Maoists and Activists: The Double Deception

via Dr Vijaya Rajiva published on May 25, 2010

The people of Bharat have been deliberately kept under a cloud of deception by both the Maoists and the activists. While the former has a set goal in this enterprise it is not clear
why the activists and intellectuals who tacitly support them by their silence on two aspects of Maoism in India, have  been providing what appears to be a cover for Maoism. The two aspects are the Maoist goal of capturing state power at all cost and their pretence of benefiting the masses of India.

Till recently, the activists have wittingly or unwittingly joined in this deception. The cumulative effects of Maoist violence over the years, which came to a head not only in the recent killings in Dantewada but also the the public killings of civilians in the bus explosion has roused the Indian public to a point where the activists have quietly retreated from what seems to be their verbal/philosophical cover for Maoist crimes against the people, whether tribal or
the general civilian population of India.

The beheadings (not of dignitaries or officials)but of the everyday policeman, the chopping off the arms of said policemen before slitting their throats, the killing of women and children and the indiscriminate killing of anyone the Maoists consider informers amongst the tribals, the burning of villages, certainly does not add up to a pretty picture of the liberation of the people.

It was only the other day( March 21, 2010) that one of those ‘fashionably progressive’ activists, as journalist Swapan Das Gupta, described one of them,  hailed the Maoists as
Gandhians with guns! The depravity of such a characterization could only come from someone who knew neither her Gandhi nor her Naxals. Add to this the frivolity of traveling with the comrades, attired suitability for the terrain , and recording statements from an obliging group of young Naxalites, a type of slumming among the tribals(along with photo ops.) and one gets the picture of the worst type of activist who has contributed towards the delaying of any solution to the Naxalite problem. The reference is to Arundhati Roy’s articles in Outlookindia, especially  ‘Walking with the comrades.’

There are pious references to the condemnation of Maoist violence by the activists But it is business as usual in their seeming, steady, covert defence of the Maoists, although presently, as noted above, there has been an imperceptible retreat from the  brazen justifications of Maoist tactics, barring the so called violence. What does this double talk mean in real terms ?

The typical themes these activists talk about are:

State violence against tribals .
The lack of development amongst tribals and their general
neglect. The role of corporations and exploitation of the tribals.

Following from this their induction into the Maoist struggle against the erring Indian state.

While the above cannot be disputed it is the OMISSION of a significant aspect of Maoism in the tribal belt that has obscured the question.

That question is : what have the Maoists done for the welfare of the Tribals, other than taking over the villages and arming tribal youth for the impending struggle against the Indian state ? Apart from the high flown rhetoric, what have the Maoists accomplished for the tribals ?

A balanced account of this question has been provided by Nirmalangshu Mukherji In ‘Arms Over People’ (Outlookindia,May 19,2010). He points out that the Maoists have been in the Bastar forests of Chattisgarh for a quarter of a century or more, since 1980 and yet apart from controlling tribal land and enlisting young children into their militias and guerrilla armies they have done nothing significant for the welfare of the tribals.

Professor Mukherji uses the indices of wages, agriculture, health, education and land:

Activists have drawn an idyllic picture of peace and tranquility before state violence started in 2005. Despite grinding poverty, says Mukherji, and historical neglect by the State, tribal areas usually present on the surface a sense of serenity. He adds:

“ A very different and disturbing picture emerges when we scratch the surface”
(Arms over People).

1.Maoist Welfare : Wages, Land, Agriculture

Much of tribal livelihood depends on the collection of forest produce such as tendu leaves. Their daily wage in collecting tendu is now Re.1 per bundle, whereas the 1981 rate was 3 paise. This adds up to Rs.30 per day currently. These  wages were negotiated by the Maoists with private contractors and are higher than those announced by the state government. Mukherji points out that these figures are based on Maoist accounts.

The key question is that these wages are much lower than the minimum wages across the nation which is twice that amount. Further, the Maoists make huge profits in their negotiations with the private contractors.

With regard to land, the tribals were encouraged to grab acres of state forest land which they had been illegally cultivating anyway for generations. Mukherji observes:

“ As the Maoists realized, the issue was basically to grab forest land of the state at will since there was no real vested interests.” (Arms over People).

They encouraged the tribals to construct some harvesting structures such as ponds and
wells, and encouraged the nomadic tribals to learn proper cultivation techniques.Some use of tractors and buffaloes was also encouraged :

“None of this sounds anything more than routine and compared to other regions of the country, primitive agricultural practice.” (Arms over People).

2. Maoist Welfare: Health and Education

After two decades of a non tense situation and with large areas under their command (10 divisions) the Maoists do not mention a single health centre initiated by them.Severe malnutrition exists in the population. No schools exist and any that exist are those provided by the state.

The Maoist Alternative Model of Development

In so far as tribal welfare is concerned, could the Maoists have done better on wages, agriculture,health, and education, asks Mukherji. Given their vast command area with visible support from millions of tribals, it is not difficult to conceive of real alternatives to the measly “development “  programmes they initiated. With thousands of villages under their control, they could have dominated thousands of gram sabhas and hundreds of panchayats in the Bastar area (says Mukherji).

Under the auspices of these tribal controlled panchayats, they could have formed hundreds of democratically constituted co operatives to administer the livelihood of Tribals. Co operatives could have been started which would have competed for tenders floated by the state each year. State funding would have been allocated to these pancha yats, and the ability to draw rural credit from local banks would be there.

One can only imagine(says the author) what good could have been done for the tribals with the funds so available : schools, colleges, technical institutes, health centres, tractors, buffaloes,
tubewells, irrigation canals from rivers, safe sources of drinking water. In time, the author points out, these people’s organizations could have made full use of national Rural employment guarantee schemes, the forest rights act, the right to information, the Education act, and other schemes of the state.

In spite of likely problems coming in their way if they seriously undertook alternative Development, the Maoists enjoyed immense advantages  in the Dandakaranya forests, to pursue their development goals.

THERE IS NO EVIDENCE, SAYS THE AUTHOR, THAT THE MAOISTS EVER
CONTEMPLATED THESE STEPS.

Instead, the disturbing picture emerges of their goal of seizing power. The chilling accounts of the primacy of warfare, the use of tribals as gun fodder by enlisting young Tribal men and women for warfare, the use of children for war, the obtaining of funds for these criminal acts, all of this is graphically described in the article by Dr.Mukherji.

The nation should thank him for this long overdue task. The activists,on the other hand,  
seem to have deflected attention away from bringing the essentially non tribal criminals such as Ganapathi, Koteswara Rao, Kobad Gandhy and other members of the politbureau and central committee of the CPI(Maoist) to justice, by various misdirections.

(Dr. Rajiva is a Political Scientist who taught at a Canadian university)

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