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On Maoist Regret

May 19, 2010

There is no room for doubt anymore that the landmine attack on a bus plying on the Dantewada-Sukhma road was planned and executed by the CPIM (Maoist). About 36 people have died, a majority of them civilians. This was not a mistake.The Maoists have said this was a calculated attack to target the Koya Commando wing of the SPOs. This means that the Maoists knew there were civilians on board. The Maoists have taken responsibility for the attack and in a statement to the press, Ramanna has said they “deeply regret the loss of civilian lives”.

Thats comforting. It is good to know that the Maoists are capable of offering at least platitudes in justification of their mercernary devaluation of human lives. They are in very good company as it happens. How is this statement of regret different from the tears routinely shed by U.S. security forces when civilians are killed in Iraq? How is Ramanna’s statement any different from Hilary Clinton’s expressions of sorrow for civilian casualties in Afghanistan? Maybe the Maoists need to reflect on what it says about the moral stature of their “movement” when they sound just like the “Imperialist Forces”.

There are no halfway positions here. Regret is simply not good enough. Regret is a pathetic, insufficient post-facto attempt to elide a serious and growing moral bankruptcy within the maoist movement. Civilian deaths are not simply an unfortunate, and regrettable, fall-out of  war. When civilian lives are seen as dispensable within a larger political calculus, this then is the moment when instrumental reason and mercenary self-interest have taken over and no claims can be made to “justice” or anything else. When human beings are seen as dispensable at the altar of some larger political, military, social aim, some higher purpose, that way lies the gas chamber.

The Maoists have urged people not to travel in vehicles taken over by security forces. And on their part, the Chattisgarh government is planning to direct security forces to avoid public transport. However in a state where years of conflict have left public transport shattered, people have little choice but to get onto whichever bus comes along. Exactly what would the Maoists have people do? Threats to people’s lives because they are simply attempting to go about their everyday lives are indefensible.

44 Comments leave one →
  1. May 19, 2010 6:31 PM

    Surprised to see this post, isn’t it like anti the overall politics of this blog?

  2. Aarti Sethi permalink*
    May 19, 2010 6:34 PM

    Dear Sanjukta,

    Could you explicate for me what in the “overall politics of this blog” seems to you to support the taking of civilian lives?

  3. May 19, 2010 6:39 PM

    Sanjukta, you clearly don’t read this blog regularly enough to pass such a judgement. Please don’t embarrass yourself by parading your ignorance.

  4. Manash permalink
    May 19, 2010 7:22 PM

    Aarti,

    You are privileged, educated and enlightened enough to have a “position”. But that is not enough for the credentials of someone at your position. It is in your articulation that the real nuances expected of your position will lie. If those nuances are missing, it will be termed as banal, as it happens for many others.

    In your case, one finds blanket remarks where you tie up some Maoist rebel called Ramanna with the U.S security forces. Even Gandhi wouldn’t have made such a quick comparison.

    Your nightmares and their metaphors are justified in the name of what fascist and “democratic” forces have carried out in history. As an enlightened liberal citizen, you are clever enough to lift examples from the ‘right’ contexts and put them into the wrong ones. Think of what you are doing and why.

    I am not saying you cannot condemn the Maoists for being callous about lives of citizens. You should condemn them. But what is missing in your profound sense of disgust is how do you look at yourself in the “larger political, military, social aim” of the state you (un)comfortably live under. I would like to know if you have any blueprints of a power structure without such aims. Or else it is just maneuvering positions in the light of privileges.

    On the question of citizen-deaths you become one with the state in condemning it. No harm. On what question, if any, you might be one with the Maoists? Nothing? Hmm. Makes me wonder what your “position” really is.

    Suddhabrata isn’t sure of what is being “alleged” as a Maoist attack. You seem to be ahead of him in “having no room for doubt”. At least we are improving on that score.

  5. soumen permalink
    May 19, 2010 7:28 PM

    aman’s dislike for the maoists is known. even in his last report, he added a caveat suggesting that what the maoists tell him may not actually be true. so the spin on maoist statement is not unexpected. are his bosses at hindu giving him the leading lines, asking him to morph stories that fit mainstream profiling ? we hope not.

    the attack which resulted in death of civilians should be condemned. whether it is intentional – there is serious doubt. even the battle-hardened security personnel don’t believe so.

    aman would do a public service if he lets readers know the real truth – we do not want to hear the security spins.

  6. May 19, 2010 7:37 PM

    It would have been comforting if P. Chidambram, Raman Singh etc too would have expressed regret over the hundreds killed and maimed in false encounters; thousands of houses burnt, looted and uprooted; scores of women and young tribal girls raped and defiled; and immense national wealth in the form of land,forests,river-waters,minerals given away to MNCs for plundering.

  7. Aarti Sethi permalink*
    May 19, 2010 7:50 PM

    @soumen,

    Congratulations on your close reading of Aman’s reports, I am sure he would be very flattered and doubtless he will respond to you in time. Just as soon as he has a break from his night-job as the mouthpiece of the security apparatus. Since he spends the other half of his day fielding accusations that he is a naxal agent, your comment is even more amusing. Clearly if neither you nor they can agree on exactly who he works for, he must be doing something right.

    Be that as it may, since you seem to be such a well-informed and astute observer, I am wondering how a small fact slipped your otherwise gimlet gaze: namely that the reason Aman says the attack was “calculated” was because Ramanna says so himself.

