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Open Letter to Noam Chomsky: Nirmalangshu Mukherjee

October 21, 2009

[We publish below an open letter to Noam Chomsky, written in the wake of his endorsement of a statement against ‘Operation Green Hunt’, issued recently by a large number of intellectuals in India and in the US. Nirmalangshu’s letter is important because it raises some very serious questions that are being brushed under the carpet by sections of the radical intelligentsia.  Unlike Nirmalangshu, I would not put ‘radical’ within scare quotes, since it is precisely this that highlights the immense tragedy of our times. Radical intellectuals – truly radical intellectuals – once again find themselves caught in this situation where in order to oppose state violence, they will wilfully turn a blind eye to the violence of armed nihilist gangs, simply because these claim to speak on behalf of the oppressed – a claim that Nirmalangshu’s letter exposes in all its falsity. He lays bare how the politics that goes by the name of ‘Maoism’ (i.e. CPI-Maoist) believes in violently erasing all other voices of opposition to and criticism of the state, but that of itself. This brand of politics in fact lives in symbiosis with the state – delegitimizing all forms of mass democratic politics. At this moment one deeply misses the courageous voice of the late Balagopal – recently slightingly dubbed a ‘liberal humanist’ by a spokesperson of the Maoists, at a meeting meant to salute his memory. I cannot help recalling here the feeling of immense sadness many of us were overcome by, watching and hearing speakers at this meeting (in Delhi) for Balagopal – speakers who were ungenerous, if not carping and outright dismissive of the courage of conviction that was Balagopal. AN]

Dear Prof. Chomsky,

I saw your support to the statement issued by Sanhati in the form of a letter to the prime minister— endorsed by some intellectuals from India and abroad. Three points are transparent: (a) the Indian government is planning a massive armed operation in the tribal-hilly areas in the eastern part of the country, (b) the poorest of the poor and the historically marginalised will suffer the most in terms of loss of lives, livelihood and habitat, and (c) for whatever it’s worth, an all-out campaign by democratic forces is needed to resist the armed invasion of people’s habitat by any party. To that extent, the statement does bring out the urgency of the matter.

What is not so transparent from the statement is the condition that has brought about this state of affairs. It is said that large-scale neo-liberal policies—including formation of SEZs and encroachment of tribal habitats for mining and other forms of exploitation—has led to mass impoverishment. So, in desperation, the poor have allegedly taken up arms to defend themselves.

This picture is wrong in (i) ascribing the so-called armed struggle to the people, and (ii) being silent about the ‘specific’ source of the current aggression by the state, namely, the armed operations of CPI (Maoist). The statement is otherwise right about the ‘general’ situation: sinister neo-liberal policies, growing impoverishment and marginalisation of the poor, and the resulting anger thereof.

Hundreds of organisations working at the grass roots level across the country are engaged in a variety of struggles against state repression and the insidious economic policies of the government. This includes many Gandhian, liberal and leftist organisations and individuals. Importantly, some of these—such as the organisations led by veteran activists Kanu Sanyal and Asim Chatterjee, among many others in Bengal, Andhra, Bihar, Orissa and elsewhere—also subscribe to maoism and are known initiators of the original naxalbari movement. Thus, the labels ‘maoist’ and ‘naxalite’ apply to a much wider category of organisations and individuals than the CPI (Maoist). Needless to say, even the wider category of maoists, not to mention just the CPI (Maoist), forms a tiny fraction of the broad democratic resistance to the policies of the state. The current armed operations of the state are directed ostensibly against the CPI (Maoist) in the areas under its control.

The state of course makes no such distinction in public; by identifying the wider category with the narrower one, it is constructing the opportunity to target the entire left-democratic fraternity in due course. To put the point differently, although the undeclared target of the state covers the entirety of left-democratic forces—as evidenced, for example, in the growing attacks on industrial workers especially in the private sector—the declared target currently consists of CPI (Maoist) and its area of control. The significance of this specificity is wholly missing from the statement you endorsed.

The identification of CPI (Maoist) with the entire resistance movement suits CPI (Maoist) as well. Its Supreme Commander recently declared from his hideout from a guerrilla-controlled area: ‘People, who are the makers of history, will rise up like a tornado under “our party’s leadership” to wipe out the reactionary blood-sucking vampires ruling our country … our party’s influence has grown stronger and “it” has now come to be recognised as the only genuine alternative before the people.’ (Open magazine). We will evaluate the factual content of this declaration below.

For now, it is interesting to note the character of the propaganda: somehow the propagandist interests of CPI (Maoist), the state, and the corporate media suitably converge. The Supreme Commander’s claim is grimly endorsed by the prime and the home ministers of India; according to them, the ‘naxalite menace’ is the greatest threat to internal security. It is also endorsed by the corporate media: the ‘menace’ is said to have spread in 15 of about 25 states, and in 180 of about 500 districts of the country—the numbers accelerating each month to encourage the prospect of a ‘civil war’ soon across the country. The Central government frequently convenes high-profile meetings of chief ministers, secretaries, and police chiefs of the country to meet the challenges posed by the menace. Cutting-edge special forces, carved out of the paramilitary forces, are being constructed and deployed in ‘naxal-infested’ areas. In recent months, even the army and the air force are beginning to enter into the picture. Naxalite actions—widespread arson, mass killings, and the ability to take on the security forces—are prominently reported in the corporate media with ill-concealed awe. This strand of the naxalite movement never had it so big in its close to 40 years of existence in hideouts in remote jungles.

As for the factual content of this dramatic story, I will briefly record some facts that do not find a place in the three-pronged propaganda.

- CPI (Maoist) is a comparatively new organisation formed in 2004 when two naxalite factions Maoist Coordination Committee (MCC) and People’s War Group (PWG)—located primarily in some tribal-inhabited jungle areas in Bihar and Andhra Pradesh respectively—decided to join hands after fighting a bloody war for area-control among themselves for close to two decades. By 2006, CPI (Maoist) was almost completely wiped out from Andhra after their presence there for close to forty years. They also lost major areas in Bihar. The organisation has basically shifted to two of the most backward, tiny, and newly-formed states of Jharkhand and Chatthisgarh. As noted, even there, their presence is basically centered in the areas of dense forest and adjacent tribal-dominated villages, especially in the Bastar district. Ostensibly, as the jungles extend from their headquarters, they have also developed some hideouts and some armed squads to create enough violence to mark their ‘presence’ in West Bengal, Orissa, and elsewhere. To sum, they have essentially failed to emerge out of portions of jungles of eastern India after over four decades of campaign for this particular strand of ‘Marxism-Leninism-Maoism’.

- The organisation has no presence whatsoever in the vast agrarian and industrial terrains of the rest of the country. It has no trade union, no peasant organisation worth its name, no penetration in the dalit, youth, and women’s movements. But it seems to have captured the imagination of sections of elite, urban, and ‘radical’ intelligentsia in Calcutta and Delhi who have impressive connections with some Indian intellectuals settled in universities abroad, as the statement you endorsed highlights (earlier, this intellectual support used to come from Bombay and Hyderabad). The phenomenon is historically familiar.

- ‘The only genuine alternative before the people’ is viewed as a terrorist organisation by none other than Kanu Sanyal and many other active maoists, not to speak of broad spectrums of left parties and organisations most of whom do not find a representation in the statement. The basic reason why Sanyal calls CPI (Maoist) ‘terrorists’ is as follows.

Ever since its inception in 1969, this brand of maoism rejected all classical forms of mass struggle and adopted the sinister doctrine of individual annihilation of ‘class enemies’. ‘Class enemies’ typically consisted of hapless, poorly armed police constables, petty landlords and traders, and an assorted category of ‘informers and traitors’. Most notably, the category of ‘class enemies’ also included grass-root cadres—not their leaders—of the parliamentary left. In the states of West Bengal and Andhra, where this campaign originated, the parliamentary left was typically the only organisation present at the grass root. The annihilation of these ‘class enemies’—typically, middle peasants, school teachers, party wholetimers, etc—effectively meant capturing of areas, by means of guns and knives, already under the left. To that end, the squads first targetted their own maoist fraternity who refused to subscribe to their murderous politics. After the ‘renegades’ were silenced, the next target was cadres of CPI(M), CPI, etc.

This ‘red terror’ basically led to the dismantling of democratic movements in the erstwhile red bastions. In West Bengal, a neo-fascist regime of the Congress Party won the elections handsomely and watched the mutual killings of the left with glee. Once the task was accomplished, the government turned on the maoists and the remaining left and white terror ruled West Bengal for five years. During the nightmare, all forms of democratic movements virtually disappeared from the state as lumpen youth accompanied by paramilitary forces roamed the streets.

In time, almost all of the initiators of this campaign realised their grave mistakes and those who survived encounters, long imprisonment, and psychological collapse, returned to classical mass lines in a variety of forms, including participation in the elections. However, a fragment continued the murderous politics in the jungles of Andhra and Bihar in the form of two organisations MCC and PWG, later unifying into CPI (Maoist), as noted.

Two recent—and contrasting—events in the neighbourhood throw significant light on the consequences of this brand of politics. In Sri Lanka, a vast freedom movement of Tamil nationalism arose about three decades ago. As the movement became progressively militant, it gave rise to a formidable militarist organisation: Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE). LTTE declared armed struggle, systematically eliminated all other groups advocating Tamil liberation, took to the jungles, and launched a civil war.

There were several rounds of ‘negotiations’ between the government and the LTTE, often with international effort. LTTE refused to give up arms and join the democratic process; thus, it used each pause in the hostilities to consolidate its forces. After over twenty years of bloody war with Sri Lankan security forces, resulting in incalculable suffering of Tamil people, the LTTE was recently wiped out from Sri Lanka. The calamity facilitated the emergence of a neo-fascist regime in Colombo; it also left behind nearly a million hapless Tamil refugees at the mercy of this government. With all moderate forces from both the sides eliminated from the scene, the Tamil freedom movement is now faced with a historical setback after over hundred thousand deaths.

The Supreme Commander (cited above), whose organisation was trained in guerrilla warfare by former commandos of LTTE, agrees with the consequences: ‘There is no doubt that the movement for a separate sovereign Tamil Eelam has suffered a severe setback with the defeat and considerable decimation of the LTTE. The Tamil people and the national liberation forces are now leaderless.’ But he puts the blame elsewhere: ‘The jingoistic rallies and celebrations organised by the government and Sinhala chauvinist parties all over Sri Lanka in the wake of Prabhakaran’s death and the defeat of the LTTE show the national hatred for Tamils nurtured by Sinhala organisations and the extent to which the minds of ordinary Sinhalese are poisoned with such chauvinist frenzy.’ Nonetheless, he hopes that ‘the ground remains fertile for the resurgence of the Tamil liberation struggle. Even if it takes time, the war for a separate Tamil Eelam is certain to revive, taking lessons from the defeat of the LTTE.’ Although he is prepared to learn—perhaps, tactical—‘lessons’, he does not seem to have any problems with the militarist, sectarian, and exclusivist politics of the LTTE.

In sharp contrast, the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) (CPN(M)) also launched a civil war against a ruthless feudal monarchy protected by the Royal Nepalese Army after all democratic methods failed. The war lasted nearly a decade with the CPN(M)-directed People’s Liberation Army dominating vast terrains of the country with massive popular support. The basic point to note is that what CPN(M) strove for during the armed struggle—republic, constituent assembly, supremacy of the parliament created by universal franchise, etc.—India already has. Once that was achieved in Nepal, a genuine armed struggle—far far superior than anything Indian ‘maoists’ have ever envisaged—was immediately brought to a halt. CPN (M) proved its point by winning over 40% of the seats in the interim parliament after the republic was established. With this mandate in hand, innovative, peaceful but militant processes were then adopted to broaden the democratic base even in a context in which the possibility of a counter-revolution orchestrated by the ousted monarch, the army and the ruling elites of India loomed large.

The current impasse in Nepal is about the supremacy of the parliament over the army. As the leader of CPN(M) Prachanda points out, the democratic movement is at a crossroads due to this seminal conflict. Indian republicanism addressed and solved that problem 60 years ago.

During the war, PWG—followed by CPI (Maoist)—maintained close contact  with CPN(M). But after the CPN(M) joined—in fact, established—the democratic process in Nepal, the CPI (Maoist) does not find any lessons to be learned. This time the blame is on CPN(M). As the Supreme Commander puts it: ‘It is indeed a great tragedy that the CPN(M) has chosen to abandon the path of protracted people’s war and pursue a parliamentary path in spite of having de facto power in most of the countryside.’ In a letter to CPN(M), CPI (Maoist) ‘advised’ the former not to give up armed struggle until the ‘old order’ is smashed and the CPN (M) is able to seize power all by itself to usher in ‘new democratic revolution’. However, the Supreme Commander remains optimistic since ‘given the great revolutionary traditions of the CPN(M), we hope that the inner-party struggle will repudiate the right opportunist line pursued by its leadership, give up revisionist stands and practices, and apply minds creatively to the concrete conditions of Nepal.’ So, the statesman-like leadership of Prachanda is ‘revisionist’.

Beyond the bluster, it is not difficult to discern that, no matter what, the CPI (Maoist) is not prepared to give up its fatal policies. They are not open to any debates, no one can enter their ‘liberated zones’ without unconditional support to their line. Like Prabhakaran and his LTTE, having meticulously secured hideouts for themselves in ‘impregnable’ dense forests protected by squads armed with sophisticated weapons, they are prepared to carry on ‘protracted war’ for many years before their inevitable decimation. In the process, not only will the tribals under their control suffer immensely, it will give the growingly authoritarian state a golden opportunity to smash whatever avenues of hard-won democratic resistance still remain in place.

As noted, the CPI (Maoist) has exactly two channels of ‘popular’ support: the tribals they control and a section of ‘radical’, urban intelligentsia. It is the support of the latter that gives the CPI (Maoist) significant propaganda mileage and a false impression of invincibility and popular support. By posing the current military preparations of the state only as a state vs. people conflict, the statement you endorsed effectively exonerates the CPI (Maoist) and plays into their hands.

Sincerely

Nirmalangshu Mukherji
Department of Philosopy
University of Delhi

101 Comments leave one →
  1. miao permalink
    October 21, 2009 2:26 PM

    Brilliant! Thanks a lot for this letter.

    • abhijit mazumdar permalink
      October 24, 2009 6:08 PM

      while grossly agreeing with nirmalengshu’s critique of Maoists vis-a-vis state terrorism, i believe that the the arguments posited thereof needs some more fine tuning.

