THE BATTLE FOR RED LAND
The late 60s.... Karl Marx was fashionable...his writings began inspiring left radical struggles across the West… civil rights and anti-war movements in America; students' agitations in Western Europe; Che Guevara's struggle and death in the jungles of Bolivia…everyone spoke of revolutionary humanism…in such heady times...erupted the Naxalite movement in West Bengal…rebellion was in the air…the best and brightest, mostly students, joined the Naxalites, alongside the poorest of the poor. Landlords were chased out of North Bengal villages, bombs exploded in Kolkata cinema houses...the city of joy would perpetually protest...only to be suppressed with brute force….
..The Communists have been in power ever since..but operation Barga failed to do anything for the tribal farmers
As we travelled into Junglemahal in south Bengal’s West Midnapore district, the failings of land reforms were apparent…this region was controlled unilaterally by the Maoists and their military commander Kishenji for more than 2 years since 2007. why?
This house has many answers…it belongs to Chatradhar Mahato..the tribal leader who galvanized his community and led the People’s Committee against Police Atrocities or PCPA…then allied with the Maoists and cut off the state administration from this area…
Chatradhar is in jail today…he had come out to file his nomination…he is fighting the elections…the-- CPI-M had dubbed him a Maoist, told the outside world that his house is worth crores of rupess..this is his house, the only visible indulgence being a direct-to-home television satellite dish…his father is angry…he is proud of Chatradhar for protecting their rights to jungle land and for resisting atrocities
(Vo) the atrocities that this man talks about culminated in neighbouring Netai village of lalgarh earlier this year…9 men and women were mercilessly shot dead…allegedly by armed CPI-M cadres..locally called the harmads…shatanu ghorai lost his father as the bullets were sprayed down from this bulding..the harmads had taken control of the village, the villagers didnt give in…Shantanu and mother says that the CPI-M will never be able to enter this village again…after voting for the party for almost 30 years
Dwarkanath Panda is a retired headmaster of a local school…he insists that neither the CPI-M nor the Maoists are welcome anymore…but he talks about a different fear factor…land is the only route to livelihood in rural bengal..and if the CPI-M comes back to power, he fears, they will take away land of poor villagers and hand them over private enterprises
(VO) Today, in west midnapore, the red flags flutter alongside Trinamool’s despite Lalagarh agitation and Netai killings….Deepak Sarkar is the local strongman of the CPI-M….he is the secretary of the party in West Midnapore…he rubbishes allegations that CPI-M will take away land of the poor
(VO) unlike Deepak Sarkar, Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya readily admits the mistakes his government committed..mistakes, that he says, needs to be rectified
(VO) mistakes like this…In nandigram…2007…villagers were up in arms against the government’s decision to build a chemical hub..they won’t give their land…Buddhadeb’s government sent the police…14 unarmed villagers were gunned down.….songs of protest echoed across Bengal
Some acts went unnoticed…like the land acquisition near the Kolkata airport.. in Rajarhat IN 1995… to create a new satellite township…the man behind the move…state’s housing minister Gautam Deb… the CPI-M’s new mascot in this elections, the man who many believe will take over the reigns of the party from Buddhadeb in the state….over 3,000 hectares...