    Oh dear! Now what is to be done? Maybe Ramanna does not know whom Ramanna works for…

  8. May 19, 2010 11:57 PM

    Whether or not Aman is anybody’s ‘agent’, Soumen, at least he writes under his own name and does not cowardly hide behind anonymisers

    • Soumen permalink
      May 20, 2010 1:25 AM

      How does it matter ? Why would you be interested in knowing my IP address, geographical location ? Do you want to profile me like the government ?

  9. May 20, 2010 1:26 AM

    Oh not at all. Please continue to be a coward

    • Soumen permalink
      May 20, 2010 1:45 AM

      I think I remember the great Chidambaram calling the maoists cowards. Long time back, in AP, the policewallahs used to call the civil liberties activists cowards. I think you are in good company. It would be better if you stop snooping around to find who said from where and get back to the topic. Even then, I still wonder why you used your admin privilege to snoop ;-) Of course, your arrogance is legendary !

  10. Aarti Sethi permalink*
    May 20, 2010 1:56 AM

    I will not be approving anymore comments in this vein. I mean seriously, surely there can be a better discussion that this finger-pointing. And Soumen, though I strongly defend the right to be anonymous online, I think you doth protest too much. Accusing a journalist of being the mouth-piece of this or that party is a serious charge. It is easy to hide behind facades and attack people who write openly and publicly and take responsibility for their articulations. Its a bit silly to invoke big brother to justify ad hominem attacks.

    • Soumen permalink
      May 20, 2010 4:41 AM

      I am forced to “attack” yet again.

      I just now noticed that my reply to SV which had earlier been “allowed” by the moderators, has now been deleted. I wonder why; were certain comments of mine hurting anyone ? If you wish to expunge any critical remarks which questions the snoopy character of the blog administrator, it does not put you in good light. Of course, this is your blog and you will do as you wish. This will also tells us how “democratic” you are and how much freedom you allow.

      Aman is a good reporter doing good work on telling us about the ground situation. But he is not free of bias – in the past, his commentaries have told us about his politics. Bigger problem is that he is employed by a news organisation which has its own spin on the politics of the conflict, so we don’t know what is happening.

      There are readers who follow news, blogs closely. In the days of online news by the hour, when comments disappear, new headlines appear or get new shapes and colour, sentences morph, people do get suspicious and they should be.

  11. Aarti Sethi permalink*
    May 20, 2010 2:35 AM

    Manash,

    Since I think you are actually trying to make a point, as opposed to merely point-scoring in your usual fashion, I will let pass your snarky references to my elite privilege and the like. I mean that I am elite, as are you, that I am educated, as are you (in fact in the same institutions), gets us nowhere. Honestly, even you can do better than this.

    I don’t really understand what you are asking of me. And I am not frankly bothered by whether you think my “positions” are banal or not. It is far too easy to sneeringly invoke “liberal citizen”. Unlike you, clearly I am not clever enough to sidestep the issue of the loss of human life, by making this about my location, privelege etc. I will leave that sort of navel-gazing to you.

    But what is missing in your profound sense of disgust is how do you look at yourself in the “larger political, military, social aim” of the state you (un)comfortably live under. I would like to know if you have any blueprints of a power structure without such aims. Or else it is just maneuvering positions in the light of privileges.

    In what form would you like this self-reflection to appear, and how is it germane to the discussion at hand? And further I am not so arrogant to assume that what I think of the situation makes any material difference, regardless of the apparent power you ascribe to my “liberal citizen” self. I am opposed to vanguardist politics precisely because people can always be called upon to sacrifice or be sacrificed. And it is precisely because I do not have a blue-print for power structures which do not posit higher aims that I find the Maoist targetting of civilians in the guise of meeting their political aims wrong. The Maoists replicate the hierarchies of the state and the military. How is this radical or revolutionary in any way?

    On the question of citizen-deaths you become one with the state in condemning it. No harm. On what question, if any, you might be one with the Maoists? Nothing? Hmm. Makes me wonder what your “position” really is.

    Firstly I did not condemn “citizen-deaths”, I condemned “civilian-deaths”. Secondly, I utterly reject the “with us or with the state” presumption inherent in your next two statements. I do not see how a condemnation of the loss of life is making common cause with the state. And I do not need to prove my critique of the state by “being one with the Maoists” on some other issue. This is a false binary and I am actually surprised that you would invoke it. It makes me wonder what your “position” really is Manash.

    And finally I did not mean “there is no doubt” in some metaphorical sense. I was referring to a post made by Shuddha yesterday wherein he raised the question of whether this was possibly a false flag operation, a doubt which has been laid to rest with the CPIM taking responsibility.

    • Aditya Nigam permalink*
      May 20, 2010 8:22 AM

      Aarti,
      I always find it amusing when Manash defends the Maoists – a new discovery in the wake of some recent infatuation to which he has confessed in mails to Kafila admins. I am amused because each time he does this I am reminded of a paper – based on his doctoral work – that he presented in a workshop in CSDS, on Gandhi, Levinas and the Ethics of the Other (the keywords, if not the title of his paper). And from my fading memory, it was nothing like a critique of Gandhi or Levinas and other sundry humbugs – not certainly an Maoist apology. That is why this gentleman cannot distinguish between ‘neutrality’ and an ‘ethical position’ – Levinas, poor fellow.
      Talk of positions, indeed! But why bother, when for some people, academics and intellectual posturing can take any form, anywhere. You will never know which is the true Manash (except for his recently confessed infatuation). And given that Manash has no qualms in using invectives, foul language, accusations and has huge reserves of spleen inside him, for once, I feel no regret in hitting below the belt.