      1) I disagree with the author of the letter that during the 60’s the naxalites unilaterally ambushed their leftist collegues in CPM,CPI etc. it would definitely be a travesty of truth if someone fails to recall the field roles of so called brethren joining hands with congress goons in mass scale massacres in Kashipur, Baranagar , Konnagarh etc. And also the “ideological support’ supplied to it by Jyoti,Pramod et al.21st century Cong-CPM brotherhood within & without parliament is a convincing enuf proof of such a long camaraderie between the ‘feuding’ partners of plunder.

      2) Neither Kanu sanyal nor Ashim chaterjee represents the true spirit of revolutionary left in india. they had long before capitulated to CPM designs and betrayed the mass in their own ways.

      3) while legitimising state terror the maoists must not be singled out. Indian state under manmohan-chidambaram-montek variety has ushered in a unique brand of loot and repression in several states of our country. Indian democracy speaks of ‘development’ that has a clear ring of genocide, so briliantly put forward by Arundhati Roy in her latest book’ Listening to Grashoppers’. Before becoming the finance minister under rajiv gandhi in early 1990s , chidambaram served the tainted plunderer ENRON as being the ‘Devil’s Advocate”. he has been a member of the board of directors of Vedanta, a multinational mining company devastating Niyamgiri hills in orissa. maoists or no maoists such bland variety of ‘Nayebs of capitalist plunder’ would have adopted the severest state terror against any voice of resistance anywhere. His turbaned dada has also warned the citizens , one and all, that he won’t tolerate even a little bit of people’s resistance against the corporate miners, deshi or foreign.

      simultaneously , i would very humbly add that maoists represent the blackblockist anarcho-militarist shade of revolutionary left in india. and their indiscriminate killing spree definitely harms the bourgeoning power of mass resistance , spreading across the country.

    • dask permalink
      October 26, 2009 6:48 PM

      “blackblockist anarcho-militarist” what does it mean ? please stop throwing jargons.

  2. October 21, 2009 4:04 PM

    After a long time, I can find someone projecting the “correct” state of affairs, apart from jingoism… Communists always wanted to and still want to hav a unchallenged authority over the country and ca go to to any extreme to acheive it…But, with the growing liberalization they are fast loosing support from the rural masses who are now tasting the fruits of an open economy…and this may b a reason of their increasing frustration resulting in the increasing violence…Old Hindi Proverb “Jab geedad(Jackal) ki maut aati hai, to wo sehar ki tarf bhagta hai”

  3. Aditya Nigam permalink*
    October 21, 2009 4:17 PM

    Shivpriye,
    It is evident from Nirmalanghsu’s letter that he is making a critique of one specific current of ‘Left’ or ‘communist’ politics and not of communist politics in general. As a matter of fact, despite sharp disagreements among them, most communist parties and groups – including Naxalite groups – oppose the politics of the Maoists. And you are wrong to assume that with growing liberalization ‘they’ are fast losing ground. If anything, on the contrary, it is two decades of rampant liberalization and corporate loot of our natural resources that has made Maoist violence an attractive proposition to the most destitute sections in the countryside. However much we criticize the Maoists – and we need to do so vigorously – we cannot remain blind to the fact that it is the state’s war on its own people – in the service of capital – that has given new life to this kind of politics.

  4. Naveen permalink
    October 21, 2009 4:45 PM

    Brilliant letter. It shows that the revolutionary method to be adopted in the Indian context is the Nepali model and not the LTTE model. Congrats Mr. Nirmalangshu Mukherji

  5. October 21, 2009 6:03 PM

    Excellent and courageous letter. We need more critical voices like Nirmalangshu Mukherji’s to call the bluff, both of the militarism of the state and the deeply authoritarian and violent vision of the Maoists. No, this is not a call to heed some kind of anodyne Gandhianism, or even a voluntarist ngo style, populist politics, but the expression of the desire for a cogent, sharp, critical and democratic left politics.

  6. radical permalink
    October 21, 2009 6:24 PM

    kafila has been true to its color. congratulations !

  7. Ajoy Bose permalink
    October 21, 2009 6:35 PM

    Very important points raised in the letter but I agree with Aditya that one should not dismiss Maoists (annihilation gang) as a marginal force however wrong they may be in their political line.

  8. radical permalink
    October 21, 2009 6:51 PM

    i meant to be sarcastic in my praise and kafila has lapped it up – the ghost of sokal lives on.

  9. Manash permalink
    October 21, 2009 7:25 PM

    Chomsky must have thought, he will correct his previous wrong, when he supported the mainstream left party and its intellectuals during the Singur and Nandigram crisis, by coming around this time to support the Maoists wholeheartedly against the State’s proposed war against them. But the telescopic, bird’s eye view of Western leftists like Chomsky, always fails to get the dog’s eye view regarding Indian politics.

    However, I don’t think there is anything wrong in Chomsky being among the signatories of protest. From any platform. I think in this regard, to take a “balanced” stand vis-a-vis both the Indian State and the Maoists is politically unnecessary. The odds are too overwhelming. The other critical debates can happen later. I also think a moral position is utterly unjustified. I held the same position vis-a-vis the LTTE during the Sri Lankan State’s operation against them. If the anti-LTTE intelligentsia is happy with what finally happened, despite their pangs, I have nothing much to say except that I have been witnessing the horror of “solution” based State tactics since the last century. And the pile of “unsolved” issues are piling up. The dead will return, and speak. The dead of the dead, their dead, and further.

    There is this irritating line in the response to Chomsky by Nirmalangshu –

    “The organization has no presence whatsoever in the vast agrarian and industrial terrains of the rest of the country. It has no trade union, no peasant organization worth its name, no penetration in the dalit, youth, and women’s movements.”

    A very easy way to discount an organization. I don’t know the details of this context, but I can understand arguments. What the organization is not is no way to (dis)prove what the organization is. At least you can spell out the raison d’etre the organization argues on its own behalf, and then challenge it against its grain. Or else you are being dishonestly polemical. I don’t find the nitty-gritty of the argument convincing, even though I agree that there is something terribly wrong with the ideology of selective, narrow-ish violence. But I also think, that the “hard-won democratic resistance ” need not become so anxious of its victories that it fails to acknowledge that perhaps in many ways, the so-called anti-democratic movements might be precisely holding up the “exception” which made the norms (of struggle) acceptable to the State. The arguments have to be pushed internally by the democratic left intelligentsia as much as against the Maoists.

    In all this seriousness, please suffer a small response to Shivpriye –

    The old Hindi proverb, Shivpriye, can also be twisted in two very innovative manner to suit the intelligence and sensitivity shown in your response to this post.

    The twist in general:

    “Jab anti-communists ki maut aati hai, to woh liberalization ki taraf bhagte hai”

    The twist in particular:

    “Jab gadhe ki maut aati hai, to woh buddhijivi ki taraf bhagta hai”

  10. Nijhawan permalink
    October 21, 2009 9:37 PM

    I assume that by circles in delhi and kolkata, you mean the sanhati people – why dont go to their website to look at their statements condemning Maoist violence. did you not have the time to do that?
    They have put up PUDR’s statement condemning the recent beheading of Francis Induwar

    http://sanhati.com/news/1826/

    I remember earlier, they had issued an official statement on the culture of evolving political murders in West Bengal, with a large part of the blame, rightly so, on the Maoists.
    Does Kafila feel threatened to be dislodged from the only true voice of left dissent- so that it wants to paint all others in monochrome? Why create false easy targets – at least publish the statement which is being referred to – its a strange case of publishing a counterpoint with no reference to the point.
    Also,”but it seems to have captured the imagination of sections of elite, urban, and ‘radical’ intelligentsia in Calcutta and Delhi who have impressive connections with some Indian intellectuals settled in universities abroad, as the statement you endorsed highlights (earlier, this intellectual support used to come from Bombay and Hyderabad). The phenomenon is historically familiar.” – why make such broad statements without any knowledge- why bring out private insecurities in the public in the form of bold “historical” affirmations.As a student of politics, Sanhati’s website has been a broad platform of dissent information – and they mostly publish statements from other people from Mahashewta Debi ( ‘radical’,’elite’ from Kolkata I guess) and articles by Ashis Nandy ( is this the Delhi wing’s political line?). The writer should have the courage to come out with the exact source of the rumblings of this mind – why it seems what it seems to him.
    If the writer wanted to write a long critique of CPI(Maoist), why use the cover of a letter by other dissenters- after all vanguardism dies hard among people who are marxists -and is apparent even in their mode of denounciation.

    • Nirmalangshu permalink
      October 23, 2009 9:23 PM

      I have christened the circles as ‘radical’ intellectuals who seem to be most prominent now in Kolkata and Delhi around the issue in hand. But this was just an approximation.

      Terms like “radical”, lke any common political term, is hard to define since they come in grades and different people mean different things. I try to adhere to something like a narrow meaning based on Marx: an intellectual is radical if he/she brings in his/her power to interpret the world to initiate some actions to change it towards a just, free, and egalitarian society without self-interest. These vague ‘definitions’ are best understood in terms of their exemplars. In my view, keeping to recent history, it is best exemplified by Gandhi and Chomsky. As we shade off from this narrow set to include wider sets of people, the meaning of “radical” gets progressively diluted to the point where the original narrow term begins to miss its heroic glow. When we reach that point, I tend to use (single) scare quotes.

      So I will readily agree to a statement that says that I am not a radical intellectual, but a ‘radical’ one, perhaps not even that.

  11. Balaji permalink
    October 21, 2009 11:16 PM

    The author assumes that Chomsky and left intelligentsia value democracy even when a benevolent communist dictatorship is possible. Such an assumption is at best hopeful but is more likely naive.

  12. Andaleeb permalink
    October 21, 2009 11:19 PM

    Please point out ONE , SINGLE line in the Sanhati statement that endorses the Maoists in any way – just ONE line.

    If you cannot, please refrain from making the statement as a bogey for the private desire to write an article and being a voice of sanity.

    This article is contextualized by the statement it uses as an opening shot – why does not Kafila publish that statement in full – including the names of the signatories – the alleged connected elite radicals and their network.Why does the author think that it requires his intelligence for the signatories to understand the statement and its context? Why cant it be put up in Kafila – are we as readers of Kafila so dumb that we cannot understand the statement and we need an analyzer like Mukherjee?

    • Nivedita Menon permalink*
      October 21, 2009 11:45 PM

      “Why does kafila not publish that statement in full…Are we as readers of Kafila so dumb that we cannot understand the statement” – no, actually we assumed that readers of kafila are smart enough to go to Sanhati and read the statement in full, as you evidently have.

    • Nirmalangshu permalink
      October 23, 2009 9:36 PM

      Several people, here and in personal e-mail, have raised this issue. My letter was EXACTLY concerned with the statement, not with the organisation or their website. On a personal note, I get to see very little of political websites including ZNet and Kafila, not to mention Sanhati. I am sure if I looked at the Sanhati website I will find many things to admire and agree with. In fact, I find some agreement even with the comments by the Supreme Commander (whom I love to cite because of his direct, almost child-like clarity of views on extremely complex political problems). Not surprising given the commonality of goals, enemies, and political traditions.

      However, when disagreements supremely affect a political issue–especially when the lives and livelihoods of people, who are not active agents to the debate are concerned–obvious agreements should not bind us from strong dissent.

      I have tried to clarify my basic objection to Sanhati’s statement once again in my response to Ajith.

  13. Andaleeb permalink
    October 22, 2009 12:16 AM

    This is rich coming from you- for you yourself have provided links to originals being referred to , even when they were in Kafila.As you rightly note, background information and contextualizing a statement is important – but it is strange that the smartness of Kafila readers is only assumed in a selective way.

    http://kafila.org/2009/06/12/reservations-for-women-am-i-that-name/

    http://kafila.org/2009/07/11/a-tale-of-two-encounters-dehradun-and-batla-housejamia-teachers-solidarity-group/

    The statement referred to my Mukherjee is in an external website.While Kafila provides background notes for things published within Kafila ( which is easier to get anyways once one is reading Kafila) , it is giving a strange reason why it did not do the same time.The statement also does not say anything about Sanhati – whether it is a website, a human rights organization or what?

    Here Kafila is hosting a specific counterpoint to a specific statement and it has not published the statement in question – while in other cases, it provides background notes (when the writer is Menon herself).The question is one of journalistic credence and full disclosure- dont take it personally or on Kafila in general.

  14. Ajit permalink
    October 22, 2009 12:24 AM

    Mukherjee objects to Chomsky signing the letter condemning Indian State for it’s brutal designs against Tribals and Maoists and for not condemning Maoists.

    During the Vietnam war Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman and Howard Zinn and others who denounced the US attack were regularly chided by people who insisted that Chomsky, Herman and Zinn equally denounce the NLF and government of North Vietnam, and if they didn’t do this regularly to provide “balance,” they were apologists.

    Mukherjee and your site seems to be a heir to that great tradition.

    It is the Indian Government which is guilty of the maximum number of atrocities and not the Maoists just like it was US Government which was guilty of maximum number of atrocities and not NLF and North Vietnamese. Therefore Chomsky and others were right to sign the letter condemning the Indian State.

    Mukherjee talks about the limited reach of Maoists. And then in the same breath wants Chomsky and others to condemn Maoists. Maoists have no chance of taking over the State. So why should anyone equate Maoists with Indian State and spend their limited resources condemning Maoists. Maoists will disappear or atleast rendered toothless once Tribals are delivered Justice.

    The war waged by Indian State is actually against Tribals and not against a couple of thousands of Maoist revolutionaries. In the guise of taking on the Maoists , the State “clears” the Tribals just like their patrons in America “cleared” Native Americans and take over their Land and Resources. It is the rampages of Salva Judum that is increasing recruitment to Maoists.

    This is like every Mid east commentator being asked to condemn Hamas or Islamic Jihad in the same breath they condemn Israeli Aggression.

    It is also a little strange Chomsky is being singled out , when so many people signed the Statement.

    • Aditya Nigam permalink*
      October 22, 2009 12:57 PM

      Ajit,
      Maybe I should have mentioned in the post that Nirmalangshu has specific reasons for singling out Noam Chomsky: He has been a student of Chomsky’s and retains a continuing relationship with him. As for your other objections, I will respond separately.

    • Nirmalangshu permalink
      October 22, 2009 9:46 PM

      No Aditya, I had not been a student of Chomsky, though I had been a student of his thoughts on language and on imperial order. One reason for directing my response to Chomsky is that given his influence on radical thought I thought it was important to address if he has any misconception about the character of current radical politics in India. A second reason is that I could not locate the individual e-mails of a pretty large number of signatories especially from abroad. I thought (successfully as I now see) that an open letter to Chomsky will eventually reach most of them. A third related reason is the same as that of Sanhati who placed his name on top of the list from abroad: Chomsky matters.

      As for Chomsky himself, I am sure that the old warhorse of radical politics won’t mind. He would probably chuckle a bit, exposing the familiar broken tooth.

