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On Alleged Maoist Atrocities

May 17, 2010

While I have on several occasions expressed my disgust at the way in which the Government of India is conducting it’s ‘Operation Green Hunt’, I have to say that the news of the attacks by alleged Maoists in Chattisgarh, in which 6 villagers have been killed, and more recently a bus, with several civilians (and some special police officers)  has been bombed, is deeply disturbing.

It is a totally different matter from attacking men in uniform, (such as the CRPF jawans who were attacked not so long ago, resulting in 76 casualties). Though I do not support any war, including the Maoist initiated ‘Peoples War’ or for that matter, the Government of India’s ‘Operation Green Hunt’,  in any war, armed men in uniform in a combat zone are fair targets. The death of the 76 CRPF jawans, though regrettable, is not in any way different from the death of any guerrila soldiers in the PLGA in any combat operation. I refuse to be blackmailed into thinking of such an event as an evidence of Maoist ‘atrocities’.

But by no stretch of imagination can the same principles of combat be extended in operations that involve unarmed civilians, (such as the incidents that have come to light today) no matter who conducts them. Such acts are atrocities, regardless of whether the state or the Maoists conduct such operations, and they must be condemned by all sensible people in the harshest terms. The Maoists, and the state must be compelled, through relentless civic pressure, to publicly abide by the Geneva Conventions in the matter on the treatment of non-combatants in a conflict situation. (And yes, there are conventions that shape the conduct of non-state actors, or the conduct of the state in relation to non-state actors, even in the case of a ‘non-international’ armed conflict)

The presence of 15 special police officers in the bus that was bombed cannot be offered as a justification for the bombing, because a large number of people who were harmed in the attack had nothing to do with any arm of the state, they were just ordinary passengers. This is a simple and disgusting act of terrorism. It cannot be explained away in any sense as part of a campaign of liberation.

If it is true that these attacks have been carried out by the Maoists, then, it is clear that they want to ratchet up the general intensity of violence in the regions where they have a presence. They want the government to unleash a military style offensive, because nothing would serve their purpose better. There can be no other explanation for the manner of these attacks. This is a disastrous and cynical policy, which will wreck havoc with the lives of the people of the area and cannot be justified by any means whatsoever. If the government of India responds by increasing the level and intensity of the conflict, it will become an accessory of the Maoists design to totally militarize the areas of central, southern and eastern India where they currently have a presence.

If nothing else, this shows how the policy of ‘Protracted People’s War’ is bound to degenerate (and in fact is already degenerating) into an orgy of random violence, exactly as it did in Peru and Colombia, where the ‘Sendero Luminoso‘ (‘Shining Path’) and ‘FARC‘ rebels competed with the state and right-wing militias in a sad spiralling descent into armed chaos and brigandage that did nothing to fulfil any revolutionary goal. If anything it strengthened the might of the state and the right wing militias in Peru and Colombia. The Maoists actions (attacks on unarmed civilians) cannot bring about any other results either. The ultimate and only beneficiary of this process will be the state and the corporations who want total control over the forests of Central India.

However, we must not rush to conclusions. If the Maoists disclaim responsibility for these attacks, then we will have to see whether or not such a disclaimer has any objective basis. Independent investigations will have to be carried out. If, by any means, it is possible that these attacks are ‘false flag’ operations, conducted by rogue elements of the state machinery, or even endorsed by the state, then the responsibility for the violence will lie squarely on the state. It must, however, be understood by the Maoists (even if they have not perpetrated these massacres) that the style of their politics can and does ennable the state to conduct precisely such ‘false flag’ operations. If there are any amongst the leadership of the Maoists who are sensitive to the possibilities of forging an alternative radical politics they must begin considering the necessity of abandoning the disastrous method of ‘protracted peoples war’ and explore ways to an open, transparent, militant and public politics that does not involve the endless cycle of retreats and massacres.

