Saturday, November 7, 2009

Debating the Maoist challenge

In the public domain, a frequent argument is taking place to find out whether the extremism of Indian Maoists is an act of terrorism or not. In fact, there is a very thin line which divides the Maoists extremism from other typical forms of terrorism. Mindless mass killing, brutal extermination of detractors and critics, destruction of state property are among the many common features of the terrorist doctrine that fits well with the Maoists ‘revolutionary’ strategy. Maoists, like the terrorist groups cling to a fanatic socio-political and cultural belief, prefer supreme loyalty from their cadres and favor absolute totalitarianism. Both have trained themselves to use sophisticated weaponry and have grown more adapted these days to pathological killing. Both believe in oppositional terror and try to achieve it by intense violence. Where religious terrorism is inspired by religious dogma, Maoist political terror is inspired by a rigid form of political dogma. Both have practiced mastery to cunningly utilize rival mainstream political groups against one another to pursue their goal while the mainstream political groups stupidly think the reverse. Both have grown to be a lucrative media catch and perfected the art to make use of the extreme double standards of the fourth estate. Reluctant to renounce violence from a deliberate choice of applying terror tactics to force political concessions, Maoism in India is incessantly getting synonymous with terrorism.

The gun-cult

To neutralize the strengths of conventional law enforcement forces and capture areas from political parties who have the potential to raise an unyielding challenge to them, Maoists are frequently applying tested terrorist methods of macabre violence. The Maoist guerrilla squads perpetrate ambushes on security force convoys, kidnap and gruesomely assassinate individuals from poorly protected police stations in remote regions, plant booby traps of homemade improvised explosive devices or chic landmines, carry out a programme of individual annihilation of grass-root workers, supporters and sympathizers of rival political parties after terming them ‘class enemies’ or ‘renegades’. Most of their victims, notably, belong to the poor section of the society.

Their petty-bourgeois cheer-leaders and intellectual sympathizers believe that there is nothing wrong in this gun-cult as it is only a ‘consequence of mass anger’ and so cannot be labeled as ‘premeditated terroristic attack’. They consider this politics of terror as a socio-economic phenomenon, created impulsively as a response to a particular social and economic situation. To them, this risky belief seems to be convenient at the moment. However as Bob Dylan has once said “People seldom do what they believe in. They do what is convenient, then repent.”

Democracy at Gun point

A lot has been said about the ‘admirable’ development works that the Maoists have put up in the forests of south Bastar's Dantewada in Chhattisgarh where they are running a parallel government — the Janathana Sarkar (People’s Democratic State). Here, the Maoists have gone all out with their experiment to build a model classless society. The Janathana Sarkar is an elected body but ‘Landlords, anti people hierarchs, stooges of exploiting government and anti revolutionary forces are disqualified to participate in elections.’ As we learn from the lofty Maoist document ‘Policy programe of Janathana Sarkar’ (Source) the People’s Democratic governments have deployed a robust revenue collection system to run their expenses, distributed lands confiscated from landlords to poor and landless peasants. It has formed a forest protection committee to protect the natural livelihood of the tribals, running schools to raise political consciousness and scientific knowledge among the masses. To deliver summary justice to the oppressed masses, people’s courts reinforced with ‘new principles of justice, class line and mass line’ often tries and punishes ‘landlords, hierarchs, heads of the ruling class parties, exploiting government officers, police, paramilitary, military forces, goondas, anarchists, thieves, deceivers, conspirators, police agents’. To successfully control every aspect of the lives and livelihood of the tribal inhabitants and to maintain its absolute authority, the Janathana Sarkars has built up a considerable guerrilla base equipped with sophisticated arms and ammunition.

Elite bleeding-heart Maoist sympathizers have been provided enough space in the liberal bourgeois media to continuously drum on their admiration and paint a romantic picture of the ‘constructive programmes’ of this illegal Maoist governments which is run by the ‘principles of democracy’ where ‘individuals shall be committed to the government, minority to the majority’. They are ecstatic about how the Maoist governance has made the oppressed tribals feel proud of their identity and has brought back their self-respect. How the Maoist gunmen have protected them from the exploitation and harassment by local feudal lords, village chiefs, forest and police personnel, businessman and contractors. How the Maoists have empowered the marginal tribal farmers by teaching them agricultural skill, affiliated tribal families into cooperative farming, organized them to volunteer for digging tanks for irrigating land and breeding fish and has provided primary education and health care facilities to fight illiteracy and endemic diseases like malaria and diarrheoa. Above all, the sympathizers are delighted to describe how the Maoists have reignited the tribals against state sponsored atrocities and endowed them with guns — the ultimate symbol of power. The tribal voice under the Janathana Sarkars, they exclaim, is the real voice of people’s power. Here the voice grows out, literally, from the barrel of gun.