      I am objecting to Sanhati’s statement not just, if at all, for lack of balance. I think the statement deliberately distorts the picture by not incorporating the crucial CPI (Maoist) factor which is central to the issue of Operation Greenhunt FOR NOW. This was palpably unfair practice especially in view of large number of foreign intellectuals whose consent was sought; I am sure even the treasure house of interational information Noam Chomsky didn’t know the real picture until it was separately pointed out to him.

      Hence the unthoughtful analogy of Vietnam etc. does not arise.

      Finally, my mention of the ‘reach’ of CPI (Maoist) was meant ONLY to counter the boastful claim by the Supreme Commander regarding his party being the only genuine alternative for people. It was also designed to counter the propaganda of the state, supported by corporate media, regarding the extent of ‘maoist’ menace to justify a full-scale military operation

    • Ravikanth permalink
      October 23, 2009 8:58 PM

      “I am sure even the treasure house of interational information Noam Chomsky didn’t know the real picture until it was separately pointed out to him.”

      This statement by NM is misleading. It is the real picture according to him – there are millions who might disagree with him. His rather evil depiction of the Maoists , which hundreds may disagree with, reveals a personal ideological war with their politics – how can he be objective in such circumstanes ?

      “I think the statement deliberately distorts the picture by not incorporating the crucial CPI (Maoist) factor which is central to the issue of Operation Greenhunt FOR NOW.”

      This is the central issue according to NM. To many, it is just a convenient excuse for the state to grab natural resources in places. In pitching the Greenhunt in this manner, NM camps with the state – for him, such resistance needs to be militarily destroyed. After that, he can protest when the state has grabbed everything for the MNCs. This position is no different from that the CPI(Marxist)s in their contest with the CPI(Maoist).

      In the Open magazine interview, the “Supreme Commander” was also critical of LTTE politics. But, NM avoids that. That way, it is easier for him to put LTTE and the Maoists in the same category. To choose some portion of the interview and to throw away another part is sheer dishonesty and that is what NM indulges in.

    • Sanjeev Mahajan permalink
      October 24, 2009 5:43 AM

      Nirmalangshu’s response is quite silly. Every sentence is either pretentious or simply meaningless. What does “student of his thoughts on language and on imperial order” mean? Chomsky just does not have “thoughts” on language, he has theories. And what does “radical thought” mean? If you read Chomsky, he uses mainstream sources and State Department documents to buttress his watertight arguments. Chomsky has explicitly said many a times that the only ‘ism’ he believes in in truism, and has no use for high falutin philosophies or ideologies. To emphasize that his views are not marginal or radical, he repeatedly quotes polls in the US media showing how the American population is far to the left of even the leftmost end of the elite opinion.

      It is also interesting that he never addresses the question of why he addresses his open letter just to Chomsky. He says that he did not have emails of other folks, but in these days of internet, that is somewhat hard to believe. Besides, since the letter he wrote was an open letter, why could he not address it to all the folks who signed the letter. Another reason he gives is that Chomsky matters. I guess, in his opinion, that should settle the matter, but I still don’t see how that answers the question of why the letter was only addressed to Chomsky, since he is only ONE among the many signatories.

      He says that the analogy with Vietnam is unthoughtful, but does not explain why. He says that the Maoist factor is central to Operation Greenhunt. That should be music to state’s ears, since that is exactly what they want people to believe. Does it not occur to him that the state may be using Maoism is a subterfuge to discipline dissent, and to aggressively pursue its neo-liberal policies? I won’t say that that is what the state exactly wants to do, but has not the Maoist ‘menace’ come at a convenient time for the state.

      And I find this excessive importance given to intellectuals somewhat distasteful. I don’t think, as Chomsky does too, that anything deep or interesting has been discovered in human affairs, that ordinary people cannot figure out for themselves.

      Sanjeev

    • October 24, 2009 8:46 AM

      “I think the statement deliberately distorts the picture by not incorporating the crucial CPI (Maoist) factor which is central to the issue of Operation Greenhunt FOR NOW. This was palpably unfair practice ” Nirmalangshu accuses Sanhati of unfair practice of deliberate distortion of the real picture. How does he know what was Sanhati’s motive ? Did he have any discussions with members of Sanhati ? Did he talk to the intellectuals who were part of the drafting of the statement ? Without giving us any proof, Nirmalangshu shoots off his mouth. It does not portray a nice picture of him. Perhaps members of Kafila could have written a better critique rather than riding along with a person who seems to have some agenda of his own.

  15. Andaleeb permalink
    October 22, 2009 12:38 AM

    @ Menon – Something to learn from. There was a time certain intellectuals made a statement on Nandigram , Nigam from Kafila made a counterpoint in Kafila.
    Sanhati published the original and the counterpoint in toto, in the same page.

    http://sanhati.com/articles/218/

    and it even includes a link to the original in Kafila by Aditya Nigam.

    Again, we can all learn from standards of practice, even when we dissent. Sanhati, Kafila and all such non-big media outlets have to learn from each other.

  16. Dipankar Chakrabarti permalink
    October 22, 2009 12:50 AM

    Aditi CPerhaps it will not be out of place to refer to the STATEMENT By the Writers and Intellectuals of West Bengal,who stood by the Movements in Singur & Nandigram (issued on 21 Sept,2009) raising almost the same viewpoint.
    Please allow me to place the STATEMENT below:

    SHOULDN’T WE PONDER OVER ONCE AGAIN ?
    An almost unprecedented mass-upsurge has been sweeping over West Bengal for the last 33 years…as evident from the experiences of Singur, Nandigram,and Lalgarh. Realising that their life and occupation are being endangered in the name of ‘development’, the downtrodden have stood up and built up massive protest movements, not led by any party or individual, but out of their own initiative. Consequently all the forts of conspiracy
    and persecution of the autocracy are being shattered. In this context the Central Government,the self-styled ‘nationalists’ and the State Government, the self-styled ‘communists’ have joined hands to impose anew devastating state-terror in Lalgarh. The Joint Force have been persecuting the vast masses of people, conducting wanton plunder and destruction. People have to leave their homes and take shelter in forests etc to save their lives. Even the women are being subjected to dishonor and sexual parecution. Like all democratic people we do condemn and oppose these acts.

    But at the same time the situation has become complicated due to the activities of the
    CPI(Maoists).our democratic sense imbues us to demand that every person must allowed to
    express their opinion and act according to their belief, and also that no one should be gaaged,tortured or killed for holding opposition views. We oppose and condemn CPI(M) just for these trampling and raping acts on people’s democratic rights, which it has done during their rule in West Bengal, and has even been doing this at the present moment in Keshpur and many other places. But the same acts are being done by the cadres of the CPI(Maoist) Party in West Medinipur, along with their politics of individual annihilation. In our opinion, these acts of theirs are harming the process of mass-upsurge in West Bengal, and , in particular, the people’s glorious movement in Lagarh. At the same time these activities have been creating some sort of ‘justification’ of the state-terror and CPI(M)’s party-terror.

    While condemning the state-terror and all party- terrors performed by CPI(M) and other parties, we also do oppose the above–referred activities. When the state is making schemes for imposing state-terror on a larger and much-co-ordinated scale, it is not possible to carry forward the mass-upsurge in West Bengal by abandoning the mass-movements and following the politics of trampling of opposite views and policy of mass-annihilation. This lesson has been learnt again and again from the concrete experiences of the past.

    Shouldn’t we ponder over once again?

    Mahasveta Devi Sankha Ghosh Tarun Sanyal Bivas Chakrabarti Asoke Sen Aparna Sen Saonli Mitra JoyGoswami Pratul Mukhopadhyay Dipankar Chakrabarti Shaibal Mitra Kaushik Sen NabarunBhattacharya Subhendu Dasgupta
    Meher Engineer Sachchidananda Bandopadhyay Jaya Mitra Naba Datta Pachu Roy Srijan Sen Sabyasachi Deb Gautam Sen Pulak Chanda Sanat RoyChowdhury Sandip Bandopadhyay Kalyan Rudra BolanGangopadhyay Rushati Sen Sumit Chowdhury Amitdyuti Kumar Saswati Ghosh Krishma Bandopadhyay Bipul Chakrabarti Tapas Chakrabarti Siddhartha GuhaRoy Punyabrata Gun Debaprasad RoyChowdhury Premangsu Dasgupta Kumar Rana Anup Bandopadhyay SubhashisMukhopadhyay Pradip Datta ParthaSarathi Bandopadhyay Pranab De Aditi Chowdhury Bhaskar Gupta

  17. atreyee permalink
    October 22, 2009 3:00 AM

    I had a conversation with Prof. Prasanta Ray (who has taught Political Science at Presidency College since the early 1970s) in Kolkata this summer, who pointed out that the ‘which left is farthest’ has been a debate of shifting grounds and is not new to the Communist politics of India (parliamentarian or otherwise)- in the 1950s similar terms of debate followed between the CPI and the CPI(M) as the former co-opted itself into the structures of the social democrat state. Similar battles are at the forefront of the public discourse around ‘far left’ today as the CPI(M) finds itself at the mercy of the diktats of the larger social democrat state, and toes the line (or at least rhetoric) of ‘progress’ in a desperate federal competition.

    That said, I wonder if the far-ness and the anti-stateness of whatever hue the far-outfit of a particular political moment might assume, is also about shaping the localised modernity of that moment – if the Maoist was not present, there would be an irrational Hindu right in its place, or a bloodthirsty Islamic extremist group. And it turns out the recent local modernity of West Bengal has emerged around a new kind of liberal humanism around the ‘agrarian’ question. With its slogan of let the peasant be, since you haven’t been able do much for him anyway. Similar local modernities have risen in the Indian public sphere around questions of Islam and women’s rights, definition of who is ‘Hindu’, condemning the rapid and mass dislocation of peoples from environmentalist fortresses.

    Lalgarh and the public discourse around it is probably a key event in the refashioning of liberal humanism of our time ( at least my time)- to see state acts in the technologies of the anti-statists, and hence, to condemn ‘state’ness and not just state. Chomsky, it turns out, is still stuck in an old-fashioned variety of liberal humanism that sees only state (in its caricature) as worthy of condemnation and not other state-nesses that are not necessarily packaged as ‘state’.

  18. kafi permalink
    October 22, 2009 6:03 AM

    The letter accuses Sanhati statement for being silent on Maoist violence.
    Why it itself is ‘silent’ on the issues of state offensive and repression ?

    • hacker permalink
      October 22, 2009 9:12 AM

      to put it simply, letter to pm talks of state repression and perhaps a letter to maoist gods (yes, kishan and ganapathy) will corner them on maoist violence.

    • Nirmalangshu permalink
      October 23, 2009 9:41 PM

      Am I? I think Operation Greenhunt is a great danger to the very fabric of whatever democracy is left in India. And I put the blame partly on the Maoists for allowing–almost inviting–the state to engage in the hunt with a straight face and considerable popular support. I thought this core point was repeatedly stressed in the letter.

  19. Anant M. permalink
    October 22, 2009 9:14 AM

    Nirmalangshu Mukherjee’s letter to Chomsky may have all kinds of limitations. But it is an intervention into a grave situation. I am pasting below some resources which could be useful in staying focused on that situation.

    Balagopal wrote two assessments of the Committee of Concerned Citizen’s initiative that culminated in the 2004 talks between the AP Government and the Peoples War.
    One during Chandrababu Naidu’s chief ministership (before the talks) and one during YSR’s chief ministership (after the talks).

    Both can be downloaded from these links:

    http://www.epw.in/epw/uploads/articles/2450.pdf

    http://www.epw.in/epw/uploads/articles/341.pdf

    The Committee itself published three volumes of its reports and correspondence with the government and the Peoples War both in Telugu and in English over a period of 8 years 1997-2005. These volumes are not available in soft copies and we have run out of hard copies. If it is felt necessary at some point, the committee can run a re print or produce a soft copy but in the meantime, here are two links that can provide a glimpse of the nature of the intervention.

    Open letter to the Peoples War:

    http://www.revolutionarydemocracy.org/rdv6n1/peoplewar.htm

    Criticism of the open letter by Rajesh Tyagi

    http://www.revolutionarydemocracy.org/rdv5n2/cpimlpw.htm

    anant

    P.S. Rajesh Tyagi’s criticism linked above makes a reference to Balagopal as one the authors of the open letter. This is factually incorrect. Balagopal was not a member of the Committee. He did not ever intervene in its activities. His assessment of the Committee is there in the articles cited above. Three active members of the Human Rights Forum were members of the 15-member committee. In retrospect, I think it would be fair to describe the Committee as having adopted a pragmatist approach to its work.

  20. Anant M. permalink
    October 22, 2009 9:24 AM

    Some more excerpts from the first volume (covering the most intense period of searching and reflection) of the CCC’s pulication can be downloaded from here:

    http://www.pucl.org/reports/AndhraPradesh/naxalites.htm

  21. Nivedita Menon permalink*
    October 22, 2009 9:34 AM

    Andaleeb,
    Is this really what we are arguing about? Kafila has published links to and posts from Sanhati many many times before, and also to/from other blogs and websites.
    From kafila archives I pulled out the first three links to sanhati I found:

    http://kafila.org/2007/03/28/comprador-intellectuals-on-the-war-path/

    http://kafila.org/2007/12/17/fear-of-the-unfamiliar-responding-to-patnaik-partho-sarathi-ray/

    http://kafila.org/2009/04/22/lalgarh-media-and-the-maoists-monobina-gupta/

    There are others.

    As a policy we are most scrupulous about linking and acknowledging sources. If you are a regular reader of kafila you know this, and in fact acknowledge it in your own comment. In Nirmalangshu’s post too, Sanhati has been acknowledged in the first line. Attributing motives is easy but inconclusive (“selective”, you say, “just so happened this time”, say I).
    The problem is that you are reducing this discussion about one of the most serious crises to hit the Left, to some imaginary battle between two blogs (both broadly on the same side of any political divide in India, I might add!), and it is to this trivializing that I responded. Aditya’s framing of Nirmalangshu’s post clearly suggests that he too considers Sanhati to be a friendly blog, as is evident from his insisting that the word radical not be put in quotation marks.
    Nirmalangshu’s post is responding to a situation involving life and death for thousands, and indeed, life and death for a radical democratic left politics in India.
    You do not like the arguments made by Nirmalangshu, (with which I personally am in agreement), but surely that’s the point of difference we should be exploring?
    And to end on that note – you begin your first comment with “Please point out ONE , SINGLE line in the Sanhati statement that endorses the Maoists in any way – just ONE line.”
    Nirmalangshu’s point is not that the statement endorses the Maoists (it could never have got such a wide range of signatures if it had), but precisely that it is SILENT (in his own words) “about the ’specific’ source of the current aggression by the state.”
    This is not the place to expand on my own views on this whole situation that is tearing so many of us apart, so I will stop for now.

