The physical distance between Mamata Banerjee’s Nabanna in Howrah, West Bengal and the Prime Minister’s Office in New Delhi, where Narendra Modi is perched, is around 1,500 km. Due to Mamata Banerjee’s obstinate opposition towards Narendra Modi’s rule and his agendas, it’s often said in the corporate-controlled mainstream media that they are staunch political enemies of each other. It’s often overlooked, that having worked together, hand-in-hand, during the heydays of Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s rule, when Narendra Modi was appeasing the bloodlust of Brahmanical upper-caste reactionary Hindutva fanatics by butchering innocent Muslims in Gujarat and Mamata Banerjee never shied away from receiving the then dictator-in-making ‘Narendrabhai’ with bouquets, they aren’t quite ideologically hostile to each other. What are the factors that ‘unite’ these ostensible ‘opposites’? Their shared love for big corporate capital, feudalism and their extreme hatred towards left-wing politics can be considered as common factors that bind them together in an unholy alliance and narrows the distance between their regimes. The recent arrest of four activists from Goaltore of West Medinipur, who are called ‘Maoists’ by the police and the Trinamool Congress government and are booked under draconian Indian Penal Code sections: 121 (waging war against the state), 121A (conspiring to commit offence against the state), 124A (sedition), 120B (criminal conspiracy) and 149 (if an offence is committed by any member of an unlawful assembly, every other member shall be guilty of the offence), prove beyond doubt that the ideological distance between Narendra Modi and Mamata Banerjee is at sub-zero level.
Sabyasachi Goswami (50), Sanjib Majumdar (35), Arkadip Goswami (23) and Tipu Sultan (23) were arrested from Goaltore when they separately went there for surveying about the lives of the tribal people, especially after the death of seven Shabar tribals came out, exposing the horrifying poverty and deprivation reigning in the West Medinipur district.
Sabyasachi Goswami is a poet and a Marxist theoretician, his writings, especially against the parliamentary opportunism of the left, are quite well-acclaimed and they are often published in left-wing journals like Aneek, etc. Sabyasachi Goswami was earlier arrested thrice for alleged links with the banned CPI(Maoist) and he remained in jail for more than seven years. He is an unapologetic critic of the present socio-economic order and calls for a revolutionary change to bring forth a truly democratic system.
Sanjib Majumdar is a civil rights activist, a member of the Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners (CRPP) who has been fighting for the rights of the political prisoners. During the Left Front’s rule, Sanjib Majumdar was booked in 2004 under different draconian sections of the Indian Penal Code for participating in a movement against the Super Lotto – an online gambling system that was introduced by the notorious Zee corporation, which is headed by BJP’s Subhash Chandra now. Sanjib Majumdar was out on bail when he was nabbed from Goaltore.
Arkadip Goswami is a medical student of Burdwan Medical College, while Tipu Sultan, who hails from Bolpur, Birbhum district, is a former student of the Vishwa Bharati University. Arkadip and Tipu had ties with the USDF, a student organisation that the government calls a frontal organisation of the Maoist party. Both Arkadip and Tipu have been vocal about the rights of the poor, marginalised and oppressed people, and they opposed the treatment meted out to the political prisoners in the jails. Tipu Sultan led several movements of students in Vishwa Bharati campus, while Arkadip Bhattacharya carried out his struggle within the campus and also went out to treat people whenever he could get a chance.
A tour of Goaltore by four political and social activists isn’t a crime according to the colonial-era penal code. Rather, as free citizens of a so-called independent country, people are free to go to Goaltore as much as they are free to visit Goa. However, arresting them and charging them with sedition by the Mamata Banerjee-led TMC government exemplify how the imaginary line perceived by the corporate media of existing between Ms Banerjee and Mr Modi has blurred at the grassroots, where both of them have become paranoid over ‘Naxals’, the menace they claim their governments have crushed forever.
