Old Rules, New Game

While experiences in the squares of the Arab spring, in Turkey’s Gezi Park, in the streets of Spain and Greece and in the Wall Street occupy movements have revealed historic moments of what mass upheaval could look like, those moments of hope and exhilaration have actually followed by devastating reaction and retrogression—almost everywhere. Nearer home along with political reformism what else has made the Maoists’ struggle to regroup and organise themselves after every set-back, more difficult is the state’s continuing silent war and unwritten legitimacy of that war in society. This war is ubiquitous. They are running from killings, arbitrary arrests, rapes, rather mass rapes. And they justify everything because they are in a state of continuing conflict. They are doing all these heinous crimes in the name of maintaining law and order by violating laws with impunity and doing uncivil acts without being effectively challenged by the civil society. And yet no Arab Spring in this land of despair!

How many Maoists or naxalites are languishing in jails is not known. But the figures are staggering and they are multiplying with every passing year. There are people though their number is not that impressive, who are literally obsessed with human rights but they hardly raise the issue of prisoners’ rights.

It’s an opportune moment as 2014 parliamentary poll is round the corner, to step up movement against indiscriminate detention and keeping hundreds of thousands of innocent people behind bars, merely on suspicion. But the voice of human rights activists is so feeble and limited in scope that it doesn’t go beyond some capitals and metros. All political parties are releasing their poll manifestos with pompous promises, sometimes offering the moon to the voters, while remaining silent on the burning question of release of political prisoners who are mostly under-trial prisoners with no hope to get freedom anytime soon. Even left parties don’t find it justified to agitate for political prisoners. Their plight gets some media coverage when the hapless detainees resort to hunger-strike to highlight the inhuman conditions they are being forced to live in. The hard fact—and it is the constitutional fact—is that they too have civil and political rights and the Rule of Law is meant for them also, albeit today it exists only on paper and not in reality. It’s more urgent than even before to get out of the media-oriented culture with grandiose concept of human rights and come to the grass-roots conception of human rights. Human and civil rights are denied to a vast majority of weaker sections of people and many self-styled liberators of weaker section people are vocal about it. But human rights otherwise guaranteed by the constitution are totally denied to political prisoners. Rights are actually enjoyed by sugar barons, liquor kings, jute tycoons and corporate captains and political parties that represent their interests.

As 2014 parliamentary poll seems to be a battlefield of increased number of ‘warriors’, some old, some new, Maoists are again getting currency, for worng reasons, of course. The security establishment is worried about how to conduct ‘free and fair’ poll in areas where the Maoists will pursue their policy of vote boycott as the permanent strategy. The authorities are busy to draw and redraw red lines, particularly in Chattisgarh and Jharkhand and in some parts of Bihar. But there are parties that are making indirect overtures to Maoists to win elections. Telengana Rashtriya Samithi Chief K Chandrasekhar Rao is not sure about clean sweep he hopes for, particularly after the realisation of Telengana state. So he is talking sense in respect of the naxalite problem. Only the other day he made promise to lift ban on Maoists and their frontal organisations if voted to power. Congress too in Andhra, rather undivided Andhra Pradesh, at one stage lifted ban to initiate the process of peace and reconciliation, only to liquidate the rebels in due season. The ban was imposed during the regime of Y S Rajsekhar Reddy on the Maoist party and their mass fronts in August 2005 after talks between the Andhra state government and naxalites broke down. And this ban, though illegal, is being ‘legalised’ by renewing it every year. For a short while the Maoists tried to organise masses openly and in the process exposed their front-ranking activists who were later easily picked up by the police. But Mr Rao didn’t commit to early release of political prisoners languishing in different over-crowded jails of his state and withdraw innumerable false cases. How the Maoists had to pay a heavy price accepting the promise of politicians at its face value in Bengal, more precisely in junglemahal, is not an old story. The maoists extended their support to the present ruling party and help them win elections, even by terrorising the opponents, including other naxalite groups. And how Kishenji was brutally murdered is now history.

The anti-naxal strategy is being framed by the Centre and all State governments just implement it with some modifications. But their basic policy is to liquidate the rebels in fake or real encounters and make the outfit crippling by throwing thousands of cadres and sympathisers behind bars. It remains to be seen how Rao if voted to power, keeps his promise by not repeating the Reddy betrayal.


Vol. 46, No. 39, Apr 6 - 12, 2014