Tag Archives: Maoists

What do the Maoists want?

The media has by and large focused on the Maoist demand of release of some of their own in exchange of the Malkangiri collector and junior engineer. The list of the total 8 of 14 demands of the Maoists that the Orissa government has agreed to makes for interesting reading:

(1) Orissa government will write to Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh to take action on the extremists demand for release of Maoist central committee members Sheela di (jailed in Jharkhand) and Padma (in Chhattisgarh) owing to their ill-health; (2) ST status for the Konda Reddy and Nukadora communities categorized as OBCs; (3) stopping the multi-purpose Polavaram project of Andhra Pradesh; (4) ‘pattas’ (record of rights) to tribals dispossessed of their land in Malkangiri and Koraput; (5) irrigation in Maribada and Maniamkonda villages in Malkangiri; (6) compensation based on HC order to Tadangi Gangulu and Ratanu Sirika who died of disease allegedly due to torture; (7) relevant laws for mining operations in Mali and Deomali bauxite mines; (8) minimum displacement of tribals and adequate compensation. [ToI]

A Case of Conscience: Shiv Viswanathan writes to Manmohan Singh on the conviction of Binayak Sen

This open letter by SHIV VISWANATHAN has been circulated by Communalism Combat

Dear Professor Manmohan Singh,

I hope you don’t mind the temerity of this letter. It is written as one scholar to another, one citizen to another. I know you are a PM and people like me may not be influential. However some things must be said and said clearly.

I was aghast to find that Doctor Binayak Sen has been given a life term for sedition. Let me put it simply. I think it is an appalling act of injustice and a betrayal of an ethical vision.  Continue reading A Case of Conscience: Shiv Viswanathan writes to Manmohan Singh on the conviction of Binayak Sen

Maoist dilemmas in Nepal

Exactly four years after a peace accord the end of Nepal’s civil war, the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) is going through a deep existential crisis. This was most starkly reflected in the separate political documents presented by chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’, senior vice-chairman Mohan Vaidya ‘Kiran’, and another vice-chairman and ideologue Dr Baburam Bhattarai at an extended party meeting in Palungtar of Gorkha district last week. Almost 6,000 delegates – including 1200 Maoist combatants from UN-monitored cantonments – reviewed the party’s achievements and failures after entering the peace process, and discussed the future ‘political line’ the party should adopt. Continue reading Maoist dilemmas in Nepal

Lucas Tete, Maoist violence and K Balagopal: Biswajit Roy

Guest post by BISWAJIT ROY

It’s a welcome development that Arundhati Roy, G N Saibaba, Mahasweta Devi, Sujato Bhadra and others have condemned the killing of Maoists’ POW and Bihar policeman Lucas Tete as reported by Bengal Post. The civil society personalities sympathetic to the Maoist cause and human rights groups in general are sometimes criticized correctly for being silent on brutalities by Maoists and other insurgents while opposing the atrocities by the security forces and private armed squads, in case of West Bengal, CPM’s armed cadres. The Maoist leadership’s response to the intellectuals’ criticism is still not known. But the condemnations seemed to have played a role in their decision to free the rest three policemen. In an earlier occasion in Bengal, senior Maoist leader Kisenji had succeeded in extracting a huge media mileage by using the captive officer-in-charge of Sankrail police station as a pawn to bargain with the state government.

It is another matter that the Maoists could not extract much from the government except bail for some tribal and non-tribal women undertrials who had been languishing in jails as Maoist sympathizers. But the high-profile drama over Kisenji’s on-camera vitriol against the Centre and state in full camera glare and the eventual release of the ‘POW’ police officer through the good office of media persons had definitely made Kisenji a household name in Bengal and allowed him to occupy the political center-stage.

