I have wanted to write about Lalgarh long since, but I was kind of dumb seeing what were happening in there: companies of security forces were pouring in everyday, the Maosists on the run, and people leaving their homes in panic. All this gave me a writer's block, and I could not figure out what to write about Lalgarh, which had a tiny population of 3,70,000 - mostly tribal people, arguably the poorest of Indians, who scarcely can manage one square meal a day.
Lalgarh is Buddhadeb's last show of power. He forcibly acquired farm land in Singur for Tata's automobile project. The farmers fought it out with all of their might and resources. And finally Ratan Tata, the owner of Nano projct, backed out. Buddhadeb tried to take farm land in Nandigram for a chemical hub. There too farmers resisted hard and for a long time, and sent the Government back with an empty hand.
Now it's Lalgarh long known to be Maoists' stronghold. An industrialist had booked it for its steel project. Since the Maoists took over the tribal belt amidst the govt's apalling indifference and callousness about the conditions of people here, Buddhadeb played his Maoist card here very well. The UPA government at the centre, who considers the Maoists the greatest security threat to India, swallowed the bait, and helped Bengal's pathetic ruler with paramilitary forces - companies after companies, just for the asking.
Today is the eighteenth day of Lalgarh operation. The security forces have not been able to nab a single confirmed Maoist. Where were they gone? If they escaped, how could the forces allow them to? Now on TV screen, you see uniformed men marching along roads, the tiny huts on each side without any men amd women, and the huge land looks deserted and gloomy. And where were all those people gone?
People of Lalgarh could not fight back. How can they against such a sophisticated paramilitary force with copters guiding them?
Chhtradhar Mahato, the flambuoyant leader of the Adivasis, is no where to be seen.
So, has the Government won?
I'm not sure.