Response To ‘Reflections’
Democratic Rights and War
[I cannot thank Biswajeet enough for the essay he wrote taking off from my book. In all humility no one has taken my book as seriously as he has done and with such critical insights. His review of the book is his prerogative, as it is of every reader and I respect that. My response is confined to explaining the issue of violence, war and CL-DR movement.]
For those of us who have
been part of the Democratic Rights
movement, and in particular, party to formation of People's Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR) after breaking away from PUCL (which saw itself then as being a part of the ruling Janata Party in 1977) delineated our position from that of PUCL, on a variety of issues such as political prisoners and their release, to go public or not in our criticism of Janata Party especially when Hindu communal-fascists unleashed a series of anti-Muslim rioting and carnage in which members of the ruling party were implicated... But we also went ahead to clearly lay down the principle understanding that DR represented for us. It is, therefore, we arrived at an understanding that DR for us meant the inalienable right of people to dissent and rebel against oppression and our collective understanding that struggles and movements can be both constitutional as well as extra-constitutional. Our members had varied ideological persuasions and it is through collective work and discussion we evolved common positions which continues to inform and guide our work. We may have our individual positions and as commentators we write according to our own perspective. But as PUDR member we are ruled by the understanding reached between us. In this sense PUDR's experience may be somewhat at variance from that of other CL-DR organizations.
Not just PUDR but almost all non-funded CL-DR groups recognize CPI (Maoists) as a legitimate political movement, one which is criminalized and de-legitimized by the politics of ban through the aegis of laws such as Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act or various "avatars' of colonial era Criminal Law Amendment Act 1908. Every Maoist party member, when arrested (a rarity), is charged with membership of a "banned" organization and invariably also accused of treason; from high treason i.e. "waging war" and low treason i.e. "sedition". What does this imply? It means that by terming them as criminals or terrorists or anarchists etc the State tries to criminalize a political movement and robs them off their social context, history and legitimacy. Just as Naxalbari uprising cannot be de-linked from the struggle for radical land reform one cannot ignore the link between the resistance to land grab by FDI-FII financed mining and other industrial conglomerates and the war. Simultaneously, the Indian State also unleashes 'police action" against them. Any student of history, intellectually honest, will vouch for the fact that 'police action" is but an euphemism for waging a war of suppression of our own people. This is what the British Raj did and this is what the Indian rulers have done after the 'transfer of power' in 1947. The "police" system we inherited in India was not Robert Peel's "community policing" he evolved for England, but was based on his model of Irish Constabulary for the colonies. What distinguishes it is that the armed "police" personnel are trained along the lines of Army's infantry. As a result the police system remains an alien imposition with power and authority which go far beyond what a civil police actually does. They are not meant to just restore order during rioting and use of force for short-term period but are engaged in and indeed proficient in prolonged military operations to suppress and subjugate those who dare to rebel. The communal/caste and class bias of such a force is institutionalized through a process of training, recruitment, deployment and legal cover. But retaining the euphemism of "police action" does confuse people, who find it difficult to perceive what "police action" really means. Little wonder few want to visit and analyze "police action" carried out against the Communist revolutionaries and the Nizam of Hyderabad 1946-52. Many even justify this by claiming that anyone who actively promotes the overthrow of the present iniquitous system and the present Constitutional order and the 'democracy' that upholds this is a criminal and an 'enemy'.
So the Government denies fighting a war, passing it off as 'police action'.
