It has been more than four decades since a bunch of agitators from a small village in West Bengal called Naxalbari decided to follow a violent form of what they called Maoist philosophy. The split within the Communist Party can be attributed to a certain section which decided that the fight for tribal rights is ultimately a fight against the state. What started as a minor movement in the northern parts of West Bengal consisting of roughly 1000 villagers armed with rudimentary bows and arrows has today developed into over 40000 Naxal “soldiers” equipped with guns and grenades spread across West Bengal, Jharkhand, Chattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar. Not only have the ranks and files of this movement swollen tremendously, the Naxals have found support from certain sections of the academic and political “elite”. Booker prize winner Arundhati Roy has been outspoken in her support for the so-called tribal warriors. Freedom of speech is one thing but where do we draw the line between opinions and treason? And more importantly, has enough been done to crush this movement which threatens the very fabric of the state?
Author Arundhati Roy proclaims her right to say what she wants because according to her she isn’t an Indian citizen at all. In Roy’s own words, she is a ”citizen of the world” (if such a thing exists). If being a citizen of the world allows you to make critical comments on sensitive matters of state and support an anti-establishment movement, then where do I sign up? I want my “world” passport now! For heaven’s sake, haven’t we had enough articles about the good folk of Dantewada? There are times when a difference between state and citizen occurs, but this does not sanction taking up arms. Armed rebellion against the state is basically treason and is usually regarded as an act of war. So why then do we have these so-called academic elite supporting this movement which has come to believe in nothing more than cold-blooded killing? Maybe its an attempt at grabbing the limelight or maybe a bid at solidifying their empathic bond with the common man. Whatever it might be, Arundhati Roy and her like were way off target. Fighting for tribal rights is one thing and killing innocent security personnel and civilians is another. However much these misguided academics might proclaim, the Naxals are definitely not the Gods of small things. And while we’ve seen a few too many photo-ops of Arundhati sitting in protest with the tribal rebels, this Naxal quarter of support is surprisingly mum in light of recent events. In an obvious act of desperation, the Naxals have now unleashed a non denominative killer wave, targetting security personnel and civilians alike. Evidence of this can be seen in the killing of 76 security personnel in an ambush in Dantewada and the bombing of a civilian bus. The recent train derailment which claimed the lives of many innocents is also attributed to the activities of the notorious Naxals.
The recent increase in violence along the “Red Corridor” brings me to the more important question. Is the government really doing enough to crush this movement? Well to any sane thinking individual the answer is NO! The reaction to the Naxal problem begins with the usual state vs. center blame game. To make things worse, the hub of Naxal activity is West Bengal, a state ruled by the Left. While the Congress tries to handle an already delicate situation with an estranged ally, current ally Mamata Banerjee could not make things more difficult. What really is appalling is the Union Railway Minister’s reaction to the train derailment. The sad reality of Indian politics is that every incident is an opportunity to gain political mileage. Banerjee obviously views a tragic train crash to be the perfect moment to launch a political attack against the CPI(M) and strengthen her position in the domestic politics of the state. Banerjee appears to be obsessed and possessed with one thing and one thing only- gaining power in her native state of West Bengal. Everything else is simply collateral. After West Bengal, the state with ever-increasing Naxal activity is Chattisgarh. This recently established state, to put it bluntly, is little more than cowboy country. This lack of development centered around the Bastar region can be attributed to both Naxal violence and the usual Indian reasons- corruption,lack of motivation etc etc. Considering that Chattisgarh has a BJP government makes coordination between center and state all the more impossible. Incidents involving the Naxals are viewed as a political battlefield rather than what they really are- a breakdown in the sovereign state machinery. According to me, the only way to combat the Naxals is to clearly demarcate the responsibilities and powers. A joint effort by the center and state is quite evidently useless. A policy of state control coupled with monitoring by the center might prove to be more effective than the current scramble for political mileage.
What I fail to understand is the reluctance on the part of the Congress to call in the Army. Poor Chidambaram is firstly tormented by the lack of consensus to deploy the army and then he’s slammed for being too honest. The primary mission of the army is to ensure national security and defense of the Republic of India. Additionally the Army is charged with maintaining peace and security withing national borders. A bunch of tribal hooligans running around blowing up buses and ambushing security personnel seems like a lack of national peace and security to me. It is understandable for the government to not involve the army in the early stages of such a conflict considering that the rebelling party comprises of citizens of India. But when all attempts at peace, including negotiations and involvement of the CRPF and IPS, have failed miserably and the Naxals continue to kill indiscriminately it is the responsibility of the government to take all necessary measures to get the situation under control. It seems quite simple to me-bomb the Naxals out of their forest cubby holes and send out a clear message to potential rebellions against the state, political consequences be damned,this is a matter of national security. I agree this is an over simplistic naive approach and if we lived in a such a perfect world, Naxals wouldn’t exist in the first place. But I strongly believe that the time for political maneuvering is over and its crucial that strong measures are taken to crush this ever-increasing Naxal menace. If the government doesn’t wake from its slumber immediately, New Delhi might soon be facing a Bangkok type seige-only this time the shirts will be red with human blood.
12th June, 2010.