  12. Aarti Sethi permalink*
    May 20, 2010 2:48 AM

    And finally Manash, I wonder if you even know the meaning of the word neutrality. Condemning Operation Green Hunt and Maoist attacks on civilians is not being neutral. It is simply having an ethically consistent position when it comes to valuing human life regardless of the “causes” which claim it. In your book, is seems, to call the Maoists to account is to become an accomplice of the state. That’s a strange sort of “political position”…

  13. Kosambi permalink
    May 20, 2010 9:59 AM

    Even though there are enough writers/ commentators on Kafila to fill every corner of this debate, I just have one exasperated intervention [reiteration] to make – in Manash’s defense – not his ‘foul language, accusations and … huge reserves of spleen’ which I agree is so pointless – but in defense of the POINT that he’s trying to make:

    Maybe his usage of the word ‘neutrality’ is in fact problematic; maybe what aditya nigam and shuddha and aarti are taking are in fact ‘ethical positions’ against violence. But from what i follow, that’s not manash’s point!

    To quote from his earlier comment, THIS is what he means and I fail to understand how a degree of skepticism can be so disagreeable:

    “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.”

    This clinches the debate for me.

  14. Manash permalink
    May 20, 2010 11:20 AM

    I only defended Arundhati. I am sure she in her heart of hearts believes in non-violence. And my position wasn’t against a Gandhian one. I was trying to defend people, not ideologies. I am against violence. I was only trying to push the arguments of others so that a sharper debate could develop. So let the debates on Kafila prosper. Let me go back to Gandhi and other such humbugs.

  15. Manash permalink
    May 20, 2010 11:25 AM

    ps –
    And Kosambi, I agree with you on the problem you raised. But I think we need a radical ethics, like Levinas’, to address these issues. By radical ethics I mean a pushing of the horizons of thinking where the root of violence and its exegesis is addressed in deeper ways where one goes beyond merely historical or incidental causes . I think a Gandhian/Levinasian response to this crisis is very possible. I am thinking on it.

  16. somnath permalink
    May 20, 2010 11:26 AM

    A fantastic account from Nirmalangshu Mukherjee on the reality of the “Maoist” model..

    http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?265485

    Maoists are nothing but a group of ideologically driven people out to grab state power – at best, the outcome of their efforts is another China, at worst another Pol Pot…

    The true debates on the problems of tribals and that of exploitation of mineral resources lie in the “more boring” policy domains – romanticising a bunch of killers is so much more “exciting”!!!!!

  17. Aarti Sethi permalink*
    May 20, 2010 11:50 AM

    Manash I enjoy your interventions and if I have misunderstood your point, then I stand corrected. So in the spirit of debate and discussion, let me submit that I don’t agree with you on this earlier comment either.

    Also, we disagree in that I am not taking an “ethical position against violence”. My issue here with the Maoists is not that they use violence, but that in this instance they have attacked and killed unarmed civilians who are caught in the cross-fire between the Maoists and the state.

    “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.”

    The problem with this sort of formulation is that it immediately renders any critique of the movement illegitimate simply on the basis of location. So obviously since I cannot ever hope to fathom the suffering of those in CG, anything I might have to say is irremediably marked from the start. Fair enough, there is nothing wrong with, and much good can come from, being alert to one’s privilege, class position and how it colours one’s articulations.

    However, the problem is that is further presumes that all who are suffering in CG are partisans of the Maoists. This is simply not the case. There is no doubt that the Maoists enjoy widespread support in CG. But surely even you will agree Manash, that the countours of that support are extremely complicated. There are other groups that have been struggling in CG and elsewhere, groups the Maoists have systematically undermined. These are things we have to take into account as well. The point is that the Maoists continually claim the suffering of people, and yet they are intimately implicated in the structures of violence that perpetuate that suffering. In this situation I am not convinced that one must throw one’s towel in with either the state or the Maoists.

    Thirdly you ask us not to delegitmize, and not romanticise, which means we are to “understand”. Surely that is what this whole excercise, here on kafila, and elsewhere is about. And finally, you say youre defending people not ideologies, but actually youre doing exactly the opposite.

  18. Aarti Sethi permalink*
    May 20, 2010 11:56 AM

    @ somnath,

    It is precisely when debates on the exploitation of mineral resources are made questions of “policy” and not politics, that is the problem. So lets not for a moment produce this ridiculous binary between “violent maoists” and “benevolent policy”. The exploitation of tribal forests, land and mineral resources by the state and corporations is all being done through “policy”.

  19. Manash permalink
    May 20, 2010 12:16 PM

    It is possible that in trying to push things a little further for everybody, I have failed to point out where I myself am coming from. I have been deeply interested in the relationship between politics and ethics. In a recent essay in Biblio, I gave a critique of Nehruvian “neutrality” in my defense of the Gandhian politics of love. I was perhaps trying to see if from a similar position, it was possible to address the violent projects of radical-left groups and critique them on grounds which are more radical than the obvious critiques of violence. We have learnt enough lessons from the 20th century on totalitarian and other forms of violence in the name of progress and emancipatory projects of humanity. Such ideologies in new garbs can only turn the clock back. I only wanted a thorough thrashing out of the problem of violence so that we can at least, even begin to see what we all stand for: a non-violent approach against power. But I felt it was necessary to be sensitive (not agreeably) to these violent symptoms around us, and go deeper into the problem. To stand for a non-violent politics we need to address violence as intimately as Gandhi did in Hind Swaraj – and then push it backwards, and threaten it with non-violence. I hope I could articulate my point. But am glad, Arti, of your kind, critical response, which helped me clarify myself further. I don’t mind being in a confused maze of ideas for a while. I find easy clarities deceptive. But am sure of my roots which I have honed all these years. A steady belief in a Tagorean critique of the nation as well as a Gandhian response to left/liberal politics. And yes, I may not be kind when it comes to clash of ideas, but (and also, paradoxically, because of it) am always exposed to love.