Wherever the truth may life, this is a very sad day indeed,

best

Shuddha

14 Comments leave one →
  1. May 18, 2010 12:17 AM

    बस्तर के जंगलों में नक्सलियों द्वारा निर्दोष पुलिस के जवानों के नरसंहार पर कवि की संवेदना व पीड़ा उभरकर सामने आई है |

    बस्तर की कोयल रोई क्यों ?
    अपने कोयल होने पर, अपनी कूह-कूह पर
    बस्तर की कोयल होने पर

    सनसनाते पेड़
    झुरझुराती टहनियां
    सरसराते पत्ते
    घने, कुंआरे जंगल,
    पेड़, वृक्ष, पत्तियां
    टहनियां सब जड़ हैं,
    सब शांत हैं, बेहद शर्मसार है |

    बारूद की गंध से, नक्सली आतंक से
    पेड़ों की आपस में बातचीत बंद है,
    पत्तियां की फुस-फुसाहट भी शायद,
    तड़तड़ाहट से बंदूकों की
    चिड़ियों की चहचहाट
    कौओं की कांव कांव,
    मुर्गों की बांग,
    शेर की पदचाप,
    बंदरों की उछलकूद
    हिरणों की कुलांचे,
    कोयल की कूह-कूह
    मौन-मौन और सब मौन है
    निर्मम, अनजान, अजनबी आहट,
    और अनचाहे सन्नाटे से !

    आदि बालाओ का प्रेम नृत्य,
    महुए से पकती, मस्त जिंदगी
    लांदा पकाती, आदिवासी औरतें,
    पवित्र मासूम प्रेम का घोटुल,
    जंगल का भोलापन
    मुस्कान, चेहरे की हरितिमा,
    कहां है सब

    केवल बारूद की गंध,
    पेड़ पत्ती टहनियाँ
    सब बारूद के,
    बारूद से, बारूद के लिए
    भारी मशीनों की घड़घड़ाहट,
    भारी, वजनी कदमों की चरमराहट।

    फिर बस्तर की कोयल रोई क्यों ?

    बस एक बेहद खामोश धमाका,
    पेड़ों पर फलो की तरह
    लटके मानव मांस के लोथड़े
    पत्तियों की जगह पुलिस की वर्दियाँ
    टहनियों पर चमकते तमगे और मेडल
    सस्ती जिंदगी, अनजानों पर न्यौछावर
    मानवीय संवेदनाएं, बारूदी घुएं पर
    वर्दी, टोपी, राईफल सब पेड़ों पर फंसी
    ड्राईंग रूम में लगे शौर्य चिन्हों की तरह
    निःसंग, निःशब्द बेहद संजीदा
    दर्द से लिपटी मौत,
    ना दोस्त ना दुश्मन
    बस देश-सेवा की लगन।

    विदा प्यारे बस्तर के खामोश जंगल, अलिवदा
    आज फिर बस्तर की कोयल रोई,
    अपने अजीज मासूमों की शहादत पर,
    बस्तर के जंगल के शर्मसार होने पर
    अपने कोयल होने पर,
    अपनी कूह-कूह पर
    बस्तर की कोयल होने पर
    आज फिर बस्तर की कोयल रोई क्यों ?

    अंतर्राष्ट्रीय ख्याति प्राप्त साहित्यकार, कवि संजीव ठाकुर की कलम से

  2. Yojit Singh permalink
    May 18, 2010 10:27 AM

    Ma’am,

    I really want to know what gives rise to doubts such as:

    “…If it is true that these attacks have been carried out by the Maoists…”

    “…If, by any means, it is possible that these attacks are ‘false flag’ operations…”

    What is it ?

    Earlier I used to be amused when I read them. Now I’m plain disgusted.
    So, would you care to explain what are the reasons which raise even an iota of such a massive confusion ?

    Because if you don’t, people would NOT understand by themselves. You guys are labelled Maoist sympathizers. That’s fine alright with you I guess.

    But please Ma’am, what is the basis for injecting such a doubt in the reader’s mind ?

