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The Lalgarh Movement, the PCAPA and the CPI (Maoist)

Kushal Debnath

 

The vast areas of Jangal Mahal including Lalgarh have been in the grip of unbridled state terror for the last few months. There is a total ban on any meeting or rally. The media persons also are debarred from entering into those areas. Three villagers were brutally killed by the joint forces on 2nd January last. In the name of arresting the Maoists, witch-hunting is going on in various villages. Very recently a meeting was taking place in the premises of Bulanpur High School organized by a newly formed platform of the peasants called 衳hi Banchao CommitteeԨe purpose of the meeting was to put forward some demands of the peasants. The Joint Forces encircled the meeting and carried on an inhuman torture on the peasants. Chhatradhar Mahato, the leader of the Peopleïmmittee against Police Atrocities (PCAPA), arrested under UAPA was served with the charge-sheet within an astonishingly short time. A few days ago the Joint Forces arrested two members of the PCAPA, but they were not produced in the court. It is suspected that they were killed in cold blood. It can be said, in brief, that the Left Front government, aided by the Congress-led central government has unleashed an unprecedented state-terror in Jangal Mahal (including Lalgarh) to crush the resistance struggle that has been developing in the area for a year.

 

But still the protests and the resistance are continuing in multifarious forms. The entire Communist Revolutionary camp, too, is busy analyzing the role of the PCAPA as well as the CPI (Maoist) in this movement. The debates and discussions centering round the evaluation of this movement are giving rise to new thoughts and ideas. The communist revolutionary forces are being compelled to take some position vis-à­¶is this unique movement of West Bengal. In this article we, on our part, will try to do the same. But definitely our appraisal of the movement will be of primary nature and incomplete, too, for the movement is still going on. We are giving our assessment of the movement on the basis of the information we have been able to gather and the evaluation of the movement of the CPI (Maoist) that we have got in their writings.

 

The Lalgarh Movement and the PCAPA

 

There was a land-mine blast in Salboni on 2nd November 2008 when Mr. Buddhadev Bhattacharya, the Chief Minister of West Bengal was returning from there laying the foundation stone of the Steel-factory of the Jindals. Following this incident a terrible police repression started taking place in the entire area. Chintamani Murmu, a tribal woman, lost her eyesight and fourteen other women including Panmoni Murmu and Anjamani Murmu were severely injured. These incidents gave birth to widespread reaction in the whole area. From 7th November, 2008 the struggle, without a parallel in the recent history of mass-movement in West Bengal started. The tribals in thousands rallies behind this resistance struggle, from Midnapore to Bankura, Purulia, and even to some fringes of Hooghly district. The movement took various forms like blockade of roads by tree-trunks, digging of roads, to debar the police from entering the villages, or to boycott them altogether, to snap the telecommunication lines and to organize very big rallies. That ೩ngle spark can start a prairie fire硳 once again proved in the heart of West Bengal. At the very outset an organization named 衲at Jakat Majhi Maroa硳 in the leadership of this movement, but it retreated in a few days owing to its compromising attitude. As we have seen in history, the need of the movements gives birth to the appropriate organization of the movement. On 8th November 2008 the PCAPA was formed. 13 Point Charter of demands was prepared, focussing two of them as the main viz. i) The SP must have to apologize for his misdeeds, ii) The police who tortured the women must have to rub their nose on he ground as a mark of punishment.

Other demands included:

 

  1. a) Alchiki script of the Santhali language has to be introduced as a medium of education from the primary to the university level from the academic year 2009-2010. b) Irrigation and drinking water has to be provided to the villagers gratis. c) Land has to be distributed among the poor and the landless peasants. d) 100 days work has to be ensured for those able to work. e) Primary schools and health centres have to be established in each village and Panchayat respectively, etc. Along with the demands, village committees also were formed, comprising 5 men and 5 women in each of them. Village centres consisting of ten villages were formed as well. The PCAPA comprised 35 members, 23 of them being men and 12 others being women. The democratic character of this organization evolved from the grass-roots level helped this struggle to extend far and wide. Although a local struggle, it exercised a deep influence among the people of the whole state. The movement put forward a simple question: if the police, è¥ saviourï¦ the State can oppress the people in such a barbaric manner, why would the police not apologize for this? On the other hand, there were social and economic demands that mobilized innumerable people around the movement. As we have stated before, the PCAPA showed extreme ingenuity and creativity in developing new forms of movements. This committee showed extraordinary skill in using every form of movement that a peopleà­¯vement can call for. Naturally, therefore, this struggle was able to create turmoil in the entire country. This much for the first phase of the movement.