  22. October 22, 2009 9:41 AM

    I find it a little more than coincidence that hardly any analysis was made during the Lalgarh struggle, till Kafila felt the need to condemn the “maoists”. Similarly, Kafila had been eerily silent on state torture and the whole adivasi issue under operation Green Hunt, and now suddenly they need to publish an open letter which attacks why so and so are silent on maoist repressions.

    Regarding the letter and its author – why aren’t there any initiatives to mobilize voices against this whole war hysteria? One can condemn the maoists and still try to pressurize the government, why hasn’t that taken place? Why aren’t you drafting your own statement, take it door to door and gather signatures, instead of attacking initiatives who are doing that and more?
    Do you think Chomsky, David Harvey, Bellamy Foster, Howard Zinn and the numerous other known or not so known analysts, commentators, and intellectuals who have signed this statement are ignorant about indian politics? CPI(maoists) is a term they haven’t heard before? Open any newspaper and you’d get the gory details of the latest “terrorist act” by India’s numero uno security threat. It is kind of hard to hide it, one would think! On the other hand there’s a complete denial of state atrocities, specially in the forests and tribal areas, no word on the hundreds of rapes, murders, tortures.
    The more you deny, the more there’ll be insurgencies.

  23. miao permalink
    October 22, 2009 2:23 PM

    Elsewhere, it is interesting to see some people are frequently using fallacious ad hominem arguments to rubbish the content of this article. The argument goes like: AN was once a CPI(M) activist, and according to confidential sources NM is CPI(M) sympathiser, and so you know….(wink). Kafila and CPI(M) getting co-branded- actually less of an irony and more of a slapstick. :-)

    • Nirmalangshu permalink
      October 23, 2009 9:46 PM

      For my views on CPI(M) and the ‘official’ left in general, I can only cite two recent pieces:

      Left and the Nuclear Deal
      A Requiem for the Left?

      Both published in Revolutionary Democracy. revolutionarydemocracy.org

  24. Aditya Nigam permalink*
    October 22, 2009 4:51 PM

    Dear Nijhawan, Andaleeb, Kafi, Ajit, SM,
    Allow me to take all the points you all raise together.
    First, let me clarify once more, if it still be needed after Nivedita’s clarification, that to us Sanhati is a friendly blog and we have often taken and given links to Sanhati in the past . And so has Sanhati. If there was no link this time, it can hardly be because we did not want to acknowledge it – since Sanhati’s name was there in the very first line of Nirmalangshu’s letter. Let me also reiterate that we (and I suppose I speak for most of my friends in kafila) do not mark out ourselves as the sole radicals – to us the entire spectrum of intellectuals who have signed the statement are part of the left/radical intelligentsia and many of them are very dear friends with whom we share too much to let this charge go uncontested. We have fought together in the dark days of the NDA regime and the Gujarat massacres for example and put much more at stake than mere words. And may still have to do so yet again in future – God forbid. Political debates for us are not a matter of luxury – they are central to our existence in the country. So, please let us set that aside.

    Second, Nirmalangshu’s letter to Chomsky states in the very first para:

    (a) the Indian government is planning a massive armed operation in the tribal-hilly areas in the eastern part of the country, (b) the poorest of the poor and the historically marginalised will suffer the most in terms of loss of lives, livelihood and habitat, and (c) for whatever it’s worth, an all-out campaign by democratic forces is needed to resist the armed invasion of people’s habitat by any party.

    This to my mind does not constitute ‘silence’ regarding the intentions of the Indian state. Also, w.r.t. our supposed ‘eerie’ silence on ‘state torture and the adivasi issue’, there have been innumerable posts on police excesses, on Binayak Sen, on Roma’s and Shamim Modi’s arrest, on torture of innocents by branding them ‘terrorists’ and ‘maoists’, on staged ‘encounters’ in kafila all through. If all this is not a criticism of state, what is? I don’t think we need a certification on this from anyone. The links are simply too many for me to reproduce here – I would suggest the interested reader go through the archives of the last two years to see this for herself.

    Third, (and this is for Ajit in particular but also SM): (a) Arguments by historical analogy are the saddest way to make an argument. What are you trying to suggest Ajit, by drawing an analogy with the Vietnam of the 1960s and 70s? You say:

    ‘During the Vietnam war Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman and Howard Zinn and others who denounced the US attack were regularly chided by people who insisted that Chomsky, Herman and Zinn equally denounce the NLF and government of North Vietnam, and if they didn’t do this regularly to provide “balance,” they were apologists.’

    The question is not one of maintaining a ‘balance’. It is rather of taking a position on something that concerns the tortuous history of 20th century marxism. If we cannot, despite the great tragedies and fiascoes of the last century, show any trace of the fact that we have learnt anything from them, then surely the future of socialism and the Left is condemned to be an endless repetition of the same. And I certainly do not see the logic of equating the NLF with the ‘Maoists’ (CPI-Maoist). If the latter have any parallel in history, it is with Pol Pot’s hordes and not with the NLF. Let me point out once again that neither the NLF nor the PLA in China under Mao (before the revolution) took lives of innocents as a matter of strategy or used them as shields in their liberation war against the US or KMT. On the contrary, contemporary accounts tell us that they preferred to court defeats than use innocents as collateral damage as our Pol Potists do all the time.
    (b) And SM, when people debate it is not because one side has to consist of fools or be ignorant. There is a way in which demands are placed on people like Chomsky, Howard Zinn or others to ‘declare’ there support for X or Y cause and often, in the interests of solidarity, such statements are signed. It is then the duty of others who might disagree to bring out the problems with that particular position – in the interests of a more informed position being taken in future. Sabre-rattling is not our intention but when the same Chomsky could sign a statement virtually endorsing the LF position on Nandigram and can now sign this statement where he would stand diametrically opposed to his friends in the CPI-M, there is something wrong that needs to be brought out in public debate.

    Finally, our apologies that kafila is not a political party and we do not issue ‘our own statements’ or conduct ‘our own signature campaigns’. We try to provide a platform for writings and statements that we think are important and know the Big Media will routinely ignore.

  25. October 22, 2009 6:15 PM

    Dear Aditya,

    Could you be kind enough to post the links to Lalgarh articles that has been hosted by you, other than the one by Monobina. Could you also do the same for articles exposing abuses on adivasis by security forces in the name of Operation Green Hunt. I think this is exactly what I mentioned as lack of in my earlier post, which you didn’t address specifically but in more general context of “false encounters” etc.

    Secondly, in my post I prodded the author of the letter and not kafila about producing a statement. But, since you bring it up, let me just clarify few things with you. So, one needs to be a political party to issue statements? PUDR or PUCL are political parties?
    Lastly, and allow me to quote you here-
    “We try to provide a platform for writings and statements that we think are important and know the Big Media will routinely ignore.”
    Well, what exactly are big media routinely ignoring right now, in the context of this planned operation and which part of the “left-out” is covered by this letter in question, and your responses to readers’ posts? If you ask me, the statement with Chomsky etc’s name did exactly what you claim, while this letter points out what big media is yelling out.

    Thanks.

  26. October 22, 2009 6:18 PM

    why is it not possible to have a broad consolidation against state repression ? why do each side have to be as intolerant as the other ? as many have pointed out, the maoists have large number of sympathisers and many do not see them as reincarnations of polpot even though there may be flaws. on the other side, there are shades of opposition extending to bitter enmity which is reflected in the letter of NM. as far as the state is concerned, such fighting is perfect for it to continue to loot, plunder, oppress. within the left, someone somewhere must begin to make an attempt to end hostilities despite keeping differences.

  27. Priyanka permalink
    October 22, 2009 10:21 PM

    Dear Aditya and Nivedita,

    It is really very nice of you to explain your positions vis a vis sanhati and Nirmalangshu’s letter. However, I still don’t understand why you are not posting the sanhati statement? If as Nivedita said it was not deliberate and “it just happened so” is it too late to post the statement now?

  28. Andaleeb permalink
    October 23, 2009 12:52 AM

    @ Nigam – I would think that the Sanhati statement itself constitutes what you just said “We try to provide a platform for writings and statements that we think are important and know the Big Media will routinely ignore.”
    Why not publish it and put an end to imputations – think about it. The more you state that Sanhati was mentioned in the first line with no link to how to get to the statement or even what Sanhati is- it sound very odd.
    Again an illustration on how counterpoints are to be done. Everyone can learn with time- there is no shame in that.You yourself have shown that you are not dogmatic- given that you were a SFI leader and not associated with the CPM student goons at present.
    @ Miao- Read what I just read. Wouldnot you feel happy and vindicated now? But again till now, I dont see anything that imputes what you wrote – why create phantom statements ? Please meow back where did you see these imputations.

  29. Nandini permalink
    October 23, 2009 1:40 AM

    AN, Hi. I read in your response to some of the readers’ comments –

    “when the same Chomsky could sign a statement virtually endorsing the LF position on Nandigram and can now sign this statement where he would stand diametrically opposed to his friends in the CPI-M…”

    This surprised me, since I am one of the many signatories in the aforementioned statement, I tried to recall and then checked on Sanhati’s site. The word CPIM or government of west bengal do not feature any where. Neither are there any implication. It is against the central offensive. So, I am kind of baffled by this friends of CPIM part. Was it just a slip of some sort?

    Chomsky have also endorsed a statement with respect to the Nandigram carnage, before the one you mention. That was not very friendly to the CPIM.

    Even if I take your word on the fact that Chomsky have signed one where he virtually endorsed the CPIM and in another where he is not so friendly, why would anything be “wrong” with that? Wrong is an interesting choice of word, I must say!

    I am a reader of both Sanhati and Kafila, while I have had access to many interesting and marginalised news from all corners of India in Kafila, I have been enriched by the extremely useful analytical articles in Sanhati and also news from ground activists that we seldom get to hear elsewhere. It is in this shared readership, that I think it is good that all sort of dissents are being given space. Allow me to point out that Sanhati have issued and hosted several statements where maoist actions have been condemned in no uncertain terms. I think if you had hyperlinked the “Sanhati” in the opening paragraph of this article, readers could have found that by themselves. It is not too late to do that, is it?

  30. Aditya Nigam permalink*
    October 23, 2009 7:49 AM

    Dear Nandini and Priyanka,
    My apologies. If it was just a matter of not having provided a link, I have corrected that. It really was nothing but a matter of chance – posted in a bit of a hurry. Really, that is not an issue for me or any of us. Nandini, the reference to ‘friends in the CPI-M’ was not to all signatories but only to Chomsky as he had signed the earlier statement – masterminded as it was by some CPI-M intellectuals. And Chomsky’s position was influenced not simply by those who drafted the statement but also because he had friends or close acquaintances like Prabhat Patnaik in the CPI-M – apart from the fact that the LF government was presented as some kind of a hugely popular, leftwing government by the propaganda blitz in its favour (for years preceding Nandigram).
    My use of the word ‘wrong’ is in that context where the same person can sign a statement from two such opposed standpoints. It is not meant to implicate other signatories to the statement. Nonetheless, the use of the word ‘wrong’, on second thoughts, was a bit hasty and uncalled for.

  31. October 23, 2009 12:02 PM

    Between them, NM and AN have provided a very effective critique of the Maoists. A very needed and useful critique. Thanks.

    And about those who go on and on with their sophistry in supporting the Maoists while claiming they are not, I am reminded of Lenin’s phrase “useful idiots”. The Maoists will make full use of them — use them as political human shields — and dump them when they are not longer “useful”. But they will still remain “idiots”.

    :D

  32. Manash permalink
    October 23, 2009 1:21 PM

    Aniket, you can also be called, in the same vein, as Lenin’s useful idiot, who will keep parroting him like a slavish follower, even in the name of the stabilized version of the left, and feel even more powerful, because you are definitely on power’s side in the name of your revolutionary sentiments. This is too well known a truth by now, and doesn’t even need an epilogue. But since you stuck your brain out to call your opponents idiots, I thought I should stick my head out and remind you of your ideological idiocy.

    The word “useful” is an instrumentalist term, which is inevitably un-ethical. A person of your reading should have shown more taste if not tact. Bashing the Maoists with such gleeful abandon is utterly juvenile to say the least. If you can’t take people who raise serious questions, however flawed in your opinion, seriously, then you stand the risk of being taken even less seriously. But being a “sober” left ideologue, and practicing a “sober” left politics, you won’t understand.

    Quoting Lenin to de-legitimize others is “using” Lenin out of context, de-contextualizing him, and hence insulting the very serious attention given to the understanding and rhetoric of “context” itself in Marxist thinking. Get hold of your goof ups.

  33. Prashant permalink
    October 24, 2009 1:00 AM

    I want to commend Nirmalangshu Mukherjee for making explicit the counter-intuitive complicity between ‘radical’ urban intellectuals and the CPI(Maoist). I don’t think the dogmatic and violent exclusion of alternative and undeniably real modes of resistance to the state’s violence should surprise anyone who observed how the LTTE wiped out any form of Tamil resistance to Sinhala chauvinism other than their own; how a similar exclusion has been at work among the Naga militants fighting India; and how Kashmiri militants have long killed off all the Pandit and Muslim lawyers and other civil actors who had challenged the Indian state in their own ways.

    I disagree that Mukherjee does not assign any positive content or character to the CPI (Maoist) since he explicitly cites and quotes their opposition to any and all parliamentary politics and their open commitment to “protracted war” as an end in itself.

  34. October 24, 2009 9:50 AM

    The problem with Nirmalangshu is that he assumes too many things about too many people. 1) LTTE trained the Maoists (obviously the state’s intelligence says so); 2) sanhati people (who as far as I know come from almost all the streams of left – both independent and party-affiliated (except perhaps CPI and CPIM)) who wrote the statement “deliberately” distort the picture; etc.

    By his LTTE-Maoists analogy he ‘deliberately’ means to tell the Maoists that look LTTE is dead, now you will be so too. Again here, he assumes that LTTE is already delegitimised, because they stand defeated (this is what Indian intelligence says.)

    Prof sahib, why don’t you go beyond reading reports from the Hindu, and use your philosopher mind?

    “In Sri Lanka, a vast freedom movement of Tamil nationalism arose about three decades ago. As the movement became progressively militant, it gave rise to a formidable militarist organisation: Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE). LTTE declared armed struggle, systematically eliminated all other groups advocating Tamil liberation, took to the jungles, and launched a civil war.”

