While in a country like India it’s difficult to decide on a hierarchy of problems that threaten its citizens’ security, the Maoist insurgency, like Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had famously said, continues to be one of the biggest threats to our internal security.
The Latehar carnage , where Naxalites first killed CRPF personnel and then planted bombs in their bodies which went off and killed civilians, reiterated the fact that the country is far from cleansed off the insurgency. However, in West Bengal, immediately after Mamata Banerjee‘s Trinamool Congress came into power, the Maoist problem was almost eradicated overnight.
According to an New York Times India Ink article, where as nearly 400 people died in Bengal in 2010 in the insurgency, only four such deaths were reported in 2012, a year after the TMC government came into power. A report compiled by the Institute of Conflict Management, Delhi shows that there has been a 99 percent drop in insurgency related violence in two years.
NYT spoke to Vivek Sahay, who heads the Central Reserve Police Force in Bengal, who said that a greater number of CRPF jawans deployed in the Naxalite-hit areas and government’s efforts in rebuilding the poverty-hit areas have been instrumental in weeding the insurgency out. Sahay mentions how it is the present government’s mandate that schemes like the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act are implemented properly in the Maoism-hit areas.
However, there are certain voices of doubt that seem to have surfaced amid the jubilation at having wiped Maoism out of the state. Leading them is dissenting TMC MP Kabir Suman, whose sympathy for the Maoist movement has led the government into several spots. In a Hindustan Times report early this year, rebel MP Suman had said the Mamata Banerjee‘s party had used the Bengal Maoists to overthrow the CPI(M) from the state.
The report quotes Suman as saying:
“Maoists were part of the Bhumi Uchhed Pratirodh Committee (BUPC). Agitations in Nandigram, Singur and Lalgarh were responsible for the regime change. Santosh Rana, a Naxal, and his comrades campaigned for me in Jadavpur (in 2009),” said Suman.
According to the MP, Maoist leader Kisenji, who was killed in 2012, had urged his comrades to campaign for TMC and help it win the polls in 2011.
The CPI(M) in the state, has naturally, found reasons to echo the MP’s sentiments. CPI(M) leader Mohammed Salim told the press that they were right about their claims that the TMC was in collusion with the Maoists.
In November 2012, CNN IBN reported, that two surrendered Maoists had claimed that the rehabilitation package that they had been offered by Mamata Banerjee has not reached them several days after they had laid down arms.
Another report, from earlier this month, claims that the CM had distributed job cards and cycles to Naxalites who have surrendered. However, the report says that only two rebels had turned up for the event held in the once-Maoism hit West Midnapore district of Bengal.
Interestingly, the Left Front-led government had announced a rehabilitation package in 2010 which included a Rs 2,000 allowance every month for surrendering rebels, a fixed deposit worth Rs 1.5 lakh which could be withdrawn after three years, vocational training and loans at minimal rates to start businesses.
A handful of Maoists surrendered and the insurgency went on unabated.
A year on, Mamata Banerjee, now a chief minister, announced a revised package – which strangely had exactly the similar provisions. Only some changes were made to the amount the rebels would receive in return of the weapons they surrendered She also offered jobs and had urged Maoists to drop arms and apply to work for the state police forces instead.
Not many Maoists have come forward and surrendered except a handful. The most prominent of them being dreaded leader Suchitra Mahato, wife of Sasadhar Mahato, who was killed during the Left rule.
While Sahay trumpets the rural employment generation scheme as one of the reasons why the Maoist-infested areas have been rehabilitated, West Bengal, under TMC turned out to be the worst performer in the NREGA scheme. In fact, Pranab Mukherjee had alleged then that the funds and other budgetary allocations meant to benefit the poor are not being used properly in the state.
Kabir Suman might have gone totally off the hook in his allegations against the government but the reality remains that the state has done little to address the issues that plague the regions once infested by the Maoists in Bengal.