Once a Maoist hub, Naxalbari all set to vote

The violence here died out long ago. No one here hails the Chinese Communists anymore. Boroorujot and Bengaijot villages are now better known for their lush green crops.

There is no trace of the revolutionary fervour that triggered a violent peasant uprising in May 1967, leading to an all-India Maoist revolt whose adherents came to be known after the village -- Naxalites.

Even as Maoists strike terror in parts of India today, Naxalbari - a name that was once synonymous with revolution - is a sleepy hamlet in West Bengal's Darjeeling district, which will vote Monday to elect a new state assembly.

The May 25, 1967 incident led to the killing of nine people and two children in police firing in Bengaijot. Tukuriya forest, where the rebels once ran a training camp, is now feared for only its snakes.

Naxalbari has moved on. Few people are even ready to talk about its gory past, the origins of the Maoist movement and the simple men and women from here who almost unleashed a revolution in India.

No wonder, the Maoist movement is not an issue in the campaign speeches in the newly carved out Matigara-Naxalbari constituency.

The constituency will see a five-cornered contest, the main battle likely to be confined to Jharen Roy of the ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) and Sankar Malakar of the Congress. 

The three other candidates include Dipu Haldar of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) or CPI-ML, the inheritor of the Naxalbari legacy. 

Haldar, in her late 30s, says she reminds the electorate of 192,913 about the glorious past of Naxalbari.

Adds CPI-ML state secretary Subrata Basu: "Taking lessons from the failure of the Naxalite movement in the 1970s, we want to launch a movement sans the doctrine of individual killing."

Formed by joining parts of Siliguri and Phansidewa constituencies, Matigara-Naxalbari too is witnessing calls to end 34 years of Left Front rule.

Basu, whose party once advocated boycott of elections, says he is going door to door, seeking votes for the CPI-ML.Sankar Malakar of the Congress is hopeful of a Marxist rout.
Former Naxalite leader Ajijul Haque says there is nothing surprising that the Maoist movement faded out at its birthplace.

"The Naxalbari movement is still relevant," Haque told IANS. "If Communism could fall in Moscow and Leningrad, why can't the Naxalite movement weaken in Naxalbari?"

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