Now CL-DR groups not only have a duty to make their intervention in peacetime but also do so in situations of war. But in so doing so they can neither remain oblivious to the difference between war and peace but also separate rules that govern war and peace. We are obligated to demystify reality, to remove the cob web spun to hide the fact of war. But war it is and war at home obliges us to accord legitimacy to both sides. While the State pretends it is engaged in legitimately putting down a criminal uprising and the establishment justifies this by demonizing the Maoists (or rebels) what is our task as CL-DR groups? We believe that whether we like war or not (and I don't hesitate in saying that I personally do consider wars at times to be virtuous, necessary and just) the point is we have to take consequence of our conviction and restore humanity to those demonized, and continue to acknowledge them as a political movement. However, merely according legitimacy does not suffice because war throws up also the need to push for ensuring that combatants are made aware of their responsibility to fight by causing minimum harm to civilians, protect combatants taken into custody, ensure that medical help is not thwarted. In most instances it is the Armed Forces of the State which are responsible for flouting elementary rules of war. Why? Because the domestic laws, inherited from British Raj, allows them to ride roughshod over every rule of war through a simple stratagem of designating anyone the rulers find abhorrent as enemy and criminal. This is where our advocacy of Geneva Convention and Protocol II to even non-state combatants, compliance with far superior definition of international criminal laws comes in. It helps us to overcome a debilitating situation caused by domestic laws. For instance in war zones doctors, hospitals and clinics are prohibited from treating anyone the establishment and its minions consider a Maoist and they care little to bother making a distinction between combatant and non-combatant. This, incidentally, is the fig-leaf of the reason cited recently to banish ICRC and MSF from Bastar where they were providing much needed medical help to local population. The Geneva Convention not only accords legitimacy to rebels but also imposes obligations on them to not target non-military targets.
Arguably, CL-DR can go on shouting about war and Geneva Convention but the State and its acolytes can turn a deaf ear. This persuades some people to advance the argument that all this talk of Geneva Convention is poppycock. But such arguments ignore that CL-DR have also pioneered campaigns against a variety of issues where we managed to make a dent after years of hard work and perseverance. The discontinuance of TADA or POTA are classic examples. When PUDR began to oppose the earliest 'avatar' of TADA in 1983 or when we wrote with PUCL "Who are the Guilty" on anti-Sikh carnage in 1984 naming names we were warned by doomsayers and liberals. But we persisted. We may not have managed to banish draconian laws and may not have succeeded in bringing perpetrators of the 1984 carnage to justice, but can anyone deny that we contributed in a big way to bring about an informed public opinion and that the hundreds of thousand of copies of 'Who are the Guilty' actually played a bigger role than blood-letting in neutralizing Khalistanis.
Similarly, because some consider Indian State to be all powerful or believe that by accepting war we end up justifying war, as though war would disappear if we pretend that there is no war taking place. This is a distorted depiction of reality and contrary to what CL-DR are obliged to do. Besides, asking for bringing Indian domestic laws in conformity with international criminal law or asking guerillas to adhere to Geneva Convention or Protocol II is not a mechanical thing. It is also drawing attention to glaring holes in the Constitution of 1950. Indeed it is the admirers of Constitution who have to answer why they swear by something that helped structural violence to reach genocidal proportion and how instead of liberty and equality it is deprivation and oppression, legitimized by this very same Constitution, that rules the roost.
Besides, absence of formal adherence, which requires both sides signing an agreement, may be a distant proposition (or appears to be so right now) but there is nothing that says that we ought not to use international criminal law, definition of war crimes, crimes against humanity, conventions on torture, enforced disappearance and genocide as well as Geneva Protocol II, as bench mark fighting for adherence to them, and bring warfare into conformity with these rules of war.
Who will monitor and highlight war crimes committed by either side? Well, ideally speaking non-funded Indian CL-DR groups are best equipped to handle this. It is instructive that funded "human rights groups keep scrupulously away from this. Do not expect them do anything they are beholden to Ministry of Home Affairs through FCRA and dare not displease the Indian ruling class. Some of them mindful of FCRA etc keep their mouth shut and have done so rather diligently, and dare not raise even the need to be governed by Geneva Convention when they very well know there are internal wars in India. Whereas they do so at behest of their regimes where it suits them say in Libya, Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq etc. These are not the groups which can be entrusted with or be trusted to carry out this task. Some of them have also deliberately fostered lies. Let me cite one example. Human Rights Watch, funded by billionaire financial speculator George Soros and ideologically rabidly anti-Left especially Communist has been parsimonious with facts about Maoists destroying schools etc. RTI showed that from 2000-July 2012 Maoists damaged 3 health centres and damaged 114 schools (of which 92 during 2006-08). Now Geneva Convention lays down that no military should occupy a school/hospital etc warning that these can then become legitimate target of attack. So, mere destruction of schools is not the issue. What needs to be looked at is whether these were turned into armed forces camp.