Continue reading Lucas Tete, Maoist violence and K Balagopal: Biswajit Roy

The Azad Murder and the CPM: Biswajit Roy

Guest post by BISWAJIT ROY. Biswajit is a journalist based in Kolkata

The recent controversy over the Maoist top gun Cherukuri Rajkumar aka Azad’s killing by AP police has blurred the usual political division between the apostles of state security and human rights groups. P Chidambaram and AP police chief churned out the usual encounter death theory, but the Maoists and Mamata Banerjee as well as union home minister’s emissary to the rebels, Swami Agniwesh called it a cold-blooded murder and demanded judicial inquiry.

In the wake of Chidambaram’s refusal to ask Rosaiah government to go for a judicial probe, the Outlook investigation into Azad’s death and the forensic experts’ opinion on his post-mortem report only reinforced the suspicion about the fake encounter. While it is yet to be clear whether Azad will become Congress’s Sohrabuddin, CPM’s position on the issue is interesting if not unpredictable.

The CPM made a full-throated condemnation of the killing of Sohrabuddin and his wife by the Gujarat-Rajasthan cops and demanded punishment of Narendra Modi’s protégé and former state home minister Amit Shah for masterminding the murder. Also, the party general secretary Prakash Karat condemned the ‘brutal policing’ against the stone-pelting youth in the valley while counting the mounting toll of young lives during his recent visit to Srinagar. He demanded curbing of the ‘draconian’ provisions of Armed Forces Special Power Act which confer licence to kill while asking the Centre to ‘stop repression and start dialogue’.

But when it comes to Maoists, the Marxists heavyweights kept mum over Azad’s mysterious death – in the parliament and outside and virtually accepted the police version about his death. Pressed about the CPM’s stand on Azad death controversy, its leaders spoke with a forked tongue. The party central committee member and Bengal spokesman, Md Selim was evasive.
He said his party always wanted Centre to reveal ‘truth’ about all such deaths. But he stopped short of supporting the police version on Azad’s end arguing that they had ‘no information to counter the police claims’ or buttress the demand for judicial probe.

Continue reading The Azad Murder and the CPM: Biswajit Roy

Forest Areas, Political Economy and the “Left-Progressive Line” on Operation Green Hunt: Shankar Gopalakrishnan

Guest post by SHANKAR GOPALAKRISHNAN. This piece also appeared in Radical Notes earlier.
As central India’s forest belts are swept into an ever-intensifying state offensive and resulting civil war, there has been a strong convergence of left, liberal and progressive arguments on Operation Green Hunt. This note argues that this ‘basic line’ is problematic. The line can be summarised as: The conflict is rooted in resource grabbing by corporate capital, in the form of large projects, SEZs, mining, etc. Such resource grabbing leads people to take up arms to defend themselves, resulting in the ongoing conflict. The conflict thus consists of a state drive to grab people’s homes and resources, with people resisting by taking to arms as self-defence.
Supporters of the Maoists’ positions now often conflate these points with the more orthodox positions on the necessity for “protracted people’s war” in a ‘semi-feudal semi-colonial’ state. Liberals in turn tend to deny these orthodox positions and instead advocate the resource grab – displacement – corporate attack issue as the “real” explanation. Both, however, accept this as the predominant dynamic at the heart of the current conflict. But at the heart of this line lies an unstated question: why are forest areas the main battleground in this war? While the conflict is not coterminous with the forests – most of India’s forest areas are not part of this war, and the conflict extends outside the forest areas in some regions – forests are both politically and
geographically at its heart.

Mukram slips into a vortex of violence

Aimla Rame holds up a picture of her husband Aimla Nanda who disappeared after a police raid in Mukram. Photo: Aman Sethi/ The Hindu

Mukram: Rumours swirling around Mukram suggest that this adivasi village in Chhattisgarh’s Dantewada district may soon be abandoned. “There is talk of going to Orissa or Andhra [Pradesh],” said a prominent adivasi leader with familial ties to Mukram, “It could happen in as little as a week. Villagers say there is too much pressure from both, the Maoists and the Police.”
A mid-sized village of about 100 houses, Mukram shot to prominence as the site where an ill-fated company from the 62nd Battalion of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) rested on the night of April 5 this year.  At dawn on April 6, the company was ambushed by about 300 armed cadres of the Communist Party of India (Maoist), resulting in the death of 76 security force members.
In a statement released after the attacks, the CPI (Maoist) praised the efforts of Comrade Rukhmati, a Maoist commander and Mukram resident, who was killed in the ambush. On May 11, The Hindu reported the death of Kunjam Suklu, a Mukram resident who, his family members allege, was beaten to death by the CRPF in a fit of retaliatory rage.