While Narendra Modi and the members of the RSS-led Hindutva fascist camp always accuse their critical opponents as ‘Urban Naxals’, Mamata Banerjee has a history of accusing her critics as ‘Maoists’. While the BJP government in Maharashtra, in collaboration with the Modi government in Delhi, started gagging critical voice by stamping the civil rights activists, lawyers and intellectuals as ‘Urban Naxals’, Mamata Banerjee’s government has developed a habit of randomly arresting people and accusing them of abetting Maoist rebellion to muffle those who dare raise questions that cause inconvenience for Her Majesty’s regime. Even the British colonial rulers would’ve felt inferior complexity have they seen how their successors are falsely accusing their political opponents en-masse and then jailing them and in some cases, killing them.
These four, Sabyasachi Goswami, Sanjib Majumdar, Arkadip Goswami and Tipu Sultan, are not underground, most-wanted members or cadres of the banned CPI(Maoist), rather they are workers of mass organisations that work independently and criticise the police atrocities committed under the guise of combating ‘left-wing extremism’. These people are vocal against the forceful eviction of tribal people from their lands, jungles and rivers, they oppose the corporate aggression on agricultural lands, which even Mamata Banerjee opposed during her famous Singur and Nandigram campaigns.
What brought these four men, Sabyasachi Goswami, Sanjib Majumdar, Arkadip Goswami and Tipu Sultan to Goaltore on that fateful evening? There were several factors that these four wanted to study or understand independently. While they were interested primarily to understand why the BJP is able to expand its base in this tribal heartland and why RSS schools and militant training camps are spreading in the region, they were also keen to know about the condition of the political prisoners of the region who are languishing in jail since the days of the Left Front government. These four were also trying to ascertain the facts about the starvation deaths in the nearby Lalgarh area, where seven members of the Shabar tribe lost their lives due to malnutrition and starvation, a fact that both Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and District Magistrate Ayesha Rani are vehemently denying. These motives were not so dangerous, apparently, to have someone arrested and booked with the colonial-era ‘sedition’ law, yet, that very impossible thing did take place.
The TMC, which once used the supporters and cadres of the CPI(Maoist) to seize control over the districts of East and West Medinipur, especially Nandigram and Lalgarh, trained its guns against the ultras soon after ascending to power riding on the ‘Maoist’ shoulders. The Maoists who expected a positive response from the Mamata Banerjee-led TMC government due to their own political myopic views were soon exterminated from the region they called their ‘stronghold’ by a series of violent campaigns between 2011 to 2013.
Majority of the political prisoners who were falsely accused by the CPI(M)-led Left Front government of being ‘Maoist’ sympathisers during 2004 to 2011 are still languishing in the prisons of West Bengal, while many more are thrown behind the bars on similar charges by the Mamata Banerjee government. Ironically, Mamata Banerjee was a vehement opponent of the CPI(M)-led Left Front government’s arbitrary police action against the tribals and called the accusations – politically motivated.
Apart from imprisoning those who fought for the people’s rights, the TMC-led government has actually eradicated opposition force in the West Medinipur district, rendering the people vulnerable to the violence and tyranny of the TMC apparatus. There is absolutely no way that the poor tribals, who are given two choices – either die due to starvation or get killed by the TMC’s ‘Harmad’ (mercenary)force, can demand their rights and live a life of dignity.
Amidst rampant corruption, nepotism, anarchy, absolute tyranny and terror of the ruling party, the BJP and the RSS have forrayed inside the district and by winning the people’s trust by organising political movements against the TMC, the saffron camp has established itself as a strong force for the TMC to reckon with. These four men, Sabyasachi Goswami, Sanjib Majumdar, Arkadip Goswami and Tipu Sultan, wanted to understand how the BJP and the RSS are growing and expanding their organisation in a poverty-clad part of West Bengal, which used to be a stronghold of the Maoists a few years ago.
