Guns no solution to Maoist problem
The Indian government is engaged in an operation to reclaim large parts of the country that have been under the sway of the Maoists. Thirteen out of 28 states in the country have seen the rise of the red star and concomitant violence, killings and subversion of the authority of the Indian State.
Interestingly, their influence has grown despite our well-established democracy and our track record of holding polls under a fiercely independent Election Commission. Evidently, something is not right about the outcome of these democratic exercises. The manner in which these areas are coming under the sway of these forces is ample evidence that our democracy is seriously flawed. For a host of reasons, it is not able to accommodate voices and aspirations of people in a manner that could summarily reject fascist tendencies and draw people in its democratic embrace.
Elections are not resulting in creating a government that is sensitive to the needs of the pauperised, marginalised and the hopeless. The red corridor or the area under the Maoists is inhabited by tribals and poor peasantry. They have been lending support to the Maoist ideology as they do not have any faith in the ability of the Indian State to end their exploitation and misery at the hands of mining mafias, forest contractors and their protectors in khaki. Elections have only cemented the status quo and allowed the corrupt to perpetuate their rule.
The mining mafia and the underworld have shanghaied people's mandate and foisted individuals that have pillaged resources and deprived ordinary people of their livelihood. Madhu Koda, former chief minister of the mineral-rich Jharkhand, is a case in point. Enforcement agencies are investigating his money-making enterprise that involved bilking funds from government programmes and using them to buy real estate and mines in Africa. Koda is an example of how people's representatives have engaged in anti-people activities and given thumbs up to policies that disenfranchise the poor.
The policy of the UPA government that created special economic zones (SEZs) without addressing livelihood issues is another example. Unregulated economic liberalisation that does not bother about ordinary people and allows the corporate fat cats to make whopping profits at their expense has given legitimacy to the Maoist struggle. Even the communist-controlled West Bengal has not been immune from such policies or radical Left reaction. Intellectuals like Mahasveta Devi, Sumit and Tanika Sarkar have opposed the CPM government on its handling of Singur and Nandigram - two places where the government's industrial policy went awry.
Surprisingly, the CPM leadership could not handle the incendiary fallout of the opposition of the local people to the coming of big industry. Does it show lack of credibility or failure of democratic politics in this country? This is a worrisome issue in a country like ours, which is distinct from neighbouring Pakistan or Sri Lanka where military has been used to clear up those opposed to the central rule.
While Sri Lanka was racked by long-standing ethnic differences, what is happening in Pakistan is in some ways similar to what is happening in India. In Pakistan, a religious ideology is trying to overthrow a democratically elected government that is generally seen as corrupt, inept and under the influence of the hated United States of America.
Challenge to State authority, if history is any guide, comes easy when the ruling class is blighted by corruption and it is oblivious to the misery of the masses. Decimation of democratic politics triggered by poor governance has always preceded the rise of Left or fascist forces. More than military operation against the Maoists, what Home Minister P Chidambaram needed to do was to call an all-party meeting to find ways and means to revive the political process in these parts.
Military action may be necessary to subjugate those who raise the banner of revolt against the State, but it should not become an excuse to clear a geographical corridor that is rich in minerals to facilitate unfettered access to the predatory mining companies. Much will depend on how the government balances this twin challenge.