Meanwhile, some of us, are doing that precisely and if the polemics and issues raised by even CPI(Maoist) in response is anything to go by we are engaged in polemics with them and that's a damn good start. And I believe that is what we must persist with.
Question arises, should not CL-DR be working for peace and ending of war? Yes it sounds very pretty to speak of peace but to argue that everyone in CL-DR should only be working for that is arrogance and a dogmatic insistence at that. Point is those who pursue that path are welcome to do so. But those of us who do not believe that war is going to end anytime soon and that the Indian ruling class is wedded to wooing FDI-FII making it difficult to imagine that the war against the Adivasis led by Maoists can end anytime soon. Also we ought not to remain indifferent to what peace implies. Valorisation of peace and non-violence has done much harm because mere ending of violence means nothing if it only helps restore status-quo ante. What is so great about helping to consolidate ruling classes' pernicious exploitation and oppression of our people only because "peace" is all we care about. Does it end structural violence? Does it not contribute to its augmentation? Indeed ending of war has neither meant that conditions to achieve reform/change improves nor do the opponents of political violence shown any commitment to justice let alone imagination. Or else they would be campaigning for moratorium on mining, say for 10 years, which will bring down the level of violence because for forest dwellers and peasant communities land grab is what they are fighting against because this is liniked to right to life and livelihood and , therefore, self-preservation. Or else we will have something like "peace" in Kashmir, without ending the military occupation by India and without moving even an inch towards peaceful democratic solution through respect for right of self-determination. So while those who want to work for peace should carry on, if that is their conviction, they cannot demand that everyone jump behind them. That's a kind of dogma and arrogance which one can do without. Meanwhile, the war is and will still be on and we will be still asked to take a stance and do something about it as CL-DR group. This brings me to another feature of war that most observers ignore.
Problem is not alone over war or no war, but also to do with Indian Constitution and the Law which are incapable of, or have shown no capacity to protect people from the voracious appetite for atrocities of the government forces during internal wars. The only thing that institution of justice has given us in 66 years is not prosecution and conviction of perpetrators but blood money, to the kith and kin of those killed in form of '"compensation". This is not all. Army Act or Central Para Military Forces Acts characterize every personnel in conflict zone to be on "active duty" or "active service" for 24 hours. And the Supreme Court has also laid down that it would be presumed that every armed force personnel is acting in 'good faith' during his 'active duty' or 'active service', then this presumption of 'good faith' cannot be "dislodged" even when there is prima facie evidence, without the Court first ensuring that there is prior Government sanction for this. Thus not only do we have a vicious war but a situation where two laws operate; One law for the unarmed civilians and another for government combatants. So even if rape, torture or killings occur and the victims are civilians the law ordains that their personnel would be considered 'innocent' and it is for AFU's to decide whether they would try their personnel or refer it to a civilian court! And bleeding heart reactionaries shed copious tears for the soldiers fighting ignoble war against the people.
It is also this that has persuaded us to demand that the Government give up lying to the people and admit that they are engaged in war at home. We expect both sides to adhere to fundamental rules of war. This is a legitimate and most evolved way of addressing our concern and fighting for what we believe in as CL-DR movement. Thus whereas we unequivocally hold the State responsible for the war, indeed of all wars that have taken place inside the country since 1947, we consider it to be our responsibility to criticize and condemn whichever side violates the rules of war. We refuse to accept that rebels commit "mistakes" whereas AFUs commit "crimes" just as we dismiss the claim of the State atrocities are "aberrations" and that the system has the capacity to self-regulate. We have yet to see that happening. Our individual sympathy or antipathy cannot dictate our collective stance as CL-DR groups, therefore, to take war seriously and not for some moral posturing, because it is a reality we have to confront.
This may not fit in with the blind faith of 'non-violence wallahs' and their abstract talk of bloodless victories just as much as it need not satisfy dogmatic supporters of rebels/revolutionaries. What does matter is whether we in CL-DR movement are comfortable with this and whether we feel that we must constantly evolve rather than remain trapped like 'frog in the well".
