Statements from CPIML(Liberation), PUDR, Chhatradhar Mahato, Kannabiran, Delhi intellectuals, Protibadi Udyog, Lok Morcha Punjab on Lalgarh and ban on CPI(Maoist)


Statement from CPIML(Liberation) on Lalgarh – June 24, 2009
Statement from PUDR on banning of CPI(Maoist) – June 25, 2009
Statement from Chhatradhar Mahato – June 21, 2009
Statement from PUCL president Kannabiran on Lalgarh – June 25, 2009
Statement from a group of Delhi intellectuals on Lalgarh – June 19, 2009
Statement from Protibadi Udyog, Mazdoor Mukti Committee, Radical Socialist, Sramajeevi Samiti, and Prosit Das, Jogin, Kaustav De, P.R. Ghosh – July 2, 2009
Statement from Lok Morcha Punjab on State offensive in Lalgarh – June 26, 2009

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Statement from CPIML(Liberation) on Lalgarh

June 24, 2009

A concerted paramilitary campaign is now underway in Lalgarh and surrounding areas in the tribal-dominated western region of West Bengal bordering Jharkhand and Orissa, ostensibly to flush out Maoists and restore the authority of the state. The campaign though being carried out by the state government is being actively guided and sponsored by the Union Home Ministry. The Union Home Minister has warned that the operation may take longer than expected and has appealed to political leaders and civil society organizations not to visit Lalgarh while the operation is on. Mamata Banerjee has called for declaring the three districts of West Medinipur, Bankura and Purulia a disturbed area. The Union Home Ministry has meanwhile included the CPI(Maoist) in the list of unlawful associations under the recently amended Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

Chidambaram’s appeal against civilian visits to Lalgarh, coming apparently after a group of Left Front MPs wrote to the Prime Minister seeking his personal intervention to this effect, clearly shows that the government wants to keep the operation beyond the purview of public scrutiny. This is as good as an indirect admission about the real nature and purpose of Operation Lalgarh – a brutal war on the adivasis who had been offering such a determined resistance to state repression. In the absence of independent investigations, the actual extent of casualties and injuries inflicted by the ongoing operation is not really known. But hundreds of people have already been forced to flee and there are disturbing reports that the paramilitary forces are forcing local adivasi youth under duress to locate mines and explosives – under threat that they will be arrested as ‘Maoists’ if they refuse.

Lalgarh had first shot into national prominence in November last year when the local adivasis in their thousands revolted against police atrocities following an unsuccessful Maoist mine attack targeting the Chief Minister’s cavalcade. The resistance has since continued unabated and during the recent elections the state had to negotiate with the People’s Committee against Police Atrocities (PCAPA) which is spearheading the resistance, for setting up polling booths outside the resistance area. The state was obviously waiting for an opportune moment and pretext to go for a crackdown. The opportunity came when Lalgarh recently erupted again against provocations by local CPI(M) leaders and Maoists made tall claims regarding their leading role in the Lalgarh resistance and dared the state to intervene.

At the heart of it, Lalgarh is a typical adivasi revolt against repression and injustice. The entire history of our anti-colonial struggle is replete with many such instances and the Indian state today has no problem recognizing the leaders of those revolts as popular heroes. In the eyes of the oppressed and deprived tribal people the Indian state in all these years has not really changed much and retains many of the colonial era trappings of utter insensitivity and unbridled brutality. But when the inheritors of Birsa Munda, Sidho-Kanu and Tilka Manjhi revolt against this contemporary reality, our post-colonial democratic system knows no other way but to declare a virtual war on these seekers of justice. It should be noted that the allegations of police atrocities made by the PCAPA have been found to be true by a senior official of the West Bengal government (Backward Classes Welfare Secretary RD Meena) but instead of taking adequate corrective measures as demanded by the PCAPA the state government has only announced meagre compensation of only a few thousand rupees to the eleven women victims of police repression!

For the UPA government and its belligerent Home Minister who managed to win the recent election by administratively converting defeat into victory, Lalgarh is a test case to unleash a new pattern of governance in which paramilitary forces will become the custodian of constitutional niceties. There is also the larger political gameplan to trap the ruling Left of West Bengal in an increasingly repressive role while the Congress plays the benefactor and monopolises the mask of welfare measures!