  3. Shuddhabrata Sengupta permalink
    May 18, 2010 4:55 PM

    Sir,

    I am neither a Maoist, nor a Maoist sympathizer, if anything, I am a sharp and consistent critic of the CPI(Maoist) and of Maoism in general. My criticism is not undertaken in private. it is public and open. What I am not, is a dyed in the wool, gullible person who swallows everything that is dished out to him or her by television and home ministry communiques.

    The government of india, (or rogue elements within it) like governments everywhere (and rogue elements everywhere) has on occasion, resorted to false flag operations in order to build a panic driven artificial consensus around a particular tactic or strategy. The stage managed massacre at Cchattisinghpura is a very good example of what i am talking about. I am sure that this policy has not been abandoned for good.

    Naturally, in circumstances such as the ones we witness in Cchatisgarh today, we should be careful before accepting any explanation. All I am advocating is a degree of caution in naming the ‘killers’ in a terrain that is becoming increasingly uncertain. This attitue does not detract one bit from my principled criticism of the politics of the Maoists or of Maoism. Of which, there is ample evidence in my posting. I hope I have made myself clear.

    best

    Shuddha

    • Nirmalangshu permalink
      May 21, 2010 10:00 AM

      I must say that I am pretty disturbed by the form of this discussion. One may have political views agaist maoism, the concepts of new democratic revolution, protracted people’s war, etc. But people have the right to hold these maoist views, and work accordingly. It is possible to form solidarity with these people on the ground—on specific issues affecting the lives and livelihood of the masses—until differences on these fundamentals begin to show up, if at all at those higher stages of struggle.

      There are a variety of naxalite groups such as CPI (ML), PCC, CPI (ML-Liberation), CPI (ML-ND), and others who subscribe to these maoist concepts. One can form alliances of solidarity with these groups on various issues, the only condition being that the activities of these groups display enough features of genuine people’s movements on the ground, whatever be the current extent and efficacy of these practices.

      The situation with CPI (Maoist), notwithstanding the nomenclature, is entirely different. There is ample evidence by now—and naxalite groups working on the ground knew it throughout—that the activities of people such as Ganapathi, Koteshwar Rao, Azad, Kobad Ghandy (to name a few with a public face) have nothing to do with people’s movements. Just calling themselves “maoists” and throwing quotations from Mao around do not make them maoists, communists, revolutionaries, “dreamers”, “Gandhian with guns”, etc. This is just a corrupt and neo-fascist bunch of military strategists, hoping to “seize power” at some point. No doubt, for reasons dicussed elsewhere, they have a hold on tribal populations. But so do tehrik-e-taliban in Waziristan and RSS in Gujarat. If the “politics” and “ideology” of this bunch is to be discussed at all, these are the real analogies. In the quest for their “seizure of power” they are hand in gloves with a variety of nefarious anti-people forces. It is no wonder that characters such as Digvijay Singh and Lalu Prasad are coming out in their support. The Gandhians with guns have “dealt” with Singh and Prasad when the latter were chief ministers.

      In this light, to glorify the horrendous situation in Bastar as a “war” and the attempts to make a distinction between “combatants” and “non-combatants” thereby is equally disturbing. The CRPF people—landless peasants—were returning to their camps for rest and food after patroling the forests for some days. They didn’t encircle any guerrilla unit, they were not firing. Yet the “people’s army” decided to mow then down with the singular aim of seizing their weapons and ammunition. Isn’t this incidence on a par with atrocities in Rani Bodli and Silda? Or, are we to view even the latter incidents as combatants dying in war? As one comrade from another organization asked me yesterday, “if this is war, what is the other side? People?”

      The only issue is how to save the tribals, including the militias and the guerrillas, from these “maoists” and Chidambaram.

  4. Manash permalink
    May 18, 2010 7:18 PM

    Suddha’s brata against the Maoists and his “caution” regarding reports of killings is a “principled” balancing act no doubt. The principles of political criticism celebrates neutrality in His Principled Excellency’s notebook. But where does neutrality originate? From the stables of liberal and colonial, English mules. Can neutrality serve any purpose in political criticism unless someone is thinking Swiss like the Parsis in the middle of a Hindu-Muslim riot?! Is the battle between the Indian state and the Maoists similar?

