On this scarred battlefront, it’s not an aberration to see a 17-year-old girl with a rifle on her shoulder. The thin, five-foot girl, who calls herself ‘Sita’, wants to avenge the death of her father that happened allegedly at the behest of CPI (Marxist) members. She says, “He was not a Maoist and yet the cops tortured him. I’m a Maoist and I will protect our village.” She joined the Peoples’ Liberation Guerrilla Army, an armed wing of the CPI (Maoist), six months ago.
This is how the people of Jangalmahal, a wooded area cutting through the West Bengal districts of Bankura, Purulia and West Midnapore with its epicentre at Lalgarh, are setting in for a protracted war.
Ask a villager here about the Maoists, and they will seem to have turned deaf or mute. Their ‘alienation’ from the state seems absolute. That’s why, even after the four-month presence of the combined forces here, not a single Maoist of any significance has been arrested; in the same time, 70 local people, allegedly owing allegiance to CPI(M) or the police, have been killed.
Last week, Lalgarh’s People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCAPA) declared the formation of an armed unit, the Peoples’ Militia. Asit Mahato, the newly elected spokesperson of the PCAPA, says, “We’ve been forced to take up arms in place of bows and arrows… We will snatch arms from the CPI(M) goons and the joint forces at every opportunity and build up our armoury.”
Debabrata Bandopadhyay, a retired IAS officer who earlier submitted a report to the Planning Commission on the causes of the growing popularity of Naxals, says, “The fact that the number of Naxalites has increased with every increase in the police force proves that the use of force is futile. This is what has happened in Lalgarh.”