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Mainstream, Vol XLVIII, No 23, May 29, 2010

Haunted by History

Tuesday 1 June 2010, by Mukul Dube


In this benighted present, with a bleak future stretching ahead, pieces of our history have come back to haunt us. There are differences, of course, but there are samenesses also.

“Naxalism” was described as a threat in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Areas, tracts of land, were called “Naxalite infested”, just like areas that harboured malaria or pets who harboured fleas—and “Naxalites”, whose battle was political, were lumped together with common criminals both in the realm of ideology and in the prisons of reality. All this is true today also, but the “Maoists” have been elevated from a “law and order problem” to an enemy within who must be tackled militarily. We may well call it a civil war: although this time those who fight for the rights of slaves are wrong-doers without honour and respectability.

We must look back not just to our own history but also to the history of our current godfather, the USA, which is also the Holy Land to be blindly imitated. The witch-hunt launched by Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s is echoed by our own P. Chidambaram when he has his Home Ministry issue a statement—or warning or declaration of intent—saying that those who speak up for the Maoists, or who express sympathy with them, will invite action under the Unlawful Activites (Prevention) Act, a singularly obscene threat in a country which calls itself a democracy.

Mrs Gandhi Senior’s Emergency too has come back to haunt us. That was a time when not only was all dissent gagged, facts were actively suppressed too, a time when a country which declared itself to be a “socialist republic”—whatever that may have meant—was home to a totalitarian repression supported by what some of us described as Soviet social imperialism. Is it not only a matter of time before the press and other media are prevented by the Unlawful Activities Act from reporting affairs in the country fully and honestly?

That most anachronistic aberration of our times, the destructive freak show that is Hindutva, is left free to spread its tentacles and its poison while the Congress party forgets all about its election promises and its government rains hell upon those traditionally exploited peoples who dare to protest against the plunder of their resources by a greedy and blood-thirsty capitalism which makes no distinction between the Congress and the BJP of India and Vedanta Resources of London and POSCO of South Korea.

But who cares, nowadays, for history? In every field, the leaders can only fly into the future at speed, eyes firmly closed. The past lies dead: while profits, with their come-hither reek, lie ahead. To hell with history and to hell with justice and humanity. All that matters is profit.n

Editor’s Note: The following points need to be borne in mind:

a) Tribals in Chhattisgarh at least have fully identified themselves with the CPI (Maoist) and are using the latter as an instrument to spiritedly fight the state-sponsored concerted moves to grab their land, water and forest for the benefit of Corporate India in our present neo-liberal economic paradigm of development.

b) The CPI (Maoist) is not on a killing spree or else it would have been totally alienated and isolated from the tribals whose interests they claim to espouse.

c) The Maoists are targeting the security forces, SPOs, and those whom they brand as police informers. The killing of civilians travelling in the same vehicle as the SPOs in Dantewada on May 17 was an exceptional development and not a common feature as influential leaders of the government and some sections of the media are desperately trying to establish, albeit unsuccessfully.

d) The killing of CPM men in Jungle Mahal of West Bengal’s West Midnapore district, howsoever unjustified and unacceptable, is in retaliation of the untold atrocities carried out by the CPM men in the area for years at a stretch. Moreover such acts by Maoists have the endorsement of the local populace subjected to oppression, exploitation, attacks by the CPM’s harmad vahini who incidentally are re-entering the area following the security forces. (The harmad vahini has been described as the CPM’s Salwa Judum by a leading Congress member of the Manmohan Singh Cabinet.)

e) What is most shocking is that the CPM leadership till date has expressed no remorse for the pitiable conditions in which they have left the people of Jungle Mahal in West Midnapore and large sections of the populace in Bankura and Purulia districts even after more than 33 years of Left-Front rule in West Bengal. It is these conditions which have created the fertile soil for the operation of Maoists from Jharkhand in the region. The CPM leaders only harp on an imaginary alliance between the Maoists and Trinamul Congress without making any effort at ameliorating the conditions of the people there.

f) The Maoists have done some development work in the areas under their control as conveyed by Maoist ideologue Kobad Ghandy (now in prison) some years ago in an interview to the BBC carried in The Times of India. Some reports on the same lines appeared in The Indian Express some time back. But currently the Maoist tribals being forced to frequently change their location that work has been considerably hampered.

g) We are absolutely clear that Operation Green Hunt is not a necessity as other—political—means should have been employed to tackle the Maoist problem before embarking on the operation, as clearly spelt out by former Supreme Court judge Justice P.B. Sawant at a National Convention organised by the Citizens Initiative for Peace some months ago.

h) The foregoing is intended to convey a clear idea of what the Maoists are up to, not to justify their cult of violence. As was editorially pointed out in this journal on April 10, 2010, “… there must be unequivocal condemnation of the killing of CRPF men in Dantewada”. But in the same editorial it was also underlined that “since June 2009 as many as 129 adivasi villagers have been killed by the security forces (not to speak of the manifold atrocities they have been subjected to) in the same region in the course of ‘Operation Green Hunt’”; it was further emphasised that “these killings are equally condemnable, if not more, since in these incidents non-combatants have been killed by combatants in the conflict zone”.

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