Bengal version of salwa judum?

 The face of a silent but determined entry of a homegrown version of salwa judum was ripped apart last fortnight after the carnage at Netai village in Lalgarh.

With the Calcutta high court ordering the state government to respond to allegations made in a PIL seeking a CBI probe into the Jan 7 massacre of villagers near Lalgarh in West Midnapore district, the Buddhadev Bhattacherjee administration and the CPM have turned red-faced.

More so, after the affidavit filed before the court by the Midnapore SP Manoj Verma lays it bare the complicity of the local CPM leaders in the carnage. In a six page report, Verma mentioned that preliminary investigations by police and combined team of CID revealed that armed thugs took shelter in the house of local CPM leader R Dandapat more than a fortnight back.

Arms training

Besides resorting to extortion and other means of torture on innocent villagers, the miscreants were forcing the youth in Netai to undergo arms training to resist the return of the Maoists for recapturing their bases after they were freed by the sustained operation by the combined forces of the state and centre. Along with a public interest litigation by the Calcutta high court bar association, two more pleas have been filed.

The pleas praying for a CBI investigation in the carnage came up before the division bench of Chief Justice J N Patel and Justice A K Roy who directed the state authorities to file an affidavit at the earliest on the entire incident and the state government’s views on involving the CBI in the probe. The court’s interim order came despite desperate pleas by the advocate general Balai Roy who opposed the plea for a CBI investigation.

At least seven people, including two women, were shot dead and 20 wounded in wanton firing by assailants allegedly hired by the Marxists in Netai. The court’s stricture comes after a more severe stricture earlier on the Nandigram police  firing.

That a counter-terrorism force has been in the making in the backyard of Lalgarh at the behest of the CPM for the past six months, was elaborately reported in the local media.

But the Netai killings turned the table as also the gameplan of the CPM. It appears that the government has so far, lent a passive support the CPM’s bid to regain the lost turf and indulge in counter-terrorism which in other words, is nothing but another form of salwa judum.

Letters written by Union home minister P Chidambaram to the chief minister earlier categorically mentioned the existence of the camps and the petitioner quoted the same to substantiate their claim. Petitioners alleged there were 30 armed camps in villages around Lalgarh.

With the high court and Union home ministry coming down heavily on the state government on the issue of armed camps, state home secretary Samar Ghosh was compelled to issue a directive to all the police superiors in the district to investigate the allegation and submit a report at the earliest.

The tell-tale signs of bullets in the mud huts and the walls at Netai speak volumes about the existence of a camp in the house of the CPM leader. Not only that, armed camps have been set up across various villages by the CPM in the wake of their sanitisation by the security forces to prevent Maoists from re-entering. But the moment villagers had begun putting up resistance to CPM’s pressure tactics to join the arms training,trouble erupted.

The point that many Leftist intellectuals who have now turned hostile against the Marxists, have raised is whether there is any justification of allowing this new edition of salwa judum in West Bengal, specially when the CRPF and other paramilitary forces are there to ensure protection to the villages.

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