Sunday, October 25, 2009

No ifs or buts, defeat Maoist violence

Arundhati Roy writes seductively. Recently I picked up her new book, Listening to Grasshoppers, and I was mesmerized by her luminous prose but I disagreed profoundly with her conclusions. I was revolted, in particular, by her support for violence. She regards Naxalism as armed resistance against a sham democracy. I call it terrorism.

Roy thinks that India pretends to be a democracy in order to impress the world. I think our democracy is as real as my grandson’s thumb. Yes, it has many flaws but it is legitimate. We need to reform the police; speed up justice; make babus accountable; stop criminals from entering politics; etc.. Yet, this democracy has done a colossal amount of good. It has raised the prospects and self esteem of the lowest in our society and protected us from the great genocides of the 20th century. Gujarat, to its disgrace, may have killed 2000 people but Mao’s China killed more than 50 million, according to the Marxist historian, Eric Hobsbawm. One may be justified in taking up arms against a loathsome African or Latin American dictator but not against the Indian state.

Like many in the 1960s I was a Leftist and admired Charu Mazumdar who had founded the Naxalbari movement. Although I belonged to that idealistic middle class generation, I was not tempted to abandon all and join the Maoists. Perhaps, it was because I lived in sensible Bombay rather than Calcutta. The Naxalite movement died in the 1970s but it revived subsequently and today it operates in 200 districts across ten states and controls huge Indian territory. The Prime Minister thinks it is the greatest security threat to India, and I agree.

Soon after the Maoist leader, Kobad Ghandy, the police in Hazaribagh got another prize catch. On October 10th, they captured Ravi Sharma and his wife, B. Anuradha. Top level Naxalites, they hailed from Andhra but were running the Maoist movement in Bihar and Jharkhand for the past ten years. On their laptop the police found their strategy and their plans. Ravi Sharma is an agricultural scientist and a member of the Maoist Central Committee. As he was being led by the police to the court in Hazaribagh, Sharma told reporters that he did not regret killing thousands of people. “During a revolution,” he spoke honestly, “one does not care how many are killed; only the goal should be achieved.”

Ravi Sharma thus raised the old dilemma of means and ends. Vidura posed the same question in the Mahabharata when he justified sacrificing an individual for the sake of a village and a village for the sake of a nation. Vidura, like Sharma, judges an act to be dharmic if it produces good consequences for the greatest number of people. Yudhishthira, however, is concerned with means rather than ends. Having given his word to Dhritarashtra, he refuses to give in to Draupadi’s insistent demand that Pandavas raise an army and win back their kingdom which was stolen in a rigged game of dice. No matter how great the goal, Yudhishthira would not condone the Maoists’ use of violence.

I usually agree with Vidura but on this one I am with Yudhishthira. Marxists have never valued human life and have always found it easy to take the gun. Mao and Stalin easily justified killing millions for the sake of the revolution. They never understood that violence in the end brutalises both the oppressor and the victim. Neither should we let the Indian state get away by using wrong means for the sake of good ends. I agree with Arundhati Roy that the state should not get away with unlawful detention or killing people in custody. I applaud her and human rights activists for raising these issues.

The Naxalite movement has always found sympathy in our influential, leftish upper middle class. Like most people I was aghast at the beheading of police officer Francis Induwar on September 30 by the Maoists, and I expressed my horror to an elegantly dressed friend who was visiting me. She is with an NGO and has sentimental feelings for Maoists. She said, “Yes, it is wrong, but we need development as well as force to defeat Maoists.” I could not disagree with her, but I was appalled at the ease with which she dismissed the beheading. Mamata Banerji, the leader of Trinamool Congress, had the same response.

For once we have a home minister who understands the Maoist threat to our nation and is determined to act with courage. It is pathetic that he should be slowed by endless debate on development versus police action; or whether helicopters should fire on rebels and risk civilian casualties. We have talked for two decades. Enough is enough. No ifs or buts, you cannot negotiate with someone with a gun. Now is the time for action.
Gurcharan Das is the author of The Difficulty of Being Good: On the Subtle Art of Dharma


Kathan said...

Dear Guru Charan Das Ji!

From Last many day's a stack of book was lying in my cabinet. And from last month I took a decision to finish with those, one was “Son’s of Fortune”, Second “Two States”
And third “India Unbound”  .

So After finishing two courses of Fiction I have landed in an affair with you. Finished with Alexandra and Porus, Read your Vicks Branding Story and gradually moving with
Bazaar Power.

