ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Fact-Finding on Lalgarh

An all-India fact-finding mission consisting of 10 members, including a former ambassador, a Supreme Court lawyer, human rights activists, economists, journalists, and writers, visited Binpur 1 (Lalgarh), and Binpur 2 (Belpahari) on 10 and 11 April 2009. The team talked to the police, political party members, community leaders and local people. In addition, we, the members of the team attended meetings and witnessed rallies. Our overwhelming impression was that the people of Lalgarh want to participate in the upcoming elections. However, they wish to cast their vote in an atmosphere of peace and security, rather than one in which they feel intimidated by threats of violence from the police or from the Harmad Vahini (alleged CPM(M) cadre).

On 2 November 2008, a landmine explosion occurred while the convoy of the union steel minister and the West Bengal chief minister was passing Salboni, 50 kilometres from Lalgarh. Seven people, including three schoolboys from Lalgarh, were arrested by the police in connection with this incident. This was followed by raids by the police, in which not just men, but children, old people and women were also subjected to various atrocities. The charges against all the suspects have subsequently been dropped by the court. This pattern of arrests and violence fits into a long-standing history of atrocities against the adivasi-mulvasis of Lalgarh, which in fact goes all the way back to colonial times. Fed up with this sub-human treatment, the people of the area have ultimately formed themselves into a Police Santrash Birodhi Janasadharaner Committee (People’s Committee against Police Atrocities or PSBJC) and have blocked entry of the police and Harmad Vahini into their area for several months. They have specified that the blockade would be r emoved if the police apologise to the p eople for their past excesses (in the t raditional tribal manner, by holding their ears and rubbing their own noses against the ground).

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