Thursday, 28 May 2020

Maoism’s Myriad Manifestations And Stupefied State

Updated: October 2, 2010 11:39 am

Bihar Chief Minister would have breathed easy following release of three of the four abducted policemen by the Maoists, who were breathing revolutionary fire that brutally killed one of them, incidentally (or deliberately) a tribal. The controversy relating to caste and ethnic dimension of the killing by discretion is an interesting one. Though having threatened to kill the cops, the Maoists were reportedly petrified at the thought of killing a Yadav amongst them and settled for an adivasi rather than anger the dominant OBC caste that constituted their cadre too, which sounds bizarre, but having emerged as India’s most complex caste cauldron since Independence, it was not unusual for Bihar.

                Remember the days of marauding caste armies, when caste was in confrontation with class with fudged lines in the battlefields around Maoist hubs such as Jahanabad, i.e., various high-caste armies confronted the Naxal Lal Sena, mainly consisting of dalits and lower OBCs. Various caste-based militias, namely the Kuer Sena, Kunwar Sena, Bhoomi Sena, Lorik Sena, Brahmarshi Sena, Kisan Sangh, Sunlight Sena, Savarna Liberation Front, Kisan Sangha, Kisan Morcha, Ganga Sena and Ranvir Sena, were used by landlords of respective castes to fight the Naxalites and terrorise and kill low-caste villagers who they believed had provided support to the Naxalites. Though the controversy appears to have subsided for now, the adivasis, who form the majority of the Maoists foot soldiers in Jharkhand, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, were reportedly upset with this indiscretion.

                This also makes us reflect upon the social base of the leadership profile of the Maoists. The Communist movement in India was initiated by upper-middle and middle-class leaders with urban background and education. The Telangana movement too was spearheaded by such a leadership. The Srikakulam movement had an interesting dimension. Vempatapu Sathynarayana, a schoolteacher, who organised the girijans of Parvathipuram taluk of Srikakulam district into a non-violent movement to seek redressal of their grievances, married a woman each from the two major tribes, Jatapu and Savara, to identify himself with the girijans of the area, but he was not a Communist. When we take stock of the current leadership and go over the profile of available leadership, frankly we do not have any inside information, Azads, Kobad Gandhys,

Anupamas, Vernon Gonsalves, Saketh Rajans, Sridhar Shriniwasans, Sabyasachi Pandas, Ravi Sarmas,     B Anuradha, all well-educated middle-class persons, have either been ideologues or active revolutionaries. Without questioning their commitment, we need to find names of dalits and girijans amongst their ranks. Of course, they do form the ranks and file of the red army.

                The Maoists too are upset at the ‘encounter’ death of their leading ideologue Azad, reportedly their main negotiator with the Indian state, but they kill their hostages and other suspects brutally and with impunity with defence laced in jargons that would confuse even Marx, Lenin, Stalin or Mao. Indeed, ‘encounter’, meaning an unexpected confrontation (verbal or physical) in hostility, has acquired a new meaning in the Indian police and security lexicon. Extrajudicial staged execution of ‘criminals’ or ‘extremists’, particularly uncomfortable persons, many a times innocents, has increasingly been termed ‘encounter’ by the police. That this is illegal and avoidable, which has only added to the sullied image of India’s police, internal security apparatus and state, is unexceptionable. Popular resentments against them are fully justified and immediate political, legal and administrative actions are required to bring the police actions within limits of the law.

                But unfortunately, brutal (that includes beheading, dismembering and so on) individual and mass killings by the Maoists, have invited only an indifferent, generic goaded reaction—‘violence of any kind and killing of innocents is condemnable and “I” condemn it’. This is followed by an elaborate condemnation of state terrorism. While fully endorsing the societal aversion to state terrorism, the question arises whether in being soft on condemnation of the Maoist violence, particularly the more brutal kind that shames most-staged ‘encounters’ by the police, we are not justifying their cruelty because ‘ideologically’ they are fighting for the cause of the poor?

                The reaction of Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, cautious on poll eve, to the kidnapping of the four cops and ‘Kolkata-based’ Union Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee’s highly debated rally in Lalgarh in West Midnapur district in West Bengal have once again revealed not-much-discussed mainstream linkages of the Maoists—very obvious with society and politics and allegedly with economy now. Cautiously wording his reactions to the kidnapping, Nitish Kumar said that Bihar had not committed any human rights violation against the Naxals, as if sheepishly saying ‘why are you punishing us?’. Mamata Banerjee questioned virtually and indicted the government she is a part of from the podium that had noted critics of the Indian state and allegedly had organised the rally in collaboration with the CPI (Maoist), who agreed due to her anti-CPM (Communist Party of India, Marxist)stance. Lately the news reports indicate that the centre is shielding her on the Maoist issue and that lists of CPM armed camps in West Bengal maintained by the Maoists and Trinamool Congress are identical!

