ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Jangalmahal: Receding Prospects of Dialogue

Mamata Banerjee concurs with P Chidambaram's counterinsurgency strategy.

She revels in rhetoric – Mamata Banerjee’s word of honour was parivartan (change). A large section of the people of West Bengal desperately wanted change, so parivartan brought her to the helm at Writers’ Building, with its Corinthian facade carrying over from the heyday of the East India Company, now, of course, the office and secretariat of the chief minister of West Bengal. But what did parivartan mean for the people of Jangalmahal, the forested belt of Paschim Medinipur, Bankura and Purulia? The astute politician that she is (and no one can accuse her of being a non-performing asset), she had, prior to the state assembly elections, spelt this out quite accurately. No wonder the Trinamool Congress (TMC) performed beyond its dreams in Jangalmahal in the assembly elections in April-May this year. Mamata Banerjee and the TMC she heads, as part of parivartan, promised the withdrawal of the Joint Forces (JF) that for the adivasis has been an occupying force since mid-June 2009, the unconditional release of all political prisoners, especially the hundreds of their own men, women and children arrested and dumped into jail in the course of the JF operations, and a dialogue with the Maoists who are leading the resistance there.

As we said, she is not a non-performing asset. Every other day she is up to something, and the fourth estate, which usually sleeps late and gets up on the wrong side of the bed, late, is kept on its toes every morning, getting to know the chief minister’s route to Writers’ at the eleventh hour. So, with the usual spectacle, she has been disciplining the health service, but, predictably, has not bothered to even begin the process of reformulating public health policy to serve the needs of the majority who can ill afford what the mushrooming private sector has on offer. The Jangalmahal agenda ostensibly got off the ground very soon after she took office – she appointed a committee to review the cases of political prisoners and a team of interlocutors to get in touch with the Maoists on behalf of the government to facilitate a dialogue. Till date, not a single “Maoist” political prisoner has been released. Indeed, the hundreds of adivasis with false cases slapped on them are still languishing in jail. It goes to the credit of the first Left Front government that it did keep to its promise of an unconditional release of all political prisoners in West Bengal soon after it came to office in the aftermath of the Emergency in 1977.

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