  20. Kosambi permalink
    May 20, 2010 1:15 PM

    @ Aarti: I completely agree that the Maoists don’t have an unblemished history and I’m sure they’ve systematically undermined many other groups that have existed in the region – I mean, it could well be strategic, but even so – it’s telling that the Indian state chooses to use the terms ‘Naxalite’ and ‘Maoist’ interchangeably. But the point also is that there ARE people who DO support the Maoists; people who experience unimaginable violence every single day – violence that would be unfathomable to our cocooned lives, however conscious we are of our privileges. Given this, I do believe that just as it is necessary to be critical of the Maoists for eliminating/undermining other forms of dissent, it is equally important to recognize that they do in fact enjoy some degree of legitimacy – however problematic it might seem to us. And in recognizing this legitimacy, I don’t think one is taking a principled stand in favour of violence. Instead, we’re only trying to ‘understand’ the situation, while maintaining a degree of skepticism.

    Despite being a fan of Kafila for so many months, it seems to me that the attempt here is no longer to understand – it is plain dismissive.

  21. Aditya Nigam permalink*
    May 20, 2010 4:18 PM

    Kosambi,
    I see that we can agree on many things but the last phrase of yours seems oddly out of place: just look at the range of positions here on the Maoist issue from Apoorvanand’s frontal attack (what you would call ‘dismissive’ but which surely has a place within a Leftist world?), to Shuddha’s skepticism to Aarti’s, which is clearly troubled and critical at the same time, Nivedita’s piece on the Bhubaneswar Rajdhani’s ‘rail abarodh’ and my own – here (and in Seminar and EPW). Let me just talk about my own position now: I have refused (like others on Kafila) to see the issue in terms of violence and non-violence – starting from a very early piece (Reflections on Revolutionary Violence in 2008). I have always maintained that in India you cannot even fight a panchayat election peacfully, and non-violently. Yet, such is the ‘ideological’ mode of reading that most commentators here invariably read non-violence into my positions – indeed positions of most of us. In the piece mentioned above, the question posed was one of vanguardism and of a small military command taking over power in the name of the people. In subsequent pieces, some of us have repeatedly raised the question of the militarization of life and of normalization of war-time mentality as a consequence of this ‘strategy’. What is even more interesting of course, is that the the advocates of ‘revolutionary violence’ (including many who comment here) always seem to prefer to be delightfully abstract in their defence of evolutionary violence. Never even once do they address the question of who exactly is facing the brunt of their violence. The ‘class enemy’? It is almost as if such violence must always only be deployed against the poorest of the poor – and the intellectual spokespersons of this movement talk of violence as if some real hated class exploiters are facing the violence. At least the Naxalite movement of the late 1960s killed some hated landlords – now even that is gone. So when Charu Mazumdar insisted on the use of small arms that peasants used in everyday life and opposed sophisticated firearms, he probably unwittingly made one thing clear: anonymous, faceless people could not be killed. You had to identify, go close up and kill – not plant a landmine like cowards and wait to see civilians die, film the gruesome ambush and then go and watch the ambush video and let off!

  22. somnath permalink
    May 20, 2010 6:40 PM

    Aarti,

    Policy is never divorced from politics, not in any society, and evolutionary policy is hallmark of a democratic polity in any case..

    While no one defends ALL policies as “benign”, its a bit facetious to take one big brush and paint every single policy response as part of a nasty state-corporate-big-media conspiracy…

    Lets look at the specific case of Chattisgarh, as Nirmalangshu Mukherjee does in a manner in his (awesome) piece…Here is a state that is desparately poor and behind in almost all its human development indicators, but fabulously wealthy in mineral resources…What should a set of policy responses be? The preferred (at least of the fashionable chatterati) is almost to let it be, let the place and its people be preserved as an anthropological museum…The state of the tribal society isnt much different from how Dr Ambedkar had described the state of the Indian village as a den of inquity and backwardness (among other things)…The alternative set of policy response would be for the state to leverage its mineral resources to generate the economic surplus required to create the physical and above all intelectual infrastructure to pull the people of the region up to somewhere close to national levels of “development indicators”..

    Doing the latter is never easy, has no easy choices…Chattisgarh’s 2 rupee/kilo rice scheme itself costs upwards of 2000 crores, and that is just addressign the very tip of the iceberg..The fastest way for the state to raise resources would be to monetise its mineral wealth…If there is an alterantive (besides the option of borrowing the state’s way to bankruptcy, I would be happy to learn)…

    Now the question there is of execution – is the mining policy giving enough share of the profits to the state (and thereby the socity)? What is the policy on rehabilitation of people displaced? What share of the mining profits are accruing to the local community? Working these out, and arguing and agitating for the right policy framework however is tedious, difficult and frankly, “unsexy”..

    It is so much easier (and fashionable) to simply deride a Tata Motors and demonise the project and the state.. Conclusion? In a “successful” case (singur), drive the project away…And then? Then nothing at all…Back to square one of pristine tribal existance I guess…..

  23. suresh permalink
    May 20, 2010 7:41 PM

    But the point also is that there ARE people who DO support the Maoists; people who experience unimaginable violence every single day … I do believe that just as it is necessary to be critical of the Maoists for eliminating/undermining other forms of dissent, it is equally important to recognize that they do in fact enjoy some degree of legitimacy – however problematic it might seem to us. And in recognizing this legitimacy, I don’t think one is taking a principled stand in favour of violence. Instead, we’re only trying to ‘understand’ the situation, while maintaining a degree of skepticism.

