Tamil Nadu has always had a very high handed police, infamous for extrajudicial killings, torture and arbitrary arrest of political dissidents of all hues. In recent times, thanks to the popular Koodankulam agitation the authoritarian ways of the state police seems to have acquired a ‘nuclear’ edge.
On 6 October 2012, as 13 senior members of the Peoples Democratic Republic Party met at a school in Kundrathur near Chennai city they were all arrested by the ‘Q Branch’, as the local intelligence bureau is called in Tamil Nadu. The arrested members and supporters of the party have been since remanded to judicial custody in Vellore central prison and a case under section Cr. L.A 17 (1) registered against them. Continue reading A statement on the arrest of 13 political activists in Tamil Nadu→
I just finished a long essay for the cover of the May 2011 issue of Caravan magazine. In “At the Bloody Crossroads”, I plot the fate of the village of Tarmetla in the course of a year of ‘counterinsurgency”.
At 5:55 AM ON 6 APRIL 2010, Golf Company of the 62nd battalion of India’s Central Reserve Police Force [CRPF] radioed field headquarters at Chintalnar to report they were receiving small-arms fire in the “Tarmetla sector” and had sustained one injury. Golf Company was conducting a three-day area-domination exercise in the forests of Dantewada…
Operation Khanjar (“Dagger” in Hindi) was Golf’s last manoeuvre before the company was rotated out of Chintalnar to a less sensitive post. They were accompanied by their replacements from Alpha Company, who had just arrived from battalion headquarters in Barsur. The objective was to make their presence known in the district’s scattered hamlets: they were to spend three days sanitising the sector of guerrilla presence and acquainting the men of Alpha Company with the rolling hills and dry riverbeds that surround the CRPF camp at Chintalnar….
At 7:45 am, Golf Company’s deputy commandant, Satyawan Yadav, made a phone call from the vortex of the ambush to say that his company had been completely surrounded—and then the phone went silent.
Over the weekend, a number of journalists received the following statement from Ganapathy; General Secretary of the Communist Party of India (Maoist). In the text, Ganapathy clarifies the Maoist stance on a broad range of topics – particularly Kashmir, the Commonwealth Games, the Ayodhya Verdict, Mamta Bannerjee in Bengal, Obama and the North East.
However, the fact that the questions are posed by an obviously sympathetic “interviewer” and our inability to send any follow-up questions means that, I personally, treat this as a policy document rather than an “interview”. To get a quick newsy sum-up, you could read my report for The Hindu.
I felt it would be interesting for our readers to go through this text to get a sense of “What Maoists Want”. As a reporter, I am only too aware of how Maoist politics is severely under-reported as opposed to their military tactics.
As neither the Maoists, nor Mr Ganapathy are currently in a position to defend their views on Kafila; I have disabled comments on this post. Afzal’s acerbic (and spot on) comment has changed my mind. Have allowed comments on this piece.Hopefully, this document shall serve as a reference point for further discussions on the Maoist movement.
I was going to write out a reply to the comments on Shuddha’s post, Kashmir’s Abu Gharaiab, but thought I would expand it into a larger post.
I’d like to make clear that I have been to Kashmir only once – and that too for a few hours in the aftermath of the earthquake, so if anyone writes back saying, “I should see the ground reality in Kashmir”; I concede that point straight off the bat. I should see the ground reality in Kashmir; we all should.
However, over the last eight months, I have had the opportunity to interact very closely with central paramilitary forces like the BSF and CRPF in the course of their deployment in Chhattisgarh, where I work. Many of the men conducting anti-Maoist operations in Chhattisgarh have served in Kashmir and the North-East theatres.
Javed Iqbal of The New Indian Express on being targeted by the Chattisgarh Police as being on the side of the Maoists:
A High Court lawyer from Mumbai was in Dantewada a few days ago and had gone to the police station to speak to the police and understand the ground realities of Dantewada. SSP Kalluri accused him of being a Naxalite informer, and had him locked up in the police station. He was eventually let off the same evening, visibly shaken, after some frantic phone calls.
The very fact that the Chhattisgarh police would rather target civil society activists, opposition party workers and journalists than investigate the Maoists, is explicit proof of their incompetence. A kind of fascinating wife-beating syndrome, where they can’t get the Maoists, so the insecure, frustrated police will go after soft targets like journalists, activists and opposition party members.
