Social Justice Is The Only Antidote To Maoist Extremism
THE recent gory outrage by Maoists in Chhattisgarh resulting in the death of 28 people, including Congress leaders, their security officers and innocent villagers has been a diabolical act by the self-styled leaders of the “Revolutionary Movement”, under the banner of the CPI (Maoist). They are deluding themselves if they imagine that they are on course towards a workers’ and peasants’ revolution. I would describe it as an expression of massive madness, one that has served to damage the cause of the tribals. Their politics is as evil as those they claim to be fighting against. It should be rejected outright by all those who stand for democratic norms in political struggles for peace with justice.
If people expected that the two major political parties ~ the Congress and the BJP ~ would shed their petty public posturing, they were mistaken. While Home Minister Shinde and Chief Minister Raman issued a statement pledging that they would work together, the state Congress leaders announced that they would boycott the all-party meeting called by the Chhattisgarh Chief Minister. Even within the Congress leadership, there is now a sharp division. One central minister, once known for his humanitarian approach to the Maoist problem, now calls them “terrorists”. On the other hand, a certain tribal minister of the Union government has rightly warned against this approach. He has criticised the State government for having encouraged the Salwa Judum&’s sinful strategy, which has also incurred an adverse comment from the Supreme Court.
Even the normally conservative Planning Commission has suddenly thought fit to suggest universal coverage and do away with the BPL test in the 22 most backward of the 82 districts, affected by Left-wing extremism.
Naxalite leaders have made no secret of their objective. They feel (though in my opinion they are disastrously mistaken) that by spreading terror and trying to keep areas outside the civil authority, they would one day be able to launch a fierce onslaught to capture political power in Delhi even if, they are said to have a strong presence only in 185 districts out of the 607 districts, according to the Prime Minister. This is because the Indian State, however weak, will never be so weak as to allow itself to be taken over by such rump groups, even if it is able to equip itself with some arms. The firepower of the modern State is too overwhelming and superior. The real reason for Maoist presence is the indefensible failure of the government to follow the policy of development with justice to the tribals, which alone will make Maoist influence wither away.
But that requires taking on the corporate sector which is exploiting the mineral wealth and denying the tribals even their modest share. Why doesn’t the government accept the suggestions of human rights organizations, including the PUCL, to hold public discussions on this vital matter in the presence of tribal leaders? Is the government deterred by the presence of many mine owners belonging to the ruling party at the Centre? As much is obvious from the continued detention of Soni Suri, a social activist working for the tribals, on a fake charge of being a conduit of passing money to the Maoists on behalf of the mining company given to her by the company&’s contractor. He has been denied bail, but neither the contractor nor the owner have been arrested. This nexus between the ruling party and the corporate sector is intriguing.
I do accept that Maoist brutality and terrorism can never be justified, even if they are in response to equally heinous and brutal acts unleashed by the security forces, as we are seeing presently in Chhattisgarh. Eight innocent tribals of Edasmeta village in South Bastar were killed by security forces on 17 and 18 May, according to a report of the PUCL in Chhattisgarh. This is a serious issue and the Supreme Court has observed, “Indeed, we recognize that the State faces many serious problems on account of Maoist/Naxalite violence. Notwithstanding the fact that there may be social and economic circumstances, and certain policies followed by the State itself, leading to emergence of extremist violence, we cannot condone it. The State necessarily has the obligation, moral and constitutional, to combat such extremism, and provide security to the people of the country.
“However the primordial problem lies deep within the socio-economic policies pursued by the State in a society that was already endemically, and horrifically, suffering from gross inequalities. Our Constitution provides the guidelines within which the State is to act, both to assert such authority. To transgress those guidelines is to act unlawfully, imperilling the moral and legal authority of the State and the Constitution.”
It is, however, very important that the revolting nature of extremist activity cannot serve as a basis or pretext for Governments to disregard their national and international obligations. This has been highlighted by the International Council of Jurists in its Berlin Declaration, 28 August 2004 ~ “Both contemporary human rights and humanitarian law allow States a reasonably wide margin of flexibility to combat terrorism without contravening human rights and humanitarian legal obligations”.
A warning has recently been advanced in a report titled “Development challenges in extremist-affected areas” by an expert group constituted by the Planning Commission ~ ”In the case of tribes in particular it has ended up in destroying their social organization, cultural identity, and resource base…..which cumulatively makes them increasingly vulnerable to exploitation.”
And yet, the Government stops short of addressing the factors behind the rage and despair that nurture such movements. Instead, the Maoist phenomenon is viewed as a menace, a law and order problem. that should be rooted out by state-sponsored violence. It almost congratulates itself when it uses violence effectively to crush the resistance of the angry peasants and tribals.
Is it surprising that you have the resultant horror of what happened at Bastar? Thus a cycle of mindless violence and counter-violence will continue unless the State honestly acts in the interests of the poor and the tribals… and not connive at the exploitive acts of the corporate mine owners.
The Government almost congratulates itself when it uses violence effectively to crush the resistance of the angry peasants and tribals. Is it surprising that you have the resultant horror of what happened at Bastar? Thus a cycle of mindless violence and counter-violence will continue unless the State honestly acts in the interests of the poor and the tribals… and not connive at the exploitive acts of the corporate mine owners