CPM's violent past rears its ugly head again times of india 15 Nov 2007, Saugata Roy & Ananthakrishnan G, TNN KOLKATA/THIRUVANANTHAPURAM:
In the Left bastions of West Bengal and Kerala, power often flows from the barrels of CPM guns. With blood on their hands, as the CPM cadre celebrates the "sunrise in Nandigram," the turf-war in West Bengal has reignited the hidden memories of the infamous Sainbari incident in 1969, when a young man was hacked to death and his blood smeared on the face of his old mother. The man who led the Sainbari death squad is now a member of the CPM's central committee. During this 38-year span, there have been a series of violent attacks on unarmed people in small villages spread across three districts of south Bengal. It's a long list of atrocities -- Panskura, Nanoor, Chhoto Angaria, Garbeta, Ghatal, Goghat, Khanakul, Keshupur and Singur. Each of these places has a gory tale to tell. Down south, in the CPM's pockets of power and influence the comrades openly flaunt their love for weapons and violence. In Kannur, bombs are made in huge numbers in small houses in narrow alleys. They come handy when the CPM cadre clash with their opponents. "Almost all senior leaders of all parties face threat to their lives and move around with revolvers," said an official familiar with the area. And, the lower ranks prefer bombs and machetes to settle political scores on the streets of Kerala. In Bengal, they have been using sticks, axes and guns to silence those who dare to oppose them. Ironically, almost all the present hotspots in Bengal were CPM strongholds till a few years ago. The picture changed after the panchayat elections in 1998 when Trinamul Congress backed by BJP at the Centre tried to weaken CPM in the countryside. As the Trinamul-BJP marauders roamed the villages, the CPM satraps, taken aback by the assault, took shelter in the towns. Later, they retaliated with great force. In 2000, a senior Bengal minister, Sushanta Ghosh, invited Maoists from Jharkhand to West Midnapore to combat the saffron brigade. His brother was caught red-handed while trying to smuggle in SLRs and improvised single-barrel rifles from Bihar and Jharkhand, but Ghosh managed to masterminded an "attack in self-defence" and recaptured Garbeta and Keshpur. As the discontent spread after Buddha became CM in 2001, West Bengal's continued to simmer with anger. Even as CPM tried to crush dissent in the remote areas, it became increasingly difficult for the ruling CPM to stem the tide. With land reforms reaching a saturation and the rural neo-rich cosying up to CPM and pushing the village poor to the corner, a large number of people rose in protest against the government. And the party retaliated with violence. Nandigram's tryst with violence began with CPM fighting its own men. The disgruntled cadre left the party, floated the Bhumi Uchchhed Pratirodh Committee, and some of them took arms training from the Maoists to continue with the resistance against the ruling party's onslaughts. But, alarmingly, politicians have done little to quell the culture of violence in the area. Last year, a senior CPM leader was on record stating that the party would even make bombs inside police stations if provoked. CPM has been desperate to check erosion of its vote-base in Bengal's rural areas. This desperation has led to violent reaction. The arrival of BJP on the scene has made things worse. But this arms culture is not limited to the party workers fighting their battles in the hinterland. In March this year, the airport security at the Chennai airport found five live cartridges of .38 bore in the cabin baggage of CPM politburo member and Kerala state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan. Though Vijayan tried to wriggle out of the situation by blaming his memory for the lapse, it's still not clear how he managed to procure a gun generally used by security forces. It seems CPM's history of violence is rearing its ugly head once again.