Thus, to essentialize the issue of Maoist violence, ignoring situation of war, its logic and momentum would be misplaced in my understanding. Worse it would be to equate the rebels or revolutionaries with the State. Such balancing acts are the way in which class society dehumanizes and criminalizes struggles and movements and State terror and structural violence played down.
There is also a myth, nay illusion, that violence always leads to disaster whereas non-violence is virtuous. True there are instances of armed movements degenerating because they use violence, but there are any number of non-violent movements which get co-opted by the establishment, compromise, and end up betraying people they claimed to represent. Perpetuation of structural violence and state terror do not make non-violent movements any less violent.
Those who believe in a step-by-step process, and others in a leap or a qualitative jump, from one stage to another, must accept that there will remain a divide between them. Question is whether they can respect each other and remain engaged notwithstanding sharp differences? Those who decry armed struggle claim that popular movements can make existing institutions responsive to people's needs. These efforts, ironically, actually gained elbow room and have used Maoist presence to espouse their politics, which would have been ignored otherwise. In other words, I believe that it is Maoist armed struggle that even forced the ruling classes to, even if hypocritically, go in for providing some relief as a way of "weaning" people away from coming under Maoist influence.
So those who decry Maoists for their violence ought to be faithful to evidence which shows that had it not been for Maoist armed struggle millions of Indians would have been worse off and the non-violent reformists would not have found any takers for their proposition. Of course as war picks up some of these co-opted personae, who threw their weight around, with one foot in establishment and another in resistance, believing in their own power of persuasion, find that establishment can replace them with others willing to "play ball'. Also that they are no longer taken seriously because the State now is going full steam pushing its strategic goal of opening the way for foreign capital. For our self-serving 'nationalists', groomed in manipulating law and Constitution for their own selfish ends, every ill bedeviling our economy requires one solution: open up for FDI-FII to save Indian economy. If some nevertheless discount all this and claim some inherent strength of Indian Constitution, Indian democracy, ruling classes' commitment to peaceful ways, they are wrong. It’s time we realize that we are entering a stage where elementary protest, dissent, opposition, privacy is being drastically abridged.
In contrast to this, there is impeccable evidence that links Maoist resistance with prevention of mining juggernauts from taking over Adivasi or peasant lands for mining. The fact that in Saranda, after the Maoists were forced to retreat, 155 proposals are pending clearance for mining in 500 sq kms out of 800 sq kms of the Saranda forest area tells this story. Critics of Maoists are full of fury but have no answer when confronted as to why 10,000 forest dwellers are being forced to settle in ten 'model' villages (strategic hamlet), and 17 camps of central para-military forces are coming up here. In fact as a sign of things to come, the all-powerful Forest Advisory Committee has allowed diversion of nearly 1000 ha for Sajjan Jindal’s company, 512 ha for Navin Jindal's company and 138.8 ha to Rungta Mines Ltd. The otherwise verbose Jairam Ramesh who never tires of abusing CL-DR groups cuts a sorry sight as there are no takers in UPA Government for his proposal to institute 10-year moratorium. How can it be otherwise when the Prime Minister and Finance Minister are hell bent in prosecuting the war whose main plank is to pave the way for FDI and FII. And there is no peaceful non-violent movement in Jharkahnd's Saranda forest area, worth its name, to stop this violent takeover of forest for mining. I wonder why?
What about Politics of Bloodshed?
Nevertheless, it is also true that Maoists place "war" or "politics of bloodshed" as the singularly important way to capture power. So although they fight a war of defense their political ambition is to overwhelm the Indian ruling classes through a protracted people's war. So the question that is posed is are they not also responsible for the prosecution of war?
The answer would appear to be in affirmation except when one looks closely it becomes more nuanced. Just because some people advocate capture of power through protracted people's war does not mean that initiative is in their hands when they begin. It's a long process which has a history of nearly five decades. Through this long period the demand for democratic agrarian reforms, socially useful forms of employment generation, and qualitative improvement in people's lives could have thwarted the Maoists from improving and honing their military skills or to persuade people to join them to fight for their self-preservation. Thus for Protracted People's War a rootedness among people is absolutely imperative. Only the wooly eyed will get fooled into believing that people support them out of fear. It is this social anchorage in an area being eyed by rapacious mining and industrial corporate houses that catapulted the Maoists to become enemy number one at home. The point is that while both the ruling classes and the revolutionaries need to justify themselves, the task is many times more ardous for the Maoists than the State, because of the far superior resources available to the State whereas Maoists' war gets force multiplied only if they enjoy people's support for their PPW. Their politics and quality of their resistance wins them legitimacy but they can lose this if there is erosion of the social sanction they enjoy.
