How to deal with the Maoists


Prasanna Mohanty | April 12, 2010

Going by the surfeit of articles in the newspapers and magazines, debates in television studios or in various forums outside it seems the Maoist issue is far too complicated. Quite apparently, there is lack of clarity and consensus-- among politicians, governments, civil society groups and consequently, among ordinary people—over several fundamental aspects of the issue. Using this lack of clarity and consensus, many are arguing against use of the security forces against the Maoists. Do they really have a case? Let us examine.

First, the fundamental aspects that need clarity and consensus. It begins at the beginning: Who is a Maoist and what does he want? People like Arundhati Roy equate tribals with the Maoists to assert that the security operation against the Maoists is actually a “war against people”, it is “genocide”. And that the tribals, who are the Maoists, are actually fighting for their survival—their exploitation and displacement because of the minerals that the forests and mountains they live in carry and the years of apathy towards development of their area—the tribal heartland. 

From this flows the second aspect—whether the government’s strategy of using security forces to fight the Maoists is justified. Those who argue against it say it is akin to the atrocities inflicted by the colonial power during the struggle for our independence or the Vietnam War or the crisis inflicted on Latin American countries in 80s and 90s by the developed world etc. It has also been described as a “witch-hunt” and a war on behalf of the corporate entities with which the state governments have signed MoUs to set up mining operations and industries in the mineral-rich tribal heartland of India. Arundhati Roy says Maoist Corridor is actually Mou-ist Corridor.

Its sub-text is use of violence as a weapon. Is the state justified in indulging in violence? Are the Maoists justified in indulging in violence? Since violence can’t be justified in the land of Gandhi, shouldn’t the government and the Maoists then hold peace talks and find a way out?

The third fundamental aspect involves addressing the “root cause”—lack of development in the tribal heartland and exploitation of the tribals—not identifying the “root cause” itself because that has been settled. The problem is how to go about it--whether development should be carried out in tandem with the security operation, before it or after it. This is a cause of bigger worry because even those who have no doubts about the “real” identity of the Maoist or what he wants and agree with the government’s strategy of using forces are divided on the question of tackling the root cause. “Develop and the problem of insurgency will disappear on its own” goes the argument.

Are any of the questions really weighty enough to stop the security operation against the Maoists? Who is a Maoist? The answer is really simple: the one who believes in the Maoist ideology. And what is the Maoist ideology? Read their Party Constitution, ratified and adopted in 2004 when the CPI(ML)PWG and MCCI merged and formed the entity Communist Party of India (Maoist), to find the answer. Members of this outfit, CPI(Maoist), are called Maoists in common parlance.

Chapter 1 of the Party Constitution, titled “General Programme”, says: “The Communist Party of India (Maoist) is the consolidated political vanguard of the Indian proletariat. Marxism-Leninism-Maoism is the ideological basis guiding its thinking in all the spheres of its activities. Immediate aim or programme of the Communist Party is to carry on and complete the New Democratic Revolution in India as a part of the world proletarian revolution by overthrowing the semi-colonial, semi-feudal system under the neo-colonial form of indirect rule, exploitation and control and the three targets of our revolution—imperialism, feudalism and comprador big bourgeoise. 

“The ultimate aim or maximum programme of the party is the establishment of communist society. This New Democratic Revolution will be carried out and completed through armed agrarian revolutionary war, i.e., the Protracted People’s War with area-wise seizure of power remaining as its central task. Encircling the cities from the countryside and thereby finally capturing them will carry out the Protracted People’s War.”

It is quite clear what a Maoist wants. He wants to overthrow the government and capture political power through protracted armed struggle. What would any state do when an armed struggle is launched to overthrow it and capture political power?

As far as the tribal being Maoist, this ambiguity is created by people like Arundhati Roy. Many Maoists are indeed tribals but not all—for example, Mupalla Lakhmana Rao alias Ganapathy and Koteshwar Rao alias Kishenji are not tribals. Similarly, many tribals are Maoists but not all—for example, the Kondhs of Niyamgiri and hundreds of thousands who revolted against the Maoists in Chhattisgarh (Salwa Judum) and Gadchiroli (Gaonbandi) and many others who live in and outside the Red Corridor are not Maoists.

Tribals are mere pawns in that war. Farmers were pawns in Naxalbari. In Bihar, the SCs and OBCs continue to be pawns. The objective of Maoists has been clearly spelt out in their constitution.

How do you target the Maoists? It may be difficult to isolate and identify the Maoist militia, People’s Liberation Guerilla Army (PLGA), that has been set up to fight the Protracted People’s War when they are not carrying weapons, but not when they move around in jungles “in single files” as Arundhati Roy so graphically described in her account of the “embedded” journalistic expedition or when they attack the CRPF contingent in Dantewada or the Easter Frontier Rifles camp in Silda.

Now, coming to the question of whether the government is justified in using force. Once the purpose of the Maoists is understood--to capture political power through armed struggle--there is no scope for ambiguity. Violence is intrinsic and essential to such a protracted war. If ever there is any doubt, the Maoists dispelled that by butchering CRPF personnel in Dantewada, EFR contingent in Silda and beheading of Inspector Induwar, just to give a few recent examples.

The option of peace talk is always there but it doesn’t fit in the constitutional framework of the Maoists. It can only be a short-term strategy to re-group and re-work their strategy. The 2004 exercise in Andhra Pradesh reflected that. Kishenji’s 72-day ceasefire offer, which started from February 25 and is to end on May 7, during which CRPF personnel were massacred in Malkangiri and Dantewada and threat emails issued to Orissa chief minister, demonstrates its true worth. 

That leaves issues relating to development--should it be in tandem, before or after the security operation. The doubts will clear once it is realized that development has been an issue ever since we gained independence. The battle against poverty, exploitation, lack of development continues and it is nobody’s case that it shouldn’t happen faster and equitably. The problem is, and has been, that it is a slow process and it would be self-defeating to wait for it to happen before starting the security operation against the Maoists.

Besides, how does the state develop an area not under its control? Most of the Dandakaranya, spread over Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, is under the Maoists’ control. In Malkangiri district town, the city roads can’t be repaired for ages because no contractor comes forward because of Maoists threat. Arundhati Roy travelled with the Maoists for days but didn’t realize, some areas of Dandakaranya have been completely cut off from the civilized world—like Abujhmarh or Konta block of Dantewada where the CRPF personnel were butchered. No road exists. Those that do have thousand cuts and can easily be land-mined. Government officials are killed if they dare to enter, except for those whose movement is essential for the Maoists’ survival like PDS or medicine.

As far as issues like exploitation of tribals, their displacement, giving them no stake in the development activities in their areas etc are concerned, these are larger issues that need a policy re-think and need not detain the security operation against the Maoists. 

The way forward is, therefore, quite clear. The short-term goal of the government should be to target and neutralize the armed wing of the Maoists, which calls for a comprehensive strategy so that it can be achieved with minimum collateral damage.

Development has to be a long-term goal.




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