    Let’s not take media and intelligence narratives as they are. Let’s ponder over if something “became” so, why did it become so. THIS IS NOT FOR JUSTIFYING WHAT LTTE OR MAOISTS ARE, BUT TO UNDERSTAND THEM AND THEIR CONTEXT, WHY THEY ARE WHAT THEY ARE. Like biased-anchors in the electronic media, perhaps, you may say why go into history? Or you will say this is not the place to explain everything, but then why do you expect Sanhati to write everything in the statement?

    Sorry for my own assumptions about you. We are all together in this habit of assuming too much.

    Aniket: don’t you think we are all better as ‘idiots’ at this juncture, rather than being worldly wise – serving buddha and manmohan.?

    • Nirmalangshu permalink
      October 25, 2009 7:14 PM

      About (1), the Supreme Commander of CPI (Maoist) says so. He said that “former” LTTE men trained their guerrillas. I did not forget to include the qualification “former”. As for (2), as I have replied elsewhere in this discussion, I have nothing for or against Sanhati people; I was just concerned with the statement they asked people across the world to sign.

  35. magisterludi permalink
    October 24, 2009 10:43 AM

    Aniket, it looks like you think many of the world’s left-leaning intellectuals and other keen observers are idiots. Hope the confidence pays off in 2011.

  36. a tired reader permalink
    October 24, 2009 1:35 PM

    I am tired of these intellectuals, their statements and those who issue statements on statements.
    They all seem to assume too much and seem to sign statements without trying to educate themselves on issues.In case of Sonal Shah too a statement was issued and some academics who knew her and had worked with her had to defend her. How many of those who had signed the statement against her appointment had bothered to check the facts and know the views from both sides before appending their name and signature.
    In this case I wonder how many of these academics who have signed this letter/statement know how much about the maoists or what is happening in the states or what are the issues or had bothered to read the views of all sides to the debate.
    The Prof NM is no better. He rushes to issue
    judgments on recent events as if the issues have been settled once and for all. He does not even get the basic facts right about the post1948 history of Sri Lanka. The herd mentality among these intellectuals is pathetic. If the issue is about condeming all forms of violence, by the state or those who are against it, it could have been addressed differently. There is more heat than light on this issue in the letter or in the responses here.

  37. a tired reader permalink
    October 24, 2009 1:41 PM

    My god lenin’s words are here again :). I know comrades who would quote x quotation from y page of lenin’s work z to defend their views and those in the other camp quoting from the same lenin to oppose that using another work by lenin. It seems that generation after generation marxists use the same technique time and again with glee or perhaps with smug satisfaction.

  38. bijoy permalink
    October 24, 2009 2:18 PM

    The left leaned intellectuals have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it.

    I agree with Nirmalangshu Mukherjee in saying that these maoists menace will halt the entire left moment in India for sometime.

  39. bijoy permalink
    October 24, 2009 2:24 PM

    Pls read “left moment” as “left movement”. Sorry for the mistake.

  40. bijoy permalink
    October 24, 2009 7:44 PM

    i think this is the time, we all need to learn little panchatantra story, which is originated before marx came into this world.

    the moral of story is “Unity is streangth”.

    “Once upon a time, there was a flock of doves that flew in search of food led by their king. One day, they had flown a long distance and were very tired. The dove king encouraged them to fly a little further. The smallest dove picked up speed and found some rice scattered beneath a banyan tree. So all the doves landed and began to eat.

    Suddenly a net fell over them and they were all trapped. They saw a hunter approaching carrying a huge club. The doves desperately fluttered their wings trying to get out, but to no avail.

    The king had an idea. He advised all the doves to fly up together carrying the net with them. He said that there was strength in unity.

    Each dove picked up a portion of the net and together they flew off carrying the net with them. The hunter looked up in astonishment. He tried to follow them, but they were flying high over hills and valleys. They flew to a hill near a city of temples where there lived a mouse who could help them. He was a faithful friend of the dove king.

    When the mouse heard the loud noise of their approach, he went into hiding. The dove king gently called out to him and then the mouse was happy to see him. The dove king explained that they had been caught in a trap and needed the mouse’s help to gnaw at the net with his teeth and set them free.

    The mouse agreed saying that he would set the king free first. The king insisted that he first free his subjects and the king last. The mouse understood the king’s feelings and compled with his wishes. He began to cut the net and one by one all the doves were freed including the dove king.

    They all thanked the mouse and flew away together, united in their strength.

  41. dipak permalink
    October 24, 2009 11:47 PM

    the letter by intellectuals is addressed to the prime minister. why should that contain criticism of the maoists ? the intellectuals do not need to tell the prime minister that they are good boys or girls who do not do naughty things.

    • Nirmalangshu permalink
      October 25, 2009 7:08 PM

      Correct, if the large number of signatories, especially hundreds of them from abroad, knew what they were signing on. The content of the statement and the background note did not empower them to do so. One could ‘assume’ that all the signatories are familiar with the complex issues, especially regarding the functioning of CPI (Maoist). The assumption is false and fanciful.

  42. Andaleeb permalink
    October 25, 2009 3:30 AM

    Why is the government bent on clearing tribals NOW? The following report may have some clue.

    A silent hunt for dissent

    Krishnamurthy Ramasubbu

    10 am, October 12 — Jagdalpur, Bastar district headquarters town in Chhattisgarh, looks like a ghost town. Large areas around the collector’s office have been cordoned off. Around 50 tribals sit in a hall waiting for a public hearing of the environmental impact assessment report of Tata Steel’s proposed Rs 10,000-crore greenfield steel project in the district’s Lohandiguda block.

    It’s noon by the time officials of the district administration and Tata Steel arrive. Sashi Bhu­shan Prasad, head of Tata’s environmental division, is presenting the report. His start is dramatic: “One hundred and twenty-five years ago, Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata had a dream for a village in Jharkhand, and that is Jamshedpur. It was many times worse than our Bastar.”

    This is followed by, “Carbon steel…electrostatic precipitators…sodium and nitrogen oxides…automatic combustion control systems. Our technology will be better than the best in the world or at least equivalent. I will skip the technical things because you won’t appreciate them.”

    The audience pays no attention. For a project that will take up around 5,000 acres of tribal land comprising 11 villages, use a large quantity of water from the river Sabari and will pollute the Indravati, the audience is surprisingly disinterested. After the presentation, the collector asks if there is any objection. Total silence. No one has any objection, but Tata’s project has not progressed beyond paper work and presentations since it signed an MoU with the state government in 2005.

    Guarded tour

    3 pm-4 pm — The hearing is over. The audience walks out towards a waiting posse of security personnel. Asked about the hearing, some pretend not to hear. One of them says, “We are from around Bastar…we have come on a tour.” They are loaded into a convoy of jeeps arranged by the government. That was the public hearing.

    Reportedly, the collector told the press later, “The public hearing was successful. The people of Bastar should be congratulated.”

    Two days earlier, on October 10, people from about a dozen villages near Raigarh expressed their opinion on another proposed plant, of Visa Steel and Power, by burning public property worth Rs 20 lakh at a public hearing.

    At Lohandiguda village, where Tata Steel is setting up shop, village panchayat chairman Budram Kashyap is asked why he did not attend the public hearing. “We were not allowed,’’ he says. ‘‘There was a blockade outside Lohandi­guda.” People at Kumli village nearby say Tata men blocked the roads.

    In these villages, Tata Steel is not a happy name, although they claim to have paid compensation for 70-75 per cent of the land in Lohandi­guda and the 10 surrounding villages.

    “Some people here were willing but others were not. In the other 10 villages, they don’t want to give land at all,” says Kashyap. “Even people who took compensation money were pressured. There is pressure from the government that is difficult to resist.”

    Fear of imprisonment

    The people of the other 10 villages, Badanji, Bade Paroda, Belar, Beliapal, Chindgaon, Dabpal, Dhuragaon, Kumli, Sirisaguda and Takra­guda, feel likewise.

    It is harvest season and a group of farmers are loading a trailer with the new paddy at Kumli. Farmer Pandey Nath says his land is not being acquired but he still opposes Tata. ‘‘Tomorrow they will have a factory near my land, pollute it and edge me out. No one wants to sell but they have all taken money now. No one was taking initially, so they sent three or four people to jail to set an example. They did impersonation, faked papers and everything they could to show that compensation had been paid,” he says to the collective nods of 10 other farmers whose lands are being acquired.

    Tata and the state government have promised jobs, better infrastructure, education and hea­lthcare, but people seem unmoved. “I have been to Jamshedpur,” says Kashyap. ‘‘The children of Tata employees are educated. When Tata opens here, will they give us jobs or them? If Tata were serious, they could have trained the unemployed youth of Lohandiguda.’’

    Tribal lands are shared and each parcel has 10 to 50 people dependent on it, according to the tribals. A single job for each piece of land will not help. Sources say Tata Steel has spent more than Rs 150 crore over the last four years to ‘‘create goodwill’’. But in villages like Kumli, the charm offensive has plainly not worked.

    Pankaj Nath is clear about the general mood. “We will take up weapons,’’ he says bleakly. ‘‘The men will fight with their hoes and the women with their sickles.”

    Kamal Gajviye, a CPI member and farmer at Kumli, is losing his land to the project. “The collector has often accused me of being a Naxalite. I am not. But I will become one, if this continues. They will all become Naxalites.”

    The government says there is no resistance to land acquisition, or blames it on Maoists. A high-ranking police official says people “right now’’ are unsafe because of the Maoists and subject to their pressure. ‘‘Once people are sec­ure, they can decide freely. Then if they do not want the project, it should be fine.”

    Ask Kashyap about this pressure from Maoists, who allegedly eliminated Vimal Meshram for acting as Tata Steel’s broker in Lohandiguda, and his reply is, “This man was killed for doing brokerage work for Tata. But there is no Maoist pressure. We never see them. How can they inti­midate or pressure us?”

    Lohandiguda does not have CRPF deployment, but later this year, along with other pla­ces in north Bastar, it could see paramilitary units, as part of Operation Green Hunt, a central government offensive against Maoists. Once they arrive, it might be difficult to expr­ess such dissent freely.

    Three hours away by bus, in the south Bastar villages of Dhurli and Bhansi in Dantewada district where Essar is planning a Rs 7,000-crore greenfield steel plant, the CRPF’s constant presence makes a difference. At Bhansi, a group of men from the paramilitary security force are having breakfast when the village panchayat chairman comes. He refuses to talk about Essar, “I won’t talk about Essar. Two of my friends were murdered over it.”

    ‘Kill us first’

    At Dhurli, the panchayat chairman has run away, “Oh…,’’ says one of the men at a tea stall. ‘‘He stays in Dantewada fearing the Naxals. He probably took money from Essar.” Samruram Mar­kam, the village kotwari, says it is ‘‘a little pea­ceful now’’, but last year it was bad. ‘‘The collector is with them (Essar), so they come in with the force and threaten us. Essar came in 2005 and along with them came the CRPF camp.”

    The restive mood of Lohandiguda is missing in these villages. “In case our land is taken by force,” says Markam, ‘‘we have decided to asse­mble all the men, women, cattle, goat, chicken and dogs, and ask them to kill us before taking the land. We will die anyway without our land.’’ There’s a note of despair in his voice.

    In Raipur, N Baijendra Kumar, principal secretary to the chief minister, says mining projects have not taken off in Bastar because, “44 per cent of Bastar is forest and most of our mine­ral resources are beneath that. Environmental iss­ues come with the application of the Forest Act. Also, with tribals we have seen emotional problems when it comes to land.”

    He denies any direct relation between Green Hunt and mining or related activities, “There is no direct link. Some activists are trying to show a correlation. The operation will improve everything, health, education, infrastructure. Obviously it will also improve mining.”

    At Dhurli, an old woman drops her washing to chat, “Is it true that many soldiers are going to come next month? They say they will cut us up and throw away our bodies, after Diwali…. Is it true? ” It’s hard to answer that.

    krishnamurthy.ramasubbu@gmail.com

    The threat of a desi East India Company

    The Chhattisgarh government has been insisting on setting up steel plants in the state to ensure value addition. Chief minister Raman Singh had said that companies should not behave like the East India Company and cart away only mineral raw

    materials from the state. As part of this plan Tata’s plant is planned in North Bastar, while Essar’s plant is planned in South Bastar.

    Company: Tata Steel

    Location: Lohandiguda block, Bastar district

    Displacement: 11 villages

    Land: 5,050 acres approximately

    Product: Steel from iron ore

    Capacity: 5.5 million tonnes per annum

    Estimated cost: Rs 10,000 crore

    Company: Essar Steel

    Location: Dhurli and Bhansi villages, Dantewada district

    Displacement: 2 villages

    Land: 1500 acres approximately

    Product: Steel from iron ore

    Capacity: 3.2 million tonnes per annum

    Estimated cost: Rs 7,000 crore

    • Nirmalangshu permalink
      October 25, 2009 7:03 PM

      This is a very perceptive account of what must be going on in those forest areas inhabited by tribals. It is also very clear that isolated groups of tribals find it most difficult to resist the moves of Essar etc. accompanied by agents of the state, as the author vividly describes. It is precisely for this reason that broad and militant democratic movements are needed in solidarity with the local population so that the latter can organise themselves and take the resistance to a more visible higher level. To mention just one struggle, this is exactly what Narmada Bachao Andolan had done. Given the broad mass base and support from ‘civil society’, the state did not dare to escalate its forms of repression even if it wanted to, and the World Bank fled from the scene.

      In more recent times, Nandigram and Lalgarh are shining examples of how indigenous people’s movements against the loot and repression of agents of neo-liberalisation can arise and develop with broad support. In both cases, however, a disasterous ‘revolutionary’ politics attempted to exploit the opportunity by intervening with the promise of immediate armed struggle. This was done by creating conditions of violence far beyond the level of development of a struggle; this invited immediate escalation of repression by the state; the original movement is left with no option but to take up arms; state repression increases even further; the leaders go underground–the movement is destroyed.

      Specifically:

      1. In Nandigram, the impressive movement of the people forced the Govt. to withdraw the plan for the chemical hub from that area. Instead of building up on that victory, the Trinamool-‘Maoist’ alliance began to intimidate, kill, and expel local CPM cadres in large numbers to capture the area. This led to invasion of harmads, which was responded to by arming selective groups, digging trenches, etc. Militaristic preparations took over the democratic organisations of the people. The state found the justification to enhance repression, the leaders fled the scene, the movement collapsed.

      2. In Lalgarh, the historical deprivation of people created conditions for a democratic struggle which was building up when the ‘maoists’ intervened by attempting to blow up the Chief Minister. The state got every excuse to let its security forces loose on the unprepared people, and the familiar scenario followed.

      The history of people’s struggles in the Dandakaranya area is much longer and, hence, more complicated. But a detailed analysis of steps over the years is likely to show the same pattern.

