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Mainstream, Vol. XLVII, No 28, June 27, 2009

Eyeless in Tackling the Maoist Problem

Editorial

Thursday 2 July 2009, by SC

While the Lalgarh operation involving the State and Central forces in West Bengal’s West Midnapore district is still on with the security forces unable to apprehend a single Maoist of eminence in the area, the people of the region are being subjected to extreme forms of hardship, attacks and torture as well as grave human rights violations.

Meanwhile the Centre has now officially banned the CPI (Maoist) as a terrorist organisation. Coming in the midst of the Lalgarh operation this announcement on the Centre’s part has put the CPM in a quandary. The party’s central and State leaders have refused to toe the Central Government’s line and instead spoken of the need to combat the Maoists “politically”. But what is the ground reality? In Lalgarh and the State’s tribal regions the ruling party is using only brute force (to the extent that the party cadres, known as the harmad vahini, in police uniform are carrying out untold atrocities on the public, the women in particular) to force the tribals into submission. This is “political means”, CPM-style!

As far as the Union Home Minister is concerned, his non-political and bureaucratic approach towards tackling Maoism brings out his singular lack of comprehension of what Maoism or Naxalism signifies. As has been elucidated in the report of the Expert Group (set up by the Planning Commission) to deal with the causes of unrest, discontent and extremism with special reference to development, released in April 2008,

...the Naxalite movement has to be recognised as a political movement with a strong base largely among the landless and poor peasantry and adivasis. Its emergence and growth need to be contexualised in the social conditions and experience of the people who form a part of it. The huge gap between state policy and performance is a feature of these conditions. Though its professed long term ideology is capturing state power by force, in its day-to-day manifestation it is to be looked upon by their support as basically a fight for social justice, equality, protection and local development. The two have to be seen together without overplaying the former. Its geographical spread is rooted in the failure to remove the conditions which give rise to it.

It is in this framework that the report highlights the need to meet the movement “politically”, adding:

Negotiation is the only political instrument of such a response in a democracy. An ameliorative approach with emphasis on a negotiated solution helps to generate greater confidence of the alienated people in governance. This approach is used the world over to tackle insurgencies democratically. It will cause the least possible injury to the people caught in the conflict.

This is the only way the problem—which the PM has identified as the “greatest threat to our internal security”—can be effectively handled thereby unveiling the contours of a long-term solution. On the other hand a militarised approach, adopted by both the Centre and CPM in West Bengal, would not only complicate matters but also completely negate the prospects of a lasting settlement.

June 23 S.C.

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