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Mainstream, VOL LI No 25, June 8, 2013

Naxalism versus Corruption

Sunday 9 June 2013, by Kuldip Nayar

My liberal friends tell me to understand the Naxalites, not to condemn them. I wish I could follow their advice. But how do I reconcile the difference between the Nexalites, who killed this week some 25 Congress leaders at Chhattisgarh, and the two Nigerians, who beheaded a British soldier a few days ago at London in public? For me, both are terrorists, fundamentalists, the first from the Left and the other from the Right. And does ideology mean anything when the brutalities of one are no different from those of the other?

Probably it happens when ideologies lose their content and purpose. The followers do not know the way as happened at Chhattisgarh, the Naxalites’ Bastar belt. But what right do they have to call themselves pro-people, the protector of the oppressed when they kill the innocent in the same way as any criminal does?

What I have not understood, after following the Nexalites’ activities for several decades, is the point they are trying to make. True, they do not have faith in democracy, although they cry hoarse in its name. But when they kill at will, they convey the mentality of dictatorship and do not in any way help the egalitarian thesis they expound. Their massacres and acts of oppression suggest only terrorism. A set of committed people have come together and want to dictate the nation’s fate according to their belief. They do not care for the people’s wishes and have taken upon themselves the task of leading the nation using the gun. The ballot-box has no meaning in their life. Whether some families at Chhattisgarh were dictatorial in their dealings or whether tribals were killed by the non-tribals are important considerations to reach the conclusion that they contributed to the deterioration of the atmosphere. But the point at issue is to find a solution to the wrongs committed. Violence cannot find it. A democratic way is far better and more lasting.

It is strange that some people still believe in the archaic philosophy of violence. The world is moving towards conciliation and is trying to rule out the use of weapons altogether. The Naxalites, whatever their commitments to a welfare state, have first to win the people to their point of view. They cannot shoot their way through the opposition. The defence which they have offered for their carnage does not in any way mitigate their crime.

The Naxalites will continue to proliferate when disparities are blatant and the state oppression unrelenting. But violence cannot act as magic wand. It aggravates the problem as has taken place over the years. The menace has to be eliminated. All political parties and the right-thinking people have to come together to end violence as a method to rectify the wrongs. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has rightly said that Naxalism is a challenge to the democratic way, India’s ethos. Violence will weaken faith in democracy and the rule of law.

The Chhattisgarh incident has renewed the debate on the futility of violence. The subject is so important that the nation, absorbed in scandals and scams, has diverted its attention and has started talking about Naxalism apart from corruption. The sacking of two Union Ministers, Pawan Kumar Bansal (Railways) and Ashwani Kumar (Law), has eclipsed other things and brought integrity to the fore.

Congress President Sonia Gandhi wanted a concrete, convincing action. After winning the State election in Karnataka, where the Bellary mines’ scandal became an issue, she has adopted honesty as the plank for the Congress in future. She does not want to do anything which would lessen the image of being an honest party. Rahul Gandhi too has announced that the Congress will not put up such candidates who are tainted in any manner.

It is comical that the two Central Ministers wanted to resign when they heard about their dismissal. But Sonia Gandhi wanted the message to spread that the party would not compromise on corruption and would even go to the extent of sacking its Ministers. And she did.

Both Ministers were reportedly close to the Prime Minister who is said to have assured them that he would let them quit if the alter-native was dismissal. Apparently, the Prime Minister who is known for his personal integrity, failed to prevail upon Sonia Gandhi. She was right in her thinking that the dismissals gave a sterner message than the resignations would have.

And there is no doubt that it is having a chilling effect on the party. There is the realisation that whatever have been the acts of omission or commission in the past, the party has generally turned a new leaf and would not tolerate any more of the scams which have been tumbling out of the government’s cupboard at regular intervals.

In fact, many Congressmen, who are out of office, are now putting pressure on Sonia Gandhi to “clean up” the stables in the States. In such a scenario, some allegations are bound to be exaggerated but on the whole the development is healthy. The problem she faces is whether she can open the Pandora’s Box and keep the fallout within limits so as not to allow further smearing on the face of the Congress.

That the matter ultimately rests with the Congress High Command (the same is the case with the other political parties) has a reassuring effect. Personal animosity will not count. Yet the fact remains that it is ultimately Sonia Gandhi, the all-powerful, who will decide. This may not turn out to be a bad idea. She has kept away herself from the government’s scandals. However, the morale of the Congress leaders may be low; they may not have the kind of self-confidence which they had before the dismissals of Pawan and Ashwani Kumar. A proposal whispered around is that some type of standing committee should be constituted so that Sonia Gandhi is armed with all the information available to her, and could embark upon a fight against corruption.

The author is a veteran journalist renowned not only in this country but also in our neighbouring states of Pakistan and Bangladesh where his columns are widely read. His website is

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