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Rebels keep crowd away from rally

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  • Published 13.07.11

Lalgarh, July 12: Villagers who had thronged Mamata Banerjee’s Lalgarh rally last year kept away from the chief minister’s meeting in Jhargram today after a directive by Maoists.

The rebels are reportedly miffed with Mamata for not delivering on two of her key election promises: withdrawal of central security forces from Jungle Mahal and the release of villagers arrested on charges of having Maoist links.

Over the past three days, rebel groups toured villages and told residents to stay away from today’s rally.

More than 10,000 people had made it to Mamata’s rally on August 9 last year at Lalgarh’s Ramkrishna Higher Secondary School ground. Another 40,000 had got stuck because of the rush that clogged various approach roads.

Barely 5,000 people attended today’s rally.

One of the touring rebel groups said the chief minister was a “traitor”.

Maoist leader Akash said Mamata had been “unmasked”. “People in Jungle Mahal have understood that the assurances will prove to be false like her pre-poll promises.”

The rebels went to villages in Nayagram, Gopiballavpur and the Jhargram-Lalgarh-Belpahari area as soon as Mamata announced her Jungle Mahal visit.

“We were told that Mamata betrayed the people of Jungle Mahal and so we should not go to her meeting. They said people had voted for Trinamul with an expectation that their basic demands would be fulfilled but Mamata changed her attitude after the poll victory,” Satish Mahato, a Kadamsole resident, said. Mahato had walked 5km under scorching sun last year to attend Mamata’s meeting.

Madhab Soren, of Lakshmanpur, said Mamata had echoed the voice of the people in Jungle Mahal before the polls. “But she has changed her strategy. She has made it clear that central forces would not be withdrawn from our area. (But) we do not want life under the surveillance of police patrolling,” Soren said.

Both Mahato and Soren skipped today’s rally.

An intelligence branch officer said senior rebel leaders had come out of their hideouts in Purulia’s Ayodhya hills and visited West Midnapore villages.

“Leaders like Bikash, Akash and Ranjit came to the villages 15 days ago and asked people to build a mass movement against the new government. Even Kishan, the head of the rebel outfit’s guerrilla wing, made a short trip to Lalgarh,” said the officer.

The rebels also distributed pamphlets, published under the banner of People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCPA), listing their demands.

“The seven seats that Mamata won in Jungle Mahal were a gift from us. People here fought a battle against the CPM. Now they have fled the area. The poor people will also fight Trinamul if they try to cause them any harm,” said a Maoist leader in Belpahari.

On development projects announced by Mamata, he said: “The more she makes false promises, the more we will win mass support. It is because she will not be able to fulfil all her commitments and we will make her failure to fulfil promises an issue. We know that money will be siphoned off by corrupt local political leaders.”