— Comrade Anu
[Comrade Anu is a woman member of the Purulia-Bankura-Midnapur Zonal Committee, While talking to us during an interview she narrated her colourful experiences gathered in the struggles in Belphari, in Midanapur district in West Bengal]
Peoples March: Belphari now stands out as a model to the revolutionary masses in West Bengal. What initiatives have you taken to organize the people and launch struggle there?
Com. Anu: I had gone to Belpahari. Since our entry into Belpahari we started discussion with the village people concerning various problems. We started giving suggestions. The local people started talking to us about their problems with enthusiasm. We then noticed that the livelihood of the people to a great extent revolves round procuring Kendu leaves. We felt that if the movement against low-wages could be initiated then it was likely to lessen the financial stress to an extent. There remained other problems too, as for example, regarding the cord spun out of babui grass, low level of wages (Kami Majuri). However, we first organized a mass movement for suitable wages for Kendu leaves. We formed the peasant front committee with the people rallying over the demand for raising wages for procuring Kendu leaves. We carried on extensive propaganda and organized movement. In many places the contractors too conceded to our demand.
In many places the CPI(M) tried to crush this movement and persuaded the people into believing that ‘Naxalites are hatching a conspiracy to put a stop to the Kendu leaves business; etc. Through all this the real face of the CPI(M) got unveiled.
P.M. What problems have you faced to rally the masses in the areas where the CPI(M) and other Jharkhandi parties are active?
Com. Anu: The area where we started our propaganda first faced the strong presence of the Jarkhand organisations and the CPI(M). We faced attacks from both sides. We were attacked by the Jharkhand organisation in Shimulpur while in Banshpahari – Bhulabheda the CPI(M) launched attacks on us. For example, when a three-member team of ours was carrying on propaganda, a gang of 10 JKP activists fell upon us in an inebriated state, shouting threats to us. When we firmly faced than they beat a retreat. While leaving, they said threateningly, “Nobody shall be allowed to practise party politics here other than that of the Jharkhand Party.” We also replied, “We must fearlessly propagate our politics in all the areas!”
In Banshpari area too the CPI(M) fell upon us. A woman leader of the CPI (M) women’s organisation tried to hand me over to the police. I could only escape arrest after taking shelter in a house with the help of an elderly woman of the village. However, the police came and collected my name. The very next day we rallied the entire village masses, issued threats to that CPI(M) woman and gave her a mild punishment. The villagers also raised slogans against the woman.
In reality, the economic crisis of the Belpahari people is so acute that they are always bitter with all the parties mired in electoral politics. They were searching for an alternative. They found that alternative path in our politics. Besides that, we organized a large section of the masses through the movements on the issues of Kendu leaf, babui cord and wage-rise.
After the Bansphari incident, the CPI(M) organized some attacks on us. In retaliation, when we offered counter-resistance they beat a retreat and became dependent on the police. In a similar way, we had to take a counter resistance campaign programme against the attacks of the Jharkhand Party in Shimulpal. All such incidents teach us that it is struggle alone that is the determing force to break the deadlock in the people’s movement.
P.M: The CPI(M) say ‘In West Bengal democracy exists, here is no need for armed struggle’. Then on what grounds have you taken up arms?
Com. Anu: If you want to see the real face of the CPI(M)’s democracy, you have to go to the backward villages. Come to Belpahari, Lalgarh, Shalbani areas to see for yourselves the picture of repression let loose by the B.S.F/C.R.P.F on the people demanding two morsels of food of the government. You will see how people are being framed in fake cases and sent to jail. It is such a democracy where the opposition leader Mamta Bandhopadhaya too is forced to say that without arms power can’t be captured. It is such a democracy that the leader of mass killing in Chhoto Angaria, Mr. Tapan Ghosh, is appointed the CPI(M) Zonal Secretary and District Committee member. The police allows him to go scot free, so does the CBI. It is such a democracy over here where a minority section in the CPI(M) Zonal Conference capture the committee at gun point.
Is it possible to establish democracy in the state without taking up guns where the gun alone matters?
P.M. As a woman district committee member you have gone to lead the masses, what sort of response have you received?
Com. Anu: In this patriarchal society it is the men who want to keep the women under them using their domination. It is the reality of the society. But communist ideology teaches women to be at par with their men. Yet still now the influence of patriarchy is noticed in the communist party. Now women are emerging as leaders fighting against this trend. Among the masses in the area the problem was quite evident initially but later it got reduced to a great degree. Now generally the acceptability has greatly enhanced. Yet, socially speaking some problems are still there. In fact, the more the struggle has intensified, the more have I received acceptability. There was a problem as regards accepting me as a leader. It was particularly in the middle class families. Comparatively speaking such a problem is much less with the families of toilers. Even the women too are not free from such a wrong trend. In the minds of the women of middle class families such a trend is greatly perceptible.
P.M. What sorts of initiatives are you taking to organize the women with an eye to the specific problems of this area?
Com. Anu: We have not been able in that sense to take specific problems of women in the area. We have not been able to build up any women’s organisation as such. Some primary steps were taken to celebrate the occasion of 8th March along with some other programmes. In the area women’s villages committees were also formed. Generally speaking, women have played a very good role in peasant movements. It is the women who have taken special initiative in wall writing, propaganda campaign, resisting police terror, etc. In some villages it is the women who have taken upon themselves the duty of supply food and other necessities to the squads.
Now at this moment, a good number of women are working as squad members. Right at this moment among the professional revolutionaries of Bihar-Jharkhand-Orrissa border region one third are women. A good number of women comrades have been imprisoned. In the families in which the male members are in jail it is the women members who have been shouldering all their family responsibilities, simultaneously with extending various types of help and cooperation to the Party. Though the CPI(M) indulges in tall talk on women’s freedom, whenever the women plunge into struggle it sends them to jail.
If the struggle does not develop it remains a great problem for the women to participate in the movement overcoming the hindrances of the patriarchal society. The struggle is still in a weak state; this situation will undergo a change for the better with the development of the struggle.
P.M. The incident at Bandwan is a milestone for the revolutionary movement of West Bengal. What sort of change has come up in the situation after this incident?
Com. Anu: The Bandwan ambush was the first resistance against the ruthless methods adopted of crushing the struggle undertaken, by the CPI(M) in cahoots with the state machinery, since the process of developing the struggle started. This incident has brought back great confidence in the minds of the people. Discussions kept going on among the masses that the Party is able to cope with the police terror and that revolutionaries never do any harm to the common people other than their hated enemy. All the conspiracies of the Police and the CPI(M) primarily failed. After that the people’s resistance campaigns in Daldoli, Lalgarh, Kankrajhor have boosted the morale of the people further.
However, after such incidents, the deployment of para-military forces has increased manifold. Police raids and combing operations have also increased many times. The Buddhadeb government in league with the central government, has now been trying to set up a police raj in those areas. Yet the state machinery now-a-days fails to create fear in the minds of the people as before.
P.M: What message do you like to send to the oppressed women as a woman leader of the Communist Party?
Com. Anu: Women can be free from all types of exploitation only in a communist society. So integrate the women’s movement with the movement for the emancipation of the whole society. Participate in class struggle breaking loose the narrow social barriers. Lead the struggle against patriarchy being armed with a correct scientific outlook.