      Such people’s movements are typically hijacked when the

  43. Fujimoto permalink
    October 25, 2009 5:56 AM

    Noam Chomsky is getting old. He has lost his marbles. He thinks Tamils are persecuted in Sri Lanka. Little does he know Muttiah Muralitharan, a Tamil, is Sri Lanka’s national hero!

  44. Anant M. permalink
    October 25, 2009 7:40 AM

    Dear Aditya,

    It is tempting to dismiss the charge of being liberal humanist against Balagopal as garbage and move on to more important things. Indeed that would be an appropriate response if it were only a matter of a handful of ideologues flinging words they do not understand.

    Unfortunately, Balagopal wrote only one article in Telugu and another in English where he made explicit his questions for Marxism and gave an all too brief interview in 2001 to clarify on his explorations in humanist approaches to Marxism e.g. Frankfurt School and British cultural materialism. A lot of the discussions and attempt to retheorize democratic rights in APCLC and HRF remain undocumented as, he and his colleagues focused entirely on ‘local’ practice. This has to be rectified at some point.

    As of now, it is undeniable that Indian Marxists, at least the orthodox variety, find little of value in his thought and it is in liberal humanist ideological complexes that Balagopal gets invoked every now and then.

    I paste here a link to the one English article where he responded to Sumanta Banerjee on the question of Communalism and went on to raise questions about Marxism.

    http://balagopal.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/balagopal-democracy.pdf

    The questions he raises here resonate with the sort of issues that Stuart Hall was raising in the 80s and 90s in British politics – the dangers of a Marxism that failed to yield or yield to a theory of subjectivity.

  45. A concerned citizen permalink
    October 25, 2009 1:15 PM

    For all their huffing and puffing against “neoliberal” policies, the Left in India need to study economics. India has made economic progress “only” after it opened up its economy!!! Please check BPL numbers before and after. Please check what percentage of people have got into middle class category. No country in the world has progressed with Leftist ideology….it just shocks me that so called intellectuals can go on supporting murderous Left ideologies of Mao, Lenin and Stalin which represses people, keeps them poor, puts them in gulags all in the name of “dictatorship of the proletariat”! Does the Left have ANY viable solution to the problems faced by our country (mostly perpetuated by Nehruvian socialist policies)? No! Because of its intransigent attitude to labour laws, millions of unorganised sector workers remain without rights!!! Because of ridiculous policy of reservation in our education, the concept of merit has lost all meaning. Only your caste or religion or sex matter!!!! Why don’t these so called “intellectuals” EVER speak out about these issues instead of supporting uncontrolled violence by people who want to hide their bloodlust in the guise of “justice for the poor”???

    • Nirmalangshu permalink
      October 26, 2009 5:51 PM

      For the effect of neo-liberal policies and the disasterous consequences for the poor, we don’t need ‘maoist’ sermons. In fact they have been a little too late in joining the resistance. For a non-‘maoist’ account, I find the rigorous economic account by the noted economist Utsa Patnaik’s work helpful; for example, The Republic of Hunger, 2001. The general struggle against SEZs and neo-liberal policies began in the mid-’90’s when the ‘maoists’ were still fighting their own war of area-control in Andhra and Bihar.

  46. Manash permalink
    October 25, 2009 4:08 PM

    “My fear is that because of this economic interest the government and establishment actually needs a war. It needs to militarize. For that it needs an enemy. And so in a way what the Muslims were to BJP, the Maoists are to Congress…..

    If I was a person who is being dispossessed, whose wife has been raped, who is being pushed of their land and who is being faced with this ‘police force’, I would say that I am justified in taking up arms. If that is the only way I have to defend myself,”

    Arundhati Roy (forthcoming interview with Karan Thapar in IBNLive).

    • Nirmalangshu permalink
      October 26, 2009 5:45 PM

      Thanks for the quotes. But I will only respond to critics of my open letter.

  47. just a reader permalink
    October 26, 2009 10:43 AM

    I think NM’s letter misses the real issues.The letter to PM is not the proper forum for a debate on maoists and counterposing one violence with
    another.Such a letter can only address some concerns in a broad manner. Matters which the
    left (of all hues and shades) and its fellow travellers, supporters,sympathisers and dissenters within the broad left should discuss
    among themselves (e.g. should we oppose globalization per se, state violence vs maoist
    violence, industrialization vs peoples’ livelihoods,
    environmental issues vs growth and development)
    can be discussed in any other fora or platform.
    Why should anyone rush to judge the recent events and the outcomes with so much
    certainity. The end of history was pronounced
    in the early 90s and that judgment was found to be meaningless within a decade.The rediscovery of Keynes after the global economic crisis or the massive resurgence of the left in Latin America were never anticipated or predicted in the beginning of this century. Unfortunately
    the left in India is yet to work together on some
    common issues/concerns to work with (e.g.
    labor rights) or work together to address issues
    cutting across the ideological divide. Verbal duels and endless polemics will take them nowhere.
    After reading so many debates in Kafila and elsewhere I realize that for many, proving themselves to be correct seems to an end rather
    than means for a wider goal.Nuances in theory and analysis of situated contexts and actions are
    fine but do they result in further fragmentation of
    understanding and analysis is paralysis type of situation or do they result in an understanding that
    guides praxis.

  48. magisterludi permalink
    October 26, 2009 11:49 AM

    Nirmalanshu gives too little credit to the hundreds of foreign signatories, when he says that they didn’t know what they were signing. Just because the statement is not to his liking, it doesn’t follow that everybody who signed it was an ignoramus. That’s a very self-important position.

  49. Andaleeb permalink
    October 26, 2009 12:59 PM

    @ Nirmalangshu

    “Instead of building up on that victory, the Trinamool-’Maoist’ alliance began to intimidate, kill, and expel local CPM cadres in large numbers to capture the area. This led to invasion of harmads, which was responded to by arming selective groups, digging trenches, etc.”

    – what is interesting is the sequence in which you present the events. You have been out of Bengal for a long time I presume?

    • dask permalink
      October 26, 2009 2:20 PM

      ‘trimanool-maoist’ alliance seems quite similar to what karat and company tell us repeatedly. this does smell bad if mr. mukherjee does want to shake off allegations that his views are close to that of cpi(m).

      mr. mukherjee can write whatever he wants. the problem is with kafila’s original idea of hositing such a personal position without hosting the letter which mr. mukherjee criticizes.

    • Nirmalangshu permalink
      October 26, 2009 5:42 PM

      You have to be inside Iraq to know what is happening there? ‘Insider’s knowledge’ is always a handy excuse for those who do not have any other arguments to offer.
      Forms of subjectivism go hand in hand with anarchic positions.

    • dask permalink
      October 26, 2009 6:47 PM

      Mr. Mukherjee again ducks the question. How did he know that there is a Trinamool-Maoist alliance if he is not reading the CPI(M) handouts ? No one else is talking about such a nexus. The non-CPI(M) left is far from making such accusations.

    • Nirmalangshu permalink
      October 27, 2009 12:16 PM

      So, one is condemned to read only ‘maoist’ documents, and not allowed to make up one’s mind after reading statements of both sides alongwith newspaper reports, varieties of fact-finding committees etc.? You do not expect the CPI (Maoist) to directly concede an alliance with the Trinamool. But what do we make of the Supreme Commander’s comment: “Then there have been mass movements in Singur and Nandigram but there the role of a section of the ruling classes is also significant. These movements were utilised by the ruling class parties for their own
      electoral interests.” How come in the presence of ‘maoist’ cadres?

    • Nirmalangshu permalink
      November 20, 2009 12:43 PM

      About the suggested Trinamool-‘maoist’ alliance in Nandigram, it may be instructive to cite Sumanta Bannerjee, who, I hope is not seen as a part of CPI(M) bandwagon.

      “the Maoists seem to be following the age-
      old unprincipled doctrine of “My enemy’s enemy is my friend”, and
      justifying it in the name of supporting self-determination of
      nationalities.

      A similar expediency led the Maoists in West Bengal to get into
      underhand opportunist deals with the Trinamool Congress leader Mamata
      Banerjee (who is now the Railways Minister of the UPA government), to
      make use of popular discontent against CPI(M) gangsterism in
      Nandigram. This fact was revealed, in an unguarded moment, by the
      same Koteswar Rao in an interview with the Bengali TV Star Ananda
      channel sometime ago, where he expressed the hope that Mamata would
      protect his party from police persecution since it had supported her
      in the past! need for introspection The basic debate therefore is
      not over poll boycott per se, but revolves around the Maoist
      leadership’s ideological under- standing of the present overall
      Indian situation, and their moral integrity. Instead of recognising
      the various forms of struggles by which different sections of the op-
      pressed people try to exhaust the available democratic opportunities,
      and accommodating these forms in an inclusive programme of action,
      the CPI(Maoist) leaders in an immature overestimation of the Indian
      public mood are jumping the queue of options, and prioritising armed
      struggle as the sole means. In a further step of immaturity – which
      sad to say, also makes them morally culpable – they prefer to strike
      deals with ethno-chauvinist armed outfits, or opportunist politicians
      like Mamata Banerjee. It is these militarist priorities and political
      expediencies that are eroding the ideological commitment of their
      cadres. The latter (in West Bengal today in particular) seem to be
      degenerating into roving gangs of paranoid revengeful killers –
      recalling the dark days of the fratricidal warfare between the
      Naxalites and CPI(M) youth cadres in the 1970s. The party leadership
      does not seem to have any control over its cadres even in its own
      strongholds – as evident from the spokesperson’s admission that “the
      unfortunate attacks on poll officials (in Chhattisgarh) were an
      aberration…”. (Economic and Political Weekly, 14 November 2009, CRITIQUING THE PROGRAMME OF ACTION OF THE MAOISTS, by Sumanta Banerjee)

      The entire article is an eye-opener.

  50. bijoy permalink
    October 26, 2009 2:35 PM

    one thing is sure, there wouldn’t have 100s of rulling party members killed else where in the world. This is the best thing democratic left offers to maoist that maoist can associate with Trinamool and keep going on killing CPIM members. Let it be a maoist regime or congress regime, these kind of barbaric killings of rulling party members wouldn’t have allowed to continue.

  51. Joseph Mathai permalink
    October 26, 2009 6:31 PM

    I share the sadness Aditya Nigam expressed on hearing some of the speeches at Balagopal’s condolence meeting. I don’t however see “liberal humanist” as a bad word, though I agree in Balagopal’s case it is an instance of being damned with faint praise.

    From the liberal humanist standpoint I see no reason to criticize a statement for only being critical about the state’s exceedingly brutal and undemocratic repression of an organization, its leaders and members and its supporters. In the light of Max Weber’s characterization of the state having “the monopoly on the legitimate use of violence” it behoves on liberals to focus on the wanton misuse of state violence irrespective of who it is used on.

  52. dask permalink
    October 26, 2009 11:28 PM

    CPI(M) blog has printed it.

    http://pragoti.org/bn/node/3662

    Mr. Mukherjee has nice company. Need we say more ?

  53. Aditya Nigam permalink*
    October 27, 2009 12:06 PM

    Thanks Joseph, for pointing out this distinction. The point really is where the label ‘liberal humanist’ comes from. There is nothing intrinsically wrong about it. However, coming from where it did, it also smacks of double standards and hypocrisy – for it is not that these people will refuse to ‘make use’ of the legal and intellectual prowess of ‘liberal humanists’ whom they so deride. But more on that later. Anant, thanks for the link – this was a very useful piece by Balagopal. However, I am really not interested in labels distributed by self-appointed guardians of the revolution and so fully share your argument.
    dask, this is our tragedy, if you allow me to say so. Let me clarify that I disagree with Nirmalangshu on a number of points that have come up in the course of the debate. I have no doubt that the harmads of the CPM for example have had an independent and prior existence and role in West Bengal and that rural Bengal has been groaning under the silent terror of CPM rule. That is the primary reason for the outburst of popular anger that one sees against it, in the aftermath of the elections. I also disagree with this ‘Trinamool-Maoist alliance’ formulation. Being a student of politics, I know that it is only when there are really spontaneous mass movements that all kinds of forces feel compelled to join the bandwagon. Neither Nandigram nor Singur – nor even Lalgarh – were the product of Trinamool-Maoist activity but were popular revolts where these diverse forces felt compelled to jump in with their own agendas. This is a story that remains to be told.
    However, simply because of this, and simply because his piece has been posted on Pragoti, I will not label him a CPM person. After all, two years ago, when the Nandigram battle was on, Nirmalangshu had signed the statement (which many of us had signed too) addressing Tariq Ali, Howard Zinn, Chomsky, Susan George and others. That statement was a clear critique of the CPM as well as of the position espoused by these intellectuals.

    • Nirmalangshu permalink
      October 27, 2009 12:46 PM

      Aditya, I fully agree with you on the fact that CPM harmads and other goons have terrorised rural bengal much before the said uprisings. Just to set the recod clear, I wrote this in a recent article: “The combination of withdrawal of pro-people policies, increasing control of the mafia and repression of the state, the misuse of the panchayat system, the appeasement of urban elites, adoption of neoliberal policies, and almost absolute failure in terms even of ‘good governance’, finally convinced the people that there really is no basic difference between the previous Congress-rule and the current left-rule… The dam of unvoiced resistance finally burst when the system of repression invaded people’s habitats in Singur and Nandigram under the direction of big business. The electoral verdict of 2009 is essentially a verdict against the very character of left-governance; the people of West Bengal have finally been able to see through sustained propaganda to conclude that there is not much left of the left anymore.”

      About Trinamool-‘maoist’ alliance/connections, I agree with you that this is a story that remains to be told (fully). See the comment from the Supreme Commander above for the beginning of such a story. It will also be disturbingly partisan to dismiss all reports by people like Mailini Bhattacharya, Sudhvna, and others just because they belong to or are associated with CPM. In unclear conditions of conflict, one needs to make some guesses about the ‘truth’ by working through a variety of conflicting partisan reports, interpreting them in terms of one’s past knowledge. If there is some indication of a ‘maoist’-CPM alliance at the beginning of the Lalgarh movement, partly conceded by the Supreme Commander, why couldn’t there be a ‘maoist’-Trinamool alliance in Nandigarh? Do we all forget the Cong-shal (Congress-Naxal) phenomenon in Bengal in the ’70s?

    • dask permalink
      October 27, 2009 4:19 PM

      We are students of politics and students need to do their homework.
      The problem with Mr. Mukherjee is this : 1. He has not done his homework. He does not know what he is talking about. Any student of Bengal politics during the past decade knows the geography, the organisations involved and the sequence in time. From reading Mr. Mukherjee’s comments and referencing of events, it is clear that he has hardly followed what has happened. 2. Since he has failed in his homework, he is relying on his friends’ (Malinis and Sudhanvas) notes, trusting his instincts. 3. Finally, he writes a bad essay assuming he understand the letterwriters, the intellectuals, his friends’ notes and then pours out his personal scorn.

