Sunday, February 28, 2010

State Vs Naxals - Where does this end?

The closest that I have got to an inland extremist, naxalites or the Maoist is back in 2005 when traveling a few 100 km from Kolkata in the rural heartland of West Bengal our site installation team was stopped at a village road and asked to pay up taxes for passing on the road. There was no violence, in fact the octroi collectors or the traffic policemen in Mumbai are any day more rude when stopping a non MH registration vehicle in Mumbai. Those men there were normal  bangla speaking guys, dressed in pajamas & soiled shirts who would easily pass for an normal villager except for the two barrel guns hanging on their shoulders – a noticeable add-on to their attire that entitled them to run a parallel government and collect taxes on behalf of their “red” army.

Not that that one encounter made me any kind of expert on championing or opposing the cause of the “Maoist” but the one effect that it did have on me is that till day it makes me read and watch all the news pieces that I see of that clan. And every time I see the news of people killed by Maoists or Maoists killed by our armed forces the one though that crosses my mind is – Where does this end?

How I see it is that the Naxals or the more romantic term that they have coined – Maoists, are one of us and the whole struggle is of a few very poor people killing some who are less poor. I am divided on when P.Chidambaram says we cannot wage a war against our people – should we praise him on such a accommodating approach or remind him that the very presence of the Maoist and the cause they are pushing is a cruel testimony of the non-inclusive growth that our country has seen since 1947. In this country in the city where I live in I see if a queue of expensive cars that you cannot count, I see people spending 500 cr on a villa with a private hellipad, I see millions being lost without a blink on one horse race, I see political parties spending unaccounted crores on one visit of their leader and yet as a other extreme in the same country I also see countless farmers committing suicide coz they are too helpless to even feed their infants and I see countless poors being forced to take up guns to fight against being pushed to such similar suicidal fate. 

The first ones decide to kill themselves and hence our government sympathize on their death and send condolences & releifs to their families.  The latter ones prefer killing others than dying themselves and hence together we prefer calling them naxalites and are not disturbed on our own forces massacring them. Of course in this madness the naxals are not the only ones who die. 

Only last week the papers were flooded with Maoist attack in West Bengal, which killed 14/16/18/20/21 (no one, the morning after, seemed to be sure of the exact number) army jawans. What does it all finally boil down to? Does’nt it fit the very poor people killing somewhat less poor framework. The Jawan’s who died at the hands of the Maoists were no landlords. Many of them one may one suspects, were there not because they wanted to save the country, but because they wanted to earn a living … some sort of living. The Indian army is facing a crisis of officer-grade material—quite simply, not enough good people are interested—but there has never been a shortage of jawans; there are enough poor families in India whose sons are willing to put their lives on the line so their families can have two decent meals a day.

Some of the Jawans who died may have come from such lands which breeds the Naxals and may have been the only earning member of the family feeding many mouths. Where does this take the innocent, impecunious and starved children of such fathers? Are we not giving potential recruits to the extremists by waging such counteroffensive? Not that I support no actions against outlaws who select to take out innocent victims to forward their point. But it goes beyond what is visible upfront.

These Jawans I read were armed and had orders to kill. Whether Operation Green Hunt is officially on or not, ground-level war is in full swing. We get to know only of the Maoist attacks and the deaths of our policemen and soldiers, and hardly ever of the killings that our forces rack up. Would we be really surprised if we get to know that at least a dozen ‘Maoists’ are being killed every day. Some of them, inevitably, would be innocents. But how does a jumpy paramilitary man, in unknown and difficult terrain, fighting a guerilla force, distinguish between a harmless villager and a man out to put a bullet in him? Death in such a face off is certain, a moment’s hesitation on either side is what decides who will fall.

And if it is the death of an innocent, it only fortifies the Naxalite resolve; it brings in more helpless people into their fold.

All this is a vicious cycle that would never end unless we address the very reason why innocent men & women become vulnerable enough to be lured by a few to forward their hidden agendas covered behind the ideologies that give them a face. PC is right when he says that we cannot be waging a war against our own people but waiting for them to give up arms before we start talking to our mislead friends is no solution either. We are just stuck in a bottle neck with either side taking it on their ego to make the other one make the first move. What we need to highlight is that if a man has means to provide three meals to his family every day, he would have to be utterly foolish to give up his life upon being lured to do so. 

And one thing I know for sure it that the number of such insane fountainheads would be far less than the number of the destitute who walk down that path of death as their last resort.

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