[WSF-Discuss] Fwd: State vs. Maoists in Dantewada: (Futile?) Search for An Alternative?

Sukla Sen sukla.sen at gmail.com
Thu Apr 22 02:49:51 CDT 2010

[The tragedy is sane and sober voices, almost a s a rule, find it difficult
to get a hearing.
Fascist shrieks or fairy tales always enjoy an edge in attracting

*State versus Maoists*

To answer that question, it is first necessary to look more closely at the
bloody battle being fought between the Indian state and the Maoists in the
deep, dense forests of  Dandakaranya. On the surface, the two are implacable
adversaries; but beneath the rhetoric, they are in total sync – on one
crucial point. Both want the world to believe that virtually all
adivasis living in the Maoists’ area of operations – are committed Maoists,
with implicit faith in an armed revolution. Both their interests are served
by reducing the complex, many-layered tragedy, unfolding in the jungles of
central and eastern India, to a battle between Good and Evil. Since
both parties believe they represent the forces of
Good, the Maoists as much as the State are able to justify the use of
violence, and shrug off all accompanying destruction and loss of lives as
inevitable. By taking the spotlight away from where it should shine most
brightly – on the adivasis – violence, both Maoist and by the State,
somehow becomes acceptable.

It allows the Maoists to spin the myth that they hold absolute sway over
vast tracts of land. It gives the civil administration an excuse not to
provide the adivasis living here educational, health and other facilities –
it is impossible, they say, till government forces “regain” control
of Maoist-held territories. For the Maoists, the people are subordinate to
the revolution; for the government, the people are a minor expendable detail
in the mineral rich territory they live in.


*Life in the War Zone*

For those who continue to live in the forests, life is very hard. Even as I
write, I received a phone call from the resident of a village I had stayed
in recently. Apparently, a truck carrying 200-odd quintals of
public distribution system (PDS) rice, plying between Dantewada town and the
village of Potali, was stopped at Aranpur by Central Reserve Police Force
(CRPF) men. The truck was forcibly emptied and turned back. Upset, the
adivasis waited for 31 March, a Wednesday. That is the day, when
local Marwari and Thakur traders – who, the villagers say, are hand in glove
with the CRPF/ administration and who have been contracted to transport PDS
grains – descend on Potali for the weekly haat (market) to purchase forest
produce. When they arrived on 31 March, the adivasis told them that if they
were going to be starved out, they did not want to sell their produce to
the traders. In protest, they set two trucks
on fire and broke a third vehicle.

*Narrowing of Choices*

Today, in Bastar, there is no mainstream political party willing to address
the aspirations of the adivasis, no organisation allowed to take up their
cause, no journalists permitted to function freely, no civil administration
prepared to take care of their basic needs, no justice system ready to
respond to the crimes being committed against them. And at election time,
the polling booths are located so far – as they were during the recent
panchayat polls – from their villages, that it is difficult to vote without
fear. So, what are the options before the adivasis?

It is this narrowing of choices that has forced the few “educated” adivasis
to look within for strength. In the few days and nights that I spent in a
village in Dantewada’s Kuakonda block at the end of January and in early
February, I was able to experience the sense of siege first hand. It was
there, sitting up late into the night with my hosts and their guests –
people from nearby villages also came there to talk to me – that I began to
understand the crisis better. They told me that they knew that the Maoists
could not solve their problems. They said they had lost faith in the local
administration which, they said, was in cahoots with their traditional
oppressors, wealthy Thakur and Marwari traders
and contractors. They were frightened of the SPOs and the Koya Commandos.
The CRPF men, they said, with rare exceptions were not humane. They
mentioned a CRPF
CO called Bruno. While he was posted in the area, the villagers told me, he
would visit them often, listen to their problems, take sick children to
hospital, explain why the Maoist ideology would not work for them – and,
most important, punish any policeman who had harassed them. “But then he was
posted out”, the government schoolteacher, who was my host, told me, “and
the harassment began again. To counter it, H (one of her fellow
villagers) became a sangham member and saved our village. We are very
grateful to him.”
What about non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and the civil rights
activists? “No, didi”, they said, “the government does not trust them; we
don’t know where their money comes from. It’s no use looking to them for
help.” In fact, so desperate is their condition that many of them, who had
once been acolytes of Himanshu Kumar, said they felt betrayed by him: “He
should have built a tribal leadership”, they told me.

So, who are they looking at for help? “There must be someone powerful in
Delhi, in the central government”, they said, “who can help us. We need the
civil administration back here. If the government wants to wait till they
finish the Maoists, we’ll all be dead.” Their sense is that if schools and
medical facilities are started in these areas, the Maoists will find it
hard to attack them, without losing whatever little support they have. Thus
far, the ashram schools which have been targeted by the Maoists have been
those where the
children have been sent home to make place for CRPF camps. And the Maoist
leaders I met in Dantewada all stressed that while they had no intention of
giving up violence, they would not attack functioning schools and medical
facilities. Which begs the question: why is the government not setting up
schools and medical facilities? The administration will tell you that no one
is prepared to work in a war zone – but these jobs can always be
incentivised (in the army, special allowances are given to those who accept
hardship postings). And while the people do want the SPOs to be removed,
they have no objection to the presence of paramilitary troops.

If the Maoists score over the state at all, it is only in one aspect, at
least in Dantewada, located in the heart of Chhattisgarh’s battle zone. The
Maoists here are regarded as relatively “more trustworthy” than the
representatives of the state, providing rough and ready justice in an
area where the government has only been seen as an oppressor. But this faith
in the armed rebels as more reliable guardians than state
police/paramilitary troops, my conversations with ordinary villagers
indicated, does not extend to their ideology or methods. And in that, I
believe, lies hope for a positive resolution of the tribal crisis – if the
government wants one.

[Excerpted from http://epw.in/epw/uploads/articles/14655.pdf.]
Peace Is Doable

Peace Is Doable
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