Monday, August 22, 2005

Message to Maoists


THE content of the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh’s appeal to the Naxalites to shun the path of violence and seek redressal of grievances through democratic means is more or less the same what other prime minsters delivered in the past. But his appeal has a poignancy which was missing in his predecessors’ message: he has thrown a challenge, as it were, to the Naxalites to test their popularity at the hustings, implying to prove their claim that people are really with them and endorse their political line. Dr Singh’s appeal came just a week after the Congress government of Andhra Pradesh reimposed the ban, after a year-long ceasefire, on the Naxalite outfit CPI-Maoist and its frontal organisations in the wake of a gory massacre in which an MLA and several others were killed. Dr Singh’s challenge looks shrewd since Naxalites operate in certain districts and pockets and do not have uniform support base and mainly depend on their fire power.

After 37 years of armed movement, the Naxalites and their sympathisers have also come to realise that the power of bullet is very limited. This is the reason why some of these groups have given up the armed path and taken to participating in the elections and opted for mass movement. And the example is Bihar where the CPI(ML)-Liberation has been participating in the elections and even winning seats. But their experience has not been quite encouraging. The bureaucracy and the police administration are not willing to accept them as a part of the parliamentary democratic community and treat them as dangerous radicals. Exactly this has happened in Andhra Pradesh during the period of ceasefire between the state government and the Naxalites. There is no denying the fact that a section of the state bureaucracy has been hostile to the peace talk and always conspired to frustrate it on the plea that it was counter-productive. But the fact is the year-long ceasefire witnessed considerable decline in the incidents of violence. Even statistics show that incidents of violence and murder fell after the state government and the Maoists agreed to a ceasefire in June last year.

The Maoists agreeing to ceasefire was indicative of the fact that they were not averse to pursuing the path of peace and non-violence. The talks broke down after the Maoists refused to surrender arms, implying that they do not have trust—essential for the success of the talks—in the state machinery. It was for the Andhra Chief Minister, Mr Y Sekhar Rajasekhara Reddy to pick up the threads again. However, the state government failed to evolve a consensus on the demands of the Maoists. For the bureaucracy, which was searching for the right opportunity to re-impose the ban, the killing of the Congress MLA, Mr Narsi Reddy and eight others on Independence Day came as a boon in disguise. In fact Gadar, the Naxalite emissary and balladeer, who earned the praise of Dr Manmohan Singh for his observation that killing of innocent people did not help win a cause, was also arrested. Do not these actions of the Andhra police make it clear that the state administration does not know any other way but to resort the brutal state power to crush the Maoists?

About a year ago the chief ministers of nine Naxalite-affected states met, but instead of coming out with any concrete socio-economic policies, they endorsed police action against the radicals. Then the Andhra Chief Minister initiated the process of peace talk, but without any commitment to the issues the Naxalites were raising. Mr Reddy needed to be more far-sighted and imaginative and accommodative in his approach. However, he preferred to play into the hands of the harliners in his police force and bureaucracy; they made him put impossible conditions before the Maoists.

The Naxalites thought any peace talk with government was futile, and went back to their ways of handling people’s problems through armed power.
The Prime Minister’s appeal opens a new window of opportunity for the Andhra Pradesh government, and particularly the Chief Minister, Mr Reddy to do everything possible to create a right atmosphere for a dialogue with the Maoists. After all, Maoists are not mad people; they are mostly dedicated workers who care little about shedding their lives in order that they can see the life of the poor people improved a little better. If Mr Reddy wants the Maoists to join the political mainstream, he has to be sincere about the dialogue, and he has to be sincere about solution of the poor people’s problems. Else, he will go on creating more and more Maoists in his state.

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