The growth of the BJP and the RSS in the area is informed to the government by the intelligence wings long ago, yet Mamata Banerjee wants to use the Hindutva fascists to combat their common enemy- the revolutionary, progressive and democratic voices. The vacuum that was created by TMC’s forceful eviction of opposition from West Bengal is now filled by the BJP and it’s no more a secret to the people that this meteoric rise of the BJP and the saffron camp, which were non-existent in the state before 2011, is patronised by Mamata Banerjee unofficially.
Powered by the support of Mamata Banerjee’s administration, RSS-led Hindutva fascist organisations are filling the void of a militant and strong opposition by influencing the susceptible tribal people with their muscle power, employed against the TMC hooligans at many places. Using the influence and by exploiting the respect it’s earning as a strong opponent of the criminal-mafia TMC rule, the RSS is radicalising the youth and recruiting foot soldiers for its mission of spreading communal violence throughout West Bengal and neighbouring Odisha.
The four were trying to talk to locals to ascertain the present scenario, the strength gained by the RSS and other Sangh affiliates in the area and how the TMC is aiding the growth of the saffron camp, directly and indirectly in the district.
As the state government and the TMC are hindering the collection of real news from Junglemahal, it’s getting harder for anyone to understand the poverty and starvation scenario prevailing in the area. Following the ruckus over the death of seven Shabar tribals in the last few weeks in Jangalkhas village of the former Maoist stronghold- Lalgarh, the four were surveying the poverty and starvation situation in Goaltore, another poor area of the district.
Though Mamata Banerjee has frantically denied the occurrence of any starvation death, the Shabar tribals are mostly suffering from Tuberculosis (TB), swelling of hands and legs, jaundice, water-borne diseases, malaria, etc. Most of them are dying due to TB and swelling of limbs, which are directly linked to starvation. The unavailability of any sustainable livelihood, the sole dependence of the tribals on wood collection from the jungles and their inability to buy food grains in adequate quantity is leading to a catastrophic situation for the people in this district.
The Mamata Banerjee-led government is busy organising festivals and fairs, where tribal culture and life are showcased for business, it’s busy organising a huge film festival with Mamata Banerjee’s banners used everywhere, it’s busy in advertising – Junglemahal Hasche (Junglemahal is smiling) to the world, while in reality the people are unable to buy two meals a day and are living in abject poverty in districts like West Medinipur, Purulia, Bankura, Birbhum, Jalpaiguri, Alipurduar, Coochbehar, etc.
From the tribals of south Bengal to the tea plantation workers (also tribals) in north Bengal, the reign of starvation and poverty has gripped the entire territory of West Bengal under Mamata Banerjee’s rule. As these four were close to finding out the reality that Mamata Banerjee is trying to cover-up using sheer lies like the Shabars died due to their ‘odd lifestyle’, ‘alcoholic’ lives, etc., thus, it became a risk factor for the TMC government to allow these four to go scot-free with the information it has been trying to conceal from the people.
The police claimed that as ‘Maoist literature’ was recovered from these four, thus, they’re suspected to be Maoists, a juxtaposing that’s illegal according to the Supreme Court’s observation that mere possession of Maoist literature, including documents of the CPI(Maoist), doesn’t make a person culprit of being a militant member of the banned outfit.
Though the police gave a lot of spicy ‘insights’ into the prized catch to the chosen corporate media houses, they didn’t reveal what sort of literature were seized from the arrested people that makes them ‘Maoists’. There is no name of any literature that can be called dangerous, rather, devoid of any specific content, story or evidence, the police are concocting tales to implicate these four activists.
The entire charge sheet that accuses these four has several clauses that have reverse and critical views expressed by the Supreme Court itself. The apex court had observed that ‘Guilt by association’ and ‘Guilt by suspicion’ are ‘no guilt at all’. Mamata Banerjee’s government’s unapologetic violation of the Supreme Court’s observation proves how this government has scrapped all Constitutional values and have subscribed to sheer tyranny, following the example set by Narendra Modi’s regime.
