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Mainstream, VOL LI, No 24, June 1, 2013

Armed Response to Political Issues a Threat to Secular Democratic Forces in India

Saturday 1 June 2013, by Vidya Bhushan Rawat

The top leadership of the Congress party in Chhattisgarh came under a well-coordinated attack from the Maoists in Darbha Ghati in Sukma in the southern part of the Bastar region. The Congress leadership had been campaigning in the State as part of their ‘Parivartan Yatra’ as Chhattishgarh goes for polls during the year- end with several other States. Those who were killed are the Leader of the Opposition and a well-known Adivasi leader, Mahendra Karma, President of the Chhattishgarh Congress Committee Nand Kumar Patel as well as his son, some other senior leaders of the party. Former Union Minister Vidya Charan Shukla suffered injuries from four bullets and is battling for his life in a hospital in Delhi while Ajit Jogi too survived as he flew from Sukma to Raipur. The leaders, after finishing their rally at Sukma, were going to Jagdalpur when the Maoists ambushed their convoy resulting in the killing of 29 party workers including senior leaders of the Congress party. 

Let me explain here that when we condemn the attack on the political workers it does not mean we condone all their acts of using the state administration to intimidate the people. Many of these leaders were highly unpopular because of similar actions but they had their huge followers too.

The audacity of this attack has rightfully shocked the nation. The enormity of the assault on the political structure was such that the top leadership of the Congress party had to discuss the issue in an emergency meeting at the Prime Minister’s residence and their Vice- President Rahul Gandhi reached Raipur late at night and met those who were injured. The Prime Minister and Congress President have just visited the State capital and expressed solidarity with their party workers.

Now, there are two important aspects in the entire incident. One, that those who were targeted were political people and not the paramilitary forces or local police and hence it is an important issue of deliberation and must be discussed in a candid way as to why the Maoists did so and whether they want the same reaction from the security agencies to eliminate their top leadership. 

What Chhattisgarh and Bastar in particular lacked was the politicisation process in which adivasis must be made part of the democratic structure. The State apparatus remained contemptuous towards the adivasis and hence they went to the Naxals for basic support like getting their issues resolved through the ‘Jan Adalats’ which are kangaroo courts and do not have a place in any civilised society but because of ‘instant justice’ they instil fear in the small population who then have no option other than following the ‘sarkar’.

The Government of Chhattishgarh remained in Raipur with red beacons and politicians using mining to line their pockets and here Maoists were engaged in their propaganda of the ‘state’ being the people’s ‘enemy’. Corruption, exploitation, all those things which we are not tired of explaining, could be best used by the ‘revolutionaries’; after all, we get frustrated with a system only when we face corruptions and delays and this gives rise to the ‘victimised’ mindset. When the victimised mindset is completely developed then the radicalisation process starts and it is also true that we start believing that our ‘world’ is just around us. We stop to see the world in the larger sense. 

The propagandists will always speak in terms of ‘speaking’ for the ‘people’. They will always claim a bigger representation from the people. The fact is that the Maoists have the people’s support in those regions but whether this support is due to fear or without it does not matter. It only reflects that our governance structure has completely collapsed in Chhattisgarh and it needs special treatment. It needs serious thought: while violence must be handled with great caution, it is important that innocent people do not become victim of this ‘collateral damage’ as military ‘experts’ always claim.

It needs to be understood that Chhattisgarh still has a high number of investments and companies and other mining giants are still functioning in the State in spite of the so-called Naxals. Then we have religious gurus who have big ashrams in Chhattisgarh and no attempt has been made to respect the adivasi identity.

In fact the whole project of Hindutva is to ensure that adivasis remain as part of the Hindu system and there has been no effort by the so-called Maoists or Naxals to end that; the result is the continuous oppression of adivasis by both the religious thugs as well as economically powerful people. Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand today are dominated by outsiders. They have procured land and there is no stoppage to it. All the government schemes cannot function without those who are ‘dominating’ the area; hence a basic question that arises is: how are these outsiders able to work so independently when the area is infested by those who are fighting against ‘foreign domination’.