    Let’s see: substitute “Hindutvavadis” for “Maoists” and do you still agree? After all, the Hindutvavadis do enjoy some support – arguably more than do the Maoists – however problematic it may be to “us.”

    What you seem to want is that every criticism of the Maoists (or whatever you want to call them) should come with a caveat about how badly the Indian state is behaving etc. etc. ; in effect, the caveat should be such that it totally excuses the actions of the Maoists themselves.

    I’ve seen this approach elsewhere – indeed, from the Hindutvavadis themselves and from apologists for the Indian state. It stinks, no matter on whose behalf it is used.

  24. K M Venugopalan permalink
    May 20, 2010 8:56 PM

    Aditya,

    You say that the question fundamentally is not so much of that of ‘violence vs non-violence’.

    Killing anonymous, faceless people can be entirely a different thing from directly combating some enemy personified. Unfortunately, the logic of war alters everything, Geneva conventions on the ethics of war and peace notwithstanding.

    Communists are generally in favour of expediting radical resolutions of crises that are generated in first place thanks to a class society founded on merciless instruments of violence and exploitation. Beyond this generalized understanding, there can have disagreements between the communists themselves on the specificities of class war on the one side , or between those who take the side of the common people and that of the state on the other.

    It is here that the fundamental question ceases to be that of violence vs non-violence. It is not because of some oversight that the state would rope in to its draconian UAPA any one who would even peacefully voice his or her political protest against the OGH. The country and perhaps the whole world already know that the OGH is mainly directed against the tribal inhabitants of Dandewada and the neighboring districts who, in order to defend their homes and livelihoods against the violent, massive and State-aided Corporate land grab. That a poor population are pitted in violent war with a mighty state and against their wills is overlooked in the current discourse about violence.

    Among the questions raised by Arundhati in the context of the OGH, the most important one seems to be this
    ” How will you stage a Gandhian protest inside the forest while Gandhian struggles invariably need an audience?”
    The state apparently wanted either to silently erase the tribal population of over three lakhs or at least clear the land of them by forcing them to reside in camps, in order to facilitate the Corporate agenda of making profits of the order of Rs 5000 per MT of iron ore/bauxite they were promised to be sold @ Rs 27 or so, through scores of unpublicized MOUs!
    Protesting this horrendous crime will qualify not just the adivasis and maoists but also their non-combatant sympathizers to become ‘internal threats’.

    It looks rather unfair for someone to dwell out of proportion on the texts written by Arundhati , which indeed make a casual reference to certain ‘ambush videos’. Perhaps this will just not be sufficient for justifying clamping an accusation like ‘romanticizing violence’ on her. The aforementioned fear can be especially true against the fact that the apologists of the OGH lament violence and loss of lives though , they aver nothing on the substance of the MOUs that had been made with the Corporates over the past five years except repeatedly uttering vague rhetoric on development.

    • Aditya Nigam permalink*
      May 21, 2010 8:41 AM

      Dear Venugopal,
      Arundhati’s ‘innocent’ poser about how you will stage a Gandhian protest in the forests has been answered at least a hundred times since this controversy began: people have pointed to the large number of movements and struggles already going on in different parts of the country. They are largely non-violent but occasionally erupt as in Nandigram. But there are others that have relentlessly fought, successfully so far – at any rate, the question of the relative success of the Maoist enterprise is itself highly debatable. And yet, it is always as if the question is being asked for the first time! As if people have never debated these issues before, as if they never acted and resisted before!
      And I completely disagree with your way of posing the question of violence versus non-violence in the context of the internal debate of communists. Communists of whichever hue are not more exalted beings endowed with some higher ethical standing that they and their debates are going to decide on what course struggles will take.

  25. K M Venugopalan permalink
    May 21, 2010 7:22 PM

    Dear Aditya,
    I thought I made no claim for superiority per se, for any debate taking place within the communists.( If that were the case , I could have little reason to refer to a peace loving, non Communist’s comment about the relevance of Gandhian protests at least in the Dantewada context of naked Corporate-Govt violence against the tribal people.) On the contrary, I was trying to highlight the common ground with someone who had suggested that the fundamental question is less about ‘violence vs non-violence’.
    Further, I think one cannot but agree with Arundhati when she says that the entire parliament of India is behaving as a united citadel of right wing politics when the masses face the brunt of state oppression as in the OGH . Outside these political parties and against the state’s policy of subservience to the corporates, ‘a whole bandwidth of democratic movements is emerging in India’.On the other hand, draconian laws like UAPA are being brandished not just against the combatants but against all democratic forces who voice their concern and protest. It is a paradox that the genre of black laws like UAPA do get passed thanks to the support of parties sitting in the opposition, Left parties not being exception.
    Perhaps this is an unprecedented situation in which things are in a flux; hence the need to go beyond the usual binaries and stereotypes like ‘violence vs non-violence’, ‘communists vs pacifists/Gandhians/democrats’ !
    Arundhati’s views hence merit a closer look, the alleged ‘romanticizing of violence’ kept aside, and depending on our willingness to prioritize the no holds barred state suppression of democratic dissent.

