onus of the assassination of Mondal on the CPI (M). The Maoists came out with a strong rebuttal claiming responsibility for the murder. The Maoists further claimed that elimination of Mondal was the result of his attempt to shrug off the Maoists.
The Maoists have actually rubbished Mamata's claim. In a report published by the Telegraph on November 27, 2009, (which by no means can be faulted for its Left sympathies!)
A statement purportedly by Selim, head of the Maoists’ Nandigram zonal committee, said: “You (Mamata) had said at a rally at Sonachura recently that it was the CPM who brought us to Nandigram in 2007 and provided us with safe passage to flee. You know it was a lie.”
Selim invited the railway minister to an open debate at Sonachura. “If you believe what you said in your speech was a fact, please come to Sonachura and we will prove who is right, you or us.”
The statement also criticized Mamata’s proposal for engaging the army in Lalgarh.
It said: “We appointed Narayan to lead the Nandigram movement against CPM cadres. Trinamul MP Subhendu Adhikary knows how many times Narayan visited Nandigram and how he worked among the people of the area.
“You had delivered a speech from a place in Sonachura after the death of Nishikanta Mandal, the local (Trinamul) gram panchayat Pradhan. It was the same place where Adhikary had shared a stage with Narayan and our state committee member Sukumar to address the people of Nandigram.”
The Maoist leader explained why Mandal was killed by his men: “After Trinamul achieved political success in Nandigram, it wanted to drive us out of the area. Mandal was planning to hand over Narayan to police. He had to pay for his betrayal. We are still active in Nandigram and we will be there in future.”
The Lalgarh episode was sparked off following police actions in the area in the wake of a mine blast which was intended to kill the West Bengal chief minister on 2 November 2008, when he was returning from a programme in Salboni to inaugurate a steel plant. Incidentally there was no agitation on land acquisition in the proposed site of the plant neither was any SEZ proposal involved. The so-called People’s Committee against Police Atrocities (PCAPA) which had been created in the wake of the attempted assassination was not interested in anything else but disallowing the entry of the state administration and the police personnel into the area. Subsequently, it became clear that they were acting as the front of the Maoists demanding withdrawal of cases against the Maoist squad leader Sasadhar Mahato who had carried out the assassination attempt on the West Bengal chief minister.
TRINAMUL CONGRESS AND MAOISTS
The link between the PCAPA and the Trinamul Congress was also clear from the very beginning. The PCAPA spokesperson Chhatradhar Mahato, Sasadhar’s brother, had been a former Trinamul Congress local leader. Trinamul Congress chief Mamata Banerjee and other Trinamul leaders had also attended events organised by the PCAPA in Lalgarh during this phase though these areas were otherwise out of bounds of the administration. Now even the home minister has admitted in the Rajya Sabha (on 2 December) that the PCAPA is “only a front organization to the CPI (Maoist)”.
In February 2009, Mamata Banerjee and other leaders of the Trinamul Congress attended political events of the PCAPA in Kantapahari the Maoist stronghold. The Trinamul Congress refused to accept that the committee was a Maoist front and did their level best to legitimise them as a genuine mouthpiece for `spontaneous unrest' of tribals who were `suffering under the 32 years of Left Front misrule'. The Trinamul Congress has spared no efforts to oppose the joint operation of central and state police in Lalgarh and adjoining areas and call for the withdrawal of those forces. Mamata Banerjee in her inimical style had claimed time and again that the assassination attempt of the chief minister was `stage managed' by the CPI (M) and Maoist presence in Lalgarh and Jangalmahal is a figment of the CPI (M)'s imagination.
But as and how the Maoist involvement in Lalgarh became impossible to deny, the task became all the more onerous given the overall stand of the central government on the Maoist question highlighted by the prime minister's observation `Maoist violence is the single largest threat to the country's internal security'. Meanwhile, the Maoist leadership was also making it impossible for Trinamul and Mamata to deny the complicity. Kishanji on 4 October 2009 clearly stated that Mamata was their preferred choice for becoming the next chief minister of the state. Of course, the Maoist leader Kishanji justified that with weird argument that Mamata being an all important individual with the sole proprietorship of her party – could be manipulated in favour of the people and insulated from the overall ruling class policy framework. The Maoists are real dreamers! They can bring themselves to ignore the fact that Trinamul Congress is a part of the central government which pursues a pro-imperialist neo-liberal policy. But on the other hand Kisanji's claims to Ananda Bazar Patrika- the spearhead of the media offensive against the Left-underlines the danger that democracy and the people face from such an obnoxious combination.
Undeterred by the failure of Trinamul and Mamata to call off the joint operation, Maoists have time and again repeated their pleas – at times even assuming a cajoling tone to pursue their goal. The Trinamul Congress of course has repeated its opposition to the joint operation and Trinamul leaders not only at the grass root level but also central ministers and other leading functionaries have visited Lalgarh to provide with specific assurances for operational support. The infiltration of Trinamul ranks by Maoist elements is a fact which has been confirmed by security experts and also substantiated by official intelligence received by both the central and the state governments.
Instances of Trinamul-Maoist nexus are almost unlimited. But the most explicit of these was played out around the siege of Bhubaneswar Rajdhani Express near Jhargram. That the siege was the handiwork of the Maoists was apparent from the very outset given the demands of those who perpetrated this crime. Neatly scribbled demand for the release of Chatradhar Mahato who had admitted that he was appointed the spokesman for the PCAPA by the Maoist operatives was a clear proof of the Maoist involvement. In fact the Maoists have given call for bandhs in the area demanding his release. But the railway minister refused to accept the truth and tried initially to blame it on the CPI (M). Later, the railway FIR did not even mention the Maoists.
The unsatiable thirst for power has landed the Trinamul Congress and its supremo in the company of all kinds of forces who are inimical to the interests of the people, democracy and development. This has happened in the past as well. Otherwise, how can one forget the ganging up with the BJP-- from the very day the Trinamul was born. Today, it seems that notwithstanding the broad political consensus in the country over the disastrous course that the Maoists have embarked upon – the Trinamul Congress and its leader is acting as if they are in siege. This sinister political course has to be defeated. Peace, democracy and people's welfare face an unprecedented challenge in West Bengal. It is a challenge, which does not only affect the Left. For all patriots and well-meaning people it calls for action. The central government also has a responsibility. The lessons of the Bhindranwale phenomenon cannot be lost on us.