Naxalbari to Lalgarh: My life made me a Naxalite

My name is Manoj. It's not the name my parents gave me, but all my comrades call me 'Manoj'. My father's name is Dhiren Murmu. I am his second son and I am 25. I was born at Bamundanga village in Salboni. I've lived most of my life in this hopeless village.

 

Our village falls under the Kansijora gram panchayat. The Left Front has been in power here for 30 years. Salboni has always been a CPM stronghold. But, in 30 years, neither the state government, nor the panchayat and Zilla Parishad took any interest at all in developing this area. We might have been living in the Stone Age.

 

When it rains here, the dirt tracks turn muddy and we are forced to drag ourselves and our cattle through the muck. We are not able to ride our bicycles or use carts. We don't have clean drinking water. People are forced to drink filthy, yellow water. After sunset, we live in the dark as there is no electricity here. No jobs either. During the paddy season, we work in the fields and then sit idle for the rest of the year. Because we are tribals, no one has bothered to do anything for us.

 

In 2002, we got tired of being treated like rodents. So, the villagers got together and demanded development in our area. This infuriated the local CPM bosses. The police and Marxists slapped false cases on us, accusing us of working for the People's War Group (PWG). They branded us Maoists. So we began to think we might as well join the Maoists.

 

Things turned nasty quickly. The former police superintendent of West Midnapore, K C Meena, lodged an FIR against the entire village. Nearly 90% of the men and teenage boys were charged with being Naxalite. We knew what was coming. We had to do something to save ourselves.

 

I was just 18 at the time. I was in class XII at the local school. But, I too joined in protests against the police. Within days, the police filed a case against me, my father and brother. They accused all of us of working for the PWG. We had nothing to do with the PWG. Our family has always supported the Congress party. In 1998, when Mamata Banerjee formed the Trinamool Congress (TMC), we switched loyalty to her.

 

One day, police jeeps rolled into our village, picked up people from their houses, bundled everyone into their vehicles and dumped all of us into the Midnapore jail. That was where I first met Maoist leader Sushil Roy. I found the Maoist ideology very appealing. Roy asked me to join the Maoists so that I could help the poor. I liked his ideas. Then I met two PWG leaders in prison. And I realized that neither Congress nor the TMC can stop the CPM's terror. I also realized that under CPM rule, we had lost the right to speak up. It was time to take a stand and speak up.

 

I joined the Maoists. They gave me a new name, a new identity and a new life. Now, I work for the Lalgarh movement. I joined this great surge of people last year. On November 5, the police arrived here looking for people who had blasted landmines at chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya's convoy at Salboni. In Lalgarh, the police rounded up innocent tribal women and began to molest and torture them. One woman lost an eye. Others were badly injured. After this incident, we decided to join the Lalgarh movement. It was our party's decision. The Maoists always stand with the deprived. We joined them at Nandigram and Singur. Now, we have joined them in Lalgarh.

 

It's been easy for us to win the people's support. Most of them have been victims of torture by police. The people listened to us and joined the Peoples' Committee against Police Atrocities (PCPA). Opposition party workers have also supported us. Everybody is rebelling against the CPM cadre and police.

 

We know the government forces want to crush us. But, we plan to expand our area of influence. As soon as we are able to turn Lalgarh and Junglemahal (a forested area spanning three districts – Bankura, Purulia and West Midnapore) into a Maoist-dominated area, we will apply our ideology here. We will undertake development work for the poor. We will raise money through public donations. And nobody will pay tax to the government anymore.

 

After victory at Lalgarh, we will expand our fight to the tribal communities of Jharkhand, Bihar, Orissa and Chattisgarh. Our war has just begun.

  

 

Resume of a rebel

 

Once peaceful forest-dwellers, now they challenge the Indian state. Here's a profile of that little-known species, the typical Indian Maoist

 

Age – 18 to 30 years

Gender – Both male and female

Ethnic stock – Austro-Asiatic (tribal/indigenous people) Linguistic group – Austro-Asiatic (tribal) and old Dravidian dialects

 

Income group – Below poverty line ( Rs 12 per person per day)

Occupation – Small peasant, landless labour, jobless, jungle-dweller

Area of operation – UP, MP, W Bengal, Orissa, Bihar, Jharkhand Chhattisgarh, AP, Maharashtra and Karnataka political affiliation – CPI (Maoist)

other names – Naxalite, Red ultra, terrorist

 

Maoists by Numbers

Total number 50,000

Number of armed rebels 20,000

Area under control One-fifth of India's forests

Active in 165 of the country's 604 districts

 

From Naxalbari to Lalgarh: Such a long journey down the road to revolution

 

1960s

Inspired by Mao Zedong, Charu Majumdar and Kanu Sanyal of the CPI (Marxist) develop a “revolutionary opposition” to the party. They lead a violent Santhal uprising in West Bengal's Naxalbari village in 1967. Later, they break away from the CPI(M). Uprisings are organized in several parts of the country. In 1969, CPI (Marxist-Leninist) takes birth

 

1970s

The radical leftists fragment and the CPI (ML) becomes weaker across the country. This causes regional groups such as the Maoist Communist Centre, which evolved out of the Dakshin Desh-group, to strengthen in Bihar and Jharkhand and the People's War Group to assume leadership of the armed rebels in Andhra Pradesh and adjoining states

 

1980-90s At least 30 Naxalite groups are thought to be active across the country, with a combined membership of around 30,000 activists. But their differences over their perceived “revolutionary” roles often result in bloody battles. Many groups, particularly in Bihar and AP, are accused of land-grabbing and extortion

 

2000s

Groups such as the CPI (ML) give up violence, enter mainstream politics and participate in elections. In 2004, the MCC and People's War join hands to form a new entity, the Communist Party of India (Maoist), which is now the biggest armed group ever to challenge the very existence of the Indian state

 

TNN / 21 June 2009

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