The Power of ‘No’

Maoists are boycottists. They don’t participate in elections. Whether their strategy of permanent boycott in the present context is conducive to revolutionary progress is being questioned even by many of their fellow travellers, not to speak of mainstream leftists. That is not really the point at issue. What surprises most observers is that they figure in almost all elections even if there is no active boycott call. Despite their peripheral presence in some states the power of ‘No’ really matters. At the time of writing Jharkhand and Kashmir were gearing up to face the first phase of assembly polls. And Congress president Sonia Gandhi took trouble to go to Daltanganj of Jharkhand for her party’s poll campaign to boost the sagging morale of partymen who find no immediate prospects of bouncing back in this region. And of all things she reiterated the off-repeated swan song of how to solve the Maoist problem. She prescribed ‘development’ as the medicine to tackle Maoist menace. She went a step further to keep the people of Jharkhand in good humour by asserting that country’s natural resources should be in the hands of the people for their development. Resources are really in the hands of the people but these people are Ambanis, Adanis, Mittals and their like. Mrs Gandhi’s people include private business owners, professional stock market investors, including foreign investors, real estate tycoons and high-salaried government and corporate executives. The wealthy get wealthier. This is the general rule of the system they manage. She, however, didn’t explain what stood in their path for development of one of the poorest states of India—Jhankhand—when they were in power.

Jharkhand that was part of Bihar 14 years ago has been a scene of merciless loot of its natural resources since the days of Raj. In the yester years British mining interests played havoc and now Indian corporate lords and the Union Government itself are doing the same by overstepping the constitution and the law.

The early industrialisation of eastern India was basically based on coal, iron ore, manganese ore, limestone and other valuable mineral resources extracted from Jharkhand by displacing hundreds of thousands of tribal people. The same tradition continues unabted with more ruthlessness and ferocity. Alienation of tribal land is nowhere so rampant as in Jharkhand and its adjoining Bengal area—it has been going on since the days of East India Company. When Jharkhand was created by bifurcating the erstwhile Bihar there were token presence of naxalites in two or three districts. But today they are actively practising their idea of people’s war in almost all districts because of the government’s ‘development strategy’ that is a calculated move to deprive the tribal people of their basic rights. With the Modi government looking impatient to dilute the Land Acquisition Act to make it more corporate friendly, it is a matter of time that Jharkhand will witness further tribal land alienation and marginalisation of the marginalised.

In truth the spread of naxalite movement in Jharkhand and its adjoining areas has failed to arrest the pace of mining activities. India’s only commercially viable Uranium mining lies in this region and how Uranium mining has poisoned the soil and inhabitants of Jaduguda, mostly tribals, is a matter of horror. It’s a state sponsored terror. India’s market economy is corrupt to the core and the so-called economic growth is achieved through opportunities created by corruption and coercion.

Tragically enough, as the system is corrupt at every level, they are trying to corrupt the naxalite movement as well through dubious means. And it is a new method to cheat poor tribals otherwise influenced, though not in a major way, by naxalite movement. In Jharkhand a surrender scam involving fake naxalites and cops is making rounds.

A former military intelligence officer, well in the knowledge of CRPF officials, allegedly lured in tribal youths to pose as naxalites desiring to surrender to get a job either in Army, para-military or state police on paying ‘reasonable’ bribes. At least 18 youths reportedly became victims of this fake surrender drama in Jharkhand. And for this some of the victims had to sell their personal belongings including land. Earlier this type of surrender scam came to the fore in Assam in relation to surrendered ULFA (SULFA) activists. The surrender policy, if it can be so called, seems to be a major device, rather notorious device, to divide the naxalite ranks and as per government statistics, it is working. A total of 472 Maoists have surrendered to security forces so far this year, highest in the last three years. Of the 472 left-wing extremists who surrendered till October 2014, 247 laid down arms in Chattisgarh, 80 in Odisha, 76 in Andhra Pradesh, 30 in Maharashtra, 15 in Telengana and 17 in Jharkhand. Maybe this is one reason, why Maoist campaign, even the peaceful boycott campaign, has been stagnating for some time.

Meanwhile, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley is all set to unveil a ‘whole set of second generation reforms’ in the next budget. In other words a further opening up and dilution of regulatory rules, means further pauperisation and dispossession of a large segment of population, mostly in tribal region. They are out to woo industrialists, both domestic and foreign and promote private participation in every sector of the economy even at the cost of national interests. And Gandhis won’t be available to comment on ‘development’ after the polls. All of them are in the same boat of reforms. That naxalite factor matters in ‘development’, at least in some regions, is admitted by the Gandhis and their poll adversaries as well.        24-11-2014

Vol. 47, No. 22, Dec 7 - 13, 2014