  26. naxalbari permalink
    May 21, 2010 11:37 PM

    the holy triumvirate of sivam-aarti-aditya nigam seem to be defending tooth and nail the ‘overall politics of the blog’ which seems to be a post something…to be named..we’ll wait for that epistemic shift to happen and for Kafila to lead[do i dare say the revolution?]. There are several problems with the post that I’d like to engage with instead of feeding into this mindless mudslinging that these ‘intellectuals’ seem to have taken to. Aarti seems to make it look like the Maoists deliberately and calculatedly planned the attack on the civilians on the bus. The attack was planned.Yes!But was it the murder of the civilians that was planned?The Koya commando forces were clearly using the civilians as cover. Unprepared, ill fed, low paid,ill equipped jawans are sent to ‘intensify’ the war against the Maoists and they use strategies like this to save themselves. Who is to be blamed? That’s not something I want to get into. The fact is, as you’ve rightly pointed out there have been civilian deaths. but an ethical position on violence does not mean an abstracted, facile one.From such a position emerges these links between statements by Hillary Clinton, Ramanna and delusions that Maoists sound like imperialists.By the same logic, Palestinian suicide bombers are not distinct from the Israeli army funded by the US. The LTTE struggle is no different from Rajapakse’s military offensive supported by the Indian State!All violence comes under one head. VIOLENCE. and we have to take positions like ALL VIOLENCE LEADING TO CIVILIAN DEATHS ARE THE SAME!??
    What is most offensive about this post is the reference to the gas chamber. thanks for pointing out that the way to the gas chambers is through the forests of Dantewada.

    ”…the free person can assume a certain spiritual posture toward death, because for him [her] death is not totally absorbed into the torment of dying.The free person can venture out to the outmost limits of thought, because within him [her]there is still space, however tiny, that is without fear. For the prisoner, however, death had no sting, not one that hurts, not one that stimulates you to think. Perhaps this explains why the camp inmate- and it applies equally to the intellectual as well as to the unintellectual-did experience agonising fear of certain kinds of dying , but scarcely an actual fear of death”
    [ a quote from Jean Amery's At the Mind's Limits:Contemplations by a Survivor on Auschwitz and its Realities].I suspect this is what Manash’s first line of his first comment tried to point towards….which was rather viciously shot down.

    Anway, continue to take ”ethical” positions.Hopefully next time you won’t be making them with the help of sweeping generalisations and linking distinctly disparate events.Oh, and Kafila has at least one thing they should thank the Maoists for- keeping their blog alive….laal salaam.

    • Aflatoon permalink
      May 22, 2010 2:17 PM

      Bhai vaah! Kya baat kahi hai aapne, Naxalbari! Maovaad is blog ko usee tarah zinda rakhe hue hai jaise Manmohan-Chidambaram ki jori aap logon ki dukaan ko! Tark ka yeh andaaz laajawab to hai hi magar aap idhar kaise? Why waste your time and energy with these irrelevant people? It is people like you who are keeping the blog alive – is there some secret here?

  27. V. Geetha permalink
    May 22, 2010 10:09 AM

    A troubled and short response to the many things being discussed here. These are merely loud thoughts, and I am not even clear that the position I attempt to sketch is meaningful or tenable…

    One, I think it is clear that we cannot think of civilian deaths outside of the very specific context of what has been happening in CG, and the long-term history of armed struggles in this part of India. In that sense, civilians cease being like civilians elsewhere – they are bracketed by circumstances that they cannot always hope to resist, or if they do, by the possibilities available to them to do so. Between joining the Salwa Judum and the Maoists civilians attempt diverse strategies even if finally some of them may opt to be part of one group or the other. This is to say that civilians are politically marked, so to speak, so in that sense, they cease to me ‘mere’ civilians.

    How this marking is understood is a different matter. Not heeding the fact that they continue to live in these circumstances, as desperate, yet emotionally and ethically active beings is what renders them a category, rather than historical beings. It is also this which makes it possible for the state to use them as ‘human’ shields, and for the Maoists to both feel angry with the state for doing so, as well as detached enough to burst a bomb which kills civilians even as it targets underfed, poor jawans.

    What is considered expendable by all concerned is the civilians’ sense of themselves as having other lives and possibilities. Sadly, it is these that are cynically coopted into a historical narrative that simply does not appear to have time or place for them. The Maoists may construct part of this text, but they cannot hope to determine its trajectory or its ending, if there is to be one – meanwhile, they are unable to account for deaths that are clearly tragic, except in terms of strategic and sometimes hurried moral reasoning. There is an existential dimension to dying thus, that the left has not been ever comfortable with. And one that has on the other hand attracted poignant and negative anger, such as we find in Camus, fascinated and repelled as he is by the elegant and beautiful St Just. But this is not something that works either, attractive as its poetry is…

    Secondly, I wonder if we should not distinguish Maoist reasoning, clearly inadequate and frightening from that of the right wing or of the state, but also from “comparable” players like the LTTE. Whatever its complex history and progress, the LTTE had ceased to care for civilians as important players in their struggle. Not that the civilians suffered this fate quietly. We have enough evidence that civilians under their direct rule protested, negotiated, manipulated till the very end of the war days, knowing as they do that they were ‘marked’ civilians, that they could be human shields, at a moment’s notice, and yet wanting to also wear that mark in their own distinctive and varied ways… and this would explain their anger at all those who were not in the Vanni and who attempted to speak for them, not reckoning with how much they had struggled in the face of a cynical military leadership.

    I think by restoring this part of the story, of civilians who are not only that but marked by these experiences in particular ways and who are clearly agents of what they endure that we might hope to get a sense of politics that is not caught entirely in a relentless narrative of violence.

  28. for sengupta, sethi etc permalink
    May 22, 2010 6:09 PM

    Its very interesting to find that at least three authors at Kafila, Sethi, Sengupta and Nigam condem Maoist violence. But at the same time they distinguish between what for the sake of convenience be said as “good violence” and “bad violence”. One indicates that combatants being killed is okay but innocents should not be killed. Nigam says that impersonal killing that happens when sophesticated remote control methods are used like IED and rockets is cowardly. However he is sympathetic to hand to hand violence suggested by charu mazumbar where knife, swords, rods, blades and maybe guns are used. He also says violence also happens in panchayat elections but that is differrent.
    I wish they all expand on their thesis on violence and explain how much violence, by whom (maosits, non-party groups, dalits, women, violence in defence etc) and the methods used (machine guns vs blades, drone vs rods) do they support. I guess if they do this would clarify a lot of confusion here.