The New ‘Bush’ Doctrine: Nirmalangshu Mukherjee

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.
Continue reading The New ‘Bush’ Doctrine: Nirmalangshu Mukherjee

On Maoist Regret

There is no room for doubt anymore that the landmine attack on a bus plying on the Dantewada-Sukhma road was planned and executed by the CPIM (Maoist). About 36 people have died, a majority of them civilians. This was not a mistake.The Maoists have said this was a calculated attack to target the Koya Commando wing of the SPOs. This means that the Maoists knew there were civilians on board. The Maoists have taken responsibility for the attack and in a statement to the press, Ramanna has said they “deeply regret the loss of civilian lives”. Continue reading On Maoist Regret

Welcome to a Leninist State

I have been thinking about the recent warning issued by the Home Secretary G.K.Pillai to Indian intellectuals, especially to those who are seen to be sympathetic to the Maoists. He says that they could be booked for their intellectual support to the dreaded enemy of the nation called Maoists.  I felt like thanking him. For once the government, rather the state seems to have taken notice of the importance of the breed called ‘intellectual’. They do matter! Their opinion is valued! The masses are influenced by them!!! They are heard!!! Continue reading Welcome to a Leninist State

The Maoist Killings Once Again

The news of  killing of more than 40 people travelling in a bus  blown by a blast in Dantewada is only a new chapter in the  book of brutalities that is  being scripted in Chhatisgarh and other parts of India in the name of ‘the People’. Six people were found slain in Rajnandgaon just a day before this blast. A day before that four villagers were killed in Bengal  because they were thought be close to the CPM and were labeled as informers. Two days before these killings in Bengal, two villagers who were Gram Rakhis were killed in Orissa. This list does not include the death of 6 Para Military persons in Chhatisgarh who were killed a land mine detonated by the Maoists in Chhatisgarh.

Are these operations  a response to the Operation Green hunt launched by the government? Or are they part of the Protracted  People’s War that is being carried out by the purest revolutionaries of our earth who do not waver and shiver at the sight of blood? Or, as some friends caution us  from rushing to any conclusion, as Shuddhabrata Sengupta has done, are they “ ‘ false flag operations’ conducted by some rogue elements of the state machinery” or directly endorsed by the state ? How are we to know who is the perpetrator of these crimes? Do we wait for a statement from the Maoists and if they deny their involvement, launch an investigation to find out the real culprit? It took nearly a month for the Maoists to officially own the attack which extinguished the lives of 76  CRPF men. The Maoist leadership congratulated the bravery of its combatants who had achieved the feat of eliminating a whole company of Indian para military force.
Continue reading The Maoist Killings Once Again

On Alleged Maoist Atrocities

While I have on several occasions expressed my disgust at the way in which the Government of India is conducting it’s ‘Operation Green Hunt’, I have to say that the news of the attacks by alleged Maoists in Chattisgarh, in which 6 villagers have been killed, and more recently a bus, with several civilians (and some special police officers)  has been bombed, is deeply disturbing.

It is a totally different matter from attacking men in uniform, (such as the CRPF jawans who were attacked not so long ago, resulting in 76 casualties). Though I do not support any war, including the Maoist initiated ‘Peoples War’ or for that matter, the Government of India’s ‘Operation Green Hunt’,  in any war, armed men in uniform in a combat zone are fair targets. The death of the 76 CRPF jawans, though regrettable, is not in any way different from the death of any guerrila soldiers in the PLGA in any combat operation. I refuse to be blackmailed into thinking of such an event as an evidence of Maoist ‘atrocities’.