                Obviously these linkages are turning queer now. Considering that the Communist Party of India (CPI) was first to spearheaded Communist revolution in India in 1946 in Telangana, but eventually ended it in 1951 on Stalin’s diktat to enter parliamentary politics with the first general election, political linkages of the two kinds of politics have continued their paradoxical existence in the country. A bizarre situation arose during the Naxalbari movement when the CPM, which was organising the movement since it split from the CPI, found itself sharing power in the state after 1967 election with the crucial portfolio of Home. Before the party again split in 1969 to give birth to CPI (ML), the party-in-government was negotiating with the party-in-revolution; remember Hare Krishna Konar-led cabinet mission negotiating with the fiery duo Charu Mazumdar and Kanu Sanyal. Following the 1972 elimination of the ‘Naxals’ some of them contested election in Bihar. The 1980s witnessed two Andhra Pradesh Chief Ministers of parties as different as TDP and Congress—NT Ramarao and M Channa Reddy—not only seeking the Maoist support in elections, but describing them patriots, which they may be, but coming from CMs it contradicts governmental stand against them. Since then there are reported support ‘purchased’ by individual candidates in some of the states with Maoist presence in various elections. The Mamata-Maoist duo in tandem trying to annihilate the CPM in West Bengal is obviously the latest such linkage, which mocks both at the Indian state’s fight against ‘left extremism’ and the Maoist’s revolutionary politics. They can’t collude and collide with the same exploitative state, whatever the existential compulsions.

                More farcical and ludicrous to the Maoist’s revolutionary politics is alleged real estate investments by some leading Maoists in Hyderabad and elsewhere in Andhra Pradesh. If this is in other states too, we should not be surprised. This is unlikely that it is unknown to India’s security establishment, hence to political establishment too, which is ever ready to collude with the Maoists for personal gains while appearing to be fighting them. Aside from the Indian state’s failure on social equity front, what else can explain the sustained expansion of the Maoist terrain? Also, some ex-Maoists with years of experience in tough life with guns allegedly man loan recovery teams of some of the private sector banks; again reportedly in Hyderabad, perhaps in other metropolises too which needs further exploration. We should not be surprised to learn about their collusion with the police! We can perhaps also explore the persistence of the Maoists and possible economic linkages with the corporate players in resource rich areas of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh and elsewhere

                Given such incongruous map of state-Maoist interface (I am deliberately not calling it confrontation); it is significant to review the current state of strategic policy of the Indian state. But before that it is important to ask a question that is seldom, if ever, asked in debating the current Maoist expanse. Naxalbari movement, the second phase of Maoism virtually ended in 1972. Though out of power for the next five years, the CPM returned back in 1977 and has been ruling West Bengal since then. The third phase of Maoism began sprouting almost simultaneously with the Naxalbari in Srikakulam and despite some significant ‘breakthrough’ for the Andhra Pradesh police, survived and consolidated through the 1980s. And the shape it took in myriad dalams in the 1990s could well be described as the fourth phase, when not only the dalams expanded to adjacent Odisha, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh (now Chhattisgarh), Bihar’s Chhotnagpur plateau (now Jharkhand), there were fratricidal wars among them too. They reportedly coordinated with the LTTE and honed in their military skills. The Andhra Pradesh government organised the Greyhounds, elite guerilla force to combat the Maoists. The result has been human rights violations from both the sides.

                The fifth phase of Maoist insurrection began in 2003 when the People’s War Group, Maoist Communist Centre and some other groups formed CPI (Maoist), the group that has been at the spearhead of the Maoist movement since. The governments at the centre and in states are toiling to figure out how to deal with the fifth and fierce phase of Maoism. India, however, needs to

question how did it come to this stage, whether from the security or from developmental perspective, for the governments keeps jumping from stance to the other. The confusion must end for clarity of policy perspective to end the mindless cycle of violence that is grinding those for whom this war is being fought. Developmental deficit and developmental dichotomy, which are heightening the displacement-resettlement hiatus that have been taking place since the 1950s where ever the country’s developmental march taken place. Unfortunately, while displacement has been considered integral to development, despite being on the planning board, rehabilitation has not been given its due, hence continued to be slack and steeped in corruption.

                On the security front, though the Greyhounds are credited with eliminating several leading Maoist leaders and the successful Andhra Pradesh model has often been touted as the answer, the widespread collateral zone that mostly pounds the poor tribal and such others has often been brushed aside from discussions by the security Tsars. This unfortunately brings in mostly the frustration of the cutting edge cops under the social and administrative scanner. The continuous cry for police reforms, which would enable the police to be efficient enough to deal with such challenges, has been falling on deaf ears of the political masters and the police leadership alike.

                Lately, the peace brokering has been in news. Swami Agnivesh who stuck his neck out appears to face trust deficit. Mamata Banerjee’s initiative, aside from aimed at her own political stakes in West Bengal, has the potential of acting as a bridge. But are the Maoists serious, or they would embarrass her? The chicken and egg question on talk or ceasefire first has dogged the initiatives as the Maoists have never honoured their words. Naturally, the government is wary of giving them another opportunity to regroup. Unlikely that in near future we are likely to have a breakthrough. Considering that the Maoists have both political and economic stakes from their battle bunker vantage point, would they be willing to cease the seize, though the news of degeneration in their ranks has long buried the ideology they swear by.

                Last, but not the least, some coherence is needed in policy circles. Political pot shots on opponents on Maoist policy is unlikely to help. West Bengal has witnessed Maoist revival despite the CPM being able to neutralise their own former colleagues with land reform in the late 1960s. The BJP-led NDA was as benumbed during its six-year tenure on this issue as the Congress-led UPA is. BJP has also been in power in crucial states such as Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand. It has also been a partner in power in Odisha and an ally in Andhra Pradesh. In this political hammam all are in bare elements.

                Moreover, this is an issue of national significance, why not sit together with a bipartisan mindset to find an answer to all the related issue that make Maoism such a menace?

By Ajay K Mehra

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