[WSF-Discuss] More on Indian State's War on Maoist Insurgency

Sukla Sen sukla.sen at gmail.com
Fri Apr 23 11:20:39 CDT 2010


Heading For A Bloodbath
Both sides -- the Maoists and the State -- are waging a dirty war. Between
'the violence of the oppressed' and an often brutal state, a powerful
intervention spelling out a practical basis for a durable ceasefire remains
 ROHINI HENSMAN<http://www.outlookindia.com/peoplefnl.aspx?pid=7593&author=Rohini+Hensman>

To people desperately trying to avert a bloodbath in the forest belt, the
recent PUDR statement<http://www.pudr.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=219&Itemid=64>
the massacre of 76 CRPF jawans in Dantewada caused considerable
consternation, and Sumanta Banerjee’s
response<http://sanhati.com/articles/2259/> 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. But given
the Centre’s decision not to send in the Army and Air Force, thereby
implicitly recognising the conflict as a law and order problem rather than a
civil war, is this assumption correct? Shouldn’t democratic rights activists
examine the impact of escalating the conflict on the local civilian
population? After the attack, villages close to it emptied, as their
inhabitants fled fearing reprisals. This could have been foreseen. Is
provoking such ‘collateral damage’ justifiable? Moreover, the deaths of
rank-and-file combatants, all of whom come from the poorer strata of
society, are surely also of some concern to civil society groups?

In its other statements, PUDR accepts that even in a civil war the
combatants have to abide by the laws of war. Therefore it condemned the
beheading of Francis Induwar and the massacre of civilians by Maoists in
Jamui in February. By contrast, Banerjee assumes that all Maoist violence is
justifiable as the violence of the oppressed. Yet it is not clear that state
and Maoist violence are so different, apart from the larger scale of the
former. There are, of course, many examples of state security forces
carrying out encounter killings for every case like that of Induwar, and
massacres of civilians by security forces (as in Gompad) are also routine.
Even if it is true that a full-fledged war is going on, these are war
crimes. So is the recruitment of
which both sides are doing in Bastar. Transfer of population from their
villages to camps (which state forces have carried out in parts of
Chhattisgarh) is a war crime or crime against humanity, as is rape, which
has been used widely by the security forces in many states. Both sides are
waging a dirty war, if war is what it is.

Who started it? According to the Maoists and their supporters, their
violence is merely a response to state violence; according to Home Minister
P.Chidambaram, it was the Maoists who first declared war on the state. But
here, too, the situation is not as clearcut as either side would like to
present it. Spokesmen of the Maoist leadership (and they are always men) use
some degree of subterfuge in presenting their case. For example, in the
recent interview given by
 to *The Hindu*, he claimed that Lalgarh’s peaceful mass movement against
police atrocities turned into a revolutionary armed struggle due to brutal
suppression by the state. But this is a travesty of the truth. In fact, the
non-violent uprising organised by the People’s Committee against Police
Atrocities, a mass organisation including Maoists but not confined to them,
was* *undermined when the Maoists started beating and killing tribals who
failed to comply with their orders, and it was only when they sidelined the
PCPA and announced that they had taken over the area that the state
government, which had been kept at bay for seven months, moved
Furthermore, in the very same interview Azad said that ‘we want to achieve
whatever is possible for the betterment of people’s lives without
compromising on our political programme of new democratic revolution and
strategy of protracted people’s war’. This merely confirms, as other Maoists
have affirmed, that protracted people’s war to capture state power and carry
out a new democratic revolution has been the strategy from the beginning,
when the Naxalites began their struggles. So it appears that they were the
first to declare war.

Yet this view is also too simple, because it conflates the leadership of the
party and its tribal cadre. For the leaders, it is true, protracted war was
the strategy all along, it was not a matter of self-defence. But for the
bulk of the tribal cadre that joined it, taking up guns was a response to
experiences of horrific state violence, and motivated by self-defence and/or
revenge. There is a short-term overlap between their aim of fighting against
state oppression and the leadership’s aim of overthrowing the state, but the
longer-term goals diverge sharply. This comes out clearly in Santosh
account as well as the*Tehelka* interview with Gurucharan Kisku, alias
a former tribal Maoist area commander. Kisku described how

‘Instead of the existing *gram samitis* (village councils), the party
started creating alternative committees within the village consisting of
people who were either close to or members of the party. The party’s
declared objective was that all activity — social, cultural and economic —
would be controlled by these committees. However, the leadership is
non-tribal, and does not understand what it means to be Adivasi. The Adivasi
identity is based on our village life, language and customs. I felt that
this way, our culture was being destroyed.’

He felt the whole strategy was wrong from the standpoint of Adivasis, but
could not make his view prevail; indeed, ‘Whenever a tribal raises his voice
against the Maoists, he is killed,’ he complained. It is very likely that
the vast majority of tribal cadre, like Kisku, have no interest in capturing
state power to carry out a new democratic revolution. From their point of
view, it was the state that first declared war on them and pushed them into
the ranks of the Maoists.

The accounts by Rana and Kisku are valuable because they come from the
perspective of insiders. They make it clear that there is no semblance of
democracy in the areas controlled by the CPI (Maoist). All mass
organisations are dominated by the party, with independent organisations and
committees either being taken over or shut down. All dissent is crushed, if
necessary by killing the dissenter. There is no freedom of association or
expression, no room for alternative viewpoints or democratic debate, no
means by which the leaders can be changed or replaced. This is the
authoritarian vision that the party seeks to impose on its base areas in the
tribal belt in the first instance, and then extend to the whole of India;
the disconnect between precept and practice is even greater than that
between the Indian Constitution and its persistent violation by the state.
It is hard to see why anyone would choose this over India’s deeply flawed
but vibrant democracy, with its multiple parties and innumerable non-party
organisations, and differences of opinion at all levels (including within
the cabinet) being aired in public.

