No talk of `red rebels` as Naxalbari goes to polls

The guns have fallen silent here long ago. The cries of "China`s chairman is our Chairman" are no longer heard.

Naxalbari: The guns have fallen silent here long ago. The cries of "China`s chairman is our Chairman" are no longer heard. The fields of Boroorujot and Bengaijot villages are lush green as crops are sown, and there is no trace of the revolutionary fervour that triggered a violent peasant agitation 44 years back, ultimately blossoming into the blood-splattering Naxalite (Maoist) movement engulfing various parts of the country on Sunday.

Even as India continues to be singed by red terror, with Maoists still active in carrying out an armed struggle, Naxalbari - a name that once used to sent a chill down the spines of the authorities - now looks like any other sleepy rural hamlet in the plains of northern West Bengal`s Darjeeling district, which votes April 18 to elect a new state assembly.

It all started May 25, 1967 when police fired on peasants demanding their right to till a piece of land at Bengaijot, killing nine people and two children.

This action triggered a movement which snowballed into a militant movement that derived its name from the area, about 32 km from Siliguri. Tukuriya forest, the site of the guerrilla warfare camp once run by the Naxalites, is now feared only for snakes.

Today, very few people are even ready to talk about the Left uprising cradled by the fields and tea gardens of the area.

Not surprisingly, the Maoist movement is not an issue at the newly carved out Matigara-Naxalbari constituency which will see a five cornered contest, with the main battle likely to remain confined to Jharen Roy of Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) and Sankar Malakar of the Congress.

The three other candidates are Asim Sarkar of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Atul Chandra Roy of Kamtapur Progressive Party and Dipu Haldar of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) (CPI-ML).

Dipu Haldar, in her late thirties, says she has been reminding the electorate of 192,913 people about the glorious past of the place. "But we are opposed to killing class enemies," she said.

Echoes CPI-ML state secretary Subrata Basu: "Taking lessons from the failure of the Naxalite movement in the mid 1970s, we want to launch a movement sans the doctrine of individual killing."

Formed of parts of Siliguri and Phansidewa constituencies, Matigara-Naxalbari has seen a predictable election campaign revolving around the need to change the 34-year old Left Front rule.

"I am campaigning door-to-door. I think that the people will do a fair judgment," Basu added.

On the other hand, Sankar Malakar of the Congress said: "Pro-changers will come up with flying colours."

Former Naxalite leader Ajijul Haque found nothing surprising in the movement fading out at its birthplace.

"The Naxalbari movement is still relevant. I do not know why mainstream political parties do not mention about the movement in their campaign," Haque said to a news agency.

"Can the movement not weaken in its base? If the fall of Communism could happen in Moscow and Leningrad, then why cannot the Naxalite movement weaken at Naxalbari," he asked.


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