For the people of West Bengal, Operation Lalgarh is a political eye-opener. During the recent elections, Mamata Banerjee claimed to champion the cause of the struggles in Singur, Nandigram and Lalgarh and the TMC-Congress combined reaped a bumper electoral harvest. Elections over, it is now time to thank the people and what could be a more suitable gift than Operation Lalgarh! Mamata Banerjee now says that the TMC expelled the PCAPA chief Chhatradhar Mahato two years ago when it came to know about his Maoist link! Chhatradhar says he was never expelled but quit the TMC when he found it incapable of meeting the tribals’ needs. He then recalls how following the killing of three PCAPA members in police firing in February, Mamata Banerjee had visited Jangalmahal, shed tears and said, ‘If these people are Maoists, then I too am a Maoist.’ “We never doubted her sincerity then”, says Chhatradhar. But he realizes that the circumstances have now changed: “after the elections, the same Mamata Banerjee got a Cabinet post, joined the government at the Centre, which in turn sent paramilitary forces to Lalgarh. Therefore, it is quite natural for Banerjee now to link me with the Maoists.”

It is also important to look at the doublespeak of the CPI(M) leadership. Prakash Karat says the Maoists need to be politically isolated from the people they are mobilizing even as Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee demands more central forces and Sitaram Yechuty asks the Prime Minister to demonstrate his seriousness in tackling what his government claims to be the biggest threat to internal security! On the one hand, the government spearheads a paramilitary operation, and the MPs seek personal intervention of the Prime Minister to prevent political leaders from visiting the operation area, and on the other hand the party talks of fighting a political battle against Maoists! If the CPI(M) thinks that all this can be justified by invoking the party-government distinction and that the Centre-state or Congress-CPI(M) cooperation in ‘restoring the authority of the state’ in Lalgarh could help check the TMC’s advance, it is only deceiving itself.

As for the Maoists, they have only once again demonstrated the incompatibility of their ideas and actions with the needs of any radical people’s movement. With their penchant for exclusive and sensational military actions and aversion to the mass political process, they ultimately only produce a dampening and disruptive effect on any powerful people’s movement while letting the Mamata Banerjees reap the political benefit of people’s struggles and sacrifices.

We join the democratic opinion of the country and the justice-loving people of Lalgarh to demand an immediate end to the paramilitary offensive, withdrawal of paramilitary forces and a negotiated resolution of the conflict through fulfillment of the just demands of the Lalgarh people and quick redressal of all their long-standing grievances. We also do not support the idea of banning the CPI(Maoist) as a terrorist organization. The Maoists are anyway an underground organization and the experience of states like Chhattisgarh and Orissa where they have been banned for years clearly shows that the ban has been ineffective from the point of view of checking Maoist military actions. The ban is actually a weapon to terrorise the common people and stifle the democratic voice of protest. The case of Dr. Binayak Sen is a clear instance and for every Binayak Sen case that comes to the limelight, there are always hundreds of lesser known activists and ordinary men and women whose human rights continue to be brutally trampled upon.

Victory to Lalgarh’s glorious battle for dignity and justice!

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Statement from PUDR on banning of CPI(Maoist)

In 2004, when the Congress led UPA government came to power it repealed the POTA, which it admitted had been grossly misused. It simultaneously amended an existing law, the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act 1967 (UAPA), siphoning into it some of extraordinary provisions of POTA, including those pertaining to banning of terrorist organizations. The conditions of banning under the amended Act no longer require a statement to explain the reasons of issuing a ban, a gazette notification merely adding an entry to the Schedule of the Act is sufficient, and there do not exist any provision for judicial redress.

On 22 June 2009, the CPI (Maoist) was added to the list of banned organizations in the Schedule of the UAPA. The Home Minister has claimed that the notification banning the organization was made necessary to remove ambivalences. Indeed, the CPI (M-L), PWG, and the MCC, which later merged to form the CPI (Maoist), were banned organizations since 5 December 2001. Apart from the futility of banning, the notification shows the total disregard the government continues to have towards people’s movements around issues of livelihood, dispossession and alienation that have accumulated and aggravated over the last several years of the unleashing of neo-liberal policies on unsuspecting tribal populations and the rural poor.

