Buddhadeb Bhattacharjees government on Tuesday chose the middle path between the Centre and the CPM on tackling Naxals in the state,agreeing to implement the ban on the CPI (Maoist),but claiming the freedom to decide on the manner of its implementation.
Hours after the announcement,the crackdown began: Kolkata Police detained and subsequently arrested the outfits spokesman Gour Chakraborty as he emerged from the office of a private TV channel in Park Street after giving them an interview.
Police Commissioner Gautam Mohan Chakrabarti told The Indian Express: We detained Chakraborty following the ban on his party under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act on the suspicion that he is an active member of the CPI (Maoist).
Till Tuesday,West Bengal had been Indias only Naxal-affected state where the CPI (Maoist) was not proscribed. Chief Minister Bhattacharjee had,after meeting with Home Minister P Chidambaram on Saturday,said he would seriously think about changing that. His party,however,reacted strongly after Chidambaram specifically included the CPI (Maoist) in the ministrys list of banned terrorist organisations yesterday decrying the move in Delhi and Kolkata,and insisting that Naxalism needed to be fought politically.
The ban (on the CPI (Maoist) was imposed by the Centre and it is applicable to the whole country. So we have no other option but to accept it. Let me make it very clear. The Maoists are banned in this state too. But it is the state government which will decide how the ban will be implemented, Bhattacharjee told a news conference after a meeting of his cabinet today.
While we have to accept the central ban we have to keep in mind that there is one opinion among Left leaders that by banning it you cannot solve this problem. So we have to make a 3-pronged strategy to combat this menace. The three areas are,socio-economic development of tribal areas,political campaign and mobilisation that will include rallies,distribution of leaflets,meetings etc. and,finally,administrative measures, Bhattacharjee said.
The chief minister said his government had already set up a task force for the development of tribal areas,and spent Rs 13 crore on irrigation,agriculture,education,drinking water. etc.
Sixty-year-old Chakraborty had been moving from one TV studio to another on Tuesday,giving interviews on the Lalgarh situation. The man from North 24-Parganas district adjoining Kolkata is an overground member of the CPI (Maoist),and became the outfits official spokesperson after its Bengal state secretary Himadri Sen Roy alias Somen was arrested in February 2008.
According to Naxal sources,Chakraborty joined the CPI (M-L) in 1969,the same year it was formed. Over the next four decades,he was with various factions of the original party,such the CPI-ML (Second Central Committee),the CPI-ML (Party Unity),and the Peoples War Group (PWG). He played a key role in the creation of the CPI (Maoist) in 2004 by the merger of the PWG and the Maoist Communist Centre (MCC).
Facing the heat from the security forces at Lalgarh meanwhile,the Maoists today said they were ready to negotiate,but demanded a ceasefire as precondition.
We are ready for talks with the Centre and West Bengal government if the intellectuals who visited the troubled Lalgarh area last Sunday,arrange for a meeting, CPI (Maoist) leader Sagar said in a statement. Chakraborty issued a follow-up statement saying the meeting would be possible only if central paramilitary forces were withdrawn from Lalgarh,and the state police announced a ceasefire.
Kolkata intellectuals filmmaker Aparna Sen,theatre artistes Kaushik Sen and Saonli Mitra and poet Joy Goswami had met PCPA leader Chhatradhar Mahato in Lalgarh on Sunday,and asked both the Maoists and security forces to exercise restraint and begin talks.