 

There is a popular notion about the genesis of the Lalgarh movement and that is that this movement could develop mainly because of the underdevelopment of this region. And there would have been no Lalgarh movement if the question of underdevelopment could have been solved or at least a process could have been initiated to that end. This attitude belittles the importance of the Lalgarh movement. Most of the regions of West Bengal are victims of underdevelopment. But Lalgarh type of movement is nowhere to be found. The people of Jangal Mahal have organized themselves against the atrocities perpetrated by the state as well as for the protection of their sense of dignity and their rights. It is true that had there been no question of underdevelopment, i.e., the question of food, clothing, medical aid etc. the material basis of the movement would not exist. Apart from these problems, the social isolation and similar other highly sensitive factors also constituted the basis of this movement.

 

The Lalgarh movement has assumed great importance for another reason. The struggle of Singur and Nandigram has helped to do away with the long-standing drought of peopleà­¯vement in West Bengal. One-party rule of CPI (M) weighed heavily on its people. These movements undermined the very foundation of this autocratic rule and an atmosphere of protests started prevailing throughout West Bengal. But what is important to note is that after a phase of the movement had passed, the dominance of CPI (M) was only replaced by that of Trinamool Congress. Land acquisition in Nandigram, carried on under SEZ Act was stopped by the West Bengal government under pressure of the movement, but with this the struggle came to an end. The people of Nandigram or the èµ­i Uchhed Pratirodh Committeeá²¥ no more in need of raising the demand of repealing SEZ Act. Trinamool Congress has undoubtedly established its sway over the area. Almost all the parliamentary parties in our country are very adept at utilizing the mass movements as a means of attaining power. After having done that, they lose no time in protecting all the reactionary Acts existing in the country. During the movements of Nandigram and Singur the Trinamool Congress in a way raised the demand of cancellation of SEZ Act. But as soon as the party joined the UPA government, the demand was put to an end. In this backdrop the movement of Lalgarh and of Jangal Mahal as a whole has played an exceptional role. Till date, no parliamentary party representing the reactionary ruling classes has been able to utilize this movement to their own interest. It is, therefore, quite natural that the Central and the State governments, the Congress, the Trinamool Congress and the CPI (M) have been opposing this movement with all their might. There may have differences among them so far as the forms of opposition are concerned; but in content all of them are the same.

The following are, in brief, the main points of our primary evaluation of the Lalgarh movement.

 

(a)Ô¨is struggle has essentially developed in course of a staunch opposition to the autocratic onslaughts of the government.

(b)䨩s struggle has built up the organizations of struggle after its own style, in conformity with the needs of the struggle.

(c)ǯing to deal with the attacks of the police and the Harmads of the CPI (M) this movement has evolved various forms of people୯vement and utilized them very effectively.

(d)䨩s movement has laid bare at least partially, the undemocratic character of the Indian government. It has also unmasked the real character of the ruling parties. This movement has clearly revealed how a reactionary government can unleash terrible oppression on the most downtrodden tribal people.

(e)䨩s movement has shown a great awakening of the women folk. They have not only played the role of mere participants, but they have surged forward in the role of leadership.

(f)Ô¨is movement has taken up various social initiatives. e.g. to run alternative health centres, sinking of tubewells in the villages, conducting movement against drinking of liquor, and also against the Sponge iron factories, the source of acute pollution.

On the contrary, the PCAPA has adopted many measures in their movement that were not at all helpful for them. Some of them are as follows:

 

(a) This organization that developed in a democratic process and involved innumerable people, in the later phase imposed a blanket ban on other political parties, excepting, of course, the CPI (Maoist). This step went against the very spirit of the movement. Considering the fact that Lalgarh was never declared a liberated zone and that the PCAPA was conducting just a democratic peopleà­¯vement, why such extreme step as necessary? We are not speaking here about the reactionary ruling class parties. Our question is why even some anti-imperialist anti-feudal parties and some vacillating political forces, too, were not allowed to operate?

 

(b) Although the movement has explored various forms of mass movement, the leaders of the movement hardly explained the rationale of the indiscriminate individual killings and their relation with the mass movement.

 

(c) Many of the punitive measures adopted against the CPI (M) cadres did not call forth the support of the people.

 

The Lalgarh Movement and the role of the CPI (Maoist)

 

If our scope of writing had remained confined to the role of the PCAPA vis-à­¶is the Lalgarh movement, we would have stopped here. But we think without a discussion on the role of the CPI (Maoist) in this movement no evaluation is possible.