It is also a well-known fact that adivasi areas have been without any road links, hospitals, schools and other basic facilities. Our system has not reached them and there is no participation in the administration and political structure. Bastar’s issues cannot be resolved from Raipur and it is important that an independent Bastar Zone should be created with assurance of adivasi control over mining and other natural resources. If the government had taken proper care and helped the adivasis to acquire space and not to strengthen the adivasi middlemen in the region, they would have not faced this scenario. Today, there is so much of mistrust that any action of the government is taken as an attempt to intrude in the adivasi zone.

In the crisis of mutual trust, it is the Maoists who dominate and hence to maintain their hegemony they bring threat, intimidation and different stories of government efforts to control the natural resources in their propaganda work. There was a time for sincere thinking and the government could have sought to talk with the adivasi leadership in the region. Who are the adivasi leaders with whom the government can speak? Did the government ever call a meeting of adivasi social activists, academics, leaders, panchayat leaders from different part of the country including Chhattisgarh to discuss their issues? You do not do and the result is today the adivasi leadership in all these ‘revolutionary’ zones is in the hands of non-adivasis and if we see their track record they have systematically eliminated all those leaders who differ with them and were a challenge to them.

To say that Naxal or Maoist ‘revolutionaries’ are an isolated bunch is ridiculous and therefore we need to look into the political aspect of these killings. Simply because the killings were perpetrated by Naxals or Maoists does not make these beyond political conspiracy. There are chances of these killings being political as Naxals or Maoists are too smart and take part in political activities. They know well who to eliminate and who to protect and politicians across the spectrum need them and that is the only reason why they are surviving. 

The failure of the political leadership and criminalisation of our political structure actually help the Naxals very well. It is true that the adivasis seek their help to get justice and protection but what is the alternative they are providing? Is the ‘Jan Adalat’ not like the Khap Panchayat which provides instant justice to the people through various tortuous ways in which people are killed

?

Our crisis is bigger as those who are voices of reason are not liked. These are times of pamphleteers and mouthpieces and those writers and academics who live in their particular worldview and anyone who differs is anti-people or anti-national. Indians are experts in tagging people whenever they differ. Human rights defenders have to face the worst. It is also a fact that today human rights have become instrumental or frontal organisations for those who have no faith in rights at all.

Whenever we condemn the violence by extra-state actors, we are told that you are a ‘state’ agent. Whenever a poor adivasi is killed, he is termed as a ‘state’ agent. My question has been: how come a poor adivasi who wants his right and protection from people become a state agent if he participates in the NREGA or speaks to a political leader? Why do the Maoists want to stop my choice for vote to a politician of my choice? If they were true to their beliefs, we should have seen the best politicians in Telangana, Andhra, Odisha, and Chhattisgarh but some of the most corrupt politicians, who are hand in glove with business and corporates, who exploit the poor, who amassed huge land and other natural resources, still hail from these regions. Why do most of the people remain highly apolitical and no independent Dalit adivasi leadership is allowed to develop so that it could contest the elections?

So, anyone who differs from you, stands in front of you, becomes a state agent! And I have a simple point: in India extra-state actors are more powerful. India is run through the Constitution of Manu in reality. Here we see how the Right-wing Hindutva brigade targets the Dalits, adivasis and Muslims through the administration, media images and social oppression. In 2002 the Gujarat massacre happened and the murderers came to power and became ruthless in isolating the minorities, particularly the Muslims. They got the benefit of communalisation and nationalisation through the Ayodhya movement too. Today the same leaders are having a free time in Chhattisgarh, Maharastra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh. It became their laboratory and we could not stop them. Big companies have come there and exploited the people and we are witnessing the lethal cocktail of capitalism and brahmanism. Where are the revolutionaries? How many times did they take on the Right-wing Hindutva nationalism which is a big threat to the country? And today our corporates and businesses are ready to thrust those forces on us and such incidents only strengthen them.

No, they won’t speak against communalism as it is not their issue. They will call for poll boycott. And what is the result of these poll boycotts? Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh have gone to non-adivasis and Hindutva forces. What have they done for stopping this? How can the top leadership of the Maoists speak against the migrant leadership when their top leadership itself is exported from Andhra Pradesh? Speaking against the Indian state is easier than challenging the brahmanical system which is the ‘extra-state actor’ in India and root cause of our evils; but then when the top echelons of the Maoist leadership hail from the brahmanical customs, then what do we expect from them?