Consequently, it is my personal conviction that there can be no a priori abstraction which can be imposed on social reality. It is when we study war concretely that war, as much as peace, reveals itself for what it is. To assume that peace is better than war is also a misconception if such a peace crushes human freedom or chains people in bondage or consolidates rapacious rule. Conversely, war is preferred over peace if war is for freeing people from tyrannical rule or for removal of the threat of tyranny. There are occasions when war against an occupation force or an aggressor is led by those who, even while they seek to throw off the foreign yoke, end up quashing the freedom and equality of their own people. There are of course occasions when a foreign yoke is sought to be imposed hiding behind a facade of freeing people from an autocratic rule. So wars do result in change, except it could be a change that is not to our liking or not what we prefer. The point is that more than peace it is war which needs to be explained, analyzed and understood. It is when we do that we discover that wars are and will remain an intrinsic part of social life. Yet, what matters is to study it concretely to help us understand what lies behind and what prospects are there to bring it to an end.
There are a great many question about war or the fear and horror associated with it. But wars have helped resolve and free human beings from enslavement and breathed life into deadlocked situations. With the advantage of hindsight, some may (as indeed some scholars/activists) belittle the defeat of French and US imperialism in Indochina because it paved the way for one-party rule. Some may even feel that the Chinese revolution may have thrown off foreign powers and unified China in order to unchain a billion people without actually freeing them. But that would be like saying that the defeat of fascism paved the way for another form of enslavement (restoration of colonial rule ), therefore there was nothing positive to come out from it. But without defeating the fascist powers in a war it would have been difficult to imagine the beginning of the end of the colonial era. The point is also whether war or peace sets into a motion a chain of events and help create conditions which either impede or enable the pursuit of such. For instance the end of militancy in Kashmir impeded any progress towards resolution because it was militancy which was privileged and not people's aspirations. So once militancy seemed to peter off it was felt that the movement for 'azaadi' itself had lost steam and there was no pressing need to make any concession when the Indian State had crushed the militants and restored its authority. Thus chances appeared better when militancy was on.
So at what point does a problem become so acute as to erupt or develop into armed conflict? Or when are the prospects for political resolution brightest, during the course of war or peace? It is when we analyze reality that we discover that peace has the capacity to numb good sense and encourage hardliners, especially if one side has an upper hand or advantage. The much-vaunted enlightened self-interest of ruling class does not reveal itself then. So those who clamour for peace often forget that such a condition could be far worse than bloodshed if it ends up crushing a struggle or movement for justice and freedom. People pretending to be 'peace loving' can be the reactionaries in so far as they uphold the status-quo and play by the rules of the establishment.
So what is war? Clausewitz explained it was 'an act of force to compel our enemy to do our will'. A variant of this finds its way into the Indian army's doctrine of sub-conventional warfare whose objective is 'to transform the will and attitude' of the adversary/enemy. But with Clausewitz we also enter an era when wars between two States, between a subjugated people and an imperial State, within a state in form of civil war, are all acknowledged as different types of war, each to be understood in its own right. But whatever be the definition, and although the nature of war may have changed, there can be little dispute that with Clausewitz we enter the era of modern warfare. Among other features the age, 19th century, which began with what is considered the first ever 'People's War' where the entire nation, so to say, rose up in revolt and therefore Spaniards still call it 'The Spanish War of Independence (1808-1814)' against Napoleon's France, still remains relevant. The term guerilla warfare was used for the first time during the 1808 War and served as a model for Bolivarian rebellion in Latin America. The great accomplishment of nineteenth century wars, especially "People's War', was 'the renunciation of criminalizing opponents at war, in other words relativising enmity, the negation of absolute enmity'.
