Of Peace and Other Illusions
This week I reviewed War and Peace in Jangal Mahal, edited by Biswajit Roy, for The Hindu. Kafila readers will be familiar with at least two of the essays in the compilation – by Nivedita Menon and Aditya Nigam and will remember our hectic debates on the subject.
The collected letters of correspondence between the Communist Party of India (Maoist) and the Indian state is an archive of corpses: policemen and guerrillas, commanders and comrades, police informers and Maoist sympathisers. The body count racked up by each serves as a signalling mechanism for the other.
Except for the police and Maoist commanders, the dead usually don’t get to choose sides; their identities are written in reverse, a teleological narration that details seemingly insignificant decisions that end in death.
In June this year, the CRPF, state police and CoBRA battalion killed 19 men, women and children in an anti-Maoist operation, claiming those killed were hardened Maoists. When newspapers reported that villagers said they were conducting a public meeting when they were surrounded by police and shot, the police pointed to six troopers injured in the encounter and asked why villagers were holding a meeting in the middle of the night.
The Maoists have an explanation for their violence as well. “The notion of just principle in a normal situation is different from that [in] a war-like situation,” wrote Maoist commander Kishenji in a letter to the Bengali daily, Dainik Statesman , in which he explained his party’s policy of killing police informers, “During war, freedom of thought, consciousness, initiative and innovation is much limited in scope.”