      Criticism is absolutely necessary. But a better job should be done without trying to be a Twenty20 slogger attempting to please the maidens in the crowd. CPI(Marxist) is definitely pleased. Otherwise Pragoti would not have hosted it.

  54. Prathamesh permalink
    October 27, 2009 12:21 PM

    While Balagopal was quoted, its interesting to note how he himself demanded an end to this hunt. He has an article which was translated called : Let us demand an end to this hunt.
    Prathamesh

  55. Andaleeb permalink
    October 27, 2009 1:24 PM

    @Mukherjee – So elements like Sudhanva DesPande and Malini Bhatacharya have to be taken at face value when the Trinamool-Maoist alliance tag is parroted by CPM and no-one else? It is exactly due to the coarseness of your source-based analysis that I surmised that you must not be living in Bengal.This Malini Bhatacharya was a CPM MP and you expect her to have a point-of-view on Trinamool, which is no in line with CPM, and then take the content of the viewpoint of being Malini Bhatacharya’s , the “feminist intellectual”. Are you naive or do you think we are fools?

  56. Joseph Mathai permalink
    October 27, 2009 5:40 PM

    A careful re-reading of Prof Nirmalangshu Mukherji’s open letter has pushed me to make a longer intervention on this subject expanding my earlier point. My cause for concern on his letter can be encapsulated in his concluding sentence: “By posing the current military preparations of the state only as a state vs. people conflict, the statement you endorsed effectively exonerates the CPI (Maoist) and plays into their hands.” If I have got it right Prof Mukherji appears to be arguing that the statement would have been better drafted if it was accompanied by a critique of the CPI (Maoist) in terms of the support it actually has amongst the people and that by taking up armed struggle they have actually invited this level of repression on themselves and the people.
    I endorse the view expressed in the statement: “We feel that it [the military offensive] would deliver a crippling blow to Indian democracy if the government tries to subjugate its own people militarily.” I agree that perhaps the statement could have been drafted better as the concluding part of this sentence reads “without addressing their grievances” as if implying a military subjugation is justified after addressing grievances!
    I repeat the point made in my earlier intervention in the face the state’s exceedingly brutal and undemocratic repression of an organization, its leaders and members and its supporters, it is perfectly reasonable to focus on the wanton misuse of state violence rather than critique who it is used on.
    Many years ago while filing a case on a custodial death that had occurred at Inder Puri Police Station (Delhi) in the Supreme Court, the court clerk curiously asked us what crime had the dead victim committed? The case related to a day labourer, Ram Swarup, picked at the morning labour haat under the Naraina flyover to do some work (unpaid for) at the police station, who was then locked up for the night and picked on by some drunk policemen in the night looking for some ‘entertainment’ and beaten to death. My impulse was to tell the court clerk the whole story and speak about how Ram Swarup was innocent of any crime. Before I could say anything, the lawyer-activist who was filing the case said that it was irrelevant; the police have no right to beat up anyone they have in their custody. On hind sight I realized the wisdom of this response; the guilt or innocence of the victim is no grounds to view a violation by the state and its functionaries of its sworn duty to protect “the life and personal liberty” of each of its citizens. (The case for compensation was won; though as usual no murder proceedings were initiated against the concerned policeman.)
    Civil liberties and democratic rights activists try to create, preserve and enlarge this liberal space; striving to ensure that the state and its agencies are forced to act within the ambit of rule of law and the tenants of natural justice. True to the liberal nature of this project the civil liberties organizations have taken up issues where ‘victims’ of rights violations have come from the entire sweep of the political spectrum, including a Mr L K Advani, who was once arrested under the draconian National Security Act.
    In the past too there have been instances when there were critics questioning the wisdom of a defence of the rights of individuals and organizations of whichever particular political brand that was then felt by that particular critic to be indefensible for whatever reason. This is perhaps truly indicative of the shrinking liberal space even amongst fellow travelers.
    With all earnestness I would request Prof Mukherji to further expand his insightful, valuable and provoking critique of the CPI (Maoist)…and sign the statement!

    • miao permalink
      October 28, 2009 2:52 PM

      “Civil liberties and democratic rights activists try to create, preserve and enlarge this liberal space; striving to ensure that the state and its agencies are forced to act within the ambit of rule of law and the tenants of natural justice.”

      Please correct me if I’m wrong. It seems from this statement that the threat to liberal space comes from the state and its agencies only. So if the state can be effectively monitored, liberal space will not be endangered. AN has raised this issue already in another article and following same thread of thought I’m curious to know Mr. Mathai’s opinion about “Political Program of CPI(Maoist) vis-a’-vis Liberal Space”.

    • countermiao permalink
      October 29, 2009 6:15 PM

      protection of democratic space is of course necessary. but if these spacemen and spacewomen cannot protect the poor or the minorities from state repression, then there is a problem. for the miaos it is just an excuse for ridiculing the maoists who according to them are a danger to liberal spaces. it would be better for the miaos to do some introspection and evaluate their own responsibilities as they start questioning the legitimacy of others.

    • miao permalink
      October 30, 2009 4:00 PM

      Thanks to my counter-avatar. I agree with you, replacing one word only: “it would be better for everyone to do some introspection and evaluate their own responsibilities as they start questioning the legitimacy of others.” :-)

    • countermiao permalink
      October 31, 2009 1:24 AM

      there is no disagreement with miao. it works both ways and should produce some effects in the real world. otherwise such soulsearching is of no use.

  57. V. Geetha permalink
    October 28, 2009 12:35 PM

    Very quickly, I want to come into this from another angle. The LTTE’s ride into destruction has elicited an almost singular response, over the decades, from their supporters in Tamil Nadu – unqualified endorsement of their nationalist credentials. Through this year, as the terrible war progressed towards its tragic finale, this devotion to the Tigers, so visible in the Tamil press, media and literary world, disallowed any other way or mode of engaging with the situation in Sri Lanka other than one of maudlin anger and public affirmation of our blood ties with fellow Tamils across the seas. So much so that beyond a point, this way of doing politics seemed patently self-indulgent, calling attention to its own fervour. Except for a few lone voices that counseled a different debate – looking at the Indian State’s increasing involvement in Sri Lankan economic and military affairs, the changed nature of the Sri Lankan state, discussing the possibilities of locating protests within a broader alliance of Sinhala and Muslim dissenters – the mood was one of rhetorical affirmation of Tamil nationalism, its heroes and martyrs…
    The point is that the absence of a sustained critical engagement with the Tigers and their politics has not only rendered puerile Tamil responses from Tamil Nadu, but also prevented many of us from looking at things that have been staring us in the face for several years: the UTHR (Jaffna) reports, the contentious debates in Tamil blogs on the LTTE, the serious and psychotic manner in which Tamil militant groups have preyed on one another and then had no compunctions in taking the part of the Sri Lankan state… Whatever we did not wish to own up to, since many of us were ardent Tiger supporters, we tended to dismiss away as ‘interested propaganda’, as serving the interests of other militant groups, or we tended to say, ‘so, if the Tigers are bad, were the others any better’, or ‘should we be talking about this when the Sri Lankan army is killing Tamils by the day…’ Our need for a validating and enabling politics, which we could not reconstruct from our own context, rendered many of us political voyeurs of the worst kind. And if today, the situation in Sri Lanka continues to elicit merely sentimental and denunciatory resposnes, this has also been on account of our unwillingness to debate, listen to contrary points of view, and our shameless search for alibis to duck damning charges leveled against the LTTE from diverse locations. On the other hand, we have also had to reckon with tales of lived horror, with dead friends whose list has grown by the year, and that evidence from the field so to speak, sadly, remains unaccommodated within any critical or affective public register – and so nationalism moves in where all else fails. The other option has been to determinedly criticise the LTTE, which some Tamils in diaspora do, as is clear from entire blogs devoted to this subject, but so much of this is caught between a dark nihilism on the one hand and personal hatred that remains resolutely outside the pale of the political on the other. An anti-LTTE politics, put forward by the Sri Lanka DEmocracy Forum has been another mode of looking at the situation – and there are some who have attempted work with this position in Tamil Nadu, some with reservations, others in a more accepting sort of way but both remain minorities, rather individuals than groups. The tragedy of the Tamils in Sri Lanka is mirrored in perverse ways in the near-collapse of critical thought on this subject in the Tamil Nadu context.
    In this context, this debate on Kafila, on Sanhati and elsewhere appears doubly and crucially important for many of us…

  58. Padmaja Shaw permalink
    October 29, 2009 12:20 AM

    Its been an interesting debate. BUT.. I feel that Chomsky’s endorsement of the letter to Government of India along with a large number of other intellectuals is an urgent and spontaneous response to the posturing of the state and its eagerness to annihilate the maoist influence. If Sri Lanka’s approach to LTTE was its undeclared role model, then the loss of life of innocent people in the cross fire is unimaginable. The first task is to pressurise the sttae to abandon such a project. The next stage could certainly be the analysis of maoist strategy of killing individuals in the name of eliminating class enemies and the alternatives to that, if any, in the context of a brutally oppressive state-corporate-police nexus that prevails in large parts of the country. The fact such a situation prevails creating a space for maoist ideology and the failure of alternative approaches to make any significant difference to the material reality of people’s lives, makes such a timely intervention by people who care necessary.

  59. magisterludi permalink
    October 29, 2009 3:28 AM

    Nirmalanshu’s blind parroting of CPIM’s lies about Nandigram essentially clarifies the motivation for his letter. What is very ironic is that he lectures and pontificates about how signatories are too ignorant to sign, that they need to be empowered by the piercing truth of Nirmalanshu’s analysis before they sign…

    Sir- you appear to be a philosophy professor in Delhi – you really are operating way out of your specialisation here, especially if your sources of analysis are CPIM’s Delhi hacks…

  60. Joseph Mathai permalink
    October 30, 2009 3:08 PM

    Liberal space is indeed threatened when friends first want to see the credentials of people by asking their views on unrelated issues before judging the views already being expressed. My position on the programme of the CPI Maoist is irrelevant to the issue I am raising hence I am not entering that debate. My position on violence, which is part of their programme is, hence let me write about that.

    To me physical violence and the threat of physical violence viewed politically is essentially an undemocratic act. I however feel that the level of violence that exists in a society is a good barometer to gauge the democratic nature of that society. India is a violent country and also a very undemocratic one. In India violence and the real threat of violence permeates all aspects of society, culture, economy and polity. Violence has been the unwritten part of the programme of almost all political parties; either covertly in propping up violent groups to undermine the position of more moderate opponents or overtly by actually leading pogroms against sections of people. Even factional fights within major political parties in India have witnessed violent conflicts. To put it crudely, on the question of violence hammam mein sab nangaien hai. The nature and extent to which violence or the threat of violence is important to a particular party or organization is a debate I don’t want to go into right now. In a context where the entire Indian state machinery has a discriminatory approach towards tackling violence, I prefer to talk of violence at a more generic level, and to me the two categories of “state violence” and “private violence” seem to cover the ground quite comprehensively.

    My submission on the need to focus on the dangers of state violence, coming from Max Weber recognition of it having the ‘monopoly over legitimacy’ and hence needing more intense scrutiny, automatically should tell an intelligent reader that I do recognize that all forms of private violence as lacking in legitimacy. The degree of a lack of legitimacy depends on the context of the act of private violence and the scale runs across the range of acceptable violence to atrocity. When I see ‘private violence’ being perpetuated on marginalized sections of society by elite interests acting through non-state actors I see an atrocity. When I see ‘private violence’ being used by marginalized sections of society to protect themselves against attacks by elite sections of society I see justifiable violence used for self defense. A violent attack by marginalized sections of society on elite sections for me falls within the rubric of vigilantism which to me while not justifiable would not be termed an atrocity. A violent undirected and unfocused attack by marginalized sections is clearly an atrocity.

    Like all of us I want to live in a society free from violence and the threat of it. To me that is the necessary pre-condition for a democratic society. To reach this aim, however, I will not go to a David and ask him to turn in his sling. Instead I will ask and demand of Goliath to come to his senses. The war that the Indian state has declared against the Maoists has not been in the past and will not be in the foreseeable future a lawful, focused intervention aimed at disarming and neutralizing an armed force. It will be an opaque, brutal and bloody one that will crush under its military machine many unarmed, defenseless poor peasant, landless agricultural labour and tribal families. Let not the antipathy that some of us may have against the Maoists come in the way of speaking out in their defense.

    • Nirmalangshu permalink
      October 30, 2009 5:51 PM

      True. The real task is to stand in solidarity with ‘unarmed, defenseless poor peasants, landless agricultural labour and tribal families’, as you put it. I will probably also include other categories of impoverished, unempowered and marginalised people crushed under state plicy. But the current situation is the following:

      The govt. wants to talk if ‘violence is abjured’. Highly distinguished voices demand that the talks be unconditional. Talks with whom? the CPI (Maoist) of course–not with the tribals, the broad democratic forums, not even with the broadly leftist, anti-state violence forces. So, the CPI (Maoist) is CENTRAL to the issue. Thus, the CPI (Maoist), by virtue of acquiring thousands of guns, turns out to be the sole representative of the struggling people against state violence, SEZs, imperial encroachments, murderous agricultural and industrial policies, everything. Thousands of unarmed activists working painstakingly with the people across the country also become marginalised in the state vs. ‘maoist’ construction of the current scenario.

      The state certainly wants this scenario knowing fully well that the CPI (Maoist) won’t ‘abjure’ violence on the state’s calling. The CPI (Maoist), who had been waiting for this ‘revolutionary’ turn of events for long (without participating in broad democratic movements outside their small areas of control), would also want this scenario to be (officially) ‘recognised as the only genuine alternative before the people’, as their Supreme Commander declares from his (safe) hideout.

      The war is imminent.

      Where are the UNARMED tribals and the vast impoverished masses in this picture?

      The left-democratic movement in India has been virtually sitting on this problem for many decades allowing both the state and the CPI (Maoist) to escalate their operations in stages with the tribal people in those areas caught in crossfire. Every effort to address this problem ‘internally’ by appealing to and criticising the extremists have fallen on deaf ears. Now that the crisis has gone beyond discussion forums and is beginning to involve the lives and livelihood of vast massses of unempowered people who are not party to the discussion, left-democratic forces will continue to fail in their historical responsibility if they do not assign the responsibilities in public in defence of the people. Hence, every democratic campaign must demand that

      (a) The state withdraw its repressive apparatus–not just the planned army and air force operations, but ALL paramilitary forces, COBRAS, GREYHOUNDS, special police forces, and the like–from the tribal-inhabited areas concerned; in effect, dismantle Operation Greenhunt.

