‘Centre must withdraw its forces from Lalgarh’

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TMC chief whip Sudip Bandyopadhyay tells Kunal Majumder that Mamata Banerjee wants the Maoists in the mainstream

Why did you organise a rally with the Maoists? What is the message you want to send across?
Name me at least one or two Maoist leaders who were present in the rally? The Lalgarh rally was to show our support to the poor people who are fighting hunger, the tribal people who have no place to live, and had no schools, colleges, or hospitals during 34 years of Left Front rule. These areas are completely isolated from the mainstream. They are taking up arms, taking part in violence. Mamata thought that her presence would bring the tension down to a normal level.

Does the Trinamool Congress (TMC) consider itself so weak that it needs the Maoists to fight the Left?
Even without the help of the Maoists, we have secured 19 seats in Parliament. CPM has been reduced to nine seats in West Bengal. That election was 14 months ago, at that time the Maoist question did not arise.

Why is Mamata Banerjee contradicting Chidambaram on Azad’s death? Does she know something that he doesn’t?
Mamata Banerjee has grown as a political leader. She is on the verge of saving Bengal from Left misrule after 34 long years. Whatever comments she makes, she is the right person to explain them.

What is your take on Maoists? Are they friends, foes or the country’s worst threat?
The Maoists believe in arms, and the politics of violence. And TMC is in no mood to have any truck with them. Our appeal to all those carrying arms is that they should give them up and join the mainstream, get involved in the peace process. The government should also take care of these people who are fighting hunger on a priority basis. Economic development of these areas should be considered.

After Mamata’s Lalgarh rally, some people started condemning her — it’s shameful. What Mamata did is to be commended, and she should be honoured by both the treasury and the Opposition benches. In the Parliament, only the BJP and the CPM joined hands to raise this issue. No one else — Sharad Yadavji or Mulayamji or Laluji — had any problems with this.

Do you agree with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that Maoism is the single biggest threat to India’s security?
The prime minister is a learned person. Whatever he says we certainly accept.

Do you accept the presence of Central forces in Lalgarh? 
The Centre must immediately withdraw its forces. They are being used by the state police and the CPM. They are torturing people with help of the Central forces. One year has passed, but there has been no success. Only CPM is benefiting by capturing lost bases in these areas. Women are being raped and tortured.

Do words mean anything to Mamata Banerjee? Why did she speak of a peace rally and convert it into a political show?
Due to CPM negligence, people have become frustrated with political parties. Because of this, TMC mobilised people like Medha Patkar, Swami Agnivesh and other intellectuals. Only they were allowed to share the dais. A political leader will always talk politics wherever she is. But in comparison to other leaders, Mamata Banerjee is far ahead and transparent in her approach. She has the guts to call a spade a spade.

What about Kishenji’s statement supporting your rally?
Kishenji is a better person to answer that question.

Photo: Pintu Pradhan

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