Lalgarh: All for the Special Economic Zone of the Jindal Group

Mahashweta Devi

How do you view the week-long armed action in the state by the armed forces of the centre?

The Chief Minister Buddhadeo Bhattacharya went to Delhi after creating a war-like situation in Lalgarh. You can very well imagine how great a coward is he. Why is he afraid of the people of his state of which he is the Chief Minister? The armed police force, in the name of combating Maoist insurgency operation reigned havoc on the hapless tribals in and around Lalgarh. They continued displacing the tribals. They raped the tribal women, due to which there has been exodus of the tribals from Lalgarh–Shalboni. People took refuge in the relief camps at Pirakara High School, Gopaltor Higher Secondary School and Lalgarh primary school. In the name of the operation the armed forces are contaminating all the water sources in the Lalgarh area. Their personnel are defecating in the wells and ponds so that the water should not remain drinkable and the local population become fidgety under pressure.

How would you oppose these excesses?

One form of resistance may be that the people of the state do the same action on the state secretariat which Buddhadeo did by his security forces in the wells of Lalgarh–Shalboni. In fact, this state government should immediately go. We organised a meeting on June 22 on behalf of the Nagrik Manch against the atrocities in Lalgarh. I would personally go to Lalgarh-Shalboni. I cannot leave my forest dwellers like this. I would fight for them till death. I have been fighting for them since 1965 and I wish that my last breath should also be in a tribal area like Lalgarh-Shalboni. I should be buried there and a tree be planted on the spot.

The state government has announced the arrest of Chhatradhar Mahato, the leader of Pulishi Santrash Birodhi Jansadharan Committee. Your reaction?

Then I would sit on dharna (sit-in) before the Chief Minister Secretariat if Chhatradhar is arrested. Chhatradhar is fighting against police atrocities forming a committee for the past eight months. The common people started a movement after the police resorted to barbarism with the tribal women in November 2008 in the name of tracking down the Maoists. We have not forgotten the case of Chhitamani Murmu, a victim of police atrocities.

What, in your view is the main reason of the present police action in Lalgarh?

Buddhadeo government is afraid of the tribal unity. This tribal unity cannot be broken by such an operation. Actually, Buddhadeo initiated this operation for the Special Economic Zone of Jindal. The Jindal group wants to create a SEZ in Lalgarh-Shalboni and so the Buddhadeo government is displacing the tribals there with the help of the Central armed police but the fundamental problem remains as it is even after this operation.

What is the basic problem?

It was the history of the police atrocities and deprivation that is behind this mass upsurge. Santhal, Lodha, Kheria, Shabar, Munda, Mahato and Murmu inhabit the 105 sq. km forest area of West Medinipur-Bankura-Purulia. But there are neither health services, nor drinking water facilities, electricity or roads. The tribals did not even get the benefits from the hundred-day employment guarantee scheme. The tribals didn’t get Below Poverty Line cards either. The root cause of the problem in and around Lalgarh is the police atrocity and poverty. The money that comes from the Centre for  development is usurped by the CPM cadre. Buddhadeo is a stigma on the Left.

What you have to say on the armed struggle of the Maoists?

Why did the Maoists become active? The people would not have become angry if developmental work had been done. Millions of rupees come under Indira Awaas Yojana (Indira Housing Scheme) but the tribals did not get even a mud house.

What is the solution to the problem?

A green economic zone is presently important in Lalgarh. The contractors of the forest department are felling trees. Poverty eradication, development initiative, drinking water, electricity, providing road facility, giving guarantee of 100–day employment, actualise Indira Awaas Yojana and talking to the agitationists to seek a peaceful solution are needed. If at all police operation is to be done it should be in those areas, which have been occupied by the armed squads of the CPI (M), like those in Keshpur and Garbeta.

This is an excerpt of the interview of Mahashweta Devi by Ranju Singh which was published in the Hastakshep (page-4), Rashtriya Sahara, on Tuesday 30 June, 2009. Translated from the Hindi.

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