      (b) CPI (Maoist) DISARM and join the democratic struggle for the sake of the people they profess to be fighting for.

      Rest of the details can be worked out in aggressive democratic campaigns once peace descends on the tribal people to enable them to organise their lives.

  61. Andaleeb permalink
    October 30, 2009 6:39 PM

    Nirmalangshuji, it will do you and us good , if we all read this letter – the writer aint a brahmin or an ex-sudra.More feedback beyond Peoples Democracy.

    Maoist Naxalites grow in India for the double standard leadership

    “Even though the growing Maoist Naxalite movement has been declared illegal by the governments at the centre and the states, the political leadership of India seem to be maintaining double standard in dealing with the grassroot issues that could eliminate the Maoist threat to the country and its poor people. From some instances it becomes almost evident that the anti-naxalite measures pursued by the government are primarily motivated by corporate interests. One sees corporate link behind the Naxal cry of the leaders because there are many cases filed against the Adivasis who are raising their voices against unjust displacement but at the same time not a single case has been registered against the corporate houses, who have terrorized the Adivasis, violated the laws of the land and taken away the constitutional rights of the Adivasis.”

    Gladson Dungdung : October 30, 2009

    “Naxalism” has acquired the center stage of the whole debates in the government, the media and other public domains after the Maoists beheaded Francis Induwar, the Police Officer of the CID Special Branch followed by the killing of 17 Police men in Maharashtra, blowing up of school buildings in Jharkhand, attacking a Jeep carrying CISF personals in Chhatishgarh and hijacking drama of Rajdhani Express in West Bengal. The government and the media are crying foul almost every day and also attempting to fix the responsibility on the Human Rights Groups on the one hand and the so-called intellectuals are arguing the military operation as panacea to the Naxal problem on the other.

    The Corporate Home Minister P. Chidambaram keeps saying that the Human Rights Groups must condemn violence perpetrated by the Maoists on one hand and some intellectuals like Swapan Das Gupta and News Anchors like Arnab Goswami have even gone beyond their limit by discovering some uncivilized words like “Maoist-Terrorist” and are attempting to manufacture the consent that all the Adivasis are Maoist-Terrorists therefore they must be blown up by the military operation without looking other side of the story. The Naxal politics between the Trinmool Congress and the Left Parties have also intensified in the West Bengal.

    The most important question here needs to be answered is why there are so many hues and cries on “Naxalism” though it is not a new issue. The Naxalism has been flourishing in India for last 4 decades. There were several cases of beheading people, many police pickets were blown up in the past and train was also hijacked for 16 hours in 2006 in Jharkhand. The matter of the fact is the Central and State governments were never serious in addressing the issue of Naxalism and now when the problem is utterly intensified, they are crying foul with the clear intention of burying the failure of the entire system of governance. The government officials were busy in bagging money of the development and welfare schemes meant for the poor. The law enforcement agencies were quite active in collecting money in the police stations, check-posts and other places. And the politicians engaged themselves in capturing power through every ways and means. Consequently, the Naxalism is growing day by day.

    However, the main reason is that the so-called ‘Red Corridor’ is full of minerals, where the Adivasis have been residing for centuries. The Multi-National Companies are eyeing on the minerals of the regions and the government is all set to sell it in the market rate therefore it has signed hundreds of MoUs with these MNCs. Since, the Adivasis of these areas strongly feel that they have been betrayed, neglected and dispossessed in the name of development, industrialization and the national interest in India for last 6 decades after the Independence therefore they are resisting against unjust displacement. Consequently, the industrialization process has come to a halt. The Corporate Home Minister P. Chidambaram knows the best way to get the land clear is brand the Adivasis as Naxalites, capture the land and hand it over to the Multi-National Companies.

    It is obvious, because P. Chidambaram has very good corporate connections worldwide. Earlier, he represented the bankrupt American energy giant “Enron Corporation”, as a senior lawyer in India. He also represented the controversial British mining conglomerate ‘Vedanta Resources’ in the Mumbai High Court until 2003 when he became the finance Minister of India. He was also a member of the board of directors of the Vedanta and withdrew $70,000 that equals to Rs.35 lakhs in 2003 and also enjoyed hotel and travel facilities on the account of the Vedanta while he visited different parts of the world during that period.

    One sees the Naxal cry as corporate link also because there are many cases filed against the Adivasis who are raising their voices against unjust displacement but at the same time not a single case was registered against the corporate house, who have terrorized the Adivasis, violated the laws of the land and taken away the constitutional rights of the Adivasis. For instance, the Sponge Iron factories are operating in Kolhan and Chhotanagpur regions of Jharkhand without pollution clearance, fulfilling of the job promises and compensation to the people but no action was taken against these corporate houses but at the same time, the state government has filed 11 criminal cases against 3505 Adivasis in Jharkhand who are fighting against corporate houses like Tata Steel, Jindal Steel, Mittal Steel, Bhushan Steel and RPG Group. Why?

    Ironically, we live in a democratic country, where the government, the media and the other Institutions are run by the corporate houses, as a result, the rich people are always privileged and the poor are marginalized in every way. The paradox is the government promises land and forest rights through the forest right act 2006 to the Adivasis, who have been neglected, dispossessed and marginalized for the years on one hand and also signs the MoUs and promotes the forcefully land acquisition in the various part of the country in the name of so-called development on the other. Consequently, the people have lost their faith on the government. Therefore it must withdraw all the MoUs signed for the steel plant, mining projects and power plants, create a democratic space for the common people, where decent voice can be heard because the theories of the sunglasses will only complicate the problem.
    The failure of the state, growing social inequality and non justice delivery are the main reasons of spreading the Naxalism therefore the state has no moral rights for crying foul at this moment. The conflict between the state and the Maoist will never come to an end till the marginalized people were ensured social, economic and cultural justice and also they are made stakeholders to the development and welfare schemes. In a democratic country any kind of violence perpetrated either by the state or non-state actors can not be justified and violence can never be the means to address the issues in either ways. Therefore, both the parties should come together and find out the middle ground, where the media can also play a constructive role because the society can not survive without harmony and peace.

    (About the Author: Gladson Dungdung is a Human Rights Activist and Writer from Jharkhand)

  62. bijoy permalink
    October 31, 2009 7:56 AM

    Any way, you guys dont need to worry. you have the radical intellectual in cabinet of Ministers to protect the interest of Maoists and other radical intellectualls in west bengal. So Chidambaram will not act against maoists. Maoists can keep on killing CPIM members and you guys along with other radical intellectual in Cabinet of ministers keep on condeming CPIM for state repression.

  63. Aditya Nigam permalink
    October 31, 2009 11:54 AM

    Andaleeb, We appreciate comments and disagreements. Among Left blogs/websites, we are one of the few spaces where readers can directly come in and comment, even critically. But may we request you to make your own points rather than simply post articles as comments. You might want to use some extracts from them to make your point but we are sure you – or the authors whom you post – can make their points themselves.
    Bijoy, these CPM-type canards do not work any longer. You would be better advised to keep them to yourself. The CPM’s alliance with the UPA till sometime ago could not prevent its slide to disaster. During Nandigram and Singur, it was the CPM that raised the Maoist bogey, as well as of a TMC-Maoist alliance. In its arrogance, the CPM even branded – just like you do in your comment – even any friendly Left criticism as ‘anti-Left’, anti-communist etc. It might be better to get out of this frame of mind where all you can see is conspiracies – there is a popular rebellion against you; the sooner you recognize that the better.

  64. hacker permalink
    December 19, 2009 10:10 PM

    has N chomsky’s response been posted somewhere on this string. If not here it is

    From: Noam Chomsky
    Reply to: “R. Vijayan” rvijayan.vijayan@gmail.com
    Date: Dec 17, 2009 7:52 PM
    Subject: Re: AN OPEN LETTER TO NOAM CHOMSKY
    Mailed by: Mit. Edu

    I received the letter directly from Mr. Mukherjee, we corresponded about it, and I believe he agrees that there is no point sending it to one of the signers of the petition but that it should be directed to the organizers. As in the case of all petitions on human and civil rights, there was debate among those close to the situation about what to include and what to omit, and a compromise was reached. Then others, like me, remote from the situation, signed when the basic drift seemed acceptable and those who initiated it trustworthy.

    There is no necessary action on my part.

    NC

    • Nirmalangshu permalink
      December 22, 2009 7:22 PM

      Here’s my response (to Chomsky).

      Dear Noam,

      I have been informed of the following response from you to one Vijayan:

      From: Noam Chomsky
      Reply to: “R. Vijayan” rvijayan.vijayan@gmail.com
      Date: Dec 17, 2009 7:52 PM
      Subject: Re: AN OPEN LETTER TO NOAM CHOMSKY
      Mailed by: Mit. Edu

      I received the letter directly from Mr. Mukherjee, we corresponded about it, and I believe he agrees that there is no point sending it to one of the signers of the petition but that it should be directed to the organizers. As in the case of all petitions on human and civil rights, there was debate among those close to the situation about what to include and what to omit, and a compromise was reached. Then others, like me, remote from the situation, signed when the basic drift seemed acceptable and those who initiated it trustworthy.

      There is no necessary action on my part.

      NC

      As a matter of fact, I do not quite agree that my response should have been directed to the organisers rather than to the signers of a petition. Although I understand the practical difficulties of those signing “remotely”, formally, having signed a petition, the signers own the responsibility for its content. No doubt it is for the organisers to present an honest and truthful view of things, but they are often not the public face of a petition. For example, apart from the name, I did not even know who were the organisers and how to reach them.

      In this specific case, it is not clear what would have been achieved if I wrote to the organisers. These are not the people open to any debates; they would have simply suppressed my objections and leave matters at that. In fact, after a huge uproar following the Open Letter, these people never came out with anything like a systematic response. Instead–I am aware–they have been campaigning behind my back to influence your opinion about my political standing. This is consistent with the secret, sectarian politics they advocate.

      Personal squabbles apart, the letter did have the desired result of initiating a debate on the crucial role of ‘maoist’ politics in people’s movements after over three decades of slumber. Both the state and the ‘maoist’ propaganda are at a visibly lower ebb; many left of CPM groupings are now openly writing against ‘maoist’ politics and its disasterous effects on broad people’s movements. It is quite amazing how a single letter sent to a few dozen friends by e-mail had reached the mainstream media as well such that big newspapers and elite websites have been asking me for write-ups (one attached). Needless to say, it is your name that led to this scale of exposure.

    • robin permalink
      December 22, 2009 8:46 PM

      “In this specific case, it is not clear what would have been achieved if I wrote to the organisers. These are not the people open to any debates; they would have simply suppressed my objections and leave matters at that. In fact, after a huge uproar following the Open Letter, these people never came out with anything like a systematic response. Instead–I am aware–they have been campaigning behind my back to influence your opinion about my political standing. This is consistent with the secret, sectarian politics they advocate.”

      Who are the organisers ? Can you tell us ? How can we know whether they advocate secret, sectarian politics ?

      It seems that Nirmalangshu is attempting to “oil” Chomsky. Contrary to his claims, most readers have been severely critical of his attempt at slandering the “organisers”. Three months have passed since the letter. We are yet to see any nice things being written about Nirmalangshu’s noble role in this matter. Only thing we can infer from this mail is his attempt at self-aggrandizement which we can say is surely delusional.

  65. keddy permalink
    December 23, 2009 2:25 AM

    “For example, apart from the name, I did not even know who were the organisers and how to reach them.” yeah! Nirmalangshu definitely did not know that Sanhati was the organiser. Well now that he knows, is it too late??
    And someone please post how to reach the people behind sanhati.com

    “…these people never came out with anything like a systematic response”
    all the posts and Nirmalangshu’s duckings are not enough of a response, that he still needs a systemic response from the people he “could not reach”?

    “These are not the people open to any debates; they would have simply suppressed my objections and leave matters at that.”
    Does he mean that the organisers are all Maoists??

    “It is quite amazing how a single letter sent to a few dozen friends by e-mail had reached the mainstream media as well such that BIG newspapers and ELITE websites have been asking me for write-ups (one attached). Needless to say, it is your name that led to this scale of exposure.”
    I’m drooling, can I have the “one attached”!!

    • Nirmalangshu permalink
      December 23, 2009 11:34 AM

      One example of behind the back:

      —– Original Message —–
      From: Saibaba G N
      To: paresh.wid.a.c@gmail.com ; bhumika.chauhan@gmail.com ; ravi_goel2001@yahoo.com ; pushpam. delhi ; prakash pathik ; abhijeetphartiyal ; editor_revdem@rediffmail.com ; khals_umar@hotmail.com ; hany babu ; karengabriel
      Cc: Rona Wilson ; ajayrdf@gmail.com ; Ritupan Goswami ; Shoma ; Prof.Manoranjan Mohanty
      Sent: Wednesday, December 23, 2009 11:30 AM
      Subject: Fwd: Open letter to Noam Chomsky

      Dear friends,
      Please see the forwarded mail.
      I don’t think Noam Chomsky had singed the sanhati petition without knowing
      the ground situation at present in India.He is aware of the developments in India. In any case, Sanhati also circulated
      a background note along with the note. My friend, Nirmalanghu Mukherjee at our University
      strangely wrote to spread misinformation.

      You can mail your concern about Nirmalagnshu’s open letter to Noam Chomsky

      the mailing address and email and other contact info for Noam Chomsky is listed here:
      Noam Chomsky
      Institute Professor & Professor of Linguistics (Emeritus)

      Mailing Address:
      MIT Linguistics and Philosophy
      77 Massachusetts Avenue, 32-D808
      Cambridge, MA 02139
      USA
      Office Number: 32-D840
      email: chomsky@mit.edu
      tel: 617-253-7819

      Saibaba
      A teacher at the University of Delhi

  66. render permalink
    December 25, 2009 3:10 AM

    Nirmalangshu says:

    “For example, apart from the name, I did not even know who were the organisers and how to reach them”

    and within a few lines, he writes –

    “These are not the people open to any debates; they would have simply suppressed my objections and leave matters at that.”

    That’s knowing quite a bit about an organisation, even without knowing who they are!!

    What steals the show is this though –

    “Instead–I am aware–they have been campaigning behind my back to influence your opinion about my political standing. This is consistent with the secret, sectarian politics they advocate.”

    Again, who’d have thought that one might know so much about an organisation, about whom one knows nothing about! And no sir, it just does not end here. This is dated Dec. 22nd. Chomsky’s letter which apparently is a result of such behind the scene secret underground workings is dated 17th December. But lo and behold! One such example of working is post dated – a letter from G.N. Saibaba – dated 23rd December! Chomsky’s liguistic expertise is now reaching new heights in telepathic communications, apparently.

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