In terms of the party’s economic policy, this has been described in many
pronouncements, including that of General Secretary Ganapathy
a recent interview . The party is committed to bringing about a New
Democratic Revolution by a four-class bloc – workers, peasants, urban
petty-bourgeoisie and national bourgeoisie – against comprador bureaucratic
capitalism, feudalism and imperialism. These formulations are lifted from
Mao’s essay ‘On New
which was written in 1940, at a time when a large part of China was occupied
by Japan and the Western powers were jockeying for spheres of influence
(hence ‘semi-colonial’), capitalist industry was in its infancy and the
working class minuscule, and pre-capitalist relations dominated the
countryside (hence ‘semi-feudal’). It was basically a prescription for a
bourgeois revolution to be carried out by the four-class bloc under the
leadership of the Communist Party. Agrarian revolution was aimed at breaking
the power of feudal landlords and creating conditions for the development of
a rich peasantry, and all this was expected to result in a mixed economy.
Mao made it clear this was *not* a proletarian-socialist revolution. The
Chinese Revolution was that country’s equivalent of Indian independence,
carried out under different circumstances and by different means. Today, the
bourgeois revolutions in both China and India have been carried out, people
in both countries are struggling for democratic rights, and India is
arguably ahead, in that democracy is formally accepted as the principle of
governance even if it is repeatedly violated. For China in the 1940s New
Democracy was a revolutionary programme, but for India in 2010 it is
reactionary: for example, the ‘national bourgeoisie’ with which the CPI
(Maoist) is allied<http://www.ndtv.com/news/india/naxals-turn-mining-mafia-in-jharkhand-20387.php>
the most viciously exploitative, oppressive and environmentally destructive
capitalists to be found anywhere in the world

This doctrine of New Democracy has few takers, certainly not enough to wage
a protracted armed struggle. But the state governments in this region and
their police, along with the central government and its paramilitaries, are
guilty of acting as recruiting agents for the People’s Liberation Guerrilla
Army by their criminal neglect of the Adivasis in the forest belt resulting
in appalling levels of poverty, malnutrition, sickness and premature death,
by displacing and dispossessing these communities of even the meagre
resources left to them, by responding to non-violent resistance with
torture, rape and murder, and by branding non-violent tribal rights
activists as ‘Maoists’ and jailing or killing them. (Binayak Sen is the most
famous, but there are thousands of others, including some outside the forest
belt in states like Gujarat and Goa.) It is true that the central government
has passed progressive legislation – like the Forest Rights Act, NREGA and
the Right to Information Act – but there has not been anything like
sufficient effort to strengthen these laws and plug loopholes through which
corruption can enter, nor to ensure their implementation.

Although the bulk of resistance remains non-violent, it is not surprising
that a small minority of tribals have joined the Maoist armed struggle in
the belief that it will get them justice. But in doing so, they betray their
own cause. Unarmed civilians have no way of enforcing democratic control
over armed forces who claim to act in their interest, and all such armed
forces therefore become oppressors. Did the CPI (Maoist) consult villagers
in the vicinity before launching its attack on the CRPF in Dantewada? If the
majority of villagers had objected, would it have desisted? If the majority
had remained silent out of fear and only one or two had objected, what would
have happened to them? Why does it sound absurd even to ask these questions?
The unarmed communities in the forest belt of central India are trapped in
the crossfire of a ‘class war’ over which they have *no* control. And these
communities suffer most from every escalation of the violence.

Unless there is a powerful intervention that spells out a practical basis
for a durable ceasefire, we are almost certainly heading for a bloodbath.
The most urgent requirement is that both government and the Maoists should
declare a ceasefire which is unconditional on both sides, and then engage in
negotiations aimed at arriving at a more permanent compromise. Demands like
‘Abjure violence’ or ‘Withdraw security forces from Maoist base areas’
should be subjects of the negotiations, not preconditions for them. Just as
urgently, and regardless of whether or not there are talks between Maoists
and the government, the Centre should hold talks with all the numerous
independent mass organisations in the region. Their demands – ranging from
ration cards, health care, education, electricity and employment under NREGA
to halting displacement and dispossession,  implementing Panchayat
(Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act 1996 ( PESA) and the Forest Rights Act,
disclosing the terms of the MoUs between state governments and various
companies, and putting them on hold unless and until they obtain the consent
of the local population – should be taken seriously, and immediate steps
taken to implement them. There is no excuse for failing to do this, since
these demands are all compatible with the legal and constitutional rights of
adivasi communities.

*Rohini Hensman is a writer and researcher active in workers' rights,
women's rights, anti-communal and anti-war movements*

Maoists have killed 137 civilians in 2010
April 23, 2010 19:04 IST

 Maoists have killed 137 civilians since January, suspecting some as police
informers and others for failing to pay extortion money or for minor issues.

"The situation in Maoists-hit states continues to be a cause of grave
concern and the violence may go up in the coming days," an official said.

Those killed in the Maoist-hit states have been blamed for being police
informers or failing to pay extortion money.

In 2009, 591 civilians fell prey to the Naxals, while 317 security personnel
and 217 militants were also killed during the year in Maoist violence.

Maoists also have murdered 159 civilians between June and December 2009 in
West Midnapore district in West Bengal [

There are 33 districts in eight states, which are greatly affected by
Naxalism, apart from another 50 districts where the Maoists also have

The extremists extort money to the tune of Rs 1,400 crore annually as they
operate in mineral-rich areas where hundreds of industries are located, the
official said.
Due to fear of attacks and in return of security from the Maoists, many of
the industries, businessman, contractors and even some government officials
in the Maoist-affected territories give extortion money to them, the
official said.
Peace Is Doable
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