Book Review – Lalgarh and the Legend of Kishanji

In search of the Maoists, security forces raided Sonamukhi village of Lalgarh, on 30th June, 2010. The male villagers fled to the nearest jungle to avoid police arrest in the guise of search operation. Security forces came, searched and ransacked the houses of poor villagers, as they generally do in such scenarios. However, this time they crossed all limits, when they pulled out the ladies from their respective houses and performed a naked-search on them. They did not even stop here; according to the complaints received from the villagers, the security forces raped six women villagers. The next day (1st July), few young boys of the village took the rape-victims to a nearby hospital. Dr. Hiralal Bisui, the superintendent of the hospital, first advised them to lodge a complaint of rape at the police station and then to proceed with medical tests. After getting this advice, few villagers came to meet the Sub-Divisional Officer (SDO) to lodge a complaint of rape and to request an investigation of the incident. However, their complaint was not registered by the police. Within the next few hours, Dr. Bisui was transferred to a new location, as he was the person who advised the villagers to lodge a police complaint. Centering this incident, as the rage of villagers was taking a fierce shape, few local leaders of Congress party and Trinamool Congress (TMC) party again visited SDO’s office with the victim women. This time their complaint was registered, and they were instructed to conduct the medical tests in Jhargram Hospital. However, this order was meaningless then, as six days had already passed and there were little chances to find any evidence of rape after six days. Naturally, the tests failed to find evidence of rape. Meanwhile, Mr. Sougata Mukherjee, the head of the Bengal Bureau of CNN-IBN channel, came to make a documentary of the whole incident. On 9th July, in Jhargram Hospital he met Manik Mahato, a 22-year old boy, who brought these six ladies to the hospital. All of them were returning back to their village after the failed medical tests. Mr. Mukherjee joined them in their return journey to get a detailed account of the atrocities committed by the security force, from Manik. Mr. Mukherjee tried his best to record statements from the victim women about the torture they faced. However, no one agreed to say even a single word. After many requests, at last, Manik convinced one woman to say something in front of the camera. The women narrated the brutal torture of the security force that she and the other women faced. After the recording was over, Mr. Mukherjee surprisingly asked Manik that how he convinced the woman; Manik replied – “She is my mother.”

This was not a separate incident; rather, this was the reality of the whole Lalgarh area at that time. In the same ways elaborated above, police continued their torture on the local people; finally, in resistance the people formed an unprecedented mass-movement. Journalist Snigdhendu Bhattacharya was an active witness to this movement. In his recent book – ‘Lalgarh and the Legend of Kishanji’ (LLK), he shared his experience in detail and brought many such stories in the daylight which the mainstream media intentionally avoided. We came to know the real heart-touching stories of many such Manik Mahatos. The memories of atrocities perpetrated during the illegal land acquisition for Tata’s Nano car factory in Singur and forceful land acquisition for building a chemical hub in Nandigram by the then fascist ruling party under communist disguise were still fresh. Under such a heated situation, fresh police attacks were unleashed on the people of Lalgarh.

These attacks were resisted vehemently by the local people. Like Nandigram, the people’s movement centering Lalgarh proved that in a class-divided society, exploited and oppressed people would always be ready to fight the fascist ruling class, even in the form of armed-struggle. However, the people’s movement of Lalgarh or whole Jangalamahal had one intrinsic characteristic. Since the last two decades, using the word ‘development’ as an excuse, the ruling class is continuously opening up the national market to the multi-national corporations and assisting them in their free plunder of the natural resources of this country. However, the people of Jangalmahal challenged this and proved in reality that it is absolutely possible to come up with an alternative development model, which is actually beneficial to the people. This was a severe blow to the corporate-centric developmental model. Naturally, the state became desperate to crush this people’s effort, in order to save the interest of the corporates. Journalist Snigdhendu was an eye-witness of all these events. Along with the war between the state and its own people, he also reported the people-centric development activities in Jangalmahal, directed by the local people themselves. Undoubtedly, this was a remarkable effort from his side, as all the corporate-controlled mainstream media always purposefully evaded this particular aspect of Lalgarh movement in those days of turmoil. The layer-by-layer analyses of the different phases of this movement and the final balanced assessment done by the author have made this work an important one in this subject.

Snigdhendu English


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