'The Shangri-la Dialogue'

Left-wing extremism is dead. Long Live left-wing extremism! They have now begun to hunt naxals or Maoists or Maoist sympathisers in concrete jungles, not jungles. Innocents are being continually imprisoned just for raising dissent against injustice. Professionals are under attack. Lawyers are not safe in a situation where even the judiciary fails to stop the travesrty of justice and even the so-called fourth estate—media—deliberately refrain from reporting the reality. It's a fascistic atmosphere where human rights activist and advocate Sudha Bharadwaj has been publicly attacked and lynched by a pro-government TV channel whose job is to defend the indefensible—autocratic acts of the Modi government. Maybe, it is a signal of the widening dragnet being used to undermine the rule of law, stifle all voices of dissent and crush all those who voice their protest for the voiceless.

Civil libertarians and human rights defenders come mainly from the enlightened section of urban society, basically with middle class back-ground. As per Modi government's evaluation, they are at worst 'urban guerillas' or 'urban naxals'. Thus professionals, academics, writers, intellectuals—all are in danger of being called 'urban guerillas' if they question the systematic erosion of democratic space. 'Urban Naxal' is now a convenient label to isolate any movement demanding justice. Then any democratic movement developing against injustice and state terror, under the leadership of some independent initiative outside the influence of any political party, runs the risk of being crushed by anti-naxal squads of security forces.

The ground reality is that most people—marginalised people, minority community people, tribal people—have lost faith in political parties, parliamentary outfits to be precise. They know from day to day struggle for existence that both ruling parties and opposition parties are out and out pro-corporate. Minorities know how difficult it is to get active support from political parties that are ready to fight to the finish. Not that only muslims are facing the lynching mob of saffronites. Christians are equally vulnerable to hate campaign. During weeks of unabated violence, nearly 100 Christians were killed and 300 churches and 6000 houses were plundered, rendering 56,000 homeless in Kandhamal anti-Christian riot. 'Kandhamal exposes the crookedness of Hindu nationalists and the ugly face of Indian democracy'. Kandhamal's innocents continue to demand justice under independent mass organising without relying on support from established political parties. And quite naturally they may be called 'urban naxals'!

The opposition raises hue and cry from time to time about the decline of constitutional democracy and creeping religious fascism just to keep it on record that they are in favour of democracy and constitutional rights. People get nothing from their strategy of inaction or 'activity sans action'. Tribals have been left out in the process of nation-building right from the beginning. They have nowhere else to go but jungles. They suffered during the Raj and they continue to suffer under the juggernaut of post-Raj. No party ever sincerely tried to make them feel they too have right to life. They still don't believe they have equal rights under the constitution. If today they are being heard locally in some sensitive areas it is because they have violently challenged the authority in Central India under the guideline of Maoists or naxals. Well, they are all rural naxals, not urban naxals. Majority of urban people do hardly bother about their existence as if they belong to a different India. Those who just question the state's systematic attempt to keep them at the perpetual mercy of the elites, are silenced by legal and extra-legal means as it has recently happened in case of Bharadwaj and others.

Gone are the days of show-casing indigenous peoples as objects of tourist attraction. "Adivasis won't 'Dance' and beat their drums to entertain the select audience and serve the powers that be as they used to do a few decades back. A new phase of tribal awakening is sweeping tribal hamlets across the country. And all this has been possible owing to the presence of naxalities. If tribals in some regions are asserting themselves with dignity and self-respect it is because the naxalities have made them think they could also do things independently.

It is the growing realisation by tribal communities that they have been marginalised with a deliberate ploy and they will be continually displaced internally beyond recovery if the government's 'development' agenda is not fought with 'do or die' mentality. Huge mineral wealth lies beneath tribal villages. Corporates, both domestic and foreign, cannot exploit it without evicting tribal people from their places. So the government has virtually waged a war against its own people under the garb of combating naxalities or Maoists. They engineer civil war to weaken tribal solidarity. For one thing naxalities or Maoists in tribal regions are actually carrying out anti-imperialist struggles by thwarting the mining multinationals and their Indian agents. The so-called 'development' model pursued by the persons in power irrespective of their political colour or bias, is in reality programmed by imperial capital. In today's urban India only a handful of people think everybody must enjoy fundamental rights as enshrined in the constitution, but they are now branded as naxals, rather urban naxals, to be prosecuted under draconian laws. In other words the authorities now admit by default that the naxals have an alternative vision of political culture where exploitative terror would be a thing of the past. Political parties, ruling or opposition, are afraid to combat them politically and ideologically. So they would like to combat them with Grey Hounds and Cobras. They spread all sorts of lies about naxalitie politics and yet naxalism survies and attracts attention of rights activists.

Interestingly tribals in many places have developed many ingenious ways to assent their rights. Right now the tribals in Jharkhand are organising a movement called 'Pathalgadi' that proclaims the adivasis as the real inhabitants of India. The giant plaques depicting 'Pathalgadi' at the entry points of villages declare that gram sabha is the only sovereign authority while banning outsiders from their area.

Vol. 51, No.4, Jul 29 - Aug 04, 2018