The Pleasure of Release

While there is always the thrill of holding people hostage against their desire, the Maoists, of late, seem to have discovered the pleasure of release.

Having spanked the state into submission by beheading Francis Induwar; by freeing policeman Antindranath Datta and “peacefully” vandalizing the Bhubaneswar-New Delhi Rajdhani, the Maoists appear to be signaling a new phase in their troubled relationship with the State.

Now that the State and the media know that the Maoists are capable of taking the pleasure equals pain principle to its logical climax, freeing hostages and good-naturedly scribbling slogans on trains appears like a far more civilized way of fomenting revolution.

Just yesterday, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress President Sonia Gandhi expressed their willingness to break free from the handcuffs of current discourse and engage with those who abstain (from violence).

Maoist leader Kishenji has insisted that while the rebels shall not lay down their arms, talks with the West Bengal and Central Governments must be preceded by the unconditional release of all prisoners taken captive since military operations began in Lalgarh in June, a withdrawal central forces from the area and a declaration of ceasefire by both sides.

In the meantime, the Home Minister, P.Chidambaram, has warned that he can keep his velvet gloves on for only so long; thereafter it’s steel fisting all the way. The victims of military operation shall inevitably be the poor tribals who have love for neither State nor rebel.  Now if only the Maoists would take themselves in hand.

First published in the Hindustan Times

12 thoughts on “The Pleasure of Release”

  1. I stand corrected; it is impossible for me to gain that degree of interiority in the case of all tribals and all naxals.

    The piece is rhetorical – but i am sure that even Rupak shall concede the existence of the absence of love for some naxals by some tribals.

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  2. The dripping sexual symbolism and the gloating, self satisfied smugness in this piece makes my head reel. Is this a news report? A new age editorial comment ?

    Spanked the state into submission; pleasure equals pain principle (what on earth is that ?); handcuffs, velvet gloves ….

    Civilized way of fomenting revolution?
    One doesnt have to be a Maoist to be infuriated by this kind of commentary !!

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  3. But the earnestness of your comment makes me smile (with only a trace of smugness).

    Clearly, one doesnt have to be a state-ist to be aggrieved in this manner.

    ps: note the use of “dripping” to describe sexual symbolism. Darn this sex-thing, it just gets in everywhere.

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  4. This reads like an overgrown, patriotic school boy’s text, where he tries to be a good, liberal citizen, and in trying to do so, takes the name of his political parents – the PM and Congress President, also the name of his political uncle, Chidambaram, in passing, then describes the Maoists in a way as if they symbolize the cruel sons of Dhritarashtra (Aman of course being Yudhishthira), and he sheds a tear for the tribals to convince everyone that only he alone knows their plight more than others, and is most angst ridden by their possible fate. What an innovative, modern fable!

    Yudhishthira merely forgets the connection that it is his political parents and uncle who are getting reading to butcher the ones his heart goes out to. But if HT has published this piece of wisdom, surely the boy has reached places and is being taken seriously by media bosses. His parents and uncle will be happy for him. He surely deserves a treat. Cheers!

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  5. I apologize Aman.
    I just assumed that the tagline ‘run from the big media’ was meant in earnestness. I should have known better.

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  6. No Laughing Matter.

    Okay children, time to do the heavy lifting.

    First up, it intrigues me that this piece is seen as “pro-state”, pro-sonia, pro-manmohan etc. Because it isnt. Tiresome as it is to try to explain irony/satire, I fear it is essential to do so – especially since Manash has only a rudimentary grasp of it (though not as rudimentary as his grasp of the Mahabharata.)

    The reactions of Anant and Manash suggest the onset of the latest season of huddle and cuddle where piece that refuses to announce its intentions is immediately assumed to be pro-state and part of a media-industrial-military complex, ro alternatively (depending on viewpoint) as pro-maoist etc etc.

    The piece gestures towards a change in tactics – on both sides – a point where the Maoists are now entering what we call the Prachanda phase – kishenji is now making demands on television, journalists now have access to him, hostages are being taken fed biscuits and returned safely with a slap on their wrists.

    Similarly, the State too is playing the same game. Chidambaram is doing his “reasonable man” impression with the offer of talks.

    Why is this happening? Since the Maoists are allegedly winning, now should be time to press on. Alt, since the State now has enough reasons to strike back – now is the point where they should (by the state’s own internal logic) clamp down.

    Instead, what are we seeing?

    We are seeing the moment where the Maoists and the State realise they have a lot more in common than they had previously assumed.

    The latest news leaks confirm what many have known for a while that the Maoists raise significant funds from iron/steel companies operating in their territories – that the Maoists are rent/tax collectors just like the state.

    We arent seeing a pro-people faction fight an anti-poor state. We are simply witnessing two very powerful (and extremely violent ) formations (i.e. state and maoist) preparing the grounds for sitting down and dividing up the land between themselves.

    Finally we need to ask ourselves – what is the basis of Mercy? Giving up a hostage is an act of Mercy isnt it?
    The act of Mercy is the moment where the Maoists – like the state before them – acknowledges and reaffirms their own power. The lords giveth, the Lords taketh away!

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  7. aman’s imagination of sitting down and dividing up land finds place only in fantasy land. the ease with which such tales are dished out makes one wonders what it requires to get a column published in mainstream press. i will wait for the great novel.

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  8. Lord, after liberalism, now we are back to the middle ages, to Christianity. How merciless!

    Anyway, the explanations don’t hold. Rather, they expose the crisis further. Irony and satire? In a political article? And what is so ironical about this piece of funky rubbish –

    “We are seeing the moment where the Maoists and the State realise they have a lot more in common than they had previously assumed.”