Are the Maoists really interested about the genuine problems of the tribal inhabitants of these regions or they are using the tribals as a pawn in their game? Do the Maoists represent the entire tribal population of these regions? These remain pungent questions which does not have an easy answer. The tribal heartland of India was not really selected by the Maoists because they had any special affection and empathy for the underprivileged tribals. It was a strategic choice for its geographical advantages. To build up a safe base and getting prepared for their so called revolutionary war, the Maoists required a secured hideout for themselves which will be inaccessible to the state security forces. There could be no argument at all that the tribals have remained the most neglected people in India and has encountered endless state apathy during both pre-independence and post-independence time. The tribal regions are among some of the most backward regions of the country. The Maoists have simply exploited the situation by seducing a major section of the inhabitants to achieve their own gory interests. Improvement of tribal life has little significance in the broader context of the Maoist strategy. The secluded tribal lands are important for them as self-sufficient base areas, for consolidating their strength to later expand and unleash ‘protracted People’s War’ against the Indian state and subsequently overthrow it.

What is actually going on inside these jungles? How do we, who live outside the ‘liberated zones’, learn about the effectiveness of these ‘classless’ Maoist governance when much of their functioning inside the jungle hideouts is invisible? Fortunately, we have two important sources of information.

The ‘stinking’ dissenters

“The Central task of the Indian revolution … is the seizure of political power. To accomplish this Central task, the Indian people will have to be organized in the people’s army and will have to wipe out the armed forces of the counterrevolutionary Indian state through war and will have to establish, in its place, their own state - the People’s Democratic State” – from the CPI (Maoist) document: Strategy & Tactics of the Indian Revolution.

The first unambiguous source of information is the several fact-finding reports by civil liberties groups and accounts of social activists and NGO organizations mostly comprising the liberal and radical left. This is a special mix of ‘aware and awake’ people who essentially believes that ‘people have a right to defend themselves against state violence’ and certifies Maoist violence as ‘the very last option of a desperate people pushed to the very brink of existence’. These are the people who validate the killing spree of Maoists by citing that ‘Hindu mobs led by the Bajrang Dal and the VHP had killed more people than the Maoists’ and unquestionably believes that the Maoists ‘don’t kill without a good reason’. They feel that the Maoists cannot lay down arms as it will only allow the State to crush them. These are the people who believe that the people's courts of the Maoists ‘only existed because India's courts are out of the reach of ordinary people’ and love to talk persistently about ‘police repression, the arrests, the torture, the killing, the corruption’. These are the people who inform us about how state governments, from an absolute paranoia of the Maoist specter, are branding every dissenter as Maoists and thus pushing activists as well as ordinary people ‘to take up arms and join the Maoists’. These are the aware people who knows about ‘the dangers of trying to extract a simple morality out of individual incidents of heinous violence’. These are the sensitive and concerned citizens of India who turn blind when the Maoists carry out cold blooded murder of CPI(M) activists in Bengal or behead police inspector Francis Induwar in Jharkhand. These are the people who get extremely angry when the Vanvasi Chetana Ashram in Dantewada was demolished by the state forces because this ‘neutral outpost’ had virtually became the base camp of city-bred outsiders to exchange useful information and support with the Maoists but do not get angry at all when the Maoists blow up schools. These are the same group of people who talks about human rights violation during every action of state security forces but maintain absolute silence when the Maoist and their frontal organizations unleash mindless violence on common people.

These Indian dissenters are the champions of the oppressed, who couldn't help looking (and smelling) cheap! These are the people among whom Arundhati Roy has found that ‘a humane heart still beats’. (Source)

‘Maoists are part of the story’

The second source is the reports and features produced by the neo-liberal Indian corporate media. Duty bound daring scribes frequenting into the Maoist heartland bring out titillating news stories. Account of the ascending life of a once timid tribal and now a fearless Maoist guerrilla is described in those stories in graphic detail. During every crisis period in their movement, the Maoist leadership has invited the ‘dear pressmen & TV channel hoisters’ from the ‘democratic and free’ Indian print and electronic media into their ‘liberated zones’. The numerous investigating reports that the journalists carry out later, serves both the Maoists and the media bosses. The Maoists get free publicity which they think elevates their public image. The media gets steady readership that facilitate the manufacturing of public consent. These reports highlight why tribal youths want to join the PGA (People’s Guerrilla Army) and fight against the police. Why the tribal populace think that the Maoists are their only savior. It also helps to generate the myth of the Maoist style ‘development’. It creates a thriller effect in the mind of the readers and viewers as the concept of dissent is always attractive to the petty-bourgeois conscience. A section of the media has developed a generic habit of romanticizing the Maoists. There is a definite reason behind this romanticism. It is not to display their love for the Maoists but principally directed against the mainstream Left, to lower their significance in people’s mind. Thus, the compassionate media puts top Maoist leader couple Kobad and Anuradha Ghandy on a pedestal and asks in a melodramatic voice: how did the daughter of a high profile lawyer of Bombay High Court or the son of a top Glaxo executive come to choose a life of struggle and hardship? (Source) If we accept the media stories as true, we will discover that every Maoist leader was a first-rate student and at the same time ‘extremely aware of what was happening around’. They automatically get radicalized while studying in elite colleges and learn to shed tears for the poor. Responding to the righteous call to fight for the oppressed, they soon become gun carrying revolutionaries.

