B S Raghavan

Deal with Maoism as a social disease

B. S. RAGHAVAN | Updated on March 12, 2018 Published on May 28, 2013

The entire nation to a person feels shocked and outraged at the latest instance of horror perpetrated by the Maoists in Bastar district of Chhattisgarh State. It is natural and understandable that it has been condemned in the strongest possible words by all sections of the political spectrum, the society and the media. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has declared that the country will never bow down before Maoism and the Government will bring the perpetrators of the crime to justice “with urgency”.

In doing so, the Government’s response will undoubtedly be hamstrung by what Singh had been propounding from the inception of the UPA Government, namely, that Maoism is “the greatest threat to India’s security”. However, holding Maoist violence to be a purely security threat to be crushed by the might of the state runs counter to the findings of various studies undertaken by the Planning Commission of which he is the Chairperson.

For instance, in 2008, an Experts Group set up by the Commission went in great depth into the socio-economic conditions prevailing in Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Orissa and Jharkhand, and concluded that the problem of violence and terrorism should be understood in the proper development perspective and handled politically and administratively rather than by using brute police force.

It minced no words in stating: “(the) methods chosen by the government to deal with the Maoist phenomenon (have) increased the people’s distrust of the police and consequent unrest. Protest against police harassment is itself a major instance of unrest frequently leading to further violence by the police in the areas under Maoist influence.”

VICTIMS, NOT BENEFICIARIES

“The response of the Maoists has been to target the police and subject them to violence, which in effect triggers a second round of the spiral. The rights and entitlements of the people which give rise to the Maoist movement find expression in the Constitution, the laws enacted by various governments and the policy declarations. The administration should not have waited for the Maoist movement to remind it of its obligations towards the people in these matters.” “(The people) have no faith that justice will be done to them against the powerful… what is surprising is not the fact of unrest but the failure of the state to draw the right conclusions from it.”

A report prepared by B. Mungekar, Member, Planning Commission, also brought out the disturbing fact that between 1951 and 1990, 40 million people were displaced as a result of development projects and of these, 40 per cent were tribal people. Only 25 per cent of the displaced have so far been “rehabilitated”. No wonder, as K. Subrahmanyam, former DGP of Tripura, says in a recent article, the Maoist movement has found support among those sections of scheduled tribes who became victims rather than beneficiaries of development. Indeed, as early as in 1969, when I was Director, Political and Security Policy Planning in the Home Ministry, with tensions brewing in Naxalbari of Darjeeling district, which later gave rise to naxalism, I sounded a warning in my paper entitled ‘The Causes and Nature of Agrarian Tensions’ that the Green Revolution would turn red in the absence of agrarian reforms.

As has been acknowledged by both K. Subrahmanyam and F. Tomasson F. Jannuzi, former Dean of the Department of Economics, University of Texas at Austin, in their extensive writings on the genesis of naxalism, it was my report that first alerted the Government to the likely spread and intensity of social unrest of the naxalite kind due to the sufferings and hardships of the rural masses and the failure to meet their raised expectations of change in existing conditions in rural areas.

COLONIAL PRECEDENT

Maoism is a social disease and not a law and order problem to be tackled by amassing forces in the affected areas and making killing fields of them. If it were a mere law and order problem, it should have by now been brought to heel with the enormous additions to the number and capability of police and security forces resulting in the police budgets of the Union and State Governments vaulting a thousand-fold between 1967 and 2007. Instead, Maoism has been able to take the country by frequent and ugly surprise such as the mass massacre of May 25. Originating in a single police station in a single district in West Bengal, it has now reportedly spread to over 2,000 police stations, in 223 districts across 20 States.

Is it, as Subrahmanyam says, due to successive governments in India adhering to the colonial precedent of using violence to quell violence without remedying the root causes: Bad governance and the daily torments undergone by the poor, the disadvantaged and the unprivileged at the hands of cruel officialdom?

Or, is it just plain inability of the Government to communicate all the good things it has done and is doing to ameliorate the lot of the people? If it is the latter, it had better come out with a comprehensive White Paper on the various dimensions of the problem and the actions taken to find a solution.

Published on May 28, 2013
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