Salboni: It has been over a month since the horrific derailment of the Gyaneshwari Express team near Jhargram in West Bengal that left 148 dead. The Maoist-backed People’s Committee against Police Atrocities (PCPA) is accused of derailing the train and some of its leaders and members have already been arrested in connection with the derailment.
But CNN-IBN learns that the group is now not just building health centres, roads and renovating water tanks but also building a private army.Jangalmahal in Salboni block in West Midnapore of West Bengal is described by the state government as “disturbed area”, and the banned CPI-Maoists call it a “guerilla zone”. Despite Section 144 imposed for over a year now, Maoist-backed PCAPA is able to organise a gathering and it is their way of suggesting they are the rulers here. The West Bengal government led by the CPI-M is trying hard to get a toehold in the area.
The PCPA claims security forces often harass the people.”They tried joint forces. They surrounded some villages and the joint forces took away six people. Women blocked the road but they fired and lathi charged. What is the reason? They are harassing us,” says PCPA spokesperson Manoj Mahto.Barely 18 months ago the area was considered a CPI-M stronghold.
Now former CPI-M members, who are now with the PCPA, speak of their disillusionment with the Bengal Marxists.”For the last 35-40 years there was no irrigation. Why did the party not do that? Where is development, where is irrigation. Today we are doing that,” says a former CPI-M member Lalmohun Mahto.Sajan Mahto makes Rs 150 whenever he finds work. He says he has contributed Rs 100 and also five days labour for building the hospital in the area.
Baidyanath Hathrani, battling a failed monsoon and no work, has also contributed Rs 20.”I cannot go to Medinipur. We are poor. We can only afford rice. We can give only Rs 20, Rs 50, we cannot give more,” says Hathrani.The modest hospital building seeks to meet the health needs of 12 villages. Since it is cutoff from the outside world, it serves an important function and sees a constant stream of villagers seeking treatment and receiving it.There are 35 health centres which have come up in the past one and half years, all built by the PCPA. They claim to treat common diseases like diarrohea, fever and give free medicines.
“They say Maoists have built this and treat Maoists,” says health centre manager Biswajeet Mahto.Parallel to the claims the PCPA is also busy building a private army, the Jana Militia. They have a Shaheed Committee which is in charge of families whose members have been killed or are missing. They even conduct what are called the people’s court.”We do not believe in violence. We do not believe in doing illegal work. We do not harass ordinary people,” claims PCPA spokesperson Manoj Mahto.But with their leaders Chhatradhar Mahato behind bars, Lalmohun Tudu dead, senior leaders Asit Mahto and Shidu Shoren being intensely pursued by the police, PCPA is facing its worst crisis.