Friday, August 7, 2009
Flowers in the barrel of the gun perhaps?
The stalemate remains in southwestern Bengal, but two recent events have highlighted the importance of popular support. The first is the West Bengal government's admittance that its police forces have sacrificed popular support during Phase 2 of Operation Lalgarh. In the second, the Naxalites may have created a division that may cost them manpower and more importantly, public support (at least in the short term). The CPM and security forces must take advantage of the Naxalites misstep swiftly and without the "terror" that usually accompanies their liberation.
In addition to lacking a viable police informer network, West Bengal has blamed the police forces themselves for the failure of Phase 2. The government has admitted that after security forces reclaim an area from the Naxalites, returning CPM "informers" would point out households that sheltered the Naxalites. Police forces then "unleashed terror" on the villagers. It is little surprise that when the tide turned, these same villagers pointed out the CPM "informers" to the Naxalites (The Telegraph).
The police forces' actions led to the formation of the People's Committee Against Police Atrocities, which is meant to represent the tribal communities grievances against the police forces but also happens to be supported by the Naxalites.
Claims that the Naxalites were liberating the tribal communities from CPM oppression has been cast into doubt with the murder of three 'young tribals' belonging to the Jharkand Party (Naren) at Magura village in Binpur, Midnapur. Evidently the JKP(N) is quite popular as the local Member of the Legislative Assembly, Chunibala Hansda, is also from the party. The JKP(N) stated that the three were not prominent members or police informers, just party cadres. Hansda also noted that party workers were preparing to flee the area en masse (The Telegraph).
Realizing their mistake the Naxalites issued a press release stating that they hadn't committed murder. It was the CPM, naturally (The Telegraph). Barring some very surprising evidence, this press release is probably false.
Despite the denial, the Naxalites probably thought they had identified an opportunity prior to the slaying. That opportunity lies in the aftermath of a CPM informer killing, namely, political domination. The general sequence of events is: Naxalites kill CPM leaders/police informers, people and party members flee and are displaced, people and party members remain reluctant to move back, Naxalites take over.
Where the Naxalites miscalculated was in their assumption that all political parties were equal in the eyes of the tribal communities. They won't make that mistake again.