The following is a statement by Achin Vanaik, Praful Bidwai, Sumit Chakravartty, Sumit Sarkar and Tanika Sarkar on the Lalgarh developments:
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 CPI-M cadres and offices. This cannot be rationalized as just retaliation against the violence unleashed by the CPI-M 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 Chakravartty and