 

Before the present phase of Lalgarh movement broke out, there were activities of the CPI (Maoist) in that region. The party played an important role in inspiring the PCAPA to lead the movement, although it should be admitted that the initial revolt in Lalgarh was mainly spontaneous. Subsequently the party started controlling the movement fully. It is at the time of setting the house of Anuj Pandey, the CPI (M) leader, on fire that the Maoist leader Bikash appeared on the scene. It was at this time that the CPI (Maoist) declared that it was the party that was exercising the leadership. At this juncture the Joint Forces started its campaign and the role of the PCAPA leadership started to diminish. Kishanji assumed the supreme leadership and what happened from then on is known to all of us. We shall cite some excerpts from an interview of Com. Ganapati, the General Secretary of the party to understand its appraisal of the movement. In that interview given to Rahul Panditia, Com Ganapati said, è¥ Lalgarh mass uprising has no doubt raised new hopes among the oppressed people and the entire revolutionary camp of West BengalÈ¥ further states, è¥ upsurge was beyond our expectation. In fact, it was the common people with the assistance of advanced elements influenced by revolutionary politics who played a crucial role in the formation of tactics. They formed their own organization, put forth their charter of demands, worked out various mass forms of struggle despite the brutal attacks of the police and social fascist Harmad gangs.㯭. Ganapati continues to say, è¥ course of the development of the movement, of course, will depend on the level of consciousness and preparedness of the people of the region. The party will take this into consideration while formulating its tactics. The initiative of the masses will be released fully.楲y pertinently he has informed us, ᬧarh also has some distinctive features such as high degree of participation of women, a genuinely democratic charter and a wider mobilization of Adivasis.ï³°an>

 

We hardly find any wide difference of opinion with what Com. Ganapati says regarding the Lalgarh movement. But when the CPI (Maoist) declared that it was the party that was giving leadership to the movement and following that, the features that the movement started manifesting in the society drove a wedge between our perceptions of the movement. Com Ganapati says, 襹 formed their own organization.ﲬ è¥ course of the development of movement of course, will depend on the level of consciousness and preparedness of the people of the region.âµ´ in reality what transpired was that a movement that had a revolutionary mass character, where people were building up their own organization, preparing their own charter of demands, creating new possibilities in developing class-struggle, was replaced by what can be loosely termed armed warfare. We know that CPI (Maoist) believes that the present phase of class struggle is one of war and considers the mobile guerrilla warfare as the principal form of the struggle. As a result, basing on that concept, the party took the initiative to convert the whole movement into an armed warfare. The PCAPA started losing its effectiveness. The role of the PLGA became more important than peopleà©®itiative. To determine the tactics of the movement in accordance with the level of consciousness and preparedness of the people was thus annulled. It is, therefore, evident that what Com. Ganapati said does not tally with the general line of the party. Com Ganapati says, è¥ upsurge was beyond our expectation.é¦ it is a fact, the task was first to evaluate the prospects that the Lalgarh movement created and then to determine how this movement could be raised to a higher phase. In an endeavour to implement the line of the organization rather mechanically, the movement got confined in a small region and failed to create an impact on a larger political arena. Com. Ganapati says, è¥ Lalgarh mass uprising has no doubt raised new hopes among the oppressed people and the entire revolutionary camp in West Bengal. If it is true, why instead of continuing, consolidating and spreading this mass movement to newer and newer areas, the guerrilla warfare was made the principal form of struggle? Is the social polarization getting more and more intensified under the influence of Lalgarh? Is the revolutionary programme of the movement and differentiation between the friends and the enemies being clearer and clearer to the people? Admitted that in a country where the development is uneven, it will not happen in an even manner, but can we not expect its partial occurrence? Had the embarking on an armed struggle been the appropriate step, the solidarity movements and independent political movements of the workers, peasants and other sections of the toiling masses should have intensified. The dominance of the sham left and rightist forces also should have waned. The revolutionary politics should gradually take the dominant place. No, all this did not take place. Instead, successive political killings started. Either suspecting as the police agent, or in the name of meting out punishment, the CPI (M) cadres, or at times cadres of other parties also are being systematically killed one after another. All these killings were the actions of Maoist squads. These killings, the CPI (Maoist) argues, are not just individual killings. They were executed in accordance with the verdict of people࣯urt. This argument, too, is hardly plausible, for these actions were not accompanied by, not to speak of thousands, but even hundreds of people. It is obvious that these actions are the result of planned initiative of the party, not of the people. As a result the participation of the people, instead of increasing is dwindling day by day. The people are terrorized and scared, even in the adjoining areas. In our own investigation, we have come to know that the CPI (Maoist) is having recourse to intimidation to make the people join meetings, rallies and processions organized by them.

