The Pledge to Punish

Home Ministers are Home Ministers. It doesn’t matter whether they belong to Congress Party or Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). They talk in the same language and will continue to do so while dealing with what they call ‘maoist menace’. As they cannot confront problems in the system politically, they just treat it as a threat to their age-old illegal privileges. In truth they are part of the problem which they refuse to admit.

Not quite unexpectedly the new Home Minister of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance government Rajnath Singh, like his Congress predecessors, came down heavily on left-wing extremism and reiterated the oft-repeated theme song of deploying more fire power against the maoists. Mr Singh’s tough outburst even at a time of ‘no war no peace’ situation in the jungles under the sway of maoists is a display of aggression out of a position of weakness. Maybe he is playing with the gallery to please the corporate lobbyists who are restless to get things done as quickly as possible. Maybe, they are really serious about finishing the unfinished controversial projects in the tribal heartlands of Central India. Not that they don’t recognise particular realities of politico-economic and socio-cultural environment in which tribals live and how maoists thrive on abject poverty of the most marginalised segment of the population—tribals.

As Rajnath dismissed the possibility of any dialogue—even for dialogue’s sake—with the extremists, the Communist Party of India (CPI) looked visibly shocked and disappointed. Why they are disappointed is not known. Their understanding of naxalism (or maoism) doesn’t differ much from that of professed anti-communists in the establishment. While reacting to Rajnath’s hawkish stance the Central scenetariat of CPI criticised the government’s policy to tackle naxalism with state violence. There was nothing new in the CPI statement that identified the source of extremist violence in hopeless conditions the tribal poor are being forced to live. The hard fact is that they no longer talk of revolutionary change, even of their kind, they cannot throw off the shackles that bind them to the dead-end decadence of electoral democracy as it is in India.

If there are families and children who lack food, it is an inhuman society and justifies social struggles for human freedom and revolution on the part of the poor and oppressed to put an end to this corporate greed and madness and chart their own destinies for a more humane society. This is the state of the Indian economy in the midst of globalisation. Foreign and domestic investors maintain obnoxious policies resulting in looting of natural resources at minimum wages—stripped of job security and benefits—massive job contratualisation, under employment and unemployment. Not that the persons in authority don’t know it. Not that crisis managers in Delhi and their surrogates in state capitals don’t understand it. The ground reality is very much clear to them. But they cannot serve the haves and have-nots simultaneously, someone has to be scarified for the betterment of the other. After all this democracy is not for all. They cannot loot natural resources without violently suppressing the voice of dissent. Tribal resistance is the answer to state violence. Incidentally the resistance movement has come under the influence of the maoists or left-wing extremists. The government in a special move is modernising security forces to liquidate maoists. Over 3000 satellite phones will be provided to troops and para-military units undertaking anti-naxal operations in remote areas to equip them with swift connectivity. But America has failed to crush Talibans and ‘Warriors of God’ in Afghanistan and Iraq despite the deployment of most modern fire-power.

Some ex-police officials are, of late, flooding the media with their expert advice as to how to cope with the naxalite crisis that has been troubling the ruling elite since the late sixties. For one thing the 50th anniversary of naxalite uprising is not far away. The former DGP, West Bengal, and former Police Commissioner, Kolkata Police, who earned notoriety during his tenure for strategically eliminating naxalites in Bengal think ‘the police should bite the bullet and accept that they have not been fighting the maoists with their heart and soul’. In other words what this gentleman wants is to motivate security forces and police personnel politically and ideologically the way they did it in the seventies. Those were the days when high-ranking officials and ordinary policemen were thinking in terms of class solidarity while fighting the ultras and it produced better results, no doubt. The extremists because of their isolation from basic masses for whom they took up arms in the first place and made tremendous sacrifices, suffered immensely. They are yet to recover from the setbacks of yester years and throw pro-active visions of development and social liberation without which they cannot move forward anymore and defeat the designs of the central government.

The ex-police chief, mentioned above, however admitted in no uncertain terms that tribals like the Gonds were providing human resources to the maoists sheltered in the dense forests of ‘Abujh Mandh’ or ‘Uncharted Terrain’. In reality the maoists have the topographical advantage of just 5000 sq km in Central India. Then the ex-police boss opines that Central Forces are operating without a specific goal to reach, otherwise they could have finished some small bands of maoists guerillas by this time. Unlike the communists of pre-liberation China Maoists have no regular army, they have People’s Liberation Guerilla Army. In terms of ‘‘battle ability’’ they are very much at par with para-military forces.

One reason as expounded by the concerned ex-police chief, for maoist success and prolongation of the ‘problem’ lies in the failure of the police to nab top leaders of the movement. Kobad Gandhi, as per his evaluation, is the only maoist leader of eminence, who is behind bars. His prescription is to cripple the central leadership first which will put foot soldiers in disarray. But they have liquidated Azad and Kishenji and a number of top leaders involved in party’s military logistics and communication, are in their custody.

In a sense the maoist campaign of protracted people’s war has reached a stalement because people’s war has been elusive to most people.

Vol. 47, No. 2, Jul 20 - 26, 2014