Tribals in Maoist-infested Jangalmahal region of West Bengal are getting restive again, but this time with a “peaceful agitation” plan to wrest autonomy from the state, much like what the Gorkhas have in the Darjeeling hills.
“Our main demand will be autonomy in the form of a Jangalmahal Territorial Administration,” Ashok Jiban Ghosh, a senior leader of the tribal movement in Jangalmahal, said on Thursday.
The agitation is scheduled to start from October and the groundwork has started with attempts to bring all the tribal organisations — some of which are suspected to be Maoist frontal groups — in the region together.
Ghosh said Chhatradhar Mahato, the jailed leader of the now-dissolved Peoples’ Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCAPA), would lead the new dispensation, which would be “of the tribals, by the tribals and for the tribals”. Ghosh, who was secretary of the PCAPA, added, “Outsiders and babus from the city will not be allowed into our peaceful movement.”
The agitation would take place in the tribal belts of Birbhum, Bankura, Purulia and West Midnapore districts that are referred to as Jangalmahal. The region has seen several skirmishes and pitched battles between Maoists and security forces, most notably in Lalgarh.
CM Mamata Banerjee has announced a series of development measures for Jungalmahal and said Maoists would not be able to stop her government from executing them.
Ghosh, however, claimed tribals were not impressed with either her work or words. “Her development programmes lack spontaneous participation of tribals because they are false promises.”