The significance of this emerges when we distinguish conventional wars from sub-conventional warfare. The former is a form of warfare where regular armies, of two states or more, fight an all-out war whereas, the latter is a form of warfare which takes place among people. Indian Army in its Doctrine of Sub-conventional Operations points out that:
Total war as an instrument of state policy has become less relevant than ever before and resultantly, the probability of full-scale conventional wars between nations is gradually receding as an option for settling disputes. However, this has given further impetus to sub-conventional operations as the predominant form of warfare . . . [it] is a generic term encompassing all armed conflicts that are above the level of peaceful coexistence amongst states and below the threshold of war. It includes militancy, insurgency, proxy war and terrorism that maybe employed as a means in an insurrectionist movement or undertaken independently.
Although the Indian Army doctrine tends to conflate sub-conventional war with 'proxy war' waged by one State against another (obviously referring to Pakistan and Kashmir insurgency) the fact is, as their own Doctrine later argues, the distinguishing characteristic of such wars is that it takes place amongst people and invariably within the borders of a nation-state. The rebels, therefore, tend to get illegitimized, because the Nation-State is chary of according recognition to them.
Let's take two counter-arguments. One is that those who are committed to non-violence ought to stand up against all wars waged by the Indian State. If they do not then their intellectual commitment to non-violence is subject to doubt. Secondly, independent of what is done or not done against violence of all type, there are other processes that influence the course of armed resistance. In Kashmir commentators jump to the conclusion that people got tired of militant violence and opted for peaceful way, getting on with their own lives and elections. The fatigue with militancy does not explain why funeral procession of militant continues to attract large number of people. It also does not explain why such a huge deployment of troops remain controlling private and public lives of people if they (people) were so fed up with 'separatists' and militants. Also it does not explain why let alone hold protest, stage a rally etc all such elementary freedoms too are prohibited for those demanding right of self-determination. And wonder of wonder in this wonderful peace time it is military that is engaged in "draining" people of "wrong" ideas such as 'azaadi'. The dynamics of people-militant relationship also reveals the role played by militancy in not just keeping the spirit of defiance alive but also instilled people with self-confidence and courage. To fight a more than 600,000 strong Indian military with such heavy odds placed before them indigenous militants displayed tremendous courage and ingenuity, notwithstanding the role of 'foreign' militants. Overwhelming majority who sacrificed their lives were Kashmiris and not 'foreigners'. So much so that mass graves or unidentified graves were deliberately passed off as that of 'foreigners' and which then became part of official statistics and war narrative. Stone pelters or mass upsurge of 2008-2010 were not a disavowal of armed resistance but an acknowledgement that while armed resistance was a necessary part, and a heroic one at that, it is not sufficient without mass struggle. It is people's own lived experience which propelled the movement into this direction.
So the scholarship that insists on 'relative autonomy of the State" or equating rebels and the State, making no attempt to study each war concretely, have to establish how "relatively independent" it is of the capitalists and landlord class. They have to explain how come the Indian ruling classes are so enamoured of FDI and F1I flowing into India that they are willing to go to war against our own people and sacrifice the life and liberty of its people to please foreign capital? Whose State is it then? Yes individuals do at times get justice. People's pressure does push political parties to enact welfare legislation. Elections do throw out a corrupt or repressive party from government. The cycle of oppression or exploitation carries on. Defeat of one ruling class formation does not mean that policy of loot, greed, blood-letting ceases. The egregious loot of public funds does not prevent our non-violent wallahs to present the Indian State as some civilized democratic behemoth.
Consider this. From the making of law to its implementation and from preventing its subversion to empowering people, shows how well entrenched the oppressors are. It is remarkable that a scam-ridden ruling party can still push through policies which benefit foreign and domestic capital offering them incentives and massive subsidies without much ado! The Union Finance Minister in his budget speech on 28lh February 2013 made it abundantly clear what was a priority for the government. According to him "Indian does not have the choice between welcoming and spurning foreign investment. If I may be frank, foreign investment is an imperative." So opening up India to foreign investment and succumbing to their pressure to cut government spending in social sector and provide security, legal and military service for foreign investments in areas considered risky, ought to invite some serious analysis.