In this context, we would like to draw the attention of the CPI (Maoist) comrades to another problem. CPI (Maoist) is reluctant to understand that in the vast rural areas of our country including West Bengal, feudalism has been fast disappearing. We have also to keep in mind that the people (mostly tribals) living in hilly and jungle areas constitute 7% of the total Indian population (8 crore of the hundred fourteen crore). True they are the most oppressed in our country. This is one of the reasons why in these areas guerrilla warfare as an effective mode of struggle is becoming relevant, at times in Andhra Pradesh, or in Bihar, or in Karnataka. Later on these areas of struggle suffered heavy losses. Still later, their armed struggle in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Orissa attracted much attention. But can these struggles in some pockets decide the course of revolution in such a vast country as ours? Can these struggles hold back the development of capitalism in India? Can these struggles rouse the millions of peasant masses throughout India? Can these struggles organize the peasant movements in the plains of India where innumerable peasants committed suicide in the recent past? Is it not noteworthy that the CPI (Maoist) could not play any important role in the anti-SEZ movement in India?

Despite all this, it has to be admitted that a resistance movement is going on against the terrible onslaught of the police and paramilitary forces of the state in Jangal Mahal including Lalgarh. But the emotional appeal that this movement created in its initial phase is now on the decline. This movement gave rise to great possibilities; but since it deviated into a different channel, it failed to rouse the people. The whole fight has been converted into one between a few Maoist cadres and the CPI (M), or one between the Maoists and the State. The armed intervention of the Maoist Party and its hyperactivity are becoming obstacles to the development of people࣯nsciousness and their spontaneous participation in the movement.

The entire state-power is active to crush the Lalgarh movement. All the ruling class parties are united to destroy it. Under the circumstances, can the Party not evolve a different tactical line to save and further develop this movement? It has by now become already clear that a mechanical application of the CPI (Maoist) line would not solve the problem. What is needed is to be objective in evaluating the movement and to be more creative in developing a set of tactics.

 

The Lalgarh Movement and some Reflections of the Communist Revolutionary Camp

 

Different communist revolutionary groups and various democratic forces have taken up many programmes in support of the Lalgarh movement. Besides supporting, they have made friendly criticism of CPI (Maoist). We shall discuss some of them. ᮤhikshanè©® Bengali) in its article named è¥ Struggle of Lalgarh衳 written, 壯ndly, we should keep another thing in mind. The immediate objective of this struggle was to bring an end to police repression or emancipation from this repression to some extent. This struggle was not directed at the change of the social system. Nor was it possible for this struggle to assume the necessary momentum in isolation. As a result, it is inevitable that at some phase, this struggle has to be stopped, has to consolidate whatever has been attained and to be prepared for bigger struggles later on.蔨e underline is ours). We think this approach is erroneous. We object to the use of the term 䯰Ԩe Lalgarh movement is not a trade union movement. It cannot be settled after some negotiations. The tribal people have mobilized themselves against the state atrocities in a movement with a strong sense of dignity and rights. This struggle was not meant for bringing about a change in the social system. But it was a struggle for attaining the social rights. This struggle could signal the beginning of a revolutionary political battle, however much partial. The struggles develop according to its own laws. The communists try to drive them to further development. If any particular struggle enters into the larger arena, if it opens up doors of new possibilities, the communists objectively evaluate the existing condition of the struggle and endeavour to raise it to a higher plane through continuous efforts. The question of 䯰ping䯥s not come up at all. Marxism宩nism does not teach us that any struggle has to be stopped for its consolidation and for its being raised to a higher phase. The same kind of thinking is reflected in an article written by the West Bengal State Committee of CPRCI (ML). It says, î¹ democratic movement has to be led to an honourable settlement after a period. After having reached a positive solution as far as possible, the leadership has to put a stop to the movement so that a negotiation can start with those against whom the movement is directed. And that a preparation has to be made for the subsequent higher and wider phase of the movement.ë�¡rxio Disha, October 2009, Page 16].

 

The basic error of both ᮤhikkhanᮤ Ჸio Dishaé³ that they are viewing all democratic movements in terms of 姯tiationsÓ¥condly, they have negated the possibility that some movements can go beyond its own limits to create new prospects of movement and thereby further develop the class struggle. They try to analyze all the movements by casting them in a definitive dye. Thirdly, because of this error, they have fallen victim to rightist deviation. They complain that CPI (Maoist) has imposed its political thinking on the Lalgarh movement. But they are not considering the fact that they, too, are doing the same. They are viewing the movement in the light of 䯰pingï² å´´ing a stop to à·¨ich means that when they take upon themselves the task of exercising leadership over any movement, they start thinking at the very outset when to 䯰௲ å´ a stop to䨥 movement.