The book is fabulously written and a must read for the armatures like us, So I thank you by heart for this.

Now coming to the Article you have wrought here, I completely agree to your thinking, this is the first time when we are seeing a firm voice (Respectable Home Minister) against the odds and a sense of determination and this is the time when we should enhance his hands with our collective support.

What I feel “Abhi nahi to Kabhi Nahi”, No talks can/should happen under the shadows of Gun. And at this time a sense of hope can be seen in form of Chidamram’s. One more thing what you have wrote about Kolkata, Mumbai is also very true. I have heard about one Maoist uncle of my friend from North East who was not even having an Idea what actual India is until he came to Mumbai. And Results from his visit were too good as he decided to get settled here only, leaving his struggling past behind.

Well Keep on writing and Sir, Please If possible would look to have an appointment from you in future.

SAM said...

Dear Gurucharan Das ji,

Your point of view is quite true, that why should we, continue to suffer the atrocities of maoists, who have adhered to violence for there own selfish, unrealistic n communist vision. Also, it is time that they are totally annihilated, but where I differ from you is the MEANS.
Violence, if exterminated through violence, will never end. As one of the famous editorial writers, of Times of India, had written "Blood Never Sleeps". The extermination of maoists will be nothing but "Indian Tianenman Square", where we will be sacrificing our own countrymen, due to wrong guidance of few communistic worshippers.
Reading your book "Difficulty of being good - the subtle art of dharma" one realises that means is more important than consequences and to obtain peace and solution to any problem. Here the consequence you state, is definitely what every indian wants, but if the means is incorrect, then it will result in formation of an open wound, which will only result in more misery and inconclusive errors, which will leave this country spastic and naxlism wont end.
Reason : Naxalism is a passion based on ideology, so to kill naxalism we have to first kill the ideology.

Rather i suggest

A. The approach of the government, by offering and bringing as many Naxalites, who wandered off onto the wrong path, to civilian society, by offering land and other amenities is the right path. This will quell the initial spurt of fire, among those tribals who seem to be intent on joining the ever growing Naxalites.

B. Focus on the administrative and jurisdiction aspects of Naxal affected areas. Strengthen them so that people feel more secure with government rather than Naxals.

C. Form a commitee which comprises of the ex-naxalites, who have thrown their arms and returned, so that they might suggest the correct and appropriate steps that the government needs to and should take to avoid any more gullible people to fall into the traps of the naxalites.

As you can see in the comment by Kathan, his friend's uncle also left Maoist activities after he came to Mumbai.
Therefore the solution does not lie in extermination of naxalites. On the contrary, if the government does follow the steps i have suggested, truly and with enthusiasm, without any greed and hunger for votes, purely for the welfare of naxal affected zones, Naxalism can be annihilated in it's truest sense by bringing society, welfare and economy to them and annihilating the ideology of governing through use of arms.

Smaran Harihar

Anonymous said...

Strange logic indeed. Let's see, according to the UN, 5 thousands children under 5 years old die in India. That is 2 million a year; the latest when the data is available in 2007, 2.1 million, to be precise. Independence, or rather I would prefer to call the partition, that is 60 years, that makes a grand total of 60.2 = 120 million children alone, not counting the adults who died, died duo to neglect. Interesting elites living in the Taj Mahal, do they really care? Other than praising their splendid democracy in their mind. Come to think about it, at this very moment, they are probably just giving a nice kick on the butt of the 14 year old child servant in their household, for breaking a cheap glass, while cursing the barbarism of the Americans killing the natives in Afghanistan and the hypocrisy of the Western media for putting India in a bad light.

Unknown said...

gurcharanji, there is no justification for murder. the naxalites can keep insisting that beheadings and hacking people to death is "okay" in their struggle for "reform". but unless the other person is also armed to the teeth and is returning every attack with equal ferocity, it is simply murder. only cowards claim that ends justify the means. it is our national shame that we have a type of human that kills without any guilt and fear of consequences. the world only sees the bloodshed and violence: they have every right to heap scorn and contempt on our shameless heads.

Unknown said...

