Young architect-in-the-making Shreya Sen lost her right hand for no fault of hers. Even though she lost one of her hands, handicapping herself and her career, she retains her bubbly self and wants to excel in her profession.
27 year old Amitava Chowdhury was an engineer, whose whereabouts were unknown to his morose parents for nearly two months despite frantic searches in hospitals near Manikpara and in Kolkata. Finally he was identified dead lying in a morgue.
Banerjee, an ex-army personnel suffered from insomnia. His sleep deficiency turned out to be a blessing in disguise, but of what avail? His sound asleep relatives, brother-in-lawDebjan Mukherjee (35), his wife Ananya (28) and son Ribon (5); sister-in-law Chaitali and her daughter Papri (13) breathed and slept their last.
School teachers Syed Javed Alam and his wife Sabia Javed took their twin daughters Shirin and Shamrin to meet Sabia’s elder sister in Mumbai. They were embarking upon their first long distance trip outside the state of West Bengal. None of them managed to complete their journey.
All of the above citizens, along with nearly 200 more were innocent victims of a sabotage on the Gyaneshwari Express on a serene night on May 28th 2010 near Sardiha in West Bengal. Their fault - they were traveling in a train that passed through a stronghold of the Peoples’ Committee against Police Atrocities (PCAPA), widely assessed as a frontal/mass organisation of the Communist Party of India (Maoist). The Gyaneshwari Express massacre brought into public view the nature of the Frankenstein monster that the PCAPA/Maoists had turned out to be in the area.
On August 9th 2010, Asit Mahato, the spokesperson of the PCAPA was seen leading acohort of people towards an “apolitical” rally called by Trinamul Congress chief and railway minister Mamata Banerjee. Mahato was dutifully following instructions from Maoist helmsman Koteswara Rao (aka Kishenji) who had given the call of joining the rally hosted by the Trinamul. Asit Mahato was incidentally wanted by the police and central investigating agencies for playing a central role in the Gyaneshwari Express massacre.
Within a few days after the Gyaneswari incident, despite deliberate obfuscation created by the Union Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee of the Trinamul Congress, both the State CID and the Central Bureau of Investigation identified the PCAPA to be the prime culprits in the sabotage. Investigations revealed that the train tracks were removed resulting in the Gyaneshwari Express being derailed and later, adding woe to misfortune, a goods train rammed onto the derailed train. Nearly 200 including the aforementioned lost their lives for no fault of theirs.
The Indian Express did its own newspaper investigation and identified PCAPA local leader Bapi Mahato as one of the prime plotters and executors of the sabotage on the tracks. Soon a host of PCAPA leaders and squad members were found to be involved and many were apprehended. The chief instigator Bapi Mahato was nabbed and so were other accomplices of his, all members of the PCAPA. The Maoists washed their hands off the affair by suggesting that the PCAPA members had acted on their own. But Asit Mahato and others were still at large, under the Maoists’ protective wing.
After two months of maintaining discreet distance, the Trinamul thought it worthwhile to re-establish public links with the PCAPA. Asit Mahato came out in the open in Lalgarh, where Mamata Banerjee addressed an “apolitical” rally, in company with “social activists” Swami Agnivesh and Medha Patkar. It was a surreal stupendous sight. Self proclaimed pro-poor activists were joining hands with murderers of the poor. An union minister, part of a government whose helsman prime minister Manmohan Singh called the Maoists the greatest internal security threat to the country, was addressing a rally jointly organised by the PCAPA and given explicit support by the Maoists.
The intention was clear. It was the time tested tactic of realpolitik. The immense support in the rural areas enjoyed by the Left Front had to be overcome by hijacking the left agenda. It was made easier in Nandigram, where the issue of land acquisition (later withdrawn) gave common cause for opponents of the Left Front government. As assembly elections neared, it made sense for the right wing Trinamul and the ultra-left Maoists to come together, bridged by the frontal organisation, the PCAPA. Incidents such as the Gyaneshwari Express massacre were mere irritants that had to be brushed away.
The Trinamul’s reaction to the rail accident is a dubious story in itself. Initially Mamata Banerjee claimed that the sabotage was the result of a “bomb blast”. This story was contradicted immediately by the investigating officers of the state police. The Trinamul Congress then demanded a CBI enquiry, expressing disbelief at the state CID’s investigative reports. A CBI enquiry was ordered and the findings more or less tallied with that of the state CID. Pro-Mamata civil society members had the very next day to the accident, meanwhile attributed the accident to the ruling party in West Bengal, in a sinister attempt to divert attention from the PCAPA and the Maoists.
The Gyaneshwari Express incident was not the first one related to the Railways and the PCAPA. Earlier the PCAPA had halted a Rajdhani Express train for hours in a “blockade”, with armed wing members holding up the train.