It is indeed ironical that a month back, this government had claimed to have returned to power on the weight of its social policy programmes. The politics of banning is indeed reflective of a regime which despite its electoral victory, has but a truncated social base. Banning the CPI (Maoist), is therefore, not just arbitrary, it shows that the UPA government has lost the political courage to address the substantive issues of land and livelihood that the adivasis have been raising across the country in Chhattisgarh, Orissa or West Bengal. While banning itself is undemocratic and constrains the ideological spaces of freedom, in this case, it seems to also send across the message that like the government of any authoritarian state, this government too would prefer to use the law to suppress dissent violently. Much has been made of Maoist violence in the press. Without condoning this violence, PUDR would ask the Home Minister to note the extremely debilitating socio-economic contexts which has precipitated the adivasi movements in the country, and use the electoral mandate it has received to direct attention where it is required most, and in a way which is conducive to democracy through long term social programmes addressing issues of economic disparity.

Moushumi Basu
Gautam Navlakha

Secretaries
PUDR

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Statement from Chhatradhar Mahato

June 21, 2009

http://ishare.rediff.com/video/news-and-politics/chhtradhar-mahato-speaks-on-lalgarh-crisis/636111

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PUCL president Kannabiran on Lalgarh

June 25, 2009

President of People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) KG Kannabiran has come down heavily on the West Bengal Government as well as the Centre for unleashing a wave of repression against the people living in Lalgarh. In a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the PUCL president said that there were complaints against the CPM’s vigilante motorcycle riders who had become a law unto themselves after Jindals were given land for setting up an SEZ. He took objection to the Centre deploying Army, which cannot differentiate between common people and the ultras, to deal with the Maoists and to quell a constitutionally valid right. “Maoist intervention or for that matter any political intervention on account of the failure of the successive governments to perform their fundamental obligations could not be considered an act of terrorism and justify invocation of draconian laws,” Kannabiran said. He pointed out that to consider any political movement as a problem is obnoxious, particularly when it is persisting for over four decades.

Banning an organistion or killing its members in “encounters” had never provided the answer to a problem, he said and urged the Prime Minister not to tread this punitive course of action. Kannabiran wanted the Prime Minister to “to fix certain economic and social goals for immediate attainment of non-violent revolution and any resistence to these demands would only complicate the problem”. He said that he was not against any peace talks and the State could call the Maoists to suspend armed violence by staying all moves by the Army and para-military forces and withdrawing Cobras and other intelligence agencies from all States. The Prime Minister could ask the Maoists to come forward with their demands on issues affecting the people in the areas like Singur, Nandigram and Lalgarh assuring immunity to them at least for a period of four weeks initially, he suggested.

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Statement from a group of Delhi intellectuals on Lalgarh

June 19, 2009

We are profoundly disturbed by the massive Central and state armed police operation in Lalgarh-Jangalmahal in West Bengal. This was launched without exploring a negotiated settlement of genuine popular grievances and by blurring the crucial distinction between violent Maoists and peace-minded civilians. The operation is taking an unacceptable toll of civilian life and safety in an extremely backward area with sub-human living conditions and absence of public services and social opportunity worsened by unremitting police atrocities.

We deplore the reckless, self-serving violence of the Maoists, who have exploited West Bengal’s post-election chaos by using deprived and angry tribals as pawns and by brutally attacking CPM cadres and offices. This cannot be rationalised as just retaliation against the violence unleashed by the CPM over the years. The two kinds of violence only feed and aggravate each other.

Some self-proclaimed leaders have appeared, claiming to represent the People’s Committee against Police Atrocities (PCPA), who openly preach violence and murder. Their actions can only invite more state repression. Deplorably, the media has equated the Maoists with the PCPA, which has conducted a democratic and peaceful struggle among tribals for dignity and security, and against state excesses.

We urge the state Governor, respected for his integrity, understanding and compassion, to take an initiative to bring about a complete cessation of violence and open a dialogue on the people’s concerns highlighted by the PCPA, by using responsible civil society groups as mediators. Preventing a bloodbath remains the greatest imperative today.

