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‘Civic society’ dons statement armour again

June 19: The Lalgarh violence has divided Left academics and commentators 1,500km away in Delhi, one group criticising the Maoists for murdering CPM activists and the other opposing the government operation to recapture the territory.

In Bengal too, a group of academics and artists who had protested against the Left after Nandigram have appealed to both sides to avoid violence and offered to help “create an environment of peaceful talks at the preliminary stage”.

In Delhi, historians Sumit and Tanika Sarkar and columnists Achin Vanaik, Sumit Chakravartty and Praful Bidwai today issued a statement calling the security forces’ offensive in Lalgarh “unacceptable”.

“We are profoundly disturbed by the massive central and state armed police operation in Lalgarh-Jangalmahal in West Bengal.… The operation is taking an unacceptable toll of civilian life and safety,” their statement says.

Yesterday, another set of Left-leaning academics had demanded the Centre offer “full and effective support to the state government in tackling the situation”.

This group includes historian Irfan Habib, economists Prabhat and Utsa Patnaik and Jayati Ghose, author Githa Hariharan, painter Shamshad Hussain and theatre artiste M.K. Raina.

They have echoed the CPM allegation that state Opposition parties are supporting the Maoists and voiced concern at the “organised” post-poll attacks on CPM supporters.

The other camp has also condemned Maoist violence but argued that the police-paramilitary offensive is ill-conceived. “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,” its statement says.

This group had criticised the Bengal government also over the Nandigram violence in 2007.

The split among Delhi “intellectuals” over Lalgarh mirrors a similar division in Bengal after Nandigram, when one group of buddhijibis — academics, writers and artists, mostly with Left sympathies — had for the first time organised an anti-CPM march through Calcutta.

The CPM had replied with a march by scholars and artists supporting it, who came to be mockingly known as buddhajibis — a play on chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s name.

Bengal’s buddhijibis today appealed to the Centre and the state “not to unleash brute force” in Lalgarh, and to the “organisers and participants of this movement… to eschew violence at all cost”.

In spite of the rationality and ethics behind the mass uprising… wanton acts of violence committed under grave provocation would detract (from) the moral foundation of this popular and legitimate movement,” the Civic Society of West Bengal said.

The statement was issued on behalf of Mahasweta Devi, Tarun Sanyal, Debabrata Bandyopadhyay, Sunanda Sanyal, Shuvaprasanna, Jogen Chowdhury, Goutam Ghose, Joy Goswami, Samir Aich, Shipra Bhattacharya, Amiya Chowdhury, Samar Bagchi, Kalyan Rudra, Chaitali Dutta, Bhaskar Gupta, Ashokendu Sengupta, Anup Bandyopadhyay, Sujoy Basu and others.

They warned that a “bloodbath” may impact the whole of central India’s tribal belt and cause “a general tribal uprising comparable with the Santhal rebellion of 1856-58.”

Painter Shuvaprasanna told The Telegraph: “The Left won in Lalgarh which means they are important there; they shouldn’t exploit the police and army to work things to their advantage.”

Playwright Bratya Basu blamed the state, saying the tribals “have lived even without food” and wondering “where the money for their development gets channelled”.

Theatre director Dolly Basu, not formally with the Civic Society, said: “We need to look at what has driven the Maoists to do this. Just dialogue would not help now; any talk has to be backed up with concrete solutions (to) the villagers’ problems.”

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