No wonder, when the opposition camp was vehemently opposing Narendra Modi’s government’s propaganda over ‘Urban Naxals’ and the BJP-led Maharashtra government’s crackdown on civil rights activists since last few months, Mamata Banerjee, who wants to play a crucial role as an opposition leader during the 2019 Lok Sabha election, remained mum on the issue, except some lip service to ‘democracy’. It’s no wonder that Mamata Banerjee was a member of the UPA II government, which unleashed the most violent war on the tribals of the country – Operation Green Hunt. Mamata Banerjee has supported the Operation Green Hunt wholeheartedly upon coming to power.
Not only did the Mamata Banerjee government arrest these four, but it also arrested the youth who protested against the arrest of Sabyasachi Goswami, Sanjib Majumdar, Arkadip Goswami and Tipu Sultan in Kolkata. The fascist attitude shown by Mamata Banerjee has equated her variant of fascism with the RSS variant of fascism, except for the saffron hue.
The audacity with which the TMC government is suppressing genuine mass movements, arresting civil rights activists and torturing the political prisoners in custody gives a better picture of her government’s intent. The same government that arrested and locked up the four – Sabyasachi Goswami, Sanjib Majumdar, Arkadip Goswami and Tipu Sultan, for visiting Goaltore, does nothing to stop riot-mongers like Dilip Ghosh, Tapan Ghosh, Jishnu Bose, etc., who are openly threatening the Muslim community with violence and are instigating communal riots in different parts of the state. Mamata Banerjee’s government, which is flexing muscle against unarmed leftwing activists, is reluctant to stop the three notorious Rath Yatras planned by the BJP from the second week of December. Despite making tall claims about secularism, Mamata Banerjee’s government is peddling soft Hindutva to woo upper-caste reactionary Hindu votes.
Unlike Lalu Prasad Yadav, who stopped former BJP strongman Lal Krishna Advani’s Rath Yatra and jailed him, Mamata Banerjee is unable to show any courage to crack the whip on the efforts to instigate communal riot in West Bengal by her former partners, rather she is declaring a Brahminical ritual of ‘purification’ of the state post the Rath Yatras, which again amounts to falling into the lap of the Hindutva fascists.
During the last seven years of her rule, Mamata Banerjee and her party have shown to the people of West Bengal that no substantial and effective change can happen in the political and economic sphere of the state through the likes of hardcore right-wingers like her. It’s her ability to hoodwink the poor and the vulnerable, and her theatrics that helped her ascend to power and now, it’s her religious adherence to state violence and party-sponsored violence, following the model set-up by the CPI(M), that she and her party are able to sweep one after another election with brute majority.
The consequences of her violence, nepotism, communal politics and utmost corruption at all levels have been far-reaching and helped the BJP to become a formidable force in a state where it could never stand on its own strength. It’s only the people like Sabyasachi Goswami, Sanjib Majumdar, Arkadip Goswami and Tipu Sultan who are at the forefront of the real struggle against the Hindutva fascist juggernaut and hence, they are persecuted and their voices are gagged by the corporate-lackey, feudal regimes, like the one led by Mamata Banerjee or the one led by Narendra Modi.
It’s time that the country gets one dissenting voice come out of each poor and downtrodden family, blowing the klaxon against the Modi regime and the anti-people governments led by the so-called opposition parties like Mamata Banerjee’s TMC. By imprisoning the four – Sabyasachi Goswami, Sanjib Majumdar, Arkadip Goswami and Tipu Sultan, Mamata Banerjee can, for the time being, buy some time for preserving the exploitative system she is staunchly protecting, yet neither she nor the RSS-led Hindutva fascists can prevent the inevitable collapse of their predatory rule and the rise of the people’s quest for democracy, freedom and equality. As progress is the course of history; reaction can’t stop it for a long time.