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Maoists flex Lalgarh muscle

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By PRONAB MONDAL AND NARESH JANA
  • Published 1.09.11
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A suspected Maoist at the rally. (Sanjoy Chattopadhyaya)

Lalgarh, Aug. 31: Maoist sympathisers today paraded nearly 10,000 villagers in Lalgarh and criticised Mamata Banerjee in the first instance of piling pressure on the new government openly from the rebel stronghold.

The crowd repeatedly cheered when speakers accused the chief minister of making “false promises”. The rally was held at the same ground where Mamata addressed the people of Jungle Mahal last year.

The government was criticised on two expected grounds: its refusal to withdraw central forces and release of “political” prisoners.

However, the speakers also betrayed fears about Mamata’s development initiative intended at drawing youths to the mainstream and denying the Maoists a captive recruitment ground. The critics’ stress on her packages suggested that the Maoists are resenting the chief minister’s attempt to reach out directly to the people of Lalgarh.

Some of the guests, including former Trinamul MP and retired IPS officer Bikram Sarkar and retired IPS officer B.P. Saha criticised Mamata for announcing that 10,000 youths from Jungle Mahal would be recruited as special police constables and home guards.

Among the crowd were some rebels whose faces were covered. The organisers also tried to tug at the hearts of the villagers by calling on the dais Niyati, the wife of jailed PCPA leader Chhatradhar Mahato, and Lakshmimani, the widow of slain PCPA president Lalmohan Tudu.

“Exactly a year ago, Mamata had promised us at this venue that central forces would be withdrawn immediately after she came to power and all those from Lalgarh who were arrested on false charges would be released. Three months have passed since she became chief minister. What has she done to fulfil her promises? She is giving us false assurance of development like the previous government,” said Niyati.

The gathering, made up of villagers from Lalgarh, Nayagram, Gopiballavpur, Salboni and Goaltore, roared its approval when Niyati asked the people to build a bigger movement against the new government. “The new government is dangling the carrot of a development package. We do not want any development from her,” Niyati said.

Nabarun Bhattacharya, writer and known to be a Maoist sympathiser, asked the crowd: “The government in Bengal has changed but what have we got here? Has the harmad (armed CPM cadre) been replaced by jahllad (executioner)?” he asked.

Asked about today’s rally, Sujato Bhadra, one of the interlocutors assigned by Mamata to explore the possibility of talks with the Maoists and an executive committee member of the Association of Protection for Democratic Rights (APDR), said: “I don’t know anything. I was not present there. I will not be able to make any comments.”

The APDR vice-president, Amitdyuti Kumar, had attended the programme. “The government is trying to lure youths by offering jobs that involves killing people. The demand for withdrawal of central forces will be intensified,” Kumar said.