If over 200 districts of India are under Maoist influence, then who stops them from forming a political party and contesting elections? If they think they have the people’s support without the intimidation of their AK-47, then why not influence the political process? But once you pick up guns, don’t expect the state to respond to you with roses. And this is the most troublesome part. They have killed a generation of tribals who should have grown up to participate. Yes, the government is responsible, our political parties are responsible and like the tribals of Bastar we all are victim of this system and need to clean it. We need to do so but in what way?

I have no sympathy with those in power. They have failed us. They have used the bogey and used the Naxals. The doublespeak of the Hindutva gangs and their sympathisers in the media is visible. Everybody is busy with the Indian Paisa League and the amount of corruption in it. Why has the loudmouth in the TV chat-room kept quiet on the issue? Will he ask questions to the Chhattisgarh Government and its abject failure to protect the political opponents? The ‘future’ of India tweeted that ‘we must fight this battle together’. The Ayodhya Sarathi said he is pained and we have to fight together. Everybody wants to fight against the Maoists. All of them will enjoy the fight in the forest but it is the common secularists who face the intimidation from the state. It is they who are victimised in their daily lives and human rights becomes a dirty word.

Why are we silent? A few years back, I happened to meet a General in a conference who said that the Maoists are ‘our own people’. And that explains the mindset. What do you mean by ‘our own people’? Why are the Kashmiris not ‘our own people’? Yes, if this big operation was done by some Hizbul or any XYZ organisation in the name of Islam, do you think we should be watching or debating IPL or satta bazar on our TV? Do you think that we would have had these subdued responses? The entire country would have been tense and every Muslim would have been asked to show ‘Vandemataram’ on his chest. This is a reality. Since a majority of the leadership of the Naxals are ‘well educated’ and hail from ‘good’ upper- caste families, they are our own. Their biggest certificate is that they are not ‘Muslims’ and their name is not ‘Khan’; hence the state apparatus in India protects them. It protects them for political purposes. Political leaders settle scores through them—and therefore tribals or adivasis are just a tool, they are sandwiched between the brahmanical Indian state and brahmanical Maoists—both don’t want any solution. The Indian state wants to hand over tribal land to big industries and the Maoists want to continue with it.

If both are true to resolve the issue then the Indian state must begin with a complete moratorium on land dealings or acquisition of forest resources from Chhattisgarh first. Let the Maoists surrender their arms and let the government promise to rehabilitate them and later let the government withdraw the para-military forces from the region and end Operation Green Hunt. Let all the tribals, who are arrested in the name of being Maoists, be released. Let the Indian state show its sign of magnanimity by announcing some non-military measures in specific terms and a time-bound programme.

We have no issue with the issues raised by Maoists and there are people who are fighting for their rights, land and water all over the country and they still have faith in the Indian Constitution and its apparatus despite all our disappointments. The Muslims in India, despite all victimisation, still believe in the Constitution and are fighting their battle politically. The Dalits, who were the worst suffers of the brahmanical system, are fighting for their rights and have got their space too. Our difference with them is purely on their methodology. The Left movement is weakening in this country because they failed to win over the heart of the Dalits, adivasis, Muslims and others. They did not allow the leadership from these sections of society to come up and hence the space was occupied by the Right-wing forces. It is a great challenge. India cannot be handed over to Right-wing nationalists. It is a battle wherein all of us must unite and organise ourselves politically.

The secular space is under severe threat. The Maoist threat and violence will only strengthen the militarised minds in the bureaucracy who will give a war cry. It will strengthen the Right-wing agenda of the political parties and the end result would be that the situation would turn more difficult for all those whose rights are violated, particularly the most marginalised sections of our society whether it is Dalits or adivasis or Muslims and other backward communities. The challenge is grim and it needs a comprehensive political response as the armed response will only give the state the right to enter those zones and kill people in the name of fighting the ideological battle against the Maoists. This has happened till date and it will further marginalise the people in these zones.

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