Violence and Prudery
The presence of Maoists and their proficiency in armed warfare acts as a check and a counter to the 'savage war for development' going on. It is the fear of people joining the Maoists ranks as state repression increases, which persuades the State to take reformists seriously. Maoist armed struggle is also a check on the proclivity among Left parties towards reformism, legalism and electoralism. Above all the Maoist movement has shown through all its ups and downs that they have the capacity to learn and unlearn, something that has contributed to making them a formidable force, far beyond their actual military prowess. Thus without Maoists, the project of revolutionary transformation through seizure of power would not only lose its cutting edge but turn into a distant goal.
Apart from prudery displayed by some Marxists regarding war and its significance there is another form of prudery which opposes war in the name of opposing "political violence" and grossly underplays structural violence. In accepting legitimacy of the State enjoying 'monopoly' over means of violence what is forgotten is that when the State seeks to use this monopoly to push policies and promote politics of benefitting private and foreign capital then it is simply naive to believe that everyone either must or will submit to this diktat meekly. It will be resisted and resistance will express itself in multiple ways depending on the nature of State's response. The ablest and the most sensitive Indian bemoans violence and condemn it but have rarely been able to muster courage to come out on the street and protest wars against people or crimes being committed by armed forces of the union. Violence they oppose is the violence employed by people for their self-preservation. But violence that causes millions of lives to remain short, brutal and without dignity and liberty somehow escapes this moral compass.
In contrast, when we analyze and understand the PPW of the Maoists, it brings out salient features of the revolutionary war. How it progresses, its shortcomings which point to what stymies their expansion, as well as pointing out how important their warfare is for freeing people from the double yoke of exploitation and oppression.
Example of SpeciFicity of War
Moving beyond CL-DR groups and as individuals writing/commenting etc what about a situation where Maoist military action appears to make no sense or is read as reckless spilling of blood and yet it brings forth consequence which result in providing tactical advantage to the revolutionaries? For instance the May 25th 2013, attack on Congress Party leaders on National Highway, which links Bastar district with Sukma, is being projected as a 'danger to democracy', to 'idea of India' and everyone is vying for becoming the most articulate abuser of Maoists. One can raise several questions about lack of security, lack of road opening party 'sanitising' the area, poor response time of security forces who took inordinately long to travel just 10 km from CRPF camp and Darbha thana. Also despite knowing that Mahendra Karma was on Maoist 'hit-list', not only did other senior Congress leaders accompany him but they did not wonder why a person enjoying 'z' category protection was so poorly defended by just 6 body guards?
On the other side, the killing of Mahendra Karma, the leading light of Salwa Judum can be explained: his role in forced displacement of 3.5 to 4 lakh people from 644 villages and the rape and pillage that SJ brought to the forefront can scarcely be forgotten. Many of the 25 others who died fell victim to firing which took place between the Maoists and the security guards of the Congress leaders. And indeed we need to ask what prompted these security guards with limited fire power to return fire on Maoists when they knew they were outnumbered? Would not the casualties have been far lower had they not opened fire? Or did they believe that help would soon arrive and all they had to do is to keep the guerillas at bay? Did they have enough fire power to stop the guerillas? We do not have all the answers. But we know that cross fire lasted for barely 30 minutes, from 4pm to 4.30 pm. And soldiers arrived after 7.30 pm!
We also know that since January 2013 there have been 11 operations carried out in Bastar division and in all these massive operations there are no independent observer, privy to what happens. There are also reports that from May 2012 to now there has been a 6 to 8 times increase in number of operations being carried out by the AFUs. We do not know who is picked up, killed, sexually exploited, the full scale of destruction caused, until news reaches world outside often because of fortuitous circumstance as in Edesmeta (17th May, 2013) or Sarkenguda (21st June 2012). In this sense the ambush is a part of a larger narrative of operations currently being carried out.
Eyewitness accounts also show that had there been 'mindless killings' by the Maoists then they would have killed each and every one in the convoy. But some of the people were provided help with first aid and snacks and were allowed to go. Others who were part of the convoy but were delayed, were stopped by the guerillas from proceeding lest they come under cross fire. Is this hallmark of mindless senseless killers?
