‘Maoism’, State and the Communist Movement in India

Arindam Sen

Part IV

The fourth and concluding part of our discussion is followed by an account of our experience of engaging with the Maoists in various states.  

The UPA government is clearly preparing the ground for a full-scale intensification of Operation Green Hunt. To begin with, the government has embarked on a massive propagation of its new found doctrine of security which singles out Maoism as the biggest threat to national security. The government is also busy cobbling a grand political consensus around this doctrine and it has already achieved a good deal of success in this regard. If Narendra Modi is effusive in praising Chidambaram’s clarity and firmness, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee too clearly speaks the same language as Chidambaram. For the sake of political convenience, Shibu Soren and Nitish Kumar may have skipped the February 9 meeting in Kolkata with Chidambaram and Buddhadeb, but the governments of Jharkhand and Bihar are very much part of the growing centre-state coordination on this issue.
Whoever is not ready to join this ‘coalition of the willing’ or dares question the wisdom of this approach is being branded a Maoist sympathizer. Time and again Chidambaram has blamed intellectuals and the civil society, bracketing them all with Maoists. It is not just a case of branding; many are already being harassed, hounded out and persecuted in real life. The plight of Himanshu Kumar of Vanvasi Chetna Ashram of Bastar, a charkha-spinning practising Gandhian, whose Ashram in Chhattisgarh has been ransacked and razed to the ground, is a clear case in point. Fact-finding teams trying to make an independent assessment of the actual situation have all been debarred from visiting ‘conflict zones’ whether in Chhattisgarh or West Bengal. Meanwhile, the UAPA is being invoked on a daily basis to arrest people across the country and we already have the first case of custodial death under UAPA when journalist Swapan Dasgupta, a UAPA detainee in CPI(M)-ruled West Bengal, was left to die without timely and proper medical care. 
The Maoists too seem to have stepped up their retaliatory response. In a major attack on the Eastern Frontier Rifles, Maoists raided and destroyed an EFR camp at Shilda (170 kilometers southwest of Kolkata), killing at least 24 EFR jawans and looting whatever arms and ammunitions were available at the camp. In another typical incident, Maoists abducted the BDO of Dalbhumgarh in Jharkhand, held him hostage for six days before finally releasing him in lieu of assurances by the Jharkhand government of a possible release of some Maoist detainees. As often in the past, it is however not just the state but the people too who are finding themselves at the receiving end of Maoist actions. In a dastardly attack on Phulwaria-Korasi village in Jamui district in Bihar, Maoists recently killed at least 12 people, including 2 women and a child and injured at least 50 villagers, most of them adivasis.
In the midst of this stepped up state-Maoist confrontation, both sides are also talking of talks. From time to time Chidambaram has been repeating his rhetorical offer of ‘talks in 72 hours’ which he first made in the Rajya Sabha in last December. If only Maoists ‘abjured’ violence for 72 hours, the Centre would invite Maoists for talks and also facilitate talks between Maoists and concerned state governments, says Chidambaram. The Maoists, on their part, have let it be known that they were ready for talks if only the government would release some of their key leaders and call off the ongoing operation. The Maoists have reportedly made a recent overture for a ceasefire for 72 days and talks. It is quite obvious that for talks to materialise, there has to be a conducive atmosphere and that can only be possible if there is at least a moratorium from both sides, a cease-fire and an end to the ongoing witch-hunt. This is what is desired by the progressive democratic opinion and the CPI(ML) has been and will remain consistent in advocating such a course.
Sections of the ruling classes are however openly advocating a military solution. For them, human rights, constitutional provisions and democratic conventions are just ‘bogeys’ that must be ignored to push Operation Green Hunt to its logical conclusion. Many of them are citing Sri Lanka’s war against LTTE as a relevant example. Demands have been raised for army deployment and even for invoking Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act in all so-called “Maoist-affected’ areas. The Indian Air Force has already been pressed into service in some states even as the Government of India claims it has refrained from deploying the army. Ideologues, architects and managers of a hard state are all working overtime and the footfalls of another Emergency can be heard all around. Progressive democratic forces will have to meet this challenge by heightening their vigilance and resistance.
While resisting the Operation Green Hunt, progressive democratic forces must also question and reject the Maoists’ exclusive emphasis on armed actions. The neo-liberal policies and especially the corporate plunder of our precious natural and human resources have generated tremendous amount of mass resentment across the country. Whether it is the rural poor’s struggle for land, wages and survival or outburst of farmers’ anger against corporate acquisition of agricultural land or distress sale of agricultural produce, student unrest against commercialization and privatization of education or struggle of dalits, adivasis and women for dignity and equality, the demand for separate states or for withdrawal of draconian laws, the country is witnessing powerful mass struggles in almost all states. The Maoists have no policy of participating in or advancing these struggles except by armed means. When it comes to the political, especially electoral arena, Maoists have no independent agenda of intervention and everywhere they allow themselves to be used by dominant parties for the latter’s own electoral gains. And even in the Maoists’ own arena of armed actions, there are examples galore of killing of activists and leaders of contending political parties as well as common people (as in the most recent incident of Phulwaria massacre in Bihar), and attacks on buses and trains and railway stations and tracks which more than anything add to the misery of the masses.
Experience shows that no movement in India has succeeded in achieving its goals by such one-dimensional means and by negating the political process. Take the example of the armed nationality movements in the North-East. Far from challenging or curbing the political hegemony of the ruling classes, these armed forces find themselves helplessly trapped in the political design of the Indian state. In Sri Lanka the LTTE, in spite of its strong historical roots, massive military prowess and undeniable popular support, ultimately met with total defeat in the one-dimensional war it launched against the state.
Some people cite the experience of the Maoists in Nepal as an example of military strength turning into a political force in a favourable political situation and hope that the Maoists in India may achieve a similar feat. The contexts of Nepal and India are quite different. In Nepal the whole battle is for the establishment of a constitutional republic, a stage that India has long passed through. Even in Nepal, the process of transition from monarchy to a constitutional republic is proving to be quite tortuous and the Maoists are having to reassert their strength through renewed people’s struggles. However, the Maoists in India are not even prepared to learn from the experience of Nepal and they have already rejected the experiment of their Nepali comrades.
While not disregarding the ultimate role of force as the midwife of any fundamental or radical social change, the political nature and grammar of the struggle of contending classes in modern society must be recognized. To put an end to the political hegemony of the ruling classes, the working people must assert themselves as an alternative and independent political force – they must develop an alternative discourse of people’s power against the power and domination of capital. And this can be achieved only through wide-ranging initiatives and assertion of the people.  There can be no shortcuts, no bypasses.  Will the Indian Maoists ever realize this?

Today Left politics in India is poised for a new turn. The CPI(M)-led politics of ‘Marxist’ elitism and bourgeois respectability which revolves around compromise and capitulation vis-à-vis the ruling classes has all but collapsed on the soil of Bengal. Naturally, its projection on the all-India plane is also in for a serious crisis. The Left ground today can only be reclaimed through powerful struggles and initiatives in the democratic arena. For a resurgence of the Left we need a new realignment, a new model of fighting unity based on mass struggles. It remains to be seen how and to what extent this new situation is grasped, in theory and practice, by different Left trends in the country. And the future alone will tell us whether the Maoists too will come out of their orbit of one-dimensional theory and practice to reposition themselves as a constituent or participant in this new realignment of the Left.