If you have been following popular media, then you must by now be of the viewpoint that Naxalites are India’s largest growing menace; and you must be pitying the 60 plus people left dead in the Chhattisgarh massacre, thanks to the Naxalites. The truth, however, is not that simple. The Naxalite movement in India is growing; that’s a truth. They are a menace to the Centre; that’s a truth. But Naxalites a menace to India? Well, perhaps this is farthest from the truth. In cities where we lead a cushy life, Naxalites are far from a menace. In the interiors where they rule, they aren’t really considered a menace either. They rule the Indian villages and backward areas – well, that’s an understatement – they are the emperors of a third of Indian districts today. Yes, 200 out of the 600 odd districts in India are today under Naxalite rule. They rule there not because they are a menace. They rule there not just by force. They rule there because people in these places support them in a majority and believe in them; because the Naxalites are the brave armed revolutionaries in their lives who give them food, money and land snatched from the rich land owners and exploiters. Naxalites do kill when these rich protest; and at times are involved in atrocities as well . . . But on the whole, they are the only revolutionary group in this country at the centre of whose agenda are the poor and deprived. Their methods may involve violence, but then worldwide, all uprisings and revolutions have been violent. To the people against whom they fight, they are villains – terrorists if you may call them – but the people for whom they fight, they are the heroes.
And these Naxalites in India are there to stay and grow. Mark my words, the day is not far when they will rule a grand majority of India. These 200 districts will become 400 in no time, and inch towards more. No government in India will be able to stop their growth through police, Salva Judums (the Chhattisgarh version of State-backed armed forces of villagers and common men) or army. The police in this country have no loyalty for the Central leadership, and would too willingly hand over their arms to the Naxalites; police station after police station, at every given opportunity. For the police, their life is too precious, and many actually believe in the Naxals. On the other hand, the army will march on the streets while the Naxals fight from the jungles and places inaccessible by road. So even the army stands no chance as has been proven in the North-East. Yes, the army might succeed if it uses the aerial route to bomb and create an internal war throughout India. No government in India will ever be able to do so. That leaves us with the criminal experiment of forcing the common people to become SPOs – Special Police Officers – by giving them some pathetic basic training in arms, the way Salva Judum is doing. This method has failed miserably earlier in North-East and Kashmir and is sure to fail everywhere, including in Chhattisgarh.
More importantly, the method in itself is criminal in nature and leaves the people-soldiers with nowhere to go – like in Chhattisgarh where villages after villages have been emptied and people have been brought to camps where they are given one small windowless room per family to stay in. The connection is ironic! When the State finds its own police machinery ill-equipped and dying, they conjure up a scheme where, instead of the police officers, those are the villagers – very often child soldiers – who have to confront Naxalites during their attacks, and die. More pathetically, it’s a trap from which the villagers can’t come out. If they go back to their villages where they had their land etc., they will be alone and would be killed by Naxalites for having become members of Salva Judum. And if they stay, they will die in any case in a confrontation, or out of hunger itself – since in the camps, the government doesn’t even provide them with proper meals, and keeps them in near destitute conditions. In Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh itself (where the recent massacre took place), there are 20 Salva Judum camps with about 60,000 occupants living in utterly inhuman conditions, where they get food for about five days in a week, and the rest two days, go hungry. The camps, of course, have no toilets or bathrooms. And worse, they have to share the facilities with CRPF jawans (Naga battalion) who, after evening hours, get drunk and start inhuman torture on these people, women mainly. Rapes and abortions galore and the people have absolutely no voice. And on 15 March 2007, the Naxalites, who were looking for their chance to get back, attacked and left about 60 dead – more than two-thirds were these helpless people forcibly made to vacate their land and join this inhuman camp with the legal approval of the Centre and State. Were the police innocent? Well, it depends; if you call the bribe seeking, soul selling perpetrators of the State’s crime machinery ‘innocent’, that is. But yes, those members of Salva Judum were innocent victims of this criminal governance. And this is just one case, many more will follow soon while we condemn the Naxalites blindly.
Who then is to blame? Clearly our Prime Ministers and Finance Ministers of successive governments. Let’s take this year’s budget for example. For the ‘land loot schemes’ of the government – popularly known as the SEZs – there has been an allocation of Rs 90,000 crore. For various subsidies that have gone into the corporate kitty, there has been another Rs 2,35,000 crore (that is, a shamelessly gross Rs 3,25,000 crore for the minuscule top rich in India). Guess how much has been allocated then for unemployment eradication programmes that were to guarantee at least ‘100 days job’ per person if the government meant to remove unemployment seriously. Well, against a most urgent requirement of about Rs 2,25,000 crore, the allocation is a meagre Rs 11,000 crore. If the poor in a country are left to die out of hunger, curable diseases and poverty, Naxalites will rule. The only way to defeat them is for our governments to believe in fact in what the Naxalites are fighting for – food, health and employment. Till our governments allocate enough for such causes, many more Chhattisgarh carnages will happen; and unfortunately, I won’t be able to blame the Naxalites, or even call them terrorists.
It’s the State that is monstrous, and those are our Prime Ministers and Finance Ministers who have to realise the importance of working for the poor for the real future of India. Right now, they are instead busy giving thrust to crony capitalism – helping a few industrial houses acquire more and more land and public property. Chhattisgarh is no exception – while villages are being emptied, people are being uprooted and shifted to their Salva Judum death camps, with their mineral and iron-ore rich lands left behind being handed over to the Tatas and Mittals. And as long as India’s crony capitalism and heartless journey towards being a slave of the rich continues, long will live the Naxalite movement in India. Fortunately or unfortunately . . .
- 08 April 2007 |
- Arindam on Indian Politics