by J.D. Benjamin
BASICS # 15 (Sep / Oct 2009)
Starting in November 2008, the people of the Lalgarh region of West Bengal, India have been engaged in a massive uprising. Starting as a protest against abuses by the police, the uprising has expanded into a general revolt against the government and social system. Backed by the guerrilla forces of the Communist Party of India-Maoist, the people have largely driven out the police and set up their own democratic administration.
The anger of the people in Lalgarh has been simmering for decades. While West Bengal has been ruled for the past 32 years by the (so-called) Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPM), the government has done nothing to address the desperate poverty and lack of infrastructure in the region. Instead, the CPM skims money intended for development programs and then uses the police and its own armed thugs to repress the people.
Not only are the people of Lalgarh rising up against oppression, but they are also taking up development work. Voluntary labour teams of local people have taken on road construction, irrigation projects, setting up medical clinics and schools, digging wells, and other development programs desperately needed by the people.
Rather than help these programs, the state has turned to repression and terror. Police, military, and paramilitaries have invaded the region and conducted arrests, beatings, rape and other acts of humiliation, warrantless searches of homes, and destruction of people's personal property and food supplies.
Despite the brutality, even Home Secretary Ardhendu Sen has admitted the operation to take back Lalgarh from the people has failed. State forces failed to capture any Maoist leaders or weapons caches and are terrified of venturing outside their bases for fear of being ambushed or landmined. What little support remained for CPM has evaporated while the Maoists have staged open rallies in the villages attended by thousands of people.