    “Wherever the truth may lie, this is a very sad day indeed,” :

    The inability to ascertain “truth” need not keep anyone from taking a political position in any context. Unless the political has become merely a juridical mask of “principled distance”, a phrase made famous by Prof Rajeev Bhargava, but best understood only by him.

    In passing however, I must draw Yogit Singh’s attention that Buddha..err, Suddha forgot to clarify that he’s not a lady but a man (not in disguise, I can assure you, unlike his neutrality!).

  5. Nikhil permalink
    May 18, 2010 11:56 PM

    It is very appalling to see people like you sympathize with maoists…Are all of you on their payroll?? I myself do not believe all that is shown by the media..But to raise such doubts and to create such ambiguity in a case so crystal so clear like the Dantewada incident is not intellectualism…It is treason…There is nothing called an “alleged” maoist atrocity. …the word is maoist atrocity…Time you decided where your allegiances lie…But i guess where ignorance is bliss…’Tis folly to be wise…

  6. harri permalink
    May 19, 2010 9:53 AM

    I wonder what is Manash’s position. He seems to claims that everything is political, and there is no such thing as neutrality, does he support the maoist in this war? his tone suggests that he would certainly not support the state. That even sengupta doesn’t do.

  7. Manash permalink
    May 19, 2010 4:52 PM

    My brother Nikhil,

    When ignorance becomes wisdom, folly becomes bliss. And you should be relieved that your father isn’t everyone else’s – metaphorically speaking :)
    So let everyone pay allegiance, like you do, to their own fathers, and some who are not awed by the father-syndrome, to their mothers.

    Dear Harri,

    I am not a supporter or sympathizer of Mao/ism.
    I am however interested in who these Maoists are and what they are saying. I am not buying simply what the media and the government says about them. Just as I won’t buy the Maoists’ idea of the state. But “between” the state and the Maoists – I would choose against condemning the Maoists out of de-contextualized and simplified historical references drawn from Latin-America (with no reference to how America ravished these economies and deliberately created war-factions). I am always suspicious of history merely presented as “facts”. Suddhabrata reports on Latin-America no differently than a TV news reporter.
    So yes, am willing to critically engage with the Maoist phenomena and closely watch the state’s game. I am hoping the state is as sensitive as me in trying to protect the tribals who are willy-nilly caught in the Maoist domain.
    It isn’t always a case of support vs neutrality or opposition. The point is not to quickly dismiss or de-legitimize ideologies/movements which might be discomforting to you but might be making sense to people who suffer unimaginably more than you. The point is also not to romanticize them.
    On the question of violence, I am still unable to come to a position, because I am wondering whether all kinds of people in this country have the luxury to escape everyday violence and hence find a non-violent option feasible. Is the state’s legitimacy bought on violence or non-violence? Basic questions of politics and philosophy stare at you…
    Genuine intellectual criticism is more perilous than Buddha’s middle-path.

  8. harri permalink
    May 19, 2010 11:55 PM

    Manasah,
    so basically you have nothing different to say from sengupta, thats the sense i get from your response. You want to be “politically correct”. So relax! Taking an ambiguous position on violence is the most radical thing these days. And finding ways to negotiate differences non-violently i guess is the radical thing! Go join the Maoist and fight along with them if you have the guts…sorry for the harsh words…..do what you say….poor you..good luck

  9. Manash permalink
    May 20, 2010 12:58 AM

    If I can turn the Maoists non-violent by joining them it will be a miracle. But if I can turn the Indian government non-violent it will be more than a miracle – it will be a fable. I wish I could do both!

  10. May 20, 2010 1:31 PM

    Dear Shuddha,

    Since you brought up Sendoro Luminoso, this might interest you. It’s by Praveen Swami, whose journalism and integrity you have attacked, but in this specific case, his analysis of revolutionary movements and yours have a great deal in common.

    http://www.thehindu.com/2010/04/30/stories/2010043062751300.htm

    P.S. Is there any evidence for the “false flag” claims in this case? I was under the impression that Ramanna, secretary of the Maoist’s South Bastar area committee, has admitted responsibility?

