Predictably, the high-profile Congress General Secretary Digvijay Singh has sensed some sort of conspiracy on the part of the BJP in the wake of the recent ambush of the top Congress leaders in Chhattisgarh by the Maoists. Several questions are haunting Singh, who was once also the Chief Minister of undivided Madhya Pradesh from which Chhattisgarh was later carved out. Of these, the most important is why Pradesh Congress Committee chief Nand Kumar Patel was singled out by the Maoists when he was the one who opposed police atrocities on tribals in Bastar. Singh wants a NIA probe to find out answers to his questions. It may also be noted that Singh has always wondered how the BJP manages to win, particularly since 2003, from most of the polling booths controlled by the Maoists in Chhattisgarh, despite the fact that the ruling party in the state has supported Salwa Judum and has taken a ‘tough stand’ against the Naxalites.
It is not that in their savagery over the years in the region the Maoists have spared the BJP leaders. They have killed one sitting BJP MP from Jagdalpur too. But Singh’s constant grudge is that despite many Congress leaders sympathising with the Maosists’ causes, the guerrillas do not vote for the Congress and have now killed the cream of the party’s leadership in the state. After all, none other than Singh himself had openly criticised the then Union Home Minister P Chidambaram in 2010 just because the latter had threatened strong actions against the Maoists who had killed 76 CRPF jawans in Dantewada. Singh had then said that the Maoists were “misguided ideologues” and that “I have no quarrel as far as their issues are concerned… they are genuine, they are relevant… Ultimately, it is the people who matter… They are certainly not terrorists and enemies of India. Terrorists in India are those who only come from outside”.
Let us see whether the universally accepted definitions and understanding of terrorism apply to the Maoists or not. While it is true that “one man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter” has often haunted the debate on terrorism for decades, we propose to cite those definitions accepted and used in the United Nations (UN) of which India is a leading member:
UN Resolution language (1999): “1. Strongly condemns all acts, methods and practices of terrorism as criminal and unjustifiable, wherever and by whomsoever committed; 2. Reiterates that criminal acts intended or calculated to provoke a state of terror in the general public, a group of persons or particular persons for political purposes are in any circumstance unjustifiable, whatever the considerations of a political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, religious or other nature that may be invoked to justify them”. (GA Res. 51/210 Measures to eliminate international terrorism).
UN Security Council Resolution 1566 refers to terrorism as “criminal acts, including against civilians, committed with the intent to cause death or serious bodily injury, or taking of hostages, with the purpose to provoke a state of terror in the general public or in a group of persons or particular persons, intimidate a population or compel a government or an international organisation to do or to abstain from doing any act”.
On March 17, 2005, a UN panel described terrorism as any act “intended to cause death or serious bodily harm to civilians or non-combatants with the purpose of intimidating a population or compelling a government or an international organisation to do or abstain from doing any act”.
Any honest and sincere readings of the above resolutions in the world body, which India has never opposed, make it amply clear that the Maoists are nothing but terrorists. Their barbaric manner of killing their enemies in many a case shames even the fundamentalist Taliban.
It is often easy to cite the usual factors of underdevelopment, corruption in the bureaucracy, police atrocities and exploitation of tribals and poor people contributing to the growing influence of the Maoists. But that is one part of the story. One should not forget the other part, which is that as is the case in Kashmir and many parts of the North-east, people are supporting the so-called revolutionaries in the “Red Corridor” in eastern/central India not out of love and reverence but because of terror and fear.
Maoists and their leaders are flourishing because money important for them to procure sophisticated weapons is no longer any problem. Most Maoist leaders have over the past two decades acquired large properties in the urban areas with the money that flows into them through extortion, which, according to one estimate, yields some Rs 3,000 crore annually. And those exhorted are not only the contractors, businessmen, doctors and engineers but also the poor labourers and farmers who are forced to part with a substantial portion of their earnings. They raise funds through extortion or by setting up parallel administrations to collect taxes in rural areas where local governments and the Indian State appear absent. This is not all. Smuggling of contrabands and wood as well as poppy cultivations also enrich their coffers.
The inescapable truth is that the Maoists want to capture state power through violence. They are not the friends of poor and downtrodden. They use them as cannon fodder. They do not want their development. They want to ensure their impoverishment so that they will have a pretext to use them; otherwise they would not be blowing up school buildings, roads, railway tracks and hospitals in areas under their influence.
All those who advise to talk with the Maoists are essentially helping the Maoist cause. Talks could at best lead to a truce. But then truce is no substitute for a lasting peace. The Maoists need to be crushed ruthlessly. And there is no distinction between the Maoists fighting violently on the ground and those who intellectually support them “for fighting and speaking for the rights of the marginalised, including landless peasants, tribal groups, and Dalits”. Though these activists claim not to approve Maoists’ violence, their opposition is nothing but superficial. Because, at the same time they say that they understand the Maoists’ noble goal of ending exploitation and how their violence is with a cause. This being the case, they totally underplay if the Maoists destroy schools and hospitals and indulge in extortion, torture and killings. They hardly bother to speak about the death of police personnel gunned down by the Maoists but make a lot of hue and cry if a Maoist is questioned or gunned down.
Let us have no illusion that the Maoists and their intellectual supporters under the grab of human rights activism are literally fighting a war against the nation as a whole. Let us have no pretension that they are fighting for the poor and downtrodden; their leaders, most of whom incidentally, come from the privileged backgrounds in Andhra Pradesh, are exploiting and recruiting the poor and downtrodden as foot soldiers. The Maoist leaders’ ultimate aim is to capture political power, which they cannot attain under our parliamentary democracy. By any stretch of imagination, they will not grant us the rights and facilities which their intellectual supporters are claiming for them if they acquire political power through a violent revolution. They do not believe in the principle of reciprocal recognition and respect of rights that ensures that one’s own rights will be protected as much as that of one’s adversary.
Maoism today constitutes a national crisis in the country. The Maoists and their supporters need to be treated sternly by the State with all its might.
By Prakash Nanda