Sumit Sarkar, Achin Vanaik, Tanika Sarkar, Sumit Chakravartty and Praful Bidwai

New Delhi

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Statement from Protibadi Udyog, Mazdoor Mukti Committee, Radical Socialist, Sramajeevi Samiti, and Prosit Das, Jogin, Kaustav De, P.R. Ghosh

July 2, 2009

Lalgarh is invaded. Lalgarh is bloody! In the name of stopping Maoist activities, the combined forces acting on behalf of the Indian state have declared war on the people with such alacrity, and have established a nightmare of terrorism in village after village, that words fail us in our attempt to condemn them.

We believe that in the name of tackling the Maoists, the government is seeking to negate the legitimate demands of the Lalgarh movement, and at the same time to annihilate that movement and its leading organization, the Peoples’ Committee Against Police Atrocities (Pulisi Sontras Birodhi Janaganer Committee). In this context, we want to remind the government that for the so-called “decline of the law and order situation” in Lalgarh, the state and the central governments are both responsible. The people of that region have been compelled to take the path of protest and resistance because of the long years of ill-treatment, exploitation as well as the recent spate of police tortures.

Had the least alacrity comparable to that which is being displayed to establish the “rule of Law” been shown in improving the quality of life of the people of Lalgarh, then there would have been no question of civil disobedience. The immense funds that are going today to discipline insubordinate masses, had they been spent in order to supply drinking water, water for irrigation, or to set up primary schools or health centres in the Lalgarh area, then people would not have been compelled to engage in a rebellion as they have done today, and the “cause” of unleashing the current ferocious military operation would not have arisen. If the billions of rupees that are wasted in order to provide security for ministers, bureaucrats and members of parliament had instead been spent in order to provide minimum comfort for the masses of common people, then the security of the bigwigs would not have been disturbed at all.

While the basic security needs of the people of India today call for food, clothing and housing for all, the Prime Minister of the country declares (and all the parliamentary parties lend their voices to the chorus) that the Maoists are the principal security threat. This lays bare their mentality, and the nature of will and sincerity behind their plans.

We demand the revocation of the ban on the CPI(Maoist) by the Union Government. We simultaneously demand that the state government must not apply the ban order. We also oppose the demand being made from certain quarters, including the Trinamool congress, that the concerned area should be declared a “Disturbed area”. We believe such authoritarian steps will restrict the scope of democracy and further complicate the situation, while easing the path of establishing the reign of the police over the broad masses.

Alongside this, we declare unhesitatingly that we can in no way approve of certain types of incidents being caused by the Maoists in the name of estasblishing the right of the people or waging the peoples’ emancipatory struggles – deeds such as the killing of individuals, passing “death penalties” through, or in the name of, peoples’ courts, causing landmine explosions, killing, beating up members and sympathizers of opponent political parties and threatening or terrorising their family members, obtaining bonds from them, and so on. In our opinion, such activities give rise to an anti-democratic political culture, thy trample underfoot human feelings, harm the possibility of widest mobilizations for the peoples’ legitimate struggles, lower reliance on the people’s own fighting power, and at the same time they hand over to the state power an excuse to repress the legitimate struggles of the people. All this has indeed happened this time.

With grave concern, we have noted that though the PCAPA has repeatedly announced that it is not a Maoist organization and that it does not acknowledge responsibility for the activities of the Maoists, still the PCAPA leadership has failed to fully dissociate itself from such activities. In a few cases, referring to the plea of “peoples’ anger”, they have protected such activities. While expressing our solidarity with the Lalgarh movement, we appeal to the PCAPA to reconsider this issue.

At the end, we demand from the government that it must move away from its strategy of repressing mass struggles and silencing the language of anger and resistance by the power of its guns. At the same time, we demand that the government must respect the anger and the spirit of protest of the people of the region, sit down to negotiate with all concerned forces including their representative organizations, and accept their legitimate demands.

We appeal to the people to join protests and resistance campaigns against the barbaric muscle-flexing by the state against the fighting people. Let us unite to demand:

Immediately halt the military expedition to Lalgarh
Stop repression and harassment in the villages on all the people, including women and children
Accept the legitimate demands of the people of Lalgarh area
Negotiate with the Peoples’ Committee Against Police Atrocities
Rescind the ban on the CPI (Maoist)
Unconditionally release all those arrested on the charge of, or suspected of, being Maoists
Make public the amount of public money squandered by the state in the Operation Lalgarh

Protibadi Udyog (Protest Initiative) is a united front organization functioning for nearly ten years both in local issues and over anti-globalisation struggles. Indian members of the Fourth international were closely involved in setting it up. Mazdoor Mukti Committee (Committee for the Self Emancipation of the Working Class) is an anti-Stalinist revolutionary organization functioning for nearly three decades in West Bengal. Radical Socialist is a small effort at regrouping Trotskyist and other anti-Stalinist revolutionary Marxist activists in India. Sramajeevi Samiti is a small anti-Stalinist organization, coming out of the Revolutionary Socialist Party. The individual signatories have all been active in the radical milieu and were involved in Lalgarh solidarity work.

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Statement from Lok Morcha Punjab on State offensive in Lalgarh

June 26, 2009

Lok Morcha Punjab, strongly condemns the repression unleashed by the Indian State on the struggling people of Lalgarh and has called upon the people of Punjab to raise their voice against it.

The tribals of Lalgarh are fighting a glorious struggle to protect their lands, forests, natural resources, culture, lives, liberty & honor. After the land-mine blast on the caravan of West Bengal C.M. Budhdeb Bhattacharya and the then Union Steel & Mines Minister Ram Vilas Paswan, in November 2008, the West Bengal police launched a massive combing operation in the Lalgarh area, conducting mid-night raids; beating up, assaulting and dishonoring women & children, illegally detaining & torturing them in police camps. The tribals refused to take it lying down and took to the path of struggle against these repressive measures by organizing themselves in Committees for Resisting Police Repression, in numerous villages. They held massive Dharnas and protest sieges before the police-camps and decided to socially boycott those police officials who perpetuated cruelties upon them. There was absolutely nothing “Maoist” in their 11-point charter of demands, which included public apology by policemen responsible for torturing & humiliating the people; an end to mid-night police raids; release of innocent persons detained without trial since 1998 on the suspicion of being ‘Maoists’; removal of all police camps from various schools, hospitals & other public buildings in the area; & compensation to the victims of police brutalities, etc.

Although the authorities conceded these demands and promised to initiate action to implement these, but this announcement was a clever ploy to buy time. Shortly afterwards, the police raids restarted with increased vigor; police repression on the innocent people intensified & the police camps were re-established. Two leaders of the Committee for Resisting Police Repression, namely Nirmal Sardar & Hemadri Mahato were brutally murdered. CPI (M) goons are enacting a different type of ‘Salwa Judam’, openly firing upon struggling tribals, killing & maiming many people.

Now a full scale offensive with a contingent of more than 5000 armed personnel is underway. Indian state is trying to overawe & crush simple tribal folks, by massive deployment of its security forces, armed with ultra-modern & sophisticated weapons, under the garb of flushing out the ‘Maoists’.

The Santhal tribals of Lalgarh have been deprived of the basic necessities of life, since decades. There is no electricity, irrigation facilities, motorable roads etc. Facilities for education, health care, safe drinking water etc are scarce. For the last more than 5 years, the few existing school, hospital & other public buildings have been occupied by the security forces. Funds provided under various ‘development schemes’ such as NREGA, Indira Awas Yojna etc are cornered by Marxist-controlled Panchayats to benefit their own cadres. The Public Distribution System is being used for illegal enrichment of Depot Holders, who are members or sympathizers of CPI (M) & corrupt officials. Now in the name of establishing Special Economic Zones, a wave of dispossession of tribal from their lands & forests has started to facilitate their exploitation by MNCs & their Indian agents. The CPI (M) which has remained entrenched in the Writers Building for more than three days on the strength of tribal votes has done nothing to ameliorate their lot. Rather it has worsened further due to anti-people neo-liberal policies being pursued by the West Bengal & Central Govts.

With the present armed offensive & extreme violent repression, the State may lull the movement temporarily. But the democratic revolutionary aspirations of Lalgarh people can not be crushed. The movement will rebound with great vigor and increased strength, winning support & solidarity from the struggling people throughout India.

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