The Central government on Monday declared the Communist Party of India (Maoists), responsible for the death of 180 people this year, a terrorist organisation.
But the West Bengal government is yet to ban it.
The Communist Party of India (Marxist) has said banning the Maoists will not help; they must be dealt with politically. And the party has rejected the Centre’s advice asking the Left Front government in Bengal to ban the outfit.
Delhi reacted strongly. “The Left Front is not the West Bengal government…. I expect that the chief minister will look into the matter and I hope that the Cabinet will take an appropriate decision,” said Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram.
Central and state security forces are in West Bengal’s Lalgarh district consolidating their position after chasing out the Maoists who had taken control nearly adding this district to their list of liberated areas.
The Maoists disappeared without much of a fight, but people who had fled their homes fearing violence continued to stay in crowded refugee camps, queuing up every day in the blazing sun for food packets.
Even in retreat, the Maoists called for a 48-hour bandh in the five states where they matter — West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, Chattisgarh and Orissa. They are active in over 180 of the country’s 600-plus districts, in nearly 20 states.
If this was a show of strength by the Maoists, they didn’t fare too well. There was little or no impact on Bihar, Chattisgarh and Orissa. Jharkhand and West Bengal were affected, but marginally, marked by sporadic violence.
It turned out to be a good day, then, for the Central government to correct an aberration: the CPI (Maoists) had somehow escaped being directly notified a terrorist organisation all these years.
Their parents — People’s War Group and the Maoist Communist Centre — were on the list of banned terrorist outfits, which also includes the LTTE, the Students’ Islamic Movement of India and Lashkar-e-Tayyeba.
But the CPI (Maoists), born in September 2004, were not. They joined the hall of infamy on Monday. “It was always a terror organisation and today an ambiguity has been removed,” said Chidambaram.
Gour Chakraborty, political spokesperson, CPI (Maoist), said: “They have proved that they are against our fight to uplift the living standard of 95 per cent of the population and found banning the only mean to counter the communists.”
While Orissa, Jharkhand and Tamil Nadu declared the Maoists an “unlawful association” under the century-old Criminal Law Amendment Act 1908, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh did it under their state laws.
Chidambaram had made the same point to West Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee when they met over the weekend. Bhattacharjee had promised to give the suggestion a “serious thought”.
Security officials said the state ban – besides being a little more specific about state-level splinter groups rather than prosecutors having to establish the link between the parent group and the naxals – might not make a world of a difference.
The advantage, one official said, was more psychological, may be even political. A clear message needs to go to the policemen on the ground that they should act against them.
“This is what has been lacking in West Bengal where the difference between the party cadre and the government often vanishes”. But the comrades of the CPM and the West Bengal government have different ideas.
“Our stand in West Bengal has been that Maoists have to be countered politically,” said CPM general secretary Prakash Karat on Monday. “We cannot do it with security and police measures. We have to isolate them. Banning does not help because they will emerge with some other nomenclature.”