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The State And The Challenger

11-02-2011
The gruesome massacre of tribals in Chattisgarh is a typical Maoist retaliation. Anybody who is familiar with their tactics will not be surprised at the barbarity of the attack. The State as well as those who are out to destroy it have trained their guns against each other in the thick Bastar forests. The irony, however, is that on both the sides the arms are mounted on the shoulders of the simple and the credulous tribal.

The police term the tribal outfit Salva Judum as the people’s response to the left-wing extremist group. Military training and materiel are provided by the police to the tribal youth to fight the Maoists. The number of tribals fighting on the side of Maoists is put at about a thousand. Leadership to them is, of course, provided by the wily plainsmen mostly from the neighbouring Andhra Pradesh.

The newly formed small state is now a testing ground both for the police as well as the extremists. Happenings in these jungles will have long term implications for both the combatants in the larger theatre. On the one hand the police will know whether it is politically and militarily sustainable to wage a proxy war against the Maoists by arming and training the local populations. The extremists, on the other hand, will discover whether their strategy to bleed the Indian State white from a thousand cuts is practicable in the face of a determined and armed opposition from the local people.

For both the combatants, this is a new situation. The extremists so far could take the sympathy of the local populations for granted. Whether in tribal areas or in plains, in their fight against the State, the Maoists hitherto did not have to work hard to earn the goodwill of the locals. In fact, it was always the police that had to operate under the unsympathetic and at times hostile gaze of the local people. Even the few informants they had were available only for monetary rewards. From that dismal situation to a stage where large groups are motivated to bear arms is, indeed, a big leap for the forces of the State.

But is this situation sustainable there? And is it replicable elsewhere? These are the questions before the State. And can the locals who took arms against the Maoists be terrorized into submission by such inhuman acts is the question before the extremists. The nature and form of the future engagements between the State and its challenger will depend upon the outcome of their Chattisgarh experiment.

The Maoists are very clear about their objectives and the means they adopt to achieve them. They have never minced words. Even before, during, and after the aborted peace talks with the AP government, they made it plain that the ceasefire was only a tactical move and a temporary phase in their march to seize power. They never swore by any values. Nor have they made themselves accountable to any norms in so far as their means are concerned. They conceded no room to the Constitution nor agreed to give up arms.

But what about our Establishment? Examine the kind of reaction whenever there is mindless bloodletting by the Maoists, like the one in Erraboru. Undoubtedly there is an all round condemnation. But it is laced with an unstated yet noticeable endorsement of their self-proclaimed objectives. The Establishment voices ask, ‘do these acts serve the poor’? As though it is alright if they do! Does the Establishment, in effect, concede that while the challenger’s ends are lofty, it is only his methods that are objectionable?

One of our distinguished leaders in the past said that the naxals were real patriots; others declared that their agenda was the same as the Maoists’. Some others said that Maoists were misguided only about the means but their objectives were splendid. If these leaders really meant what they said, they are first rate subversives of their own creed. And if they didn’t, it is utter hypocrisy. It shows that they lack courage of conviction to stand up and be counted. Why is it that they can’t say that not only the extremists’ means but their ends too are despicable; and that the ends they espouse are against the grain of the constitution and democratic values on which our civic life stands?

It is not merely a question of unacceptability of Maoist’s means. It is a fundamental clash between divergent world views and antithetical belief systems. Wherever the cohorts of our Maoists seized power, they turned those countries to open air prisons and pushed the populations to death, starvation, squalor and utter poverty. Doesn’t our Establishment remember the Soviet gulags, Siberian exiles, Stalinists murders, Cambodian Pol Pot, the Hungarian Caucescaeu, the Vietnamese Khmer Rouge, and the Chinese Cultural Revolution? The Establishment need not espouse its own values with guilt conscience and shame; and with a low ideological self esteem. It doesn’t have to be unsure about its own moral superiority. Even the most fall guy of our Establishment is perhaps morally far superior to the ones who presided over those brutal dispensations.

Public discourse should, therefore, condemn not only the means of the Maoists. It should unsparingly interrogate their ends. Not only their means be fought politically, but the poison hidden in ends of their project should also be exposed. Without proper ideological architecture that supports this political offensive, any number of socio-economic measures will not win this war for the establishment. It is time that the Clauswitzian dictum that ‘war is a continuation of politics by other means’ is reversed. It is politics that should now be a continuation of war by other means. Only then can the cancer of extremism be excised from our body politic.

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