Monday, April 19, 2010

Gram Swaraj to counter naxals

By Tushar Gandhi Apr 18 2010

Tags: News Analysis

A few years ago, I was invited to address a group of American students on a study tour to India. They were led by a professor of economics. He asked me a question. He said that in economics there was a list of symptoms that, if found to be present in a country or society, was indicative that the society or country was ripe for a revolution. He said that while travelling through India, they saw manifestations of almost all those symptoms and yet there was no sign of civil ferment or revolution. I had answered that our deep roots in spirituality and our trust in fate prevented us from self-destruction. Recent events are making me change my opinion.

Large swathes of rural India are facing an ongoing civil war. To the government and to the elite, it may seem to be Naxalite or Maoist terrorism but in reality, it is a war being waged by those who have for too long been deprived of their fundamental rights and exploited. The rural poor who have not been given their fair share of the fruits of development are now learning to grab them or destroy the system that is so unjust to them.

Bapu had said that it is a patriotic duty to fight against an anti-people government, even if it was one elected by us. What is happening in Chhattisgarh, Orissa and Jharkhand is the beginning of this battle. On the face of it, it does appear that Maoists or Naxalites are waging a war against official India, but in reality they are succeeding because they have convinced the rural poor and especially the tribals that they are fighting on their behalf. The Maoists have convinced the rural poor and the tribals that the government is their en emy and the only way they can get what is rightfully th­eirs is by waging war on the government and to destroy by violence the system and society that denies them their rights as citizens.

India has been a independent democracy for more than sixty years and in that period, successive governments have successfully created two very different nations, a minority one in its developed, parasitic, affluent urban areas and the other deprived, undeveloped, poverty stricken and criminally exploited in its villages, populated by its majority poor citizens. An affluent, westernised, high net worth India and a poor, illiterate, undeveloped Bharat. Two nations deeply divided by poverty, disparity, illiteracy and official apathy. In the not too distant past, the present homer minister, who was then the finance minister, shamelessly toasted the boo ming economy of India with the barons of Indian industry in New York. It did not matter to him that the women of rural India were still defecating in the open, it did not matter to him that village children had to travel 25 km one way to reach schools imparting higher education, it did not matter to him that tribals in many states were dying of malnutrition and starvation, it did not matter to him that farmers in Vidarbha were committing suicide because they were facing total economic ruin.

It did not matter to him that his booming economy had equipped the merchant barons of Indian Industry to build fantasy towers as family homes and buy fancy luxury yachts and jets for their pleasure but had failed to provide electricity to every Indian, failed to provide adequate he alth facilities to the poor, failed to provide potable dri nking water to every home, hygiene and adequate security. He was celebrating the fact that the Bombay Stock Exchange indices were booming and the rich were getting richer. It did not matter to him th at the poor were being ground to dust.

The outrage in Dantewada, the massacre of the security forces, must be condemned in the severest terms, but the government is more to blame for this then the Maoist, Naxalite killers. Look at the working conditions of our police and paramilitary forces.

They are poorly paid; their working conditions are horrendous. The Supreme Court has ordered states to implement reforms in the working and administration of our police forces but no state has bothered to implement them. It would be interesting to study the kind of training the victims of Dantewada rece ived, the kind of equipment they were carrying as compared to the weapons used by the Maoist, Naxalite terrorists. To evaluate the kind of training they had undergone before being posted in a region that is a war zone.

Even to find out how much time and ammunition each of those martyred had spent on the firing ranges practising to be efficient in handling the weapons they carried. Politicians appropriate the best-trained and best-equipped policemen to protect themselves and their kin. Those who protect the people are a rag-tag band of ill trained, ill-paid, ill- equipped and demoralised individuals.

The war on the Naxalites, Maoists will not be won by police action. If the Maoists, Naxalites are to be defeated, the government will have to work to bring about ‘Gram Swaraj’ that the Father of the Nation envisaged. An India made up of self sufficient, self reliant, equitably developed villages and villagers.

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