Anti-Left intellectuals ask for peace in Lalgarh

June 21st, 2009 - 9:11 pm ICT by IANS  

Ram Vilas Paswan Lalgarh (West Bengal), June 21 (IANS) A group of intellectuals - comprising filmmakers, theatre personalities and writers - Sunday visited the troubled Lalgarh area of West Bengal and alleged that the security forces were torturing women and children here.
The intellectuals, under the banner of Swajan, have been bitterly opposed to the state’s Left Front government.

The group also met agitating tribal body People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCAPA) leader Chhattradhar Mahato and the common people in some villages during a day’s tour of the affected zone.

“From conversations with the people, we could gather they are afraid. In the interest of the people, we will make a very sincere appeal to both Maoists and the administration to lay down arms,” said filmmaker Aparna Sen.

On the heavy police presence, she said: “We are seeing police everywhere. I have never seen in my life so many police in one area.”

Pointing out that the administration and the PCAPA are already scheduled to hold the next round of discussions July 14, Sen said: “It is very important to have a ceasefire there until then.

“We came to see the situation for ourselves. We wanted to see whether the common people were getting food and water. We do not believe in the politics of violence and counter-violence. We found that the people are getting caught in the cross fire between the Maoists and the police,” she said.

Theatre personality Kaushik Sen said: “Just as we don’t support the Maoists, similarly we condemn the disgusting role of the administration.”

He said members of Swajan will meet Governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi to apprise him of the situation.

“We have visited some interior villages and spoken to the people. We also spoke to Chhatradhar Mahato. People are living in danger. They are very afraid that police may beat them up,” said theatre personality Saonli Mitra.

She said some of the villages seemed empty, and in some others there were complaints that children and women were being beaten up.

“We have been told that women are being molested, and water has been contaminated in some villages. People are living without food and water.”

The group arrived here a day after top Maoist leader K. Koteshwar Rao alias Kishanji appealed to them to come to Lalgarh and take the initiative for finding a solution to the problems of the tribal people here through a dialogue between the rebels and the administration.

Kaushik Sen said they also wanted to talk to Kishanji but a meeting could not be organised.

After the meeting with the group, Mahato said he was opposed to violence and did not support Maoist activities. “We want truce, we want talks,” he said.

Mahato said the security forces were looting and torching people’s houses. “In the name of searching for Maoists, they are torturing innocent villagers.”

Meanwhile, the visit of the Swajan delegation raised the hackles of intellectuals close to the ruling Left Front and its major constituent Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M).

“A part of their brain works for (Trinamool Congress Chief) Mamata (Bannerjee). The other part does not work when the houses of CPI-M supporters are torched,” said writer Abul Bashar.

Alleging that Mahato was involved in the plot to assassinate Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee in a landmine explosion at Bhadutala in November, Bashar said: “Mamata Banerjee has asked these intellectuals to go there. It’s a simple equation.”

Lalgarh has been on the boil since Bhattacharjee and then central ministers Ram Vilas Paswan and Jitin Prasada were attacked.

Complaining of police atrocities after the blast, angry tribals launched an agitation virtually cutting off the area from the rest of the district.

During the last few days, the agitators have torched CPI-M offices, driven away the ruling party’s supporters and forced the police to leave, thereby establishing a virtual free zone.

Maoists are active in three western districts of the state - West Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia.

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