They arrested CPI party workers for the attack on Audesh Singh Gautams home, and adivasi CPI leader Manish Kunjam confirmed the same. He, himself, has no police security. It was withdrawn by the police months ago even though there have been numerous threats to his life. He has been openly critical of the Salwa Judum that roams around Bastar, armed to its teeth, and has spoken up against corporate land grab, supporting and helping to organize the anti-displacement movements across Bastar.
Now, according to the police press release that implicated Lingaram Kodopi, Nandini Sundar, Medha Patkar and Arundhati Roy, I’ve been mentioned as someone who had gone with the Maoists, ‘videographing’ their failed assassination attempt on Audesh Singh Gautam.
Forget that they police don’t know the difference between a ‘photographer’ and a ‘videographer’. Forget that the police don’t know that at 1:00am there’s no light, and videography and photography is useless. And I believe the Maoists have infra-red cameras? Why? Because they’re ‘infra-red’? [Read the full post]
On May 16 this year, adivasis, attending the weekly Sunday bazaar at Unchapur in Chhattisgarh’s Rajnandgaon district, found six corpses stretched out on the main thoroughfare of the village. In a note placed on one of the bodies, the CPI (Maoist) took responsibility for executing the six villagers for succumbing to “the lure of money” and serving as “police informers”.
The Rajnandgaon killings are a manifestation of the escalation of the confrontation between Maoist cadres and security forces in Chhattisgarh. As the scope of the conflict has widened from purely armed engagement to the disruption of intelligence networks, the Maoists and security forces have both enlisted civilian support for intelligence gathering. This has made the adivasis targets in a war being fought in their name.
Two sisters live in a clearing in the forest about 10 km beyond the abandoned houses and empty yards of Mukram village in Chhattisgarh’s Dantewada district. A third young girl cowers in the courtyard of her aunt’s house in neighbouring Tokanpalli. Between 14 and 18 years of age, Kose, Rame and Hidme (names changed) say they fled their homes in Mukram after they were sexually assaulted by Special Police Officers of the Chhattisgarh Police on May 22 this year.
“We can’t return to Mukram,” said Rame, “If they [the SPOs] find us again, they said they would cut my body into pieces and bury it in cement and no one would ever find it.”
There is dismay in some sections that the FIR lodged by the driver of the ill-fated Gyaneshwari Express does not name Maoists as the suspect perpetrators. Within hours of the derailment and death of the passengers, newspapers were already lamenting that the centre did not have guts to take on Maoists. Suggestions have been made that this is an extraordinary situation and vacuous talk of human rights should not be heeded. There is a familiar taunt being hurled at the UPA government for its unmanly response to the biggest threat to the internal security of the country. The principal opposition party, which otherwise very zealously guards the rights of the state and resents any interference by the centre in matters which fall under the state list, even in one of the most extra-ordinary moments of recent history , I am referring to the state sponsored massacre of Muslims in Gujarat , now feels that the nuanced division of the rights and duties of the state and centre is not something which should keep the centre from treating the Maoist threat as a national issue and going for an all out armed intervention against the enemy of the nation.
My hand trembles as I write again. To say that it is murder, mass murder and we cannot remain silent when faced with such horror. I do not know who is responsible for this and what caused it. Was it a bomb blast or tempering with the fish plates which derailed the Gyaneshwari Express train near Midnapur in Bengal? Who did it? Was the PCPA involved as claimed by criminally inefficient police of Bengal citing two posters owning the blasts? Or it was not, as claimed by its spokesperson Asit Mahto? How do we condemn the deaths of ‘innocent civilians’ when we do not know the source of violence? Is it not a possibility that some actors, covertly sponsored by the state did it to further defame theCPI(Moist)? Or could it be the handiwork of the CPI( Marxist) which has an ability to organize violence in Bengal again to besmirch the revolutionary reputation of the CPI( Maoist) and also to justify a military campaign against them? Continue reading Death of the Ignorant→
This is in response to your repeated taunts on NDTV that the civil society must respond to the wanton killing by the Naxals. It appears that the interview was tailor made for getting the consent of the Cabinet for more firepower and airpower to combat the Maoist. The diabolic support of Arun Jaitly, be it by describing you an injured martyr, was designed to achieve his ambition through the support of the mining barons of the BJP ruled states.
As a member of society I hope I am being civil in disagreeing with you on your hard line approach against the innocent tribal. I also hope you will not find it too shocking for being accused of being largely responsible for the rise and growth of Naxalism, as the following happened on your watch as Finance minister.