    • Shuddhabrata Sengupta permalink
      May 20, 2010 7:11 PM

      Dear Nilanjana,

      Yes, now that Ramanna secretary of the CPI(Maoist) South Bastar area committee has admitted responsibility, there is no question of this being a ‘false flag’. And, since they have taken responsibility, then it is totally and unambiguously deserving of condemnation. The deaths of unarmed civilians as the ‘collateral damage’ in a so-called ‘People’s War’ is unacceptable to me politically and morally.

      As for the fortuitous coincidence between mine and Mr. Praveen Swami’s pointing in the same direction – ie – Sendero Luminoso and FARC – this does not in any way detract from my serious criticisms of Mr. Swami’s journalistic practice, which are in the public domain (including on this blog – see my texts on the Batla House Encounter in this blog). We (Mr. Swami and I, and no doubt many others) may agree that there is such a thing as gravity, or that the solar system has one sun, (and the history of the Sendero Luminoso and FARC are public knowledge and pretty well documented, so it is no surprise that there should be a commonality of perceptions amongst people who know this area) but that is hardly reason to gloss over our very real differences. For instance, it is clear that Mr. Swami and I have very serious differences in how we see the government of India’s response to Naxal insurgence. He sees it as needing more punch, I see it as a disaster. I hope that makes my position clear.

      best,

      Shuddha

  11. KuriMat permalink
    May 22, 2010 12:46 AM

    The Postmodernist Regret of Maoist Regret
    To begin with, please do remember that the state has not even apologized the murder of adivasis and the fake encounter killings of Maoists at all.
    And, how much the postmodern intellectuals have regretted their silences when these cold-blooded killings by the state occurred?
    Have they ever regretted the systemic annihilation of millions and induced suicide of lakhs under conditions of famine by the imperialist Indian state under their full knowledge? Have they ever regretted the structural genocide in India?
    Does anyone remember the portrayal of Salwa Judum when it was launched as a spontaneous tribal uprising against the Maoists by these intellectuals in complicity with the state propaganda? If there was no Salwa Judum, the Indian state would not have been so successful in killing tribals by tribals. The point is that the postmodern intellectuals, in their wishful thinking to get rid of Maoists, dreamed that Salwa Judum would finish off the Maoists.
    The reality is that even the killings by the Maoists are the side effects of War on People by the Indian State? And, War on People is not simply started with the operation green hunt. The capitalist war over the Indian people has been waged by the Indian imperialist state since the British left India. The present stage of Indian state’s war on people is just a culmination of its neoliberal polices which systematically colonizes the ‘Rest of the India’.
    If you are really against the side effects of war, please do fight against the Indian State’s war on people. If there is no war, then there would be no side effects of war as well.
    Before blaming Maoists, please think once again that what the postmodern intellectuals have done for the child labourers, malnourished children, poor peasants and other millions of poor who are slowly dying out of hunger. Are these not concrete expressions of violence?
    If the postmodern intellectuals have taken up the cause of the exploited people in India rather than trying to propagating their New Age Obscurantism, people in India would not have pushed aside to a defensive war just to preserve their rights to land and livelihood.
    Finally, the Maoists and tribals are apparently peacefully cohabited in Dandakaranya for last thirty years. Maoists are not imperialists in the lands of the natives like the American soldiers or Indian ‘paramilitary’ troops in Iraq and in Dandakaranya respectively. It may be wrong to equate Adivasis and Maoists, but the same goes for the complete differentiation of the both as well. Therefore, the Maoists in Dandakaranya have all the rights to regret the side effects of the war imposed on them by the Indian State and the so-called civil society complicit to it. And, sorry to say that, counting on the weight of hypocrisy, the postmodernist regret of Maoist regret has more in common with the ‘regrets’ of American empire.
    PS. There are reports that the most of the so-called civilians were new recruits of Salwa Judum.

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