    • Aditya Nigam permalink*
      May 23, 2010 10:18 PM

      Let me try to say it for the nth time, if that has any meaning at all. I am not sympathetic to even the kind of violence that Charu Mazumdar advocated. All I said was that he unwittingly ruled out the kind of cowardly violence that present-day Maoists are indulging in. Does that sound like I am expressing a preference for his kind of violence? It does mean that in some sense, he anticipated (not in a very conscious, thought out way, but anticipated nevertheless) one of the possibilities immanent in the disastrous ‘annihilation of the class enemy line’. Now, let me also make it clear (and here I differ from Shuddha’s position) this ‘annihilation of the class enemy’ , i.e. physical elimination of the hated oppressor was a very specific Indian invention and has no parallel in either Mao’s protracted people’s war or in Vietnam, nor I suspect in Nepal. FARC in Columbia and Sendero Luminoso in Peru are closer to this kind of nihilistic use of violence. This kind of violence cannot but be premeditated and probably that is why, Charu Mazumdar saw the possibilities that this kind of violence contained.
      Now, to the more important question. Let me put it this way. In an ideal world, if there ever is one, I would like to imagine there would be no violence whatsoever. I suspect this is such a non-controversial statement that neither P Chidambaram nor the Maoists would disagree with it. And yet, they will have ‘short-term’, ‘tactical’ reasons for resorting to violence, even brutalities. My position here would be that as far as possible (and I believe this is the best that marxism-inspired revolutionary movements all over the world have held) even as a tactical or short-term contingency, violence is no answer to anything. It can never create anything new or beautiful – leave alone create a new and exploitation-less society. Therefore, it is important to insist that you have to be the change you want the world to be. That is to say, if you merely take the line of least resistance, merely ape the methods of the enemy, you will become that. Then when you come to power, those are precisely the reflexes that will determine how you act. Gandhi’s radical poser would be: suffer the consequences of being different. This does not mean you should go into oblivion without protest; you must fight, you must violate the law but be prepared to bear its consequences – but always non-violently, he would argue. I may not go that far. I would say, unlike Gandhi, I would not be judgemental about the violence that often occurs in a situation of extreme powerlessness, as an act of desperation. Such violence is entirely different from the kind of premeditated violence-as-strategy that is in questions, which leads to militarization of life itself.

  29. KuriMat permalink
    May 24, 2010 4:38 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 propagate 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.

  30. K M Venugopalan permalink
    May 24, 2010 2:46 PM

    >..’if you merely take the line of least resistance, merely ape the methods of the enemy, you will become that”

    I wish to ask Aditya: What is the line of least resistance (against violence/war)? You seem to argue that it is the violent counter-offensive itself.
    Therefore, it follows that the stronger, more consequential and ‘active’ way of resistance is in non-violent suffering by the subjects, irrespective of who started it all!
    The Gandhian strategy of non-violent resistance remains unchanged though, a new strategy of violent wars against all people emerges on the other side, in calling them all maoists or sympathizers of violence!
    This is certainly new in the sense that until the recent phase of neoliberal capitalist-corporate- state -parties (nearly all parties) unity in violent suppression of people’s struggles country wide, democratic protests and actions by people used to be taken for granted as legitimate, and now there is a strange and an increasingly nuanced emphasis on the relevance of the Gandhian struggles- as though they contained some hitherto unexplored possibilities for ultimate peace!

    >”..Gandhi’s radical poser would be: suffer the consequences of being different. This does not mean you should go into oblivion without protest; you must fight, you must violate the law but be prepared to bear its consequences – but always non-violently, he would argue”
    But how does it make any sense in the context of the current bracketing of scores of reputed human rights organizations and non-mainstream political parties (including those even with a well known record of opposing maoists) in order to bring them under the purview of the draconian UAPA?
    How do you expect the tribal people to react when they are told to leave their homes and to run to the salva judum camps, or to face the bullets ?
    Where will they sit in and ‘stage’ their non-violent struggle of suffering ? Who will be the spectators and the audience of the aftermath of these Gandhian protests, if at all they happen?

    >” unlike Gandhi, I would not be judgmental about the violence that often occurs in a situation of extreme powerlessness, as an act of desperation. Such violence is entirely different from the kind of premeditated violence-as-strategy that is in questions, which leads to militarization of life itself.

    In full agreement with the first part of your statement, I
    am afraid your accusation of ‘pre-meditated violence as strategy’ might not fit to the context. Where the military might of the state had already been fully unleashed over the area, the only possibility is that the combatants could have been too pushed to the wall; In spite of all the usual display of extravaganza thanks to the ever hiking war budgets, if the state make the poor jawans with the ex-salva judum tribal youths board the public conveyances rather than the police/military vehicles, it clearly suggests a sinister plan to use the rest of passengers as a human shields in pursuance of stepping up the very activity of war. Hence, militarization of life itself might be a fact accompli; it could be reversed only with the state agencies sensitized to the urgent need for peace.

    • Aditya Nigam permalink*
      May 25, 2010 8:17 AM

      I really give up, Venugopalan. Nothing I say will make the slightest difference to what you ‘hear’ me say. There is clearly no conversation here. Why waste our time? Wish you all the best with your armed struggle against the common folk. Just don’t try to fool us that the struggle is against the state or corporations – or try computing how many contractors and corporate agents have been killed in comparison to the absolute poor who have fallen to this sadistic revolutionary drive!