Vincent Brossel, head of the Asia desk of Reporters Without Borders (RWB) has defended the role of the ‘free’ media concerning the Maoists by saying, “When you have a civil war on terror groups it is the right of the press to cover both sides. The Maoists are part of the story.” (Source) RWB is an international NGO that advocates freedom of the press. The group is reputed for having ‘strong links with Western intelligence agencies and has focussed its energies on countries such as Cuba and Venezuela.’ (Source) RWB is also alleged to be on the payroll of the U.S. State Department. (Source)

There is a lucid pattern in which these stories are woven and planted. In fact, the corporate media serves its own agenda when it purposely turns into a Maoists mouthpiece. The transformation obscures the genuine democratic struggles that are going on in the fields and factories all over India. Mainstream Left parties have always criticized left extremism for dismantling of democratic movements. In this aspect they are absolutely right. The Maoists and the corporate media work hand in glove and share a common understanding to actually demolish the scope of democratic resistance.

To acquire a true picture of alternative system of the Maoists governance, should we then rely on these sources as credible and truthful?

'To live outside the law you must be honest'

At present, these self-styled protectors who boast about safeguarding tribal wealth from ‘capitalist development’ and ‘corporate expansion’ have absolutely monopolized their control over mineral and other natural wealth in the regions they control. They are involved in illegal harvesting like growing poppy crop and smuggling of minerals and forest products through criminal syndicates of the timber and mine mafias. The revenue collection system, disguised as ‘taxes and donations from the people and fines from the anti people elements’, is their main source of income that comes from extorting huge amounts of royalty from the traders, contractors, mining corporates and big industries operating in those regions. While indoctrinating the tribal people against the Indian State, the Maoists at the same time had successfully built up dubious relationships and deceitful understandings with mainstream political parties. In Andhra Pradesh, local politicians have found them handy to secure electoral gains. The same nexus was evident during the Jharkhand assembly election in 2005. Recently in Bengal, the Maoists are working as second fiddle to Mamata Banerjee and her cohorts.

On the eve of Operation Green Hunt — the Indian State’s massive counteroffensive plan against them, the Maoists are feeling the urgent need to forge a strong support base ‘at every level possible’ which includes their ‘honorable’ sympathizers from the intelligentsia as well as mainstream political parties. Their offensive against the ‘brutal’ state forces needs to be carried out ‘in close coordination with, and in support of’ these mainstream sections of the Indian society. The Maoist leaders are definitely not fools but have cunning political brains. They know that to take up ‘wide propaganda exposing state terror and state-sponsored terror’ and evoke sympathy among the broader masses, the help and support from the babble mouth elite sympathizers, the ‘liberal’ media and petty-bourgeois radicals will give them the necessary propaganda mileage. By lending opportunistic ‘tactical’ support to petty-minded political groups to influence petty politics, by inciting an anarchic situation through their murderous politics, they want to divert attention from their surreptitious activities. Bengal is a paradigm case where reactionary political forces like the ‘useful idiots’ of the Trinamool Congress has volunteered to help the Maoists just to pathologically oppose the principal partner of the ruling Left Front — the CPI(M). So, it is not a surprise when we hear the shrewd CPI-Maoist politbureau member Koteshwar Rao a.k.a. Kishanji openly declaring Mamata Banerjee as the next Chief Minister of Bengal! This friendship will immensely help the Maoists to keep an escape corridor open for their ‘brave’ guerrillas to turn their tails and flee from the imminent State offensive.

During the show of might between state forces and the Maoists, the hapless tribals will be caught in the crossfire and left to bear the maximum brunt. Their already wretched life will further get shattered. This is going to be the most disturbing part of the event.

Web Resources:
2. Debasish Chakraborty: Who Are The Maoists Working For?
3. Nirmalangshu Mukherjee: Open Letter to Noam Chomsky
4. V Balachandran: An ideological adversary