As I get ready to mail this piece, I read the news of the killing of four CRPF men who were out on a patrol in an IED blast in Begal. I know that these deaths do not qualify as deaths of the ‘people’ since all the dead were ‘combatants’. I therefore do not expect any expression of regret from the CPI( Maoist). But the sheer lack of remorse with which the CPI( Maoist) has owned the land mine blast which killed more than 40 people travelling in a bus in Chhatigarh shows that the lives of the tribal people matter little for them. Their central committee member Azad told the reporters that it could not be helped. He said that since they had informed the villagers through circulars that they should refrain from travelling with the security persons, the Maoists cannot be blamed for these deaths. They paid the price with their lives for ignoring this warning. The circular issued by the ‘Janadhan Sarkar’ very clear forbids them 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. Continue reading On Regret and Control→
This post by ROHINI HENSMAN is an article published on the Outlookindia.com website on April 22, 2010.
To people desperately trying to avert a bloodbath in the forest belt, the recent PUDR statement on the massacre of 76 CRPF jawans in Dantewada caused considerable consternation, and Sumanta Banerjee’s response to it even more so. According to the PUDR statement,
‘As a civil rights organization we neither condemn the killing of security force combatants nor that of the Maoists combatants, or for that matter any other combatants, when it occurs’.
Sumanta Banerjee objected to the equating of Maoist violence and state violence, saying that
‘these soldiers, by being cannon-fodders of the Indian state, however tragic it might be, suffered the fate that – I’m sorry to say – they deserved…To come back to the latest incident of the Maoist attack on the CRPF camp in Chhattisgarh…. if we accept it as a part of a civil war, such killings are inevitable (just as the CRPF killings of Maoists) in a violent system that has been institutionalized by the Indian state. The difference between the CRPF violence (involving ‘false encounters’, raping of tribal women, burning their homes, etc.) on the one hand, and the Maoist violence on the other (which means attacks on oppressive landlords and the police and para-military forces like the CRPF which come to the aid of the landlords) – has to be distinguished by civil society groups’
Both the statement and the response assume that a civil war is already in progress, and therefore the killing of combatants is not illegal.
The CPI (Maoist) has issued a statement after the killing of the CRPF men in Dantewada. You would imagine that the statement should be all over the media. If you Google you will find it here and there, and if you’ve been reading the papers I won’t blame you for missing it. It’s buried in the inside pages today, and only the Hindustan Times yesterday had put it on its front page. This is not surprising considering that after the CRPF killings the media has gone into war mode. It’s war out there, they’re saying again and again. Anchors are shouting, news-magazines are declaring war and calling the Indian state impotent and the top editors are saying it’s a turning point, ab bas bahut ho gaya, now let’s just shoot ’em dead. What, no air strikes? get real guys.
THIS note attempts to understand the nature of the politics behind the violent actions of the Maoists. There seems to be an agreement among human rights activists that Maoist violence is a ‘forced’ response to the extreme repression of the Indian state. The argument is that since the Indian state has been consistently ignoring or violently repressing various people’s movements, the people are left with no choice but to take recourse to the gun.
There is a fallacy in this argument. We know about people’s movements on issues of land rights or displacement which have not turned into armed insurrections, even though they have suffered major losses and have been treated in a very callous manner by the state. Apart from the Narmada Bachao Andolan there are hundreds of big and small peoples’ resistance movements in Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Bengal, Tamil Nadu and other states which have not given up on the ‘parliamentary’ path of struggle.
Interestingly, we find that Maoist groups are also active in these areas and they constantly try to infiltrate and take control of such movements. We do not know of any movements organized by the Maoists which were initially ‘peaceful’ but compelled to turn to arms after all attempts at working with the state failed. I would suggest that the theory of ‘peaceful’ movements mutating into ‘violent’ insurrections appears flawed. Also that instead of using ‘Maoist’ as an adjective in a careless manner we should treat them as a political formation organized on the lines articulated in its political programme and constitution which is based on its own Marxian theory of revolution which is impossible without violence. Continue reading Violence and revolution→
This essay has been published in the current issue of Seminar (No. 607, March 2010).
