Did you know Chattradhar Mahato is a ‘real good man’?
No? Well you should have been there in far flung Jhagram of West Midnapore on Tuesday to know how nice and bhadralok Mahato’s ‘real friends’ are at least, if not the man himself; for he is locked behind bars for lending Maoist support to the tribals of Lalgarh.
Clearly disturbed at law taking its own course, the nice tribal friends of Mahato- the chief of People's Committee against Police Atrocities- showed red flags to a train that was passing through their neighbourhood. No they were not trying to board it and reach Delhi to convey their feelings for Mahato to the PM, though that would have still been a better idea- the approximately 500 men brought to a halt the Bhubaneswar Rajdhani Express with nearly 1200 passengers on board demanding the release of Mahato.
And they didn’t just stop it; they abducted the poor driver and didn’t let the train move for hours. Armed with swords, axes, stones, bows and arrows, the men stormed the train, shattered its windows, broke open its door and terrified the passengers.
In case someone missed their message, the hooligans decided to do a Mamata Banerjee i.e. they painted graffiti on the train a la their once political friend who herself painted the first newly launched Duronto train. “Chattradhar Mahato is a real good man”, “Chattradhar Mahato is a real friend of Santal Brothers”; “Release Mahato” etc, they wrote on its coaches.
Unreliable sources claim they had even spray-painted ‘Didi is a nice woman’ on the train but later decided to remove it, fearing their not using any other colour except red might spoil their plan of meeting Mamata, who is in a mood to strip Kolkata of everything red by 2011. So they stuck to the Mahato messages.
Now using a train as a message board is quite a revolution- though not the type that Maoists would have wanted. We have seen politicians use SMS and twitter to get across their point and sometimes land in cattle-dropping of a soup for the same, but using a Rajdhani has a lot of show-off value.
That seems to be the agenda of Naxals these days. Showing off their power, reach, generosity (they let off a Lalgarh cop alive, with his head on his shoulders), capability as well as their anger. Thus engaging in a mad cycle of violence, their old aim of justice and development for the poor seems to have gone off-track. Think of it, the latest attack on a police station in Gadchiroli killed tribal officers- those that the Maoists claim to represent and nurture.
Whether that is frustration or fear, only time can tell but it is taking its toll for sure- nearly 600 persons have died due to Naxal violence this year alone. That is higher than the toll in the insurgencies in Kashmir and Northeast put together.
It is good to note that the government is unbending before such tactics and is now determined to root out this menace- by peace or war. But imagine had the ‘protesters’ of Jhagram threatened bloodshed on the train in lieu of their ‘good friend’? Will we indeed see Mahato walk out freely like the women of Lalgarh did after the cop was kidnapped by Kishanji- that elusive Maoist boss, master of disappearing act who ensures media cameras are on him whenever he has something to say.
For they have lately shown an unwillingness to hear or be heard in a way that doesn’t include drama but diplomacy. While one would assume that the ‘cause’ is supreme for the Maoists, who are spread in 220 districts in India- the rebels are actually unwilling to give up the gun for a round of talks.
That when the media, intellectuals, a large number of citizens agree that the state has failed to take development to the poorest, leading to a vacuum in space reserved for it and occupied by Maoists who run their own courts etc. But, mysteriously, they don’t let special government schemes like NREGS get executed in areas under their sway. And like blowing up schools and mobile phone towers every now and then will resolve any problem! Rather it reduces the already dilapidated infrastructure.
That the cause is below those ostensibly fighting for it was evident in the train hijacking. Thousands were put in danger for one man. Right thinking should propel the Maoists to take up the proposal of the government to abjure violence in favour of talks.
For now, they clearly forgot that innocents need not fear the leash of law- Binayak Sen spent two years behind bars, but was freed when the government couldn’t produce any evidence against him.
Blocking the tracks- be it of development or a passenger train- seems to have become the only game plan of Maoists, as the state wakes up to its age old apathy and gets its act together, albeit slowly.
The Rajdhani was let go off after a five hour ordeal and the tribals were reportedly given safe passage by the state to avoid any mass killing, but there is little doubt that such incidents are set to rise in the future. It is time that the chain of petty politics not be pulled to stop this train of new thought and a green signal be shown to keep development on-track.