Saturday, February 27, 2010

Maoists feed off our corrupt state

2010-02-28 00:59:01
Last Updated: 2010-02-28 01:27:02

The recent attack by Maoists on a Eastern Frontier Rifles (EFR) camp in Silda, West Bengal, and the state government’s response to subsequent developments should be an eye opener to all watching this terror movement.

On February 15, some 60 Maoists attacked and overran the camp, killing 24 jawans of EFR before vanishing. The camp site was located in such a place that it was an open invitation to the Maoists to strike. The site was not chosen by EFR, but the Superintendent of Police of Midnapore district, who subsequently shrugged off all responsibilities. The State Government is, however, supporting him.

On the other hand, the EFR IG , Binoy Chakraborty, who later briefed the press about the drawbacks of the camp and claimed he had repeatedly appraised the SP, was suspended by West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadev Bhattacharya immediately afterwards.

What message was Buddha Babu sending to the Maoists and security forces at the same time?

In neighbouring Jharkand, Chief Minister Shibu Soren initially dismissed the Maoist issue, He not only withdrew permission to the security forces to indulge in hot pursuit, he also stopped communication interception of the Maoists. Was he paying his debt to the Maoists for helping in his election?

He acted reluctantly only after pressure following the abduction of Block Development Officer (BDO) Prasanth Layek. He secured Layek’s release not through a counter-terrorism operation but by releasing Maoist detainees. He had earlier described the abduction and threat to kill him as “small incidents” which keep on happening. This, after Sub-inspector Francis Indeevar was abducted and beheaded by the Maoists.

The Salwa Judum, the brain child of Chattisgarh politicians, also demands close scrutiny. Drawn from tribals of the same region, it is projected as an indigenous movement from among these to counter the Maoists. The Salwa Judum is like a private army created by the politicians, rich landlords and businessmen backed by the government to protect themselves and their properties. They are a law unto themselves, and rape and loot innocent tribals with impunity.

The Naxalite movement started in the North Bengal town of Naxalbari in 1967 with the very noble intentions of fighting for the have-nots and the down trodden. The founders, Charu Mazumdar and Kanu Sanyal drew their inspiration from Mao Zedong’s long march to power with rifle-millet peasant soldiers.

At that period of history, only selected information came out of Mao’s China. The only talk was of the Chinese Communist Party’s victory over imperialists and colonialists, equality among the people of China, and the great system of communes where no one owned anything, everyone worked, and all were looked after by the commune. The myth of Communist China’s utopia became a dream to chase for the deprived and exploited.

It was only after the death of Mao in 1976 and the fall of his wife Jiang Qing (of the infamous Gang of Four) that the truth of revolutionary China came out: Mao’s China was not utopia, it was a living hell.

More than 30 million people died during the Cultural Revolution. There was systematic anarchy spread by Mao’s Red Guards who were above the law. Some of those stories coming out still are too painful to even read. China changed course under Deng Xiaoping to a semi-capitalist country and progressed. Otherwise it would have destroyed itself.

When Naxalism started, the philosophy was that power can be acquired through the barrel of the gun to fight state oppression. The movement gradually broke up into different factions. Although the aim remained concentrated on the peasants and the landless, the methods differed.

The Chinese experiment proved that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Historically, the situation in China in the first half of the 20th Century was very different from what the situation is in India now. Charu Mazumdar’s son Abhijeet Mazumdar, an educated young man who still calls himself a Maoist, is leading a movement without violence. His Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist) believes in the state structure.

Returning to the situation in the country, both the Maoists led by Kishenji, and the central government and the concerned state governments need to do some hard thinking. The Maoists must read and re-read Communist China’s recent history, and politicians must understand that in chasing for votes in elections they may destroy India’s emergence as a global power. The government and the administration must understand that without implementing the development programmes for the tribals and the landless honestly, they will be inviting very difficult times.

Kishenji and his Maoists must recognize that they might cause more destruction, but they cannot destroy the Indian state. Kishenji is exploiting the feuding political parties and politicians to strike more boldly. Unfortunately, he is as much a political usurper as the others. If he was an honest Robin Hood, he would allow educational and development programmes for the have–nots to fructify. Instead, he prefers to keep them in utter poverty so that he can exploit them against the state. He seems to be following the strategy of the mad Mullahs, who aim to keep the people uneducated except in their distorted version of Islam, and bring them up opiated in the kind of religion.

The focus at the moment is on West Bengal with Trinamool Congress Chief Mamata Banerjee determined to oust the CPM from the state in the next elections. Her actions more than suggest that she is playing footsie with the Maoists to create a explosive situation in the state to demoralise and defame the ruling CPM. On the other hand, the CPM is sending signals at the cost of the state that all can be settled politically after the state elections and, in the meantime, serious strikes by the security will be blunted as far as possible. Kishenji, meanwhile, is pushing through his advantage to the maximum. Kishenji is no fool. He is collecting his chips from both sides.

Home Minister P. Chidambaram is in a difficult situation. He was unable to get the four Chief Ministers of the Maoist affected states together to carve an unified policy to counter the Maoists. Bihar’s Chief Minister, Nitish Kumar, though very successful in his state, is talking about addressing the roots of the problem. He must understand that the situation is no longer the same. The politicians should have done that four decades ago.

In the 1970s and 1980s, when drug trade and drug addiction infected New York severely, the powers that be had intellectually ambled through the two decades discussing about the root causes. Then came Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who decided that while root problems would be addressed, the need of the moment was hard measures. He came out successful.

Mr. Chidambaram has to take a hard decision. Notwithstanding that the Maoists are Indian citizens, he and the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) must see them as enemies of the state. The Maoists must be declared as such and banned by the centre.

Then the two states will also follow. Full force has to be applied, and this is not difficult.
At the same time problems of the tribals and the deprived must be addressed on an emergency footing. They are in dire straits.

The tribal lands are very rich in natural resources like Tendu leaves, timber and minerals. If these resources are to be exploited, the historical and natural owners of these lands must be handsomely compensated and they must be participants in every project. This is not difficult to do if the exploiters are reined in.

It is not just a carrot and stick policy that is required. What is required is empowerment of those who know nothing from birth to death other than exploitation, deprivation, hunger and torture.

This can be achieved without much difficulty if there is honest governance. Sadly, there is no such thing at the moment.

Bhaskar Roy, who retired recently as a senior government official with decades of national and international experience, is an expert on international relations and Indian strategic interests. The views expressed here are his own, and do not necessarily reflect those of

Bhaskar Roy, who retired recently as a senior government official with decades of national and international experience, is an expert on international relations and Indian strategic interests. The views expressed here are his own, and do not necessarily reflect those of

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