Bandwan (Purulia), July 14 : Comrade Dhruba sat on a bunch of leaves scattered on the ground, his legs folded. “Give us five years, we will make sure you spend sleepless nights” - that was the Maoist leader’s message to the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government. A police officer and three CPM leaders were killed on Saturday night in Maoist strikes in two places, 20-22 km from here. Moustachioed, with a three-day stubble covering his face, Comrade Dhruba (not his real name) said: “Our mass base in Murshidabad, Malda, Burdwan and Nadia is ready. After five years, we will launch our strikes”. Dhruba is a member of the central committee of the CPI(Maoist).
The journey to Dhruba took four hours from Jhargram - partly by car, partly by motorbike and the rest, about one and a half hours, on foot. It started at 5.15 in the morning yesterday, first to Bandwan by a hired car, resuming in another vehicle from there. The second car left me at a deserted crossing. After about five minutes, I heard the roar of a motorcycle. A Suzuki bike braked in front of me and a dark, thin man in his late 20s, wearing off-white trousers and a blue shirt, curtly asked me in Bengali, with a heavy local accent, to ride pillion.
I tried to strike up a conversation but the man motioned to me to shut up. After about an hour and a quarter, we stopped at a spot where two youths were waiting. They waved me to follow them into the rain-soaked dense forest covered with segun, mohua and mahogany trees - a chameleon dropped on me from a branch, startling the entire group. A third youth joined us after about 15 minutes and we walked some more before coming upon Dhruba, sitting under a tree somewhere on the West Midnapore-Purulia border, a stone’s throw from Jharkhand.
I pulled out my handkerchief, spread it on the ground and sat before Dhruba, who looked to be in his late thirties. Wearing khaki trousers and shirt, he said: “In our politburo meeting last year, we decided to focus on these four districts (Murshidabad, Malda, Burdwan and Nadia)”. Dhruba, who belonged to the MCC, which merged last year with another extremist group, the People’s War, admitted that the outfit’s previous efforts to spread its influence in north Bengal and parts of the south had failed.
This was the reason why the 13-member politburo decided to concentrate on the south Bengal districts. The organisation is dominated by five Bengali leaders. “If the government wants to control us by using police or paramilitary, they are wrong. It will help us gain more support from the people. Comrades have been working hard for those who don’t know what a full meal is”. Do the Maoists have designs on Calcutta? “We do not plan violence in Calcutta because we know when we establish our base there, people will be forced to obey us,” Dhruba said.
After about 25 minutes of conversation, he suddenly clapped and two of the three youths reappeared. The journey back to Bandwan began.
Mouthing populist rhetoric, the Maoists plan to replicate in parts of West Bengal, their model of “socialism”, “parallel government” and ruthless social justice that they impose across swathes of Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Bihar and Jharkhand. They appear poised to revive the social anarchy of the early-70s in W Bengal. The soicio-economic price for which, Bengal is paying to this day.
Bengali intellectuals have been the perennial rebels and “angry young men”, they are the vanguards of student politics even today. It is no wonder that the Maoist movement is led by Bengalis inspired by the canons of the Late Chairman Mao.
While the Maoists have made grand plans to bring chaos, what is the alternative reality they promise ? They are adept at threatening and maiming, but are they truly capable of sound governance and social justice ? Have they visited Shanghai recently ? Or, are the Bengali more Chinese than the Chinese themselves ?