Continue reading On Alleged Maoist Atrocities

Arms and the Maoists

Ramana's AKS series Kalashnikov Rifle. A variant of the AK-47, the 'S' references the 'Skladnoy' or 'folding' metallic shoulder stock. Photo: Ishan Tankha/Open Magazine
In 1988, Ravula Srinivas paid Rs 100,000 for a black-market AKS series Kalashnikov rifle with a light-wood finish and a folding metal shoulder stock.  On April 6 this year, the same rifle was pressed into service in an ambush that killed 75 members of the Central Reserve Paramilitary Force and one Head Constable of the Chhattisgarh police in Chhattisgarh’s Dantewada district.
In the intervening years, Ravula has grown from a young student from Warangal into Ramana, Secretary of the South Bastar Regional Committee of the CPI (Maoist) and chief architect of the April 6 attack; unchanged by the years, the rifle has never left his side.
On April 14, The Hindu was offered access to Maoist leaders Ramana and Ganesh Ueike. in the Jagargunda forests in Dantewada.  The visit offered a rare, though by no means comprehensive, insight into how the CPI (Maoist) sources, maintains and distributes weapons among its cadres.

The Rumour of Maoism

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

A Believer’s Obeisance: Soumitra Ghosh

SOUMITRA GHOSH is 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.

Continue reading A Believer’s Obeisance: Soumitra Ghosh

Response to Arundhati Roy: Jairus Banaji

This is a guest post by JAIRUS BANAJI

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?

Continue reading Response to Arundhati Roy: Jairus Banaji

The Plot thickens: more petitioners show up

The Gompad case gets murkier. Gachanpalli is another village mentioned in the same case I have been writing about for some time now. I visited the village this week to find a similar pattern where villagers vanish without really telling anyone where they are going and suddenly show up in the Supreme Court in New Delhi.
Given the matter is sub judice, I’ll refrain from any theorizing at this point.
a.
Gachanpalli: A frayed umbrella, a half filled bottle of cooking oil and two shopping bags stuffed with clothes constitute the unlikely tombstone that marks Kowasi Ganga’s grave.  “It’s the sum total of his worldly possessions,” says his grandson Kowasi Muye, “It’s a Muria tradition.”
Kowasi Ganga, 75, died on September 17 2009. Muye’s last memory of his grandfather is of Ganga dying dead outside their home.  He had been stabbed multiple times.

“Twenty million out of twenty-seven million Nepalis are with the Maoists”: Interview with Prachanda

(This interview of Pushpa Kamal Dahal by me appeared in the Nepali Times a few days ago, along with another report.)

A conversation with Maoist supremo Prachanda this week not only brought out the party’s new line, but also offered a glimpse into his analysis of current politics and future strategy.

The root of the problem, according to Prachanda, is that the 12-point understanding was ‘tactical’ for everyone who signed the agreement. “The other side felt they could get us into the mainstream and weaken us. We thought we could use the process to create a new mainstream, which would include political competition.” Neither side got what they wanted, entirely. This paradox has forced the parties to make a more fundamental strategic choice. “This was inevitable and we are now heading for a crisis climax.”

The army issue is key. Neither side feels it lost the war. Prachanda concedes that no one won the war in material terms, but believes the Maoists won the war politically. “It was the then Royal Nepalese Army’s mandate and goal to protect the monarchy and block a republic,” he says. “They failed, and the PLA played a big part in bringing about this change.” The way forward for these “recognised and legitimate” outfits, he says, is “sticking to the peace accord, democratising the army and professionalising the PLA.” Continue reading “Twenty million out of twenty-seven million Nepalis are with the Maoists”: Interview with Prachanda

Green Hunt: The Anatomy of An Operation

An operation is underway in Central India, but no one really knows what it is. Variously described as a media myth, a comprehensive hearts and minds strategy, and an all-out offensive by paramilitary forces and the state forces along the borders of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra, Operation Green Hunt has become a shoebox of news clippings, police reports, public demonstrations and armed encounters.