In the last few months Maoists were coming under pressure with security forces making forays inside the jungle, money being poured in Bastar to lure educated Adivasi youth and decline in recruitment by Maoists. Without a major strike they stood little chance of reversing the process underway. This one action, its timing (so close to beginning of monsoon where military operations are suspended until next year) provides tactical advantage to the Maoist guerillas. There is another facet of the ambush, military preparedness of the government forces, which too must be taken into account. The day ambush took place the state police was busy withdrawing from a camp they had set up near Chintalgufa area in a place called Minapa. The camp which housed one thousand personnel was out in the open, without any tree cover (all the trees were felled) and all the supplies that reached them had to be escorted by security forces. On 25th May, 2013 it appears forces were engaged in such escort duty leaving a thin force for emergency of the kind that ambush became.
Most of the movement inside the forest area is on foot because standard operating procedure (SOP) mandates not only that forces travel on foot and avoid vehicles to prevent land mine casualty, but it is also the case that forces do not rush to a spot where Maoist attack takes place lest the rescue team too falls victim to Maoist guns.
So why did they kill Nandkumar Patel?
I believe, there was a message for the UPA-II government and its leaders that they, Maoists, are ready for a 'do-or-die' battle and ready to take the battle to the enemy camp.
Government of India is hell bent on crushing the Maoists by hook or by crook. There are abundantly clear indications that the Government sees war as the way to attract FDI into lucrative mining sector and Congress party has staked its electoral chances in 2014 to wounding if not defeating Maoists. By killing Nand Kumar Patel the Maoists reply to the Government is that if the Indian government carries out assassination of their leaders then the political parties such as Congress and BJP's leaders too are on their target because they are combatant, who may not carry weapons but occupy position of authority. Maoists also saw the Congress party as people who 'runs with the hare and hunts with the hounds'. Come elections they shed crocodile tears for the Adivasis. Thus the killing of Patel, which came just ten days after the Edesmeta massacre by government forces, is meant to convey that this time they will not play footsie with a ruling class political formation during elections.
But why did Maoists offer no explanation for Dinesh Patel's killing? Why did they have to kill him? Also could they have sent the same message to the UPA government by freeing Nand Kumar Patel? Yes we need to ask these questions. But as war there is another side that cannot be overlooked.
As a consequence of the ambush the Congress is accusing BJP of deliberately providing no security cover for Congress rally, and BJP in turn is propagating that the ambush was a result of Congress factional fighting. BJP demanded that Kawasi Lakhma, MLA belonging to Congress from Bastar be put through narco-analysis to find out his role in the ambush. In turn Congress factional feud is out in public. Thus tactically, with elections due this year in Chattisgarh, the ambush illustrates how the ruling formations are caught in their own game as well as engaged in injuring each other. With monsoon early this year military operations by government forces will get curtailed. Thus tactical advantage lies with the guerillas.
In other words, once when one factors in all these facets a targeted and deliberate killing has military and political consequences and, therefore, carries a political message if we choose to see it, provided we understand war as'politics of bloodshed'.
So the fact of the matter is that just as militancy in Kashmir helped an occupied people to gain confidence and gain courage, and made them determined to face the bloody military suppression by the Indian State with bravery and political maturity rarely seen in India. Similarly, Maoists have inspired the oppressed and galvanized resistance, where it matters and counts, through their armed struggle. Not only has the Maoist armed struggle forced the government to think of the 'poorest of the poor', even if hypocritically, non-violent struggles actually gained leverage, thanks to the presence of the Maoist movement. They leverage the armed struggle of the Maoists to extract concessions from the State. If the armed resistance were to weaken, they will find they are heard even less by the rulers.
This itself brings out the importance of taking wars seriously when they take place amidst us. If some people believe that CL-DR ought to only preach non-violence and peace, that is just one point of view. There are other contending views which deserve to be respected. As, far as I am concerned CL-DR groups ought not to give up their intellectual and political quest for collectively speaking up for people's struggle and resistance movement and to espouse positions that help democratize our polity and society by engaging in all issues that are part of our reality, be it constitutional or be it extra-constitutional and be it war or peace.
Vol. 46, No. 13-16, Oct 6 - Nov 2, 2013
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