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Mainstream, Vol XLVIII, No 39, September 18, 2010

Call for Dialogue—the Only Way to Tackle Maoism

Condemning The Death Of Azad

Monday 20 September 2010

by Swadha

In a bid to give a sharp edge to the anti-Naxal operations in the four worst affected States of Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal and Orissa, the Union Government has recently decided to set up a powerful Unified Command headed by the respective Chief Secretaries to fight the Maoist menace. The government has been unusually proactive in grappling with the surge in the violence unleashed by the Maoists. It is clearly ruffled as is evident from the urgency and seriousness being accorded to Naxalism in the day-to-day government transactions. So much so that the Naxalite attacks are being compared with the 26/11 Mumbai terrorist attacks. Some political leaders have gone one step further in avowing that terrorism and Naxalism are two sides of the same coin. The state is increasingly finding its hands soiled with blood in its ongoing anti-Naxal operations to quell violence and maintain law and order; this does not augur well for restoring peace in the affected regions. It is time the state walks down memory lane to assess its working and the plight of its people since the time of independence in an impartial way to be able to comprehensively look at the issue of Naxalism, emphathise with its people (the perpetrators of violence and the victims) and initiate a sensitive dialogue process.

Sixtythree years ago as India proudly achieved its independence from the colonial yoke of domination and oppression, it pledged to ‘wipe every tear from every eye’—as Jawaharlal Nehru declared in his tryst-with-destiny address. Amidst the euphoria the Indian people reposed their unconditional faith in their leaders and the Constitution that promised social, economic and political justice to every citizen. These aspirations and dreams, that were so dearly nurtured at the dawn of independence, have been trampled by successive governments which were popularly elected to power. The hopes of the millions darkened into despair as hunger, poverty, homelessness, unemployment and squalor engulfed the masses. In the guise of national development millions of poor were uprooted from their habitat and divested of their means of livelihood. Their sacrifice was defiled in their desertion by the state, leaving them orphaned to fend for themselves in harsh, unfamiliar circumstances. This economic and social destitution eroded the faith of the have-nots in the three pillars of the Constitution, namely, the executive, legislature and the judiciary. The loss of faith in the machinery of the state, that was responsible for guaranteeing a dignified life for its people, obviously left the people with no choice but to either suffer silently or take to all forms of extremism and unlawful actions. Both demanded urgent attention from the government but it was always the latter on which the state chose to act and portray those actions as a threat to national security and unity.

Focusing our discussion on Naxalism it is clear that no sane member of the society would glorify or vindicate violence under any ideological banner even though large sections of the society are being wrongfully made to believe so. Arundhati Roy, writer, activist and member of the Committee Against War on People, sharply commented on this point when questioned about her support to the Maoist cause in the face of mass killings of the CRPF personnel recently—whether anyone supports violence or not is a brain-dead argument; we need to move beyond this by asking fundamental questions on the agenda of development. And the government obviously did not move on. Instead of winning back the confidence of the people the state has increasingly and rather unabashedly used the language of violence against its own people. (Needless to emphasise it is the hapless majority against whom force is exercised.) Long ago, US President Eishenhower lamented on the militarisation of the world: ‘This world is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its labourers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.’ The logic of militarisation became all the more apparent as the welfare state wore the mantle of not only the ‘armed state’ but also that of the ‘corporate state’. Its proof lies in the well-circulated fact that global trade in arms and ammunition runs into billions of dollars and its growth is being fuelled by none other than the swelling defence budgets of the nation-states across the globe.

THE consequence was inevitable as more and more people were thrown into dark pits of alienation. Bullets, bombs and weaponry became the opium of the alienated and misguided masses which obviously did not help them create a better world, a better life that they had set out for. The mighty and invincible power of the ‘armed state’ coupled with the Maoists’ own politics of power and factionalism only served to strengthen the vicious cycle of violence and bloodshed on one hand, and boost the arms trade on the other. As the spate of violence increased, more destruction of public property, more losses of human lives and growing hostility between the state and the people followed. Today the state is engaged in virtually an internal war, its enemies tragically being its own people. Under the guise of law and order maintenance, the Army is being deployed in various parts of the country to contain violence. Whether it is insurgency in the North-Eastern States, civilian unrest in Jammu and Kashmir or Naxalism in the eastern belt, it is time for the state to realise the common underlying currents of the ongoing anti-state people’s resistance movements. Moreover, the state has virtually abandoned the non-violent pathway and dangerously resorted to symptomatic, violent methods of treating the problem like Operation Green Hunt and Salwa Judum. In retaliation, some of the leaders of these resistance movements too have been stubbornly non-cooperative and loath to shedding their arms for engaging in dialogue.

Some civil society activists and sensitive statesmen have made moves to foster an environ-ment of tranquillity with the hope of achieving some headway in initiating a dialogue. Swami Agnivesh, a dedicated social activist who has tirelessly worked for the cause of a peaceful India undivided by the walls of caste, religion or poverty, hoped to take up the arduous challenge of creating an ambience of trust and peace between the Naxalite leaders and the government. Placing his faith in the Gandhian tradition of non-violence he had begun just fine by initiating dialogue with Azad alias Cherukuri Rajkumar, the leader of the Maoists. Azad too reciprocated in a non-hostile manner and a new beginning with a new hope could be dreamt of. But Azad was shot dead in Adilabad on August 2. It was indeed a reckless act on the part of the govern-ment sans vision. The prospects of a new dawn, of peaceful negotiations were strangled right in its infancy.

The state has chosen once again to adopt draconian military tactics to suppress its people. By jettisoning the Gandhi-Buddha legacy of non-violence, dialogue and peace it has made a mockery of democracy and disgraced the Constitution. The double-talk of the Union Home Minister stands exposed and the government should take responsibility of explaining its stance unequivocally, getting out of its frivolous shilly-shallying mode. It is demanded of the demo-cratically elected government to live up to the mandate of the Constitution and the trust of the people it represents by eschewing the strategy of violence and adopting a more promising dialogue process to tackle the problem of Naxalism. A serious dialogue with the Maoist leaders would mean moving out of its comfort zone and addressing concerns emanating from its alleged anti-people development agenda.

The author is a Ph.D Research Scholar, Centre for the Study of Social Systems, School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.

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