Monday, April 12, 2010

Are Maoists enemies?

By Saeed Naqvi

The home minister is not averse to using the air force, but what will it do over dense forest? Fly low and be shot or drop Napalm?

If you keep your ears close to the ground in Maoist terrains, the buzz could well be about impending engagements with the security forces along the Chhattisgarh-Orissa fault line.
For that very reason, prep emptive action by Maoists could well take place in a different, unexpected location to scatter the forces and leave them flat-footed.

There is symbolic consistency in the fact the Maoists and the security forces are playing out these bloodiest of chess games in an area which for centuries has been called ‘Abujhmarh’ by the native tribals. Abujh means an ‘insoluble puzzle.’ If you have ever risked negotiating (with the help of a paid guide) the warren-like maze called ‘bhool-bhullaiyan’ above the ceiling of Lucknow’s Asif-ud-Daulah Imambara, you would have a vague idea of the stunning accuracy of the ancient nomenclature — Abujhmarh.
Unfortunately for the armed forces, the effects of climate change on dense forest cover also appears to favour the Maoists. Normally, the trees would be bereft of leaves about this time, opening up the line of vision into the land which heaves, dips and flattens intermittently.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has been cautious: “As of now, we have taken no view on this (use of air power).” Indian Air Force Chief P V Naik said in Ahmedabad: “The military — air force, army and navy — are trained to inflict maximum lethality. They are not trained for limited lethality. The weapons we have are meant for the enemy across the border.”

According to reports, Home Minister P Chidambaram suggested that even though there is no proposal to use the army against the Maoists at present, “the Centre may revisit the mandate of not using the air force.” What will the air force do over dense forest? Fly low and be shot or drop Napalm?

In an environment of rapid communication, official statements find traction with lightning speed by word of mouth or through the CP(ML) mouthpiece ‘Pratirodh ka swar’, which means notes of resistance. Once a message has gone out, it is difficult to retract.
For example Manmohan Singh’s statement of June 18, 2009, is cast in stone as far as the Maoists are concerned. “If Left extremism continues to flourish in parts which have natural resources, the climate for foreign investment will be affected.”

In Maoist discourse this statement is dissected in the following way: “The prime minister’s anxiety is not that the nation will suffer because of extremism in resource rich areas but rather that foreign investment will be adversely affected. Resource rich areas seeking foreign investment implies sale of raw materials.”
Then comes the table thumping punchline: “No country in the world has flourished selling raw materials overseas.”

Patil vs PC
Strangely, in Maoist circles there is near nostalgia for Shivraj Patil. Unlike Chidambaram who described naxalites as the “biggest threat to the nation’s security”, Patil tended to tone down the exaggerations.

The lay person’s tendency to see Maoists as some sort of a dark, monstrous presence, lurking in the jungles, is because CP(ML) has not received informed media attention. The media has focused largely on political parties in occupation of parliamentary space.
Little wonder, the UPA leadership is fidgeting uncomfortably. On the Maoist side, there is deep commitment which cannot be ignored. What they are committed to maybe ghoulish and wrong but surely the only way to gauge the sources of their monstrosity (if that is what you insist it is) is to engage with them in a dialogue at some level.

Chidambaram says that dialogue is only possible if Maoists abjure violence. They turn around and say the state must abjure violence too. “In fact the state’s quest is for a monopoly of violence”, says the editorial in ‘Resistance’. And yet, when general secretary of the Marxist Leninist Party, M Laxman Rao (alias Ganapathy) says: “We have repeatedly communicated to the government” a basis for talks, it becomes clear that the state is in contact.

It is from the substance of these ‘contacts’ that the Maoists conclude that the state is seeking a military solution. Or, that the state is only willing to offer a ‘better deal’ if the adivasis allow industry to move in. “The government is not willing to negotiate a new policy”, say Maoists spokesmen. “They wish to be in a position from where they can improve their offer to us from 20 kg of ‘atta’ to 30 kg of ‘atta’.” Why has the term land reforms disappeared from all discourse?

The prime minister is a great supporter of private property. Why can’t the adivasis have private property. Then you can strike a deal with them on whether or not they wish to part with land they have been in occupation of for thousands of years.
Rahul Gandhi, with his eyes set on UP, may be interested in the Maoist — Mayawati battlelines. Just visit Kausambi, the district carved out of Allahabad and which lies between Ganga and Jamuna. The sand mafia with a monopoly of the riverbed, is led by Kapil Muni Karvaria and Girish Pasi, both BSP leaders.

A movement of poor people on the riverbed, organised by the All India Kisan Mazdoor Sabha, has been banned. Leaders have been booked under the Gangster Act because they would not allow machines to be used to dredge sand illegally and which take work away from the labourers. United Provinces Special Powers Act of 1932 is being invoked.

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