Yet Mamata Banerjee, despite the terrorist stigma to the PCAPA found it fruitful to attend this rally at Lalgarh, jointly with the PCAPA. The lady was being true to form. She has a history of irresponsible politics, has been a serial rabble rouser and has always shifted political platforms of various kinds, from allying with the right wing Bharatiya Janata Party to her present dalliance with the Maoists. Her single point agenda has been to dislodge the Left Front government in West Bengal.
Already her dismal performance as the Railway minister (who has presided over 14 railway accidents in 14 months, has been very much absent from ministerial duties in Rail Bhavan in New Delhi, has used the ministry as a way to serve populist and extravagant largesse in the form of museums, cultural institutions etc) has earned herself major opprobrium from various sections of the Indian populace.
But what must worry the average Bengal voter - who has shown a tendency towards anti-incumbency over the recent local body, civic and Lok Sabha elections - is her method in madness to blaze a fiery and dangerous path to achieve her “glory” - the post of chief minister after the assembly elections in 2011. Already the minions of the Trinamul Congress are in cahoots with anarchic elements of the Maoists and the PCAPA waging terror in the name of taking on the state in districts of East and West Midnapore. What started with the deliberate and intricately planned assassination attempt on chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has now snowballed into a battle between security forces and armed guerillas and criminals, who have killed more than 250 supporters and sympathisers - mostly peasants, school teachers and poor rural folk - of the ruling party.
And Mamata Banerjee continues to throw chestnuts into the fire. All along last year, she denied the presence of Maoists - thereby wanting no security and administrative action against them. Now, in the rally, she appeals to them to come forward for peace talks. She foreclosed investigation on the tragic rail sabotage even before it began by pointing fingers at the ruling party, only to find overwhelming evidence of the PCAPA’s/Maoists’ involvement. And now she has blatantly moved on to take support from the Maoists and the PCAPA overtly, showing scant respect to the sentiments of the victims of the deliberate rail sabotage.
The presence of Medha Patkar and Swami Agnivesh in the rally was even more confounding. The self proclaimed pro-people activists have now deliberately sided with arch-criminals and terrorists. Medha Patkar claimed in her speech that the LF government has taken away tribal land. From which figment of her imagination has this allegation come about is a question to ponder. Patkar asked Maoists to give up violence and condemned the Gyaneswari Express massacre at a rally jointly organised by the PCAPA with their flags flowing around. Would her mere condemnation be enough to soothe the feelings of those killed by the very folk who organised the meeting? Did Patkar not have even that amount of sense to attend a meeting jointly organised by the very persons who planned and orchestrated the train derailment?
What would have the general reaction been if Patkar and Agnivesh attended a meeting organised by the Lashkar-e-Toiba and condemned the terror attacks on Chattrapati Shivaji Terminus in Mumbai on 26th November 2008? Wasn't it hypocritical to condemn the rail sabotage while addressing a mobilisation that was made possible by Asit Mahato, prime accused in the sabotage?
The ruling Congress in the centre was even more hypocritical about the whole drama. The state Congress offered moral support to Mamata for her and the PCAPA’s rally, even as its own prime minister had pointed out the Maoists to be the single biggest internal security threat facing the country and the home minister had promised to leave no stone unturned to defeat the politics of violence orchestrated by the Maoists and their frontal organisations. The leitmotif of the central government's policy against “leftwing extremism” has been a professed two pronged approach – restoration of law and order by adequate security measures against the militant activities of the Maoists while embarking on pro-poor measures to wean away support from the Maoists. West Bengal already has the institutional set up for the effective functioning of Panchayati Raj and distributive mechanisms – both under threat from the Maoists' single minded approach to create a liberated base area in the region. By providing moral support to a dubious platform that gives legitimacy to the Maoists in Lalgarh, isn't the Congress scoring an own goal? Not really in the realpolitik sense, the Congress finds it politically expedient to hail Mamata Banerjee's maneuvers in West Bengal. It suits the ruling party in the Centre to weaken left opposition in the country and what better way than to defeat it in its citadel in West Bengal? And in the process, if the Congress had to go against its own grain on left wing extremism in West Bengal, so be it.
Justice for the victims of the Gyaneshwari massacre will only be served if self-serving politicians like Mamata Banerjee are shown their real place - in the dustbin of the vanquished rabble rousers of history and the culprits - the anarchic cadre of the PCAPA and the Maoists are brought to book and the Congress doublespeak is exposed. The Gyaneshwari massacre brought the real face of the PCAPA/Maoists' venture in west Midnapore and other districts. The aim was always to defeat and overcome Left Front presence by the politics of terror and annihilation. This has now been openly supported by the opposition parties in West Bengal.
The people of West Bengal should ensure the defeat of the aims of incumbent union railway minister for riding a violent tiger - that had mauled to death nearly 200 innocent civilians on a serene night near Sardiha two months ago. That would be their signal for not brooking the politics of terror and regressive opportunism. And due justice for the innocent victims of the massacre in Sardiha.