In his classic Elementary Aspects of Peasant Insurgency in Colonial India, Ranajit Guha outlines a certain methodological imperative for the historian who wanted to ‘get in touch with the consciousness of [peasant] insurgency’ when access to it is barred by the discourse of counter-insurgency that structures official records. How does one look beyond this discourse of the state that frames the archives in order to gain access to the voice of the rebels? Guha’s solution was relatively simple: Counter-insurgency, he argued, derives directly from insurgency and is so determined by the latter that ‘it can hardly afford a discourse that is not fully and compulsively involved with the rebel and his activities.’1
Unlike British Marxist historian E.J. Hobsbawm who had tried to track the story of ‘social bandits’ through a somewhat problematic reading of folklore,2 Guha warned that ‘folklore relating to peasant militancy can be elitist too’, for many singers and balladeers belonged to upper-caste families who had fallen on hard times and were, therefore, often suspicious of the revolt of the lower castes or tribals. Guha underlined that though the records of the colonial state and its police officials registered the voice of those hostile to the insurgents – including landlords and usurers – they could not avoid being shaped by the will of the insurgents. His conclusion therefore was that the presence of rebel consciousness could be read in the body of evidence produced by the discourse of counter-insurgency itself.
The burden of Guha’s argument was that in order to decode the language of counter-insurgency, it was often enough to simply reverse the values in the terms used by the official discourse: thus ‘badmashes’ simply meant peasant militants and not ‘bad characters’; ‘dacoit village’ would indicate an entire village involved in the resistance and ‘contagion’ would most likely refer to the solidarity generated by the uprising.
Those were happier days from the historian’s point of view. For the peasant and tribal insurgencies that Guha was discussing were organic struggles which drew their leadership from amidst the peasants or tribal communities themselves. Whether it was Sidhu Kanoo, Birsa Munda or Titu Mir – the leadership of the movements and their ‘ideologies’ derived directly from the world of the tribals. The context of colonial India was also, in a significant sense, quite clearly polarized and the possibility of written records being produced from a multiplicity of sources was simply out of the question. It may, therefore, be possible to follow Guha’s suggestion and merely reverse the values in order to get a sense of that other discourse. Continue reading The Rumour of Maoism→
SOUMITRA GHOSHis with the National Forum of Forest Peoples and Forest Workers (NFFPFW). A guest post received via Dilip Simeon
Does the Outlook article [by Arundhati Roy] tell us anything new? The Maoists have built a dream world in Dandakaranya, and the gun has heralded that dream. The Green Hunt is meant to shatter this dream, period…Apart from good anecdotes, there’s no political analysis of the movement, and the problematique of the Maoist movement was cursorily mentioned.
It seems rationality is banished. You oppose Green Hunt means that you see in the Maoists an unending series of dreamers and visionaries, and the making of a new world order. She doesn’t even bother to be historical, the history is what her contacts tell her.
What is utterly unacceptable is this woolly-headed,mushy and journalistic portrayal of a political movement. The Maoist movement was never,and won’t be a ‘adivasi’ movement,in the sense we use the term to describe a range of social movements.
The last book François Furet wrote before his death in 1997 was called The Passing of an Illusion. At the very beginning of the first chapter of that book, Furet spelt out the central question driving his study:
What is surprising is not that certain intellectuals should share the spirit of the times, but that they should fall prey to it, without making any effort to mark it with their own stamp. […] twentieth century French writers aligned themselves with parties, especially radical ones hostile to democracy. They always played the same (provisional) role as supernumeraries, were manipulated as one man, and were sacrificed when necessary, to the will of the party. So we are bound to wonder what it was that made those ideologies so alluring, that gave them an attraction so general yet so mysterious.
Furet’s book emerged from an autopsy of his own past as a as a Communist “between 1949 and 1956.” He wrote, further, that his years as a Communist bequeathed to him an enduring desire to unlock the mystique of revolutionary ideology. Given this, it’s not difficult to see why he pioneered some of the most brilliant historiographical work on the French Revolution. The question we are concerned with here is the one I have quoted at length above; for it seems that in our own day, this strange romance between (formerly) fiercely independent intellectuals, scholars, activists and the – a – party, continues.