Depending on the definition, Green Hunt either began in July 2009, September 2009 or November 2009. Speaking off record, senior policemen confirmed that the intensification of “search and comb” operations in Chhattisgarh began as early as July last year. In September 2009 the press reported on the progress of “Operation Green Hunt”: a massive 3 day joint operation in which the central CoBRA force and state police battled Naxal forces in Dantewada. Continue reading Green Hunt: The Anatomy of An Operation

Maoist Martyrdom vs. State Barbarism: Satya Sagar

This is a Guest Post by SATYA SAGAR.

Satya Sagar is a writer, journalist and videomaker based in New Delhi. sagarnama at gmail dot com

Is Maoism in India really the only response to poverty and lack of development? Is an armed rebellion the only way to change the way the Indian State operates? Will such a movement lead to a better future for underprivileged people in this country? Are other forms of mass democratic struggles an alternative option at all?  These are the questions that haunted me as I sat through a public hearing on drought at Daltonganj in Jharkhand’s Palamu district late October this year. Questions that are not new and have been debated repeatedly within the various strands of the Indian left movement for several decades now, with no clear answers as yet.

While I mused, there was this young woman standing on the stage, slowly edging towards the mike, patiently waiting for her turn to speak. She need not have said anything at all. Her emaciated, frail frame, the harassed look on her face and the tears silently welling up in her sunken eyes had already conveyed to us this was another tale of unmitigated tragedy. Barely in her early twenties, she had been diagnosed with tuberculosis a few months ago. Her husband was already on his deathbed due to the same affliction as there was no public health center near her village. Treatment in town was obviously unaffordable. The drought raging in the district, reported to be the worst in over half a century, would end up wiping out her entire family she explained in a quiet, matter of fact tone.

As we sat there, the small ‘jury’ of three or four of us who had come from Delhi and Ranchi to listen to the woes of Palamu’s villagers felt much, much smaller. For her horror story was only one out of some 3000 similar ones of neglect, deprivation and outright desperation that tensely waited to be recalled that early winter afternoon.
Continue reading Maoist Martyrdom vs. State Barbarism: Satya Sagar

An encounter with Chhatradhar Mahato: Monobina Gupta

This guest post by MONOBINA GUPTA is the original of the article published in The Times of India today.

Monobina’s book on Left politics, Postcards from the Margins, is in press with Orient Blackswan, forthcoming in 2010.

The Delhi bound Rajdhani Express held up by supposed ‘Maoists’ for seven hours in West Medinipore had emblazoned on its body: Chhatradhar Mahato is a good man. He is not a criminal.

People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCPA) Chief Mahato was put behind bars in the aftermath of waves of violence lashing West Bengal post 2009 general election results. There was speculation that the PCPA was demanding Mahato’s release. Equally, there was curiosity about Mahato who till a couple of months ago, did not seem to fit the bill of a gun-toting Maoist, a cold-blooded executioner.

When I met Mahato in Lalgarh on the eve of general elections in March earlier this year, he spoke a democratic language far removed from guns and killings. On my arrival that day I found Lalgarh abuzz with news of police picking up three villagers supposedly Maoists, and a murdered PCPA activist.  Mahato was in the midst of an organizational meeting under a tree in Lalgarh’s sublime, verdant surroundings. A tall, lanky man, smartly dressed, with a pair of sunglasses to beat the piercing July sun he was sitting with his comrades putting inside envelopes hand-written notices for PCPA’s next public meeting. Brother of Sashadhar Mahato, a Maoist fugitive, Chhatradhar was catapulted to the PCPA leadership virtually overnight, following a brutal police attack on villagers in the aftermath of a Maoist plot targetting Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.
Mahato said he would talk to me after lunch. The PCPA was running a community kitchen inside a mud hut where activists had their meals – rice and vegetable curry. This was where I met Mahato relaxed, lying down on the refreshingly cold mud floor.

Continue reading An encounter with Chhatradhar Mahato: Monobina Gupta