Guest post by NIRMALANGSHU MUKHERJEE
A well-known left intellectual in Delhi, belonging to one of the naxalite “splinter groups”–the term is Arundhati Roy’s to distinguish the maoists from everyone else in the naxalite movement–recently advised me that, whatever be the objections to the CPI (Maoist), we must side with them in their struggle against the state. The argument obviously is that the historical choice is binary is character: either you are with the state or against it. And the underlying assumption is that those who are against the state are somehow “with” the people. Since the maoists are (apparently) against the state, they must be viewed as “with” the people, warts and all. In not siding with the maoists then, intellectuals like Apoorvanand and others in the Kafila forum are actually siding with the state, according to the doctrine.
The state certainly believes in the binary doctrine. Mr. Chidambaram has characterised all “civil society” forums that are strongly critical of his murderous approach to the “maoist menace” as maoist supporters since their criticism of the government is helping the maoists as. The doctrine was earlier put into actual practice in Chhattisgarh when the state applied CSPSA against Binayak Sen. More recently, the doctrine was applied at the street level when hordes of Congress and BJP workers attacked the peace mission undertaken by Yash Pal, Swami Agnivesh, Narayan Desai, and others; they were characterized as “maobadis” since the peace mission appealed to both the sides to stop violence. Gautam Navlakha and Sumonto Bannerjee adopted the doctrine from the other direction as they protested against the peace mission as well. The peace mission predictably collapsed.
The CPM has long held the doctrine. Although in private (and due to the unbearable burden of their leftist credentials) they do complain about the “security-centric” approach of the government–and have been somewhat critical of the Salwa Judum campaign–they are not prepared to voice these concerns in public because then they will be viewed by Chidambaram as anti-state; hence, pro-maoist. They would rather be viewed as siding with Chidambaram than with Ganapathi & Co.
The maoists are also strong supporters of this doctrine, especially during “war times”. And, as usual, they take their doctrines to the people, namely, the tribals they control. To cite from Apoorvanand’s recent piece, a circular issued by the ‘Janadhan Sarkar’ very clearly forbids the tribals from mixing with Jawans or police, inviting them to village for any event , providing them food or shelter, giving any service to the security persons, or travelling with them, including the police, CRPF , SPOs or the CRPF . They have also been asked to keep track of the number of policemen in their area and also the arms they carry and report to the ‘Janadhan Sarkar’ their movement and destination. The message is clear: if any tribal fails to obey these orders, the tribal would be viewed as not supporting the “revolution”; hence, the tribal would be viewed as with the enemy. It is the maoist version of UAPA, it turns an entire population of tribals into Special Maoist Officers. Not surprisingly, there is no protest against this from the promoters of “Campaign against war on people”.
As another grass roots worker–well-known in Delhi–from another “splinter group” told me, lessons from history help. He recalled that George Bush famously proclaimed, “You are either with us or against us”: choose between Bush and Bin Laden. In that instance, the comrade reminded me, the civilised world denied Bush his binary choices. Should we then have to choose between Chidambaram as he deploys his terror forces around tribal habitats and the maoist leadership as they push thousands and thousands of starving tribal chidren–dressed up as militias and guerrillas–to face Chidambaram’s forces? Did we take a close look at the face of Barsa Lakhma, the alleged “commander”, recently arrested in Bastar (The Hindu, 25 May)? How old does he look like? What are the choices now for the civilised world as Barsa Lakhma undergoes torture?