The latest document of this affair is a long essay by Arundhati Roy (once famous for her declaration of herself as an”independent mobile republic”), titled ‘Walking with the Comrades,’ published in the latest issue of Outlook. It makes for exciting reading, as a lot of well-written travel literature does; but it is significant for another reason: in the current debate over ‘Operation Green Hunt,’ with many versions of ‘ground realities’ fighting amongst themselves, this document is Roy’s attempt at producing an (her) authentic truth, so immersed in the charming details of revolutionary existence that everything else becomes secondary. If we were ever to perform an autopsy of our twentieth century’s ‘Communist’ pasts, ‘Walking with the Comrades’ would probably be as good a place to start as any. Continue reading Moonwalking with the Comrades: Anirban Gupta Nigam→
Arundhati Roy’s essay “Walking with the Comrades” is a powerful indictment of the Indian state and its brutality but its political drawbacks are screamingly obvious. Arundhati clearly believes that the Indian state is such a bastion of oppression and unrelieved brutality that there is no alternative to violent struggle or ‘protracted war’. In other words, democracy is a pure excrescence on a military apparatus that forms the true backbone of the Indian state. It is simply its ‘benign façade’. If all you had in India were forest communities and corporate predators, tribals and paramilitary forces, the government and the Maoists, her espousal of the Maoists might just cut ice. But where does the rest of India fit in? What categories do we have for them? Or are we seriously supposed to believe that the extraordinary tide of insurrection will wash over the messy landscapes of urban India and over the millions of disorganised workers in our countryside without the emergence of a powerful social agency, a broad alliance of salaried and wage-earning strata, that can contest the stranglehold of capitalism? Without mass organisations, battles for democracy, struggles for the radicalisation of culture, etc., etc.? Does any of this matter for her?
In the light of the recent demands raised by sections of the intelligentsia urging the government to heed the CPI (Maoist) “offer of talks”, we insist that “civil society” should rather, put pressure on the government to initiate talks with representatives of all struggling popular and adivasi organizations. The CPI (Maoist) cannot be treated as the sole spokesperson of all the people in the forest and mineral belt, convenient though this may be for the state and for that party. Does the government believe that violent insurgents are the only deserving interlocutors? Continue reading Appeal for talks with broader section of people’s struggles in the forest and mineral belt→
This guest post is an appeal circulated by Progressive Students Union (PSU) – Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) – about the state’s war on “Maoist violence” , adding to the growing criticism of the CPI(Maoist) that cannot be conveniently dismissed as pro-state or anti-Left.
As has already been declared all across the national media, the state has declared war on “Maoist violence” across the country and is about to unleash its might on some of the most neglected regions and people of this country. While the Maoists are the declared target of the State, it is needless to say that they have hardly any qualms about “breaking a few eggs to make an omlette”! The thousands of adivasis and civilians going to be caught in the crossfire would be portrayed by the media as an inevitable but necessary price to pay for the eradication of the Naxal ‘menace’. That may well be only less than half the story, because another reason for state operations in this area is the immense mineral wealth there which can not be passed on to Indian capital unless adivasis living there are displaced, and their survival systems completely destroyed. According to reports from Chhatisgarh, the state sponsored Salwa Judum has displaced more than three hundred and fifty thousand adivasis in the old Bastar area. Fifty thousand have moved to neighbouring states, another fifty thousand are living under the surveillance of para-military forces in state controlled camps, the remaining two hundred and fifty thousand have moved deeper into the jungle to escape the violence and pillage of Salwa Judum. While the adivasis of Central India have faced, and resisted state violence for long, the Central Home Ministry – under the leadership of the suave and genteel Home Minister and Prime Minister – has made plans for a larger offensive named ‘Operation Green Hunt’ (with the open possibility of aerial bombardment) to be launched in November this year. Progressive Students Union (PSU) condemns in the strongest terms these actions of the state which amounts to nothing but declaring war on its own citizens.
(An edited version of this piece appeared as the cover story in Himal Southasian in December 2007. The report is based on travels across Andhra to Bihar in October of the same year. At a time when most of the media is pushing the same binaries we must avoid, this may help in conveying the enormous complexity of the issue. Some facts may be outdated, and Kafila readers will be more familiar with certain issues like Salwa Judum than this reporter, but the broad argument may still have some relevance. I will follow this up with posts on the Nepali process and Indian Naxalites.)
A people’s movement. The greatest internal security challenge. Struggle for the rights of the poor, tribals, Dalits, landless. Compact Revolutionary Zone with influence in almost 200 districts. A socio economic problem rooted in exploitation and idealism. A law and order threat . True people’s democracy. A criminal, authoritarian and opportunistic outfit. The revolution will smash the Indian state. The Maoists are ants and can be crushed anytime .
Neat black and white portrayals have come to characterise one of the most complex stories of our times. The Naxal as the saviour and the state as the oppressor. The state as protector and Naxal as the villain. Numbers and scale of action act as the judge of Maoist spread and activity. 1608 incidents of Naxalite violence and 677 people killed in 2005; 1509 incidents and 678 killed in 2006; 249 persons killed till June 2007. Continue reading Complicating the ‘Naxalite’ debate→