  31. K M Venugopalan permalink
    May 24, 2010 3:45 PM

    I’ll just add one more point, hoping to clarify myself:
    We often find the right wing majoritarian violence enjoying the company of state power of one or other different political persuasion. With or without the active connivance of state agencies and with a lot of goodwill from the big media except for formal expressions of disapproval here and there, they escape condemnation. They also get protected from the reach of even the ordinary laws, let alone the special laws like the UAPA!
    Even though the Gandhian methods of breaking law by passive resistance could not be said to be abetting it, what will one suggest by way of resisting the ‘engineered’ pogroms? Will the peace-loving lot a little asserting themselves by rising up taking arms against these hordes help or not?What is the alternative, if the state comes to the rescue of these hordes rather than the defenders of communal peace?

  32. K M Venugopalan permalink
    May 26, 2010 1:16 PM

    Aditya,
    Very unfortunate that you try to push people to the wall for just suggesting that the state does have a vested interest not only in perpetuating a violent system, but also in bracketing all its critics with the Maoists !
    Neither the Gandhian trick of defending heartless state violence against the poor resisting it, nor any of its post/pre- Modernist variant is new in content.
    How to sort out the problem of unabashedly displayed preferences for war rather than peace that affects all of us in one way or other? This seems to be less a question of theory than of practice.
    As long as the people need peace and not war, I believe there is still space for dialogue and positive initiatives on the part of the leaders of the civil society.

    Best,
    Venu

  33. harri permalink
    May 26, 2010 9:31 PM

    I agree with venugopalan’s arguments. People like him who are fighting the state and coporations in rural india shoulder to shoulder with the downtrodden are bound to feel offended when told to resist by non-violent methods. Its very easy to theorise sitting in Delhi. I think thats intellectual pornography. The real theory and intellect emerges from the grassroots. You can tell the difference because the later has a smell of earth and the former mangoshake…

  34. K M Venugopalan permalink
    May 27, 2010 6:21 PM

    @ harri
    Thanks for the comments made; but I feel sort of compelled to clarify that I’m neither someone directly engaged in the fight with the corporates and the armed forces, nor political apologist of maoists .
    ( moderators, please bear with me if I repeatedly make posts here- but this time this is important from the point of view of my own instincts for self preservation)
    It needs to be reiterated that plain speaking becomes a risky business even in a democratic forum. You will be invariably asked to pass through a test of non violence, subjected to a discourse of Gandhism and non violence; you will be put under surveillance and remotely associated with the advocacy of violence!
    Against all theories of non violence including the Gandhian invoked out of context, I wish to hold that it is is not just those people -“those who fight the state and coporations in rural india shoulder to shoulder with the downtrodden are bound to feel offended when told to resist by non-violent methods”- who become affected, for example. On the contrary, it takes the shape of ugly thought policing or an assault on one’s freedom of conscience.
    This is nothing new; this predates even the era of communism ,let alone maoism. The Indian history of independence struggles has seen umpteen such occasions and debates. Chauri Chawra and Jalianwalahbag and the Gandhian attitude toward Bhagat Singh had shown the real face of non violence.
    Gandhi himself had chastised the Indian Police Officers who had disobeyed the order of their Brit superiors to open fire on the poor peasants who had persisted with the non-cooperation movement even after the Congress leadership had unfairly withdrawn it in 1930s.
    When two french women interviewers queried this at Gandhi’s Yarwada Ashram, Gandhi reportedly replied like this:
    They had first to obey as faithful public servants; our bhagavat Gita and Dharm Sasthras teach one how best to perform one’s duty. Besides,if the Congress comes to power and still this in obedience were to be met, how could we run the administration at all?
    Idealizing non violence apart, and its applications in real life could mean just the opposite- justifying violence from one or the other side! It is unfortunate that , in most cases as in the context of OGH , it serves to hide the ugly face of state-corporate violence and brutality against the poorest of people.

  35. Manash permalink
    May 28, 2010 6:02 PM

    If the suspected Maoists are indeed Maoists who have derailed the Mumbai-bound Gyaneshwari Express, it means these guys are no better than mere insurgents using the most banal and petty methods to gain attention. They sound like bankrupt causes even before the State takes action against them. This is not even Maoism – that mad and arrogant ideology of which Ismail Kadare wrote memorably about – this is pure shit.

    But what is still relevant is the State producing these rupture-oriented elements who serve no purpose for any real-historical rupture but rather feed into the logical and reactive ruptures within the pathological discourse of State power.

  36. Parag Vohra permalink
    November 15, 2010 11:47 PM

    “On the question of citizen-deaths you become one with the state in condemning it. No harm. On what question, if any, you might be one with the Maoists? Nothing? Hmm. Makes me wonder what your “position” really is.”

    Well put and well caught.

    This is why it is obtuse to take moral positions on the Maoist issue. A senior Indian police official on a visit to Berkeley had almost admitted to catch and kill policy for Maoists. Whereas the “liberals” sitting there gasped with horror, no one realized the irony of their being on land that belonged to native Americans in the first place. Heck, even someone like Angana Chatterji has no problem milking the American while living on land forcibly taken from native tribes.

    End of the day, India needs to become rich. Maoists do not share that philosophy. Hence, they must be systematically killed / uprooted so the land can be exploited for commercial purposes.

    Once India is rich enough to feel guilty about what we did to these tribals, I suggest we allow the coming generations to open casinos and run them. The “Indian tribes” in the US seems to be doing well.

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