How to deal with Maoists?

How to deal  with Maoists?

The loud explosion in Darbha has shaken the nation. The audacity with which the Maoists not only engineered ambush of top Congress leaders in this...

The loud explosion in Darbha has shaken the nation. The audacity with which the Maoists not only engineered ambush of top Congress leaders in this far-flung Jagdalpur district of Bastar in Chhattisgarh finds its reverberations across the country � not just in the establishment in the State and the nation but also among the intelligentsia. A number of columns and post edits have added to the reflective discourse on the subject. Some are deeply thought-provoking, some not so illuminating. But whatever be their depth and sweep, the views can be broadly clubbed into two broad categories.

The first, of course, shows a sense of romantic attachment to the Maoists. This school of thought almost ends up justifying the Maoist violence by referring to the infamous 'Salwa Judum' and the association of some of the victims, particularly Mahendra Karma who is more or less widely accepted as the leading spirit behind that obnoxious campaign. 'Salwa Judum' was aimed at arming tribals in those areas of Chhattisgarh, and they were appointed as Special Police Officers who would confront Maoists militarily. Polarization within tribal community with such mindless approach not only created a deep divide in the community but, in effect, pushed a substantial section of these poor and hapless people to the Maoist camp.

Subsequently, instances of such depraved thinking have been uncovered; with incontrovertible proof of depredations perpetrated by these SPOs. Several respectable rights organisations and the judiciary had criticized this obnoxious campaign. This eventually resulted in suspension of 'Salwa Judum'.

But the more serious problem with this line of thinking lies in grossly misconceiving the Maoist objective and rationale for operating in the jungles of Bastar. If some of these otherwise well-meaning intellectuals had cared to go through Maoist literature, they would themselves have found no difficulty in drawing objective conclusions. Maoists have admittedly gone into these areas not because they are concerned with the poverty, deprivation, ruthless exploitation and the general backwardness of the people, particularly the tribals. The overriding consideration has been the fact that the presence of the Indian State is the weakest in this locale.

Maoists see their battle against the State essentially as a military one. Therefore, it suits them to face the State in this terrain. They have categorically rejected the idea of organizing the tribals and other forest dwelling communities to fight exploitation by mine owners, multinationals and forest mafia who are in cahoots with the State and link this effort to improve the quality of daily life and livelihood for the larger process of a `revolutionary' transformation.

Therefore, this school of thought fails to understand that in carrying forward this military agenda with little role for people and their conscious participation, actually makes the poor hapless communities victims of the State's equally harsh response. The second set of views goes to the other extreme. They suggest a full-blown military confrontation; some even suggest summoning of the Army and deployment of the Air Force to carpet-bomb and smoke out the Maoist guerrillas from their jungle hideouts.

In pursuing such arguments, they prove totally insensitive to human costs; the futility of such an exercise is obvious. But so long as their mindset that this phenomenon of Maoist violence is necessarily a `law and order' question continues, overlooking people's role in overcoming the mindless Maoist violence- it is bound to boomerang.

It is by now quite clear that Maoist violence and terror have to be dealt with on three equally important tracks. To start with, the socio-economic dimension is extremely important. The economic activities in these far-flung areas are dominated by entities which are least bothered about the wellbeing of the people. The mines produce thousands of crores of profit; the forests -traditional support systems for the livelihood of the people are ruthlessly denuded again for huge profits. But how do residents benefit? The state of primary education and health care is, by all means, appalling.

Without intervention of the State to rectify the situation, can the people identify themselves with the attempts to stop violence? This is a critical question. The second dimension pertains to the imperative of taking on Maoists politically-ideologically. It is quite apparent that tackling violence is not merely a 'law and order' issue, but stems from the Maoist 'belief' that they are aiming to overthrow the government by military means and is, in effect, putting people's life in jeopardy. It needs to be fought and defeated.

In States where the Maoists have wreaked havoc in the past and now in Chhattisgarh, they have leveraged the rivalry between political parties. Sometime back in West Bengal, when Congress ally TMC and its leader Mamata Banerjee were hobnobbing with the Maoists to physically eliminate the organised Left, the then Home Minister, instead of sharply condemning such political opportunism, had attempted to put the government in the dock by dramatically posing the question: "Where does the buck stop?"

Implicitly, the buck should have stopped with Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya! What would Mr. Chidambaram say now that his senior colleagues in Chhattisgarh have been victims of gruesome violence? Therefore, there must be a consensus among political parties that, notwithstanding their other political differences, no quarter should be given to forces of violence to settle immediate electoral scores. Otherwise, the situation is bleak; as we have seen from the current Darbha incident. Display of responsibility by the Raman Singh government in ensuring the security of Congress leaders is less than enthusiastic; it is engaged in political campaign.

It is in this background that the third dimension of firm administrative action can become an effective course to tackle the menace of violence. Ultimately, individual rights and freedom and their defence is the basic responsibility of the State. Therefore, forces which do not believe in the rule of law and abridge individual citizen's political freedom can be dealt with only when the State scrupulously respects right of vulnerable individuals and groups.

Only then, can the State legitimately discharge its constitutional responsibility. Hopefully, the Bastar episode will finally drive home the need for adopting such a multidimensional human-centric paradigm in the jungles of Chhattisgarh.

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