    Even B.A students of Political Science I know, with some political sensibility, will laugh on this utterly mind blowing fallacy of idea. What is disturbing is not that you make this statement – what is more disturbing is how easily you can make this statement, and how confident you are of putting across such a gross political bias, without any “rudimentary” understanding of politics. The Maoists can be pathologically linked to the barbarities of the state – but that doesn’t mean the equation is as simple as you make it out to be for your middle-class comfort. Politics also needs a certain amount of empathy towards victims, even if some of them have turned violent. Even Gandhi would understand that. Forget about Arundhati Roy – you are miles away from her sensibility, and what is worse – you are traveling in the opposite direction.

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  9. Aman,

    Between 1983 and 1993, the Maoists kidnapped 424 people in North Telangana and the borders of Dandakaranya. They stopped abductions as a negotiating tactic after a public hue and cry regarding one incident in which militants hacked to death a kidnapped block level elected rep.

    Between 2001 and 2004 they kidnapped 10 people. In one case they killed a policeman.

    They did two major kidnaps 7 IAS officials in 1987 and one MLA along with some local officials in 1993. Only a few of these hundreds of abductions were carried out by armed squads with coordinated planning. Many were done by local militants with very limited if any contact with the party organization –prettymuch like the Rajdhani Express incident.

    I am familiar with the details of some of the major cases and minor cases. I do not think anyone has done a survey, but I suspect that in all cases the abductors supplied biscuits to their hostages. You see if a hostage turns out to be diabetic and has to go without food, he will become a liability in negotiations.

    Many of the people who carried out the kidnaps ended up dead in fake encounters. In one instance, a Maoist who was released in exchange for the abducted officials later surrendered and is now a businessman.

    The Maoists have always tactically used the media. With the onset of the bigmedia, things are much more complex now, even as the Maoists ability to get in touch without being traced has also increased.

    I have no idea what change of tactics you are seeing. I am sure there is some basis to it which will reveal itself at some point when you decide to enlighten us. But for now, perhaps you can explain to us what this sentence means.
    “….What we call the Pachanda phase”.

    Who is the WE here?

    And you refer to ‘leaks’ that confirm what most of us always knew…. are we now getting leaks from the Maoists ? or Is this an intelligence scoop ? Why would the intelligence guys need to ‘leak’ information about Maoist extortion when they can hold a press conference and announce it ? Or are these ‘leaks’ because some ruling party MP or MLA is also getting a cut in the rent being collected by the Maoists ?

    I am asking only because the word ‘leak’ is significant and is used by big media as a tactic to avoid accountability. Quite justifiable within that world. In other worlds it needs to be qualified.

    Thanks

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  10. Dear All,

    Thank you for your comments, this is precisely the sort of debate I was hoping for. (Is this me clumsily back-tracking from a set of glib assertions – quite possibly).

    On the question of B.A. Pol Sci. I think we need to think about a politics that groups espouse and a politics that is practised. Of course the ideological and theoretical underpinings of a movement like the maoists and a formation like the state are different.

    However, we also need to see how things are practised on the ground. We need to ask ourselves how the Maoists fund their programme and where they raise their cash from.
    I think we agree that a lot of the weapons come from raiding police stations but there is a sizeable expenditure in running such an operation.

    I have reported from the ground in Dantewara . The article can be found at http://kafila.org/2007/09/16/shantibangh-in-lohandiguda/
    Where I have pointed out that anti-naxal operations are used as a ruse to forcibly evict villagers from their land.
    I have also noted that

    “Naxal violence and the far-reaching powers of arrest and detention taken on by the State Government to combat it, have created a situation where all space for opposition is stifled by both: Naxal violence and state legislation. Frontline interviewed a number of public representatives from both, the ruling Bhartiya Janta Party and the Congress-led opposition and found a startling degree of consensus in their views on the shape, path and form of industrialization and development envisioned for Chhattisgarh.”

    Now we need to ask ourselves how other iron and steel plants continue to run in such areas despite a minimal police presence at the site. I think this suggests that the maoists and the industrialists have come to an uneasy truce invovling protection money. This is no different from the State collecting taxes to allow operations. The state justifies tax as a way to redistribute wealth – I presume the Maoists see it in the same way.
    Do people in the ruling party get a cut – i dont know.

    On issues of empathy and violence – I think the maoist circumstance illustrates an interesting moment where the state realises it doesnt not have a monopoly of violence – for a further discussion on this -read Nivis excellent post on the same.

    On the issue of dividing up land – this is not a fantasy that i approve of. I would prefer to call this a dystopia where two powerful organisations carry out an omlettes and eggs calculation and a lot of people who actually reside on the land get fucked in the process.

    I am going to make an imperfect analogy – where if we look at the situation in Pakistan -(YES I KNOW THESE ARE IMPORTANT BA POLITICS STYLE DIFFERENCES, but i think ti serves an important function) the existence of the autonomous areas for a significant period fo time marked a truce between the pakistan state and non-state actors. So it is not unimaginable. Do I think it is desirable ? At present no – simply because I dont think such a process will be representative.

    Okay – on the issue of leaks. Are the Moaists in touch with so called “big media” – of course they are – as the release of Datta illustrates; adn it does signal a change in tactics on how the Maoists deal with the press. This was a release carried out in full public view – it was an assertion.

    And on the leaks of the interrogation of the latest leader to be captured – yes this is a “leak” – which is the same as a scoop from an intelligence agent. The reason i say “leak” is because the police and IB are not authorised to make such information public. Also by saying “leak” – one states that the information cannot be verified independently. So in that instance I should not have said the “leaks confirm what ..” I should have said “the leaks suggest” – so good point there Anant – mea culpa.

    a.

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