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Mainstream Vol. XLVIII, No 17, April 17, 2010

Fighting Naxalism the Democratic Way

Monday 19 April 2010, by Mahi Pal Singh


Since the biggest incident of massacre of 76 CRPF personnel by the Maoists at Dantewada, Chhattisgarh on April 6, 2010 heated debates have been taking place in the media about how to tackle the menace of Naxalite/Maoist violence in the country. In these debates, which take place on almost all channels of the electronic media, spokespersons of the major political parties, retired military and police officers appearing on these channels as defence experts and TV anchors always end up holding the commanders of these para-military forces and the Central and State governments responsible for the strategic loopholes in the planning, training and equipment of these forces for such disasters. They also put the responsibility of these killings squarely on the Naxalites/Maoists, sometimes touching upon the lack of development in the tribal areas also as being responsible. These speakers are vocal in denouncing the killings by Maoists and almost always shun discussing incidents of killing, rape, torture and burning the houses of tribals by the personnel of the para-military forces. This turns the whole discussion one-sided as a result of which the only solution that appears in sight to end the menace seems better equipment and facilities to the personnel and a greater political will on the part of the government to decimate the Maoists through brutal armed force.

Members of the civil society, who get loud applause from informed gatherings in various hall meetings, end up making fools of themselves before the studio audience even when they are invited to these discussions. In fact they are called there to be befooled by proving their arguments lame in comparison with those clamouring for even more powerful offensive against the Maoists by the security forces. But the question is: who is to blame for this? How do these intellectuals and academics fail to seem convincing? Or, are all of them supporters of Maoists as is alleged on the floor of the studio? Yes, if the impression gathered at these studio discussions is any yardstick. And they them-selves are to blame for this situation because they do not denounce Maoist violence in unequivocal terms, however brutal it might be, while criticising violence perpetrated by the para-military forces. It is only by criticising violence by both sides that they can gain acceptability of the young audience and highlight the woes of the tribal people and emphasise their right to development. When anchors ask them the uncomfortable question on whose side they are – on the side of the government and the security forces or on the side of the Maoists? – they fail to make the point that they are not on the side of either of them but on the side of the poor and deprived tribals living in the conflict affected areas and that if the Maoists support the cause of the tribals, they cannot stop these Maoists from doing so, and also that being on the same side of the fence as the Maoists in this case does not necessarily make them the Maoists’ supporters.

There should be no difficulty for the so-called Gandhians, and other votaries of democratic values, in criticising Maoist violence in clear terms because it cannot be denied that even amongst the Maoists there are sections, which are engaged in abductions, extortions and killing of those whom they perceive as police informers, and such people are also poor tribals. There is no denying the fact that many of them, or maybe most of them, have been pushed to the wall and forced into taking up arms against the state due to gross state negligence resulting in deprivation, hunger and starvation, police brutality and injustice, rape, burning of their houses for eviction of their land to be handed over to the multinational corporations etc. (though there might as well be hard-core Naxals fighting in favour of their political ideology). Otherwise the ranks of the Maoists would not have swelled menacingly only within the last few years since when the government sponsored land-grabbing exercise for the benefit of the MNCs started or became intensified, not for the development of these tribals but for the profit of the MNCs. Otherwise what can explain the displacement of 3.5 lakh people from 700 villages of Dantewada district alone which have been burnt by the security forces and the volunteers of Salwa Judum, a self-styled army of goondas against which even the Supreme Court has made critical remarks. And, of course, the political bosses have a clear stake in all this as was exemplified by the discovery of more than Rs 4000 crores of unaccounted money from Madhu Koda, the former Chief Minister of Jharkhand, which is known for its mineral wealth, and everybody standing in the way of its loot by these political bosses, whether tribal or Maoist, is their sworn enemy and their governments, though harping on the chord of development which has remained only on paper all these years; they would use any amount of force to displace and decimate him/her branding him/her as anti-national and Maoist because just by hanging that tag around anybody’s neck like an albatross, the security forces assume the right to torture and kill innocent people with impunity. The arrest and incarceration of Binayak Sen for more than one year on purely concocted charges of being a Maoist sympathiser is a point in question.


Though nobody can certify the political leanings of members of the civil society, what can safely be claimed on their behalf is that all of them without exception are citizens who are concerned about the economic, social and cultural rights of the marginalised sections of our society, whether it is people belonging to the minorities, Scheduled Castes or Scheduled Tribes. They know these people and their condition better than their co-speakers/panellists participating in TV discussions because they work at the grassroot level amongst these people for their welfare. Their model of development begins with the empowerment of the most deprived sections of our society which, according to them, becomes strong and healthy only when every constituent individual of this society becomes healthy and strong in all respects, unlike the government model in which it is the big industrialists, politicians and bureaucrats who must first become rich and it is only afterwards that the benefits of development would percolate down to these people, the real owners of the land, mineral resources and natural wealth. Till that time comes, they must be banished from the land and resources, even if they do not remain alive for seeing the day when they would start getting the benefits of development. I wonder why the TV anchors do not ask the panellists whether they are on the side of these tribals or on the side of the MNCs and the government which want to deprive them of their only source of living: their land.

Those intellectuals, if there are any, who harbour the imaginary notion that some day the Naxalites/Maoists will throw out the modern state with the force of arms and will establish a truly democratic state, should understand that it is not possible to overthrow a state defended by a modern and well-equipped Army and secondly, and even more important, that the government established after such an overthrow is bound to be a dictatorial government led by a group of dictators, not a democratic state with equal rights to every person because no dictator can afford to give the right to dissent to any citizen. Even an imaginary situation like that can be detrimental to whatever democratic space exists today even in this sham democracy of ours. A philosophical and social movement against the forces of exploitation can be launched for educating the masses about protecting their rights within the framework of our constitutional system. Let us not underrate the understanding and power of these people to throw out governments by pressing just one fingertip, not at the trigger of the gun but at the Electronic Voting Machine. They have done it in the past and they have the capability of doing it at any time in future. Only you have to have faith in their power to do so. A bloodless revolution may be more difficult to bring about, but it has the potential of being translated into reality—at least more than the armed revolution.

So the intellectual class should have no hesitation in condemning violence, whether indulged in by the Naxalites/Maoists or by the state. And if the government is really serious about ending this menace, it should first announce on the floor of the Lok Sabha an end to the policy of forcible acquisition of land. Then it should undertake a comprehensive programme of implementing the provisions of Part IV of our Constitution entitled ‘Directive Principles of the State Policy’ in right earnest, particularly in these tribal areas, so that these people can live an honourable life at the place which belongs to them. The Maoists then will get no sympathisers. It is only after that that the government will be justified in launching an operation like the ‘Operation Green Hunt’ if anybody lifts arms against the state. Till then the butchery indulged into by the state as well as the Maoists must stop because every bullet, whether fired by the security forces or the Maoists, brings down a poor man who could otherwise contribute to the development of the country with his hard work.

The author is the National Secretary of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL).

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