Decoding Naxalbari: Red belt turning saffron with time

Darjeeling (West Bengal) [India], April 5 (ANI): Nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas, Naxalbari, the cradle of an over 50-year-old Maoist movement has been witnessing a transition from a Red belt into a saffron fabric.

April 5, 2021

National

5 min

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Darjeeling (West Bengal) [India], April 5 (ANI): Nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas, Naxalbari, the cradle of an over 50-year-old Maoist movement has been witnessing a transition from a Red belt into a saffron fabric.
The pastoral village bordering Nepal had been the hotbed of the rebellion movement in the spring of 1967. The Naxalbari uprising was triggered when the police opened fire on a group of villagers who were demanding their right for the crops at a particular piece of land. The firing killed 11 villagers including two children eventually leading to the Naxalite-Maoist insurgency.
Naxalbari has moved on from its rebellious past and is now a semi-urban hardscrabble settlement.
Naxalbari is about 25 km from Siliguri, the commercial hub of north Bengal. The road connecting Siliguri to Naxalbari leads northwest towards the Nepal border and is buzzing with frenetic commercial development.
Naxalbari manifests a bundle of contradictions. The tiny hutments dotting the verdant valleys and lush tea gardens bear telltale signs of poverty.
Naxalbari is also known for Kanu Sanyal a famous Maoist who led the Naxalbari movement.
Shanti Munda, one of the few surviving Naxalite activists from the 1960s and a close aide of Sanyal has now turned 80. She finds the Left party’s missing ideology behind the growing safrron tinge in the area.
“The Left is responsible. Now they have no ideology. They think money is everything. Our entire generation had fought for this land. Ironically, today our next generation is either compelled or lured to sell their plot of land. Even I have sold three katthas of my land to construct my house,” Munda told ANI.

Munda said she did not get any assistance either from the state or the central government’s housing scheme for the poor. She has now 3.5 katthas of land. The produce from that small plot of land is barely enough to feed her family.
Moreover, she said due to the acute shortage of water in the area, farming was becoming increasingly unviable, forcing the menfolk to take up menial jobs in the cities.
Speaking to ANI, Dipu Haldar, general secretary of Kanu Sanyal organisation said, “I do not say we lost everything but yes we lost many things. The Left Front is responsible for this situation. Because we ruled 34 years in West Bengal. But what did our leaders do for the common and poor people of Bengal? We believe in ideology but when the Left forgot its ideology then everything started to end slowly.”
Asked how the Red belt has converted to the saffron zone, Haldar said, “Red to saffron did not happen in one day. It is the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh that put a lot of hard work into this area. The BJP could not have done this alone.”
Haldar also counted Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s misrule as a reason behind BJP’s emergence in this area.
“For this situation, Mamata Banerjee is also responsible. What the Left Party did in 34 years, the TMC crossed everything in only 10 years. And, now she is crying,” she added.
Naxalbari will go to polls on April 17 in the fifth phase of the West Bengal Assembly elections. Though all the parties are campaigning for their candidates, the dominance of BJP flags can be easily observed.
“You cannot judge by the flags on the roofs. Having BJP flags does not mean it is a BJP area now. Flags of CPI, CPI(M), CPI(ML) are also there. Though losing power after 34 years did affect it,” a villager told ANI.
Another villager said, “Parivartan niyam hai (change is the rule of nature)”.
BJP has fielded Anandamoy Barman against Congress’ sitting MLA Sankar Malakar and TMC’s Rajan Sundas. Malakar has been representing the Matigara-Naxalbari Assembly constituency since 2011.
Barman has been doing a campaign in this area with dhol-nagada.
Speaking to ANI, Anandamoy Barman said, “Modi ji’s sabka sath sabka vikas (Together we grow, together we prosper) has been attracting the people of Naxalbari. You can see the love and affection of people for BJP in this area and I am going to win.”
Polling for the first two phases of the West Bengal elections were held on March 27 and April 1 respectively. The next phase of polling will take place on April 6. The counting of votes will take place on May 2. (ANI)

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