Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Finally, the ban has come!

Finally, the ban has come! Whether it is politically motivated or driven by genuine security concerns is something that I am not bothered at all. The Naxalites, who regrouped with some other similar groups, and formed the CPI (Maoists) political outfit, have finally been banned. Officially, it is the Maoists who have been banned, but we all know them better as Naxalites, and hence I'd prefer using that word.

I was watching this interesting discussion on TV9 (interesting and TV9 seems a weird combination right ;-) ), and there was this guy who made a very interesting point. Mao started the movement to protect and fight for the rights of the majority number of people who are being oppressed by the minority who hold land/power etc. But today, Maoists have become the minority who are waging an armed battle against the majority! The Peoples War Group has now become similar to War against People group!

Sattires aside, I think that diluting the original idea, which was born under particular circumstances, and then justifying the means of violence to "achieve" that diuted goal is never acceptable in any civil society.

The Naxalite movement is the perfect example of how a movement can get diluted. When the villagers of Naxalbari in West Bengal led by Charu Majumdar started a struggle against land owners demanding justice, the aim was to secure justice to suppressed class. The movement was not a knee jerk reaction to a one off situation that arose in that village. It was the culmination of a strong undercurrent that gripped the peasants. The movement took a violent turn right at the beginning and it was difficult to have organized protests as such over large geographical areas. The result being that some 30 separate naxalite groups were formed over different states. Peoples War Group was the prominent group amongst them. With all the groups taking only the violent path for seeking justice, the Naxalite problem slowly transformed from a social problem into a law and order problem. Naxalites have often justified their violent methods by naming their struggle as "anti-violence", and not violence!

The Naxalites were in constant touch with people in remote villages. They used hard methods to terrorize them. During the initial days, they even won over the villagers through their social activities. In some instances, Naxalites convinced the villagers that they were their true messiahs and it is imperative that the villagers support them in this fight against the government. Once the villagers started co-operating with the Naxalites, it became difficult for the government to obtain information on their activities.

In the past decade or so, state goverments have begun to step up their counter attacks on Naxalites. Some people objected to the violent means, but then when the social structure upon which the movement was built no longer existed, the government had no other option but to resort to violence!

Madhya Pradesh government unofficially supports Salwa Judum, an "organisation" used for counter insurgency operations. Creating counter organisations like Salwa Judum is not just detrimental to the quelling of this movement, but also to the social progress and development of that region. Creating organisations and programmes that will address the root of the problem and eliminate the feeling of oppression in people will help in curbing this unwanted menace.

I am also of the opinion that The Naxalite problem should be viewed in the same angle with which it began – social problem. But when these groups freely use violence as the means to achieve their objective, there is only option – ban them, and then quell the uprising. And I think we have to follow a two pronged approach for this. One is to continue the empower the strong police force to eliminate the threat, and the second point being that we have to keep long term interests in mind and therefore it is important to win over the villagers and peasants so that they stop supporting the Naxalites too.

Interesting tidbit I came to know recently. The Pradhan Mantri Grameen Sadak Yojana ( Prime Minister's Rural Road Scheme ) has helped in improving the connectivity of villages to the towns/cities. And because of this connectivity, Naxalites, a.k.a Maoists, are finding it difficult to hold to their forte! Talk about indirect effects on a well meaning initiative!