Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Misplaced ideology

Nilotpal Basu
Tuesday, July 14, 2009 20:43 IST Email


For the last few days, Lalgarh has exploded into our drawing rooms with images of gun-toting, byte-providing "cute" Maoist guerrillas who rekindled the "revolutionary romanticism" which many of us keep closeted in the innermost chambers of our hearts.In the immediate aftermath of the Lok Sabha elections -- and the setback for the Left in West Bengal -- it was but quite natural that Lalgarh will get inextricably linked to politics. And Left bashing was very much the order of the day, and, of course, from the far left, not from the right.Those who are steeped in their pathological anti-Left inclinations would doubtlessly join the party.

The Maoists, indeed, have provided the theoretical framework.Documenting the experience of their involvement in Nandigram and working in league with the Trinamool Congress and other anti-Left opposition forces, they have gone on to record their profound political insight. According to the Maoists, the CPM is a "social fascist" force.
Therefore unity with political forces like Trinamool Congress and others belonging either to the far right or to the far left, regardless of their association with the ruling classes, would be very much in order.

Such aggression of the Maoists towards the organised Left, however, is neither accidental nor surprising. Elsewhere in the world the ultra-left, especially those who espouse an armed struggle organising a peasant guerilla force, eventually get into a blind alley and degenerate to such depths that theyend up helping the very same 'ruling classes' whom they seek to overthrow. The Shining Path in Peru or the peasant guerrillas in Philippines met with similar fates.

The basic lesson of Mao's successful leadership of the Chinese people lies in seeing the use of armed struggle as an outcome of a substantive collective endeavour of the peasantry towards a democratic transformation of society. Some degree of realisation along these lines prompted the Maoists in Nepal to change their political course as they did.

Unfortunately the Maoists in India do not consider learning from experience. In fact, in the wake of assertion by the top Maoist leader and the general secretary of the CPI (Maoist), Ganapati, that the choice of the forest areas for their operation is prompted rather by military consideration than any compassion for the poor tribals who inhabit these terrain, some of the pioneers of the Naxalite movement of yesteryears have charged today's 'Maoists' with an infantile miscomprehension of Mao and his legacy.

But even then, why is it that the Maoists have been able to expand their area of activity, so much so that the prime minister himself has recognised them as the single biggest threat to national internal security? The complex nature of this political phenomenon has been aptly underlined by Lalgarh.

True, the tribal-inhabited areas, particularly those alongside the forests, do suffer from lack of development. But the connection between their condition and the growth of Maoist activities appears to be clich├ęd and not necessarily based on a factual premise.

The reasons are twofold. Firstly, the Maoists themselves routinely indulge in widespread acts of violence and destruction against attempts at development of both physical and social infrastructure. There are umpteen examples in various parts of the country and now quite explicitly in Lalgarh. In the case of Lalgarh, the link with underdevelopment and Maoist insurgency that is being sought to be asserted by the liberals and some of the hallowed names from NGOs, who are vying for the Left space in our polity, seems to be completely off the mark.

A recent study by IIT, Kharagpur has come out with a comprehensive report which runs into 195 pages titled, "Perspective Development Plan for the Western Region Development Board Area." This plan covers all the 74 blocks in the western region of West Bengal which are characterised by their high tribal population density and less fertile laterite soil. But even there Lalgarh is 17th from the bottom of the table.

The bottomline, therefore, is that the battle for development must go on irrespective of what might have been achieved in the past or regardless of whether there are areas which are worse off. But this alone will not be enough of a political and ideological effort to uncover the mindless campaign of terror.

The government meanwhile has to ensure the right to life and property of people which stand threatened by the campaign of violence directed against political opposition and terrorising the people at large. All political parties who work within the framework of the Indian Constitution must unfailingly contribute towards the isolation of this cult of violence. Immediate prospects of electoral gains acting as an inspiration has also contributed to the nurturing of this menace till now.

The writer is member, CPM politburo

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