FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Peals of Spring Thunder

by BINOY KAMPMARK

They have been considered one of India’s most pressing threats, and the recent attack by the Naxalites that ambushed a convoy of the Congress Party went that much further.  The ambush took place over the weekend in Sukma on the Maharashtra, Andra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh border. Reports suggest that there were as many as 200 Maoist rebels who inflicted heavy losses – 28 killed and 24 others wounded – before fleeing.

The attacks have shaken the establishment.  Among the dead were four state party leaders including Mahendra Karma of Chhattisgarh, and five police officers.  For BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar, “This new aggressive strategy of the Naxalities is a real threat to the Constitution and the rule of law. It is a challenge to sovereignty” (Times of India, May 26).  Former police chief of Punjab state KPS Gill is pessimistic about the new surge – the government of the day did not “have the political will and bureaucratic and police set-up to prevent such attacks” (Dhaka Tribune, May 26).

How the Naxalites have been treated has varied.  In 1967, when the movement first made its presence felt in the West Bengal village of Naxalbari, the Home Minister Y. B. Chavan treated the matter as a case of “lawlessness” in action.  The mistake was classic but fatal.  During the 1970s, the state authorities moved in on the movement hoping to crush it with repressive enthusiasm.  As usual with such measures, the quotient of extra-judicial killings and corrupt practices accompanied the operations.  Legislation was passed to enable various state authorities to take measures – the attempt, for example, by the N.T. Rama Rao government to free up arms licensing in Andra Pradesh in 1983 for individuals to protect themselves against the Naxals.

However brutal any reaction against the Naxal movement has been, the authorities have been incapable of getting away from the socio-economic problems its followers capitalise on.  The West Bengal State Secretariat, when conducting an enquiry into the uprising, found that, “Behind the peasant unrest in Naxalbari lies a deep social malady – malafide transfers, evictions and other anti-people actions of tea gardeners and jotedars.”  They gain political traction in areas of horrendous poverty – regions such as Warangal, Adilabad and Karimnagar.

The agrarian revolution of the Indian state may well have been pushed with enthusiasm, but economic disparities were not going away in the development drive.  Tribal populations were being displaced. Corporate and government malfeasance was rampant.  The Naxalites, for all their brutal measures, can count among their constituency tenant farmers and the dirt poor tribes peoples they claim to represent.

Today, they remain one of the last formidable Maoist movements, having a formidable presence in 20 of India’s 28 states.  The Indian Home Ministry claims there are thousands of fighters whose leaders refuse to negotiate with the government till paramilitary soldiers are withdrawn.  State authorities have been in the habit of arming local vigilantes.  The country also persists in employing that great imperial shackle – the sedition law.  Civil rights tend to be shredded.

Governments have pondered what model of “integration” to best employ, but these have not been successful. Corporate misappropriation and exploitation – be it from mining and energy firms – remains a stark problem in states such as Chhattisgarh.  In 2010, a defense analyst Raman Dixit would write in the Journal of Defence Studies that “social integration” would be the best move against the problem.  Exploitation of the poor and scheduled casts would have to be rectified.  The right over forest produce would have to be assured.

The rhetoric of the bullet is, however, a powerful one. Old formulas are hