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Mainstream, VOL L, No 6, January 28, 2012

Maoist Depredation in Junglemahal

Tuesday 31 January 2012, by D. Bandyopadhyay


The word ‘depredation’ is being used here deliberately. A movement connotes a large degree of political or social activities or even crusade involving the masses for a definite good purpose. What had been happening in the Junglemahal till the death of Kishenji was a series of individual killings, extortion of money, torture of innocent villagers and forcible recruitment of young men and women for the Maoist cadre. And what were all these for? To increase the area of influence of the CPI (Maoist) through sheer fear and threat psychosis. From 2007 onwards they targeted the CPI-M cadres, leaders and panchaytat members. However undesirable these CPI-M personnel might have been politically or even socially, none of them deserved capital punishment in the hands of an outlawed outfit. With the change of the political scenario following the 2009 parliamentary elections, and after the State Assembly polls of 2011 in particular, they started killing the Trinamul Congress (TMC) workers, sympathisers and local leaders. Soon after her assumption of power Ms Mamata Banerjee openly invited the Maoist leadership for talks abjuring violence. But there was no response from the Maoist side.

There is no denying that adivasis and Dalits of the Junglemahal were helpless victims of exploitation, oppression, intimidation and often torture by the dominant non-tribal and non-Dalit groups. Therefore, they had every reason to be angry and dissatisfied with the establish-ment. Maoists tried to exploit this disaffection for their political advantage, but the method of physical violence that they chose became counterproductive. This was evident as soon as, following the ameliorative package of the Chief Minister for Junglemahal, cheap rice and wheat started reaching the adivasi families. They tasted rice after a long, long time. This one action of the present State Government exposed the alienation of the adivasis from the Maoists. The death of Kishenji clearly demonstrated this phenomnenon. The place where the firefight took place between Kishenji and the security forces was in the normal beat of movement of Kishenji and other Maoist leaders. For the last three to four years the police had no clue of the movement of these Maoist groups. In fact whenever the police tried to move into the area, the villagers would alert the Maoists who would promptly cross over to Jharkhand. But in the instant case the security forces got precise information of the movement of Kishenji and his group. As a result the police knew exactly in which house of the village Kishenji was staying. When they approached the house, there was a firefight in which Kishenji died.

From the conduct of the Maoists in Junglemahal in the last few years, it became apparent that the CPI (Maoist) leadership failed to grasp the cardinal points of Mao’s thoughts of learning from the masses. I shall give two illustrations to substantiate the point.

Lalmohan Mahato, an educated young man, lived in a village about 16-17 km away from Jhargram town. Because he was a TMC supporter he was not given appointment as a teacher in the local primary school by the CPI-M. Enterprising as he was, he opened a pre-primary school coaching class for children between three to five years. Local parents were quite happy as his students used to do well in the primary school when they got admission. The Maoists started extortion from this village. They damaged 30 per cent of the teachers’ income as compulsory levy. Lalmohan protested. Nothing happened. He then organised the teachers who collectively decided not to pay the levy. When the Maoists found that their regular source of income was going to dry up, they just murdered Lalmohan. So much was the aversion of the local villagers against the Maoists that there was a kilometre-long peace march from that village to Jhargram town where a large meeting was held to condemn the Maoist atrocities. (I too participated in this peace march.)

Then there was another gruesome story. A young Santhal woman was grazing her family cattle and goats in a grassy patch inside the jungle. It was past midday. Suddenly a platoon of CRPF men, who were patrolling the jungle area, appeared in that glade. The Subedar in-charge asked the woman to gather some firewood to brew tea and heat up their packed food. She was afraid and did as she was told. After the CRPF men had their food, they moved away giving her a packet of dry food. The same night at around midnight a group of Maoists surrounded her house, dragged her out and beheaded her as a collaborator of the class enemy. This incident created tremendous resentment among the villagers. The woman had complied with the request of the CRPF as she was afraid of being molested by the jawans. She had no option, though the jawans behaved correctly with her. And then came the capital punishment by the Maoists. The villagers were caught between the devil and the deep sea.

THE Maoists should understand that from the “spring thunder” of April-May 1967 in Naxalbari, 45 years have passed. And they still remain in the mountain hideouts in the Central Indian jungles. The Communist Party of China was formed in a seminar room of the Peking University in 1923, three years after the Indian Communist Party was founded in Tashkent in 1920. By 1949 Mao Zedong completed his revolution and seized power in Peking (present-day Beijing). They should realise there is something basically wrong with their political line in India.

Didn’t Mao Zedong advise: “We should go to the masses and learn from them, synthesise their experience into better, articulated principles and methods, then do propaganda among the masses and call upon them to put these principles and methods into practice so as to solve their problems and help them achieve liberation and happiness” (Red Book, p. 129)?

What did the Maoists learn from Lalmohan Mahato’s crusade against illegal and immoral extortion of 30 per cent remuneration of a poor village teacher? Was Lalmohan a class enemy? Was that hapless Santhal woman, who brewed tea for the jawans at their command, an enemy of the people? If the Maoists were so concerned about her, why didn’t they engage the jawans in a firefight to enable the girl to escape? No, they did not have the courage and guts to engage the CRPF platoon. They showed their utter cowardice by refraining from an engagement.
Didn’t Mao Zedong direct: “Our Congress should call upon the whole Party to be vigilant and to see that no comrade at any post is divorced from the masses. It should teach every comrade to love the people and listen attentively to the voices of the masses; to identify himself with the masses wherever he goes and instead of standing above them, to immerse himself among them; and according to their present level, to awaken them to raise their political consciousness and help them gradually to organise themselves voluntarily” (Ibid., pp. 125-26)? Did any woman Maoist cadre try to immerse herself with that Santhal woman’s terror and trauma when she alone faced a platoon of CRPF jawans and brewed tea for them at their command? No one did so and killing her at midnight was an act of wanton violence Mao Zedong would never have approved.

Mao sternly warned against ultra-Left adventurism. He wrote: “If we tried to go on the offensive when the masses are not yet awakened, that would be adventurism. If we insisted on leading the masses to do anything against their will, we would certainly fail.” (Ibid., p. 126) And the Maoists in India have failed precisely on the ground mentioned by Mao Zedong.

Sixty years of democracy with ‘one person, one vote’ has given the masses of India a sense of empowerment. They changed governments in the States and at the Centre through the exercise of their voting right. To them a ballot is more powerful than a bullet. The CPI (Maoist) leadership should reassess their political line. They can create trouble here and there. They can kill unarmed people anywhere they like. The sense of empowerment that one gets from holding a rifle is a transient phenomenon. Do you realise that you are suffering from obsessive addiction to the gun syndrome? The gun has become your life. The bandits of Bundelkhand also experienced that for a while. But they realised quite soon the uselessness of a loaded rifle. How many rifles have the Maoists got—four thousand or ten thousand? Isn’t that piffling compared to the combined might of the Indian state? Whom are you fighting and with what? The masses are not with you. They are solidly behind the democratic process. Didn’t you call for poll boycott in the Junglemahal? What was the result? More than 60 per cent of the voters exercised their right of franchise—totally ignoring your threat. Can’t you learn anything from the behavior of the masses? By consciously deviating from the Maoist line of always being with the masses, you converted yourselves into a terrorist group. You obviously have some nuisance value without any political content.

I am nobody to advise you. But you should, I strongly feel, seriously reassess your current line, abjure violence and, as you claim to stand for the welfare of the downtrodden, come out and participate in open electoral politics. Remember what Mao Zedong stated:

“The people and the people alone are the motive force in the making of world history.” (Ibid., p. 118)

By carrying a gun and causing wanton violence you are certainly not “making world history”.

Architect of ‘Operation Barga’ during the Left Front Government in West Bengal, the author was Secretary (Rural Development) and Secretary (Revenue) in the Union Government. Now retired, he is currently a Member of the Rajya Sabha representing the Trinamul Congress.

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