Thank you sir for your insightful thought. I am not a communist but I do believe that "Socialism is not evil" always. I lived both in P.R China, US and in India. I do not support Indian Naxalites but, I think, you are biased against the Chinese.What Indian democracy is doing for common people? Have you ever asked that question ? My father was murdered during an out break in Assam and after 20 years of running into the court my mother get the justice. It was a political murder. If China hangs the person who made serious crimes, then whats wrong with them? Do anybody have the guts to go into FBI and ask what they do with the criminals? Thousands of innocent people can be save later. Where is the democracy goes at that time? This is not only the story of my mother but thousands of people in India..People from the north east are treated as second class citizen and treated as a foreigner in our own country. Where is your ideal democracy? 3000 Children dies each day in India for malnutrition, what democracy means to their mother and their family? Just simply avoiding a major disaster in some part of the history would not make anyone strong or great. We are not moving ahead. Where is the freedom of speech gone when some political leaders in Maharashtra abuse the MLA for taking the oath in Hindi.Sir, I respect you but I am sorry, I disagree what you said. You talked about the dream of a democracy but never touched the reality. The system is all flawed, all politician are corrupted. Mao Ze dong might kill some people,but brought many more millions out of abstract poverty. You are wrong sir..Its the failure of the Indian democracy again not able to punish the criminals. I have lived in China for 6 years and it is still 50 years ahead of India. We only speak but they work. Thats going to make them a great nation in coming years.No system is evil but the people who run it are evils. Naxalites are not the biggest problem of India,but the biggest problem is, we don't compete with the world but among ourself.


shashi said...

Gurcharnaji, taking Vidur's statement out of context and taking it literally, leads one to compare the very wise Vidur with Naxalite Sharma or Mao and Stalin.

tyajet kulArthe puruSham grAmasyArthe kulam tyajet |
grAmam janapadasyArthe AtmArthe pRithivIm tyajet ||

त्यजेत् कुलार्थे पुरुषं ग्रामस्यार्थे कुलं त्यजेत् |
ग्रामं जनपदस्यार्थे आत्मार्थे पृथिवीं त्यजेत् || (Vidur Neeti 5-17. Mahabharat - Udyog Parva)

Vyas was one of the greatest minds of his time, and Vidur one of the wisest characters of his epic. So we must use caution before jumping to wrong conclusions from his words.

We have to read the ancient works in context of time, space, speaker, listener and intention. Without that patience it is very easy to misinterpret stand alone shloka found in many 'shloka collections'. When it is against our beliefs or understanding we have to try to give them the benefit of doubt, that at least maybe they were right in their time and space.

What Vidur is hinting to the emperor is to save his and the dynasty's good name and abandon ONE, the interests of ONE, i.e. Duryodhana. And for the sake of the country abandon the selfish and a-dharmic interests of the Kaurav family, 100 Kauravs, for if this war happens, it will lead to the destruction of the whole empire, many great warriors, administrators, wise men will die. This will not be in any one's interest. This is totally opposite to any genocidal leader being equated to.

For more on this shloka check out

inshy said...

i feel that you got arundhati roy wrong..she was'nt supporting the naxal violence..infact she is totally against it..she was just presenting their angle..she is just demanding as to what is being done to erase the inglorious past that produced the naxals..

i also agree with what soumitra says..
Indian democracy is just's not the hard reality..
This isnt coming from a pro-naxal guy or a leftist or any guy who suffered due to the system, it's coming from a student..

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Anonymous said...

If ALL political parties are part of government (even the opposition party is checks-and-balances for proper governance), then we see non-stop anti-state activities by those who are supposed to run the state: street violence, bandh, hartal, etc.

Do they not weaken the state?

Violence need not be physical: forcing a laborer to lose his daily bread even indirectly is violence.

In Mahabharata, we could see a "preferred" side in Pandavas. Here, thanks to TV exposure, we see the same kind of politics played by all parties. Unfortunately there is no "preferred party" here.

What is the difference between naxals who blow up a track and cadres who stop a train? Is it only the degree of violence?

If the state has to kill the deviants, we would to first decide WHICH deviant

Gujarat had a moment of shame. But it took years to build up. Just like the naxal areas, this too was due to state's apathy to a long-standing problem. All parties take turns to close Andhra; while the state is not making any commitments to address the core issue that triggered this mess: equitable resources to Telangana.

When does a group commit to democracy? When they are sure of equal treatment. If it is not given, there is a fall out. Bangladesh from Pakistan, for example.

The question still remains, where from is this resource coming, if all naxals are to be given food and shelter, even assuming that our pipeline does not have the customary 95% pilferage along the route?

Are we talking about social security (aka "dole") for everyone? Who is going to sponsor it?

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