 

We are not now going into further details. But we would like to put forward some experience of Russian revolution. We hope the readers will pardon us for our long quotation from the book é³´ory of the CPSU (B).ï³°an>

 

î �pril 4, 1912, during a strike in the Lena goldfields in Siberia, over 500 workers were killed or wounded upon the order of the tsarist officer of the gendarmerie. The shooting down of an unarmed body of Lena miners who were peacefully proceeding to negotiate with the management stirred the whole country. This new bloody deed of tsarist autocracy was committed to break an economic strike of the miners and thus please the masters of the Lena goldfields, the British capitalists. The British capitalists and their Russian partners derived huge profits from the Lena goldfields – over 7,000,000 rubles annually â¹ most shamelessly exploiting the workers. They paid the workers miserable wages and supplied them with rotten food unfit to eat. Unable to endure the oppression and humiliation any longer 6000 workers of the Lena goldfields went on strike.ï³°an>

 

å ·ere so dazed and shocked that we could not at all find words to express our feeling. Whatever protest we made would be but a pale reflection of the anger that seethed in the hearts of all of us. Nothing can help us, neither tears nor protests, but an organized mass struggle.�he workers of one group of factories declared in their resolution.

The furious indignation of the workers was further aggravated when the tsarist Minister Makarov, who was interpellated by the Social Democratic group in the State Duma on the subject of the Lena massacre, insolently declared: ï ©t was, so it will be!䨥 number of participants in the political protest strikers against the bloody massacre of the Lena worker rose to 3, 00,000.

 

The Lena events were like a hurricane which rent the atmosphere of å¡£eã²¥ated by the Stolypin regime.

This is what Com. Stalin wrote in this connection in 1912 in the St. Petersburg Bolshevik newspaper, Zvezda (star):

 

è¥ Lena shooting has broken the ice of silence and the river of the peopleà­¯vement has begun to flow. The ice is broken…! All that was evil and pernicious in the present regime, all the ills of much-suffering Russia were focused in the one fact, the Lena events. That is why it was the Lena shooting that served as a signal for the strikes and demonstrations.ï³°an>

 

è¥ efforts of the Liquidators and Trotskyites to bury the revolution had been in vain. The Lena events showed that the forces of revolution were alive, that a tremendous store of revolutionary energy had accumulated in the working class. The May Day Strikes of 1912 involved about 4, 00,000 workers, These strikes bore a marked political character and were held under the Bolshevik revolutionary slogans of a democratic republic, an 8-hour day, and the confiscation of all the landed estates. These main slogans were designed to unite not only the broad masses of the workers but also the peasants and soldiers for a revolutionary onslaught on the autocracy.

 

è¥ huge May Day strike of the proletariat of all Russia and the accompanying street demonstrations, revolutionary proclamations, and the revolutionary speeches to gatherings of workers, have clearly shown that Russia has entered the phase of a rise in the revolutionæ ·rote Lenin in an article entitled è¥ Revolutionary Rise쯳pan>

 

Although a struggle of just one mine, the event of Lena goldmine developed the political struggles of the entire country. The Bolsheviks played the principal role in advancing the whole process.

 

Afterword

 

The struggles of Jangal Mahal including Lalgarh are still going on. The reactionary state-power is about to crush the mass uprising into smithereens. Our modest appeal to the leadership of the CPI (Maoist) is to reconsider and re-evaluate the tactics they have adopted basing on the assessment of the objective situation. The difference of opinion between the CPI (Maoist) and other Communist revolutionaries is one which is essentially a difference within the communist revolutionary camp. Keeping this in mind a debate should be continued mainly within the organizations and at times, for the promotion of ideological standard of the revolutionary cadres, it should partially come out in the open. We should keep this in mind that no difference of opinion can make the revolutionaries forget that ï ²ebel is justified×¥ should, therefore, be on our alert that no criticism or self-criticism can strengthen the hands of the enemy. In spite of the difference of opinion all revolutionary forces and revolutionary individuals should get united more strongly in support of the Lalgarh movement. Basing ourselves on a definite political programme, we should keep trying to bring about a political polarization in the society. Let solidarity movements of the workers, peasants and other toiling masses surge forward in support of the movement on Jangal Mahal, including Lalgarh.

 

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