Celebration of Resistance through Football

June 21, 2010


No one can escape the football fever right now — not even the Maoists cocooned inside the forests of West Bengal.

While the World Cup is going on in South Africa, a tribal group with close links to the outlawed Communist Party of India-Maoist held a daylong tournament in parts of West Midnapore district on Friday. Teams comprising members from nearly 50 villages in Jangalmahal area participated, cheered on by hundreds of villagers.

The tournament was meant as a public defiance of state authority, taking place on the anniversary of central and state security forces launching a joint anti-Maoist campaign in West Bengal. It also flouted section 144 of IPCC imposed in the area, banning the assembly of five or more persons.

“It’s a celebration of resistance,” said Gopal Pratihar, a central committee member of the People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCAPA), which organised the contest.

“For the past one year, the people of Jangalmahal have been bravely fighting the onslaught of the combined forces and the CPI-M goons,” he said, referring to the Communist Party of India-Marxist, which heads the ruling coalition in West Bengal.

Eight teams participated at Bandhgeria, 10 teams at Kalsivanga and 16 at Rameswarpur. Each match was 25 minutes long, with players trying get the ball into goal posts made of bamboo poles.

Barefoot youngsters hit the grounds early in the morning. Microphones were kept at low volumes to avoid a raid.

For some, the event wasn’t about making a political point but simple, sporting fun. “The tournament was a huge entertainment for us,” said a class XI student of Satpati High School. “In this ambience of war, it was a rare chance to rejoice.”