December 13, 2012

News that doesn't make headlines

On Wednesday, December 12, just before Question Hour was disrupted in the RajyaSabha, important work got done for some 30 minutes. Of course, this period didn’t make it to the media headlines, only the disruption and the din did.

There was one piece of information Minister of State for Home R.P.N. Singh shared that requires careful thought and cogitation, not just in New Delhi but across the country. In answer to a question he detailed the numbers of those killed, state by state, in violence related to Maoists in recent years.

Consider the figures for West Bengal. In 2010, 300 people were killed in the state in Maoist-caused violence. A massive 223 of them were civilians, 35 comprised members of the police and security forces and 42 were Maoists or suspected Maoists. In 2011, this number fell dramatically to 50, 43 of these being civilians. In 2012, with two weeks left for the year to end, the number of those killed in Maoist-affected violence in West Bengal is just one. Yes, just one.
This is not me saying it, not the Trinamool Congress saying it, not the West Bengal government saying it. These are figures shared in Parliament by the UPA government and the Union Home Ministry. The run up to Christmas is often called the “Good News Season” and on Wednesday I felt the warmth of this good news.

It cannot be a coincidence 2010 was the last full year of CPI(M) governance in West Bengal and 2012 the first full year of Trinamool governance in West Bengal. It cannot be a coincidence peace in Jangalmahal – where the CPI(M) government fought a civil war and oppressed even political opponents in the name of anti-Maoist operations – and amity in Darjeeling, which was seeing disaffection of another kind, were Mamata Banerjee’s priorities when she took charge as chief minister in the summer of 2011. It cannot be a coincidence these are today considered among her richest achievements.

She has reached out to people who felt marginalised or felt they had cause to be angry with the state, the government and the system. She has been tough on those bent upon breaking the law, come what may. The result is a much smaller Maoist problem than previously imagined, and a model for the rest of the country to follow as it seeks to fight and address left-wing extremism.

Unfortunately, these are not reports and stories the national media will tell you. These are not the themes you will hear when it comes to reportage about West Bengal. Never mind. Sensationalism is temporary; sense and sensibility is longer lasting. In 2012, Mamata Banerjee established this. Those statistics speak for themselves.

Jai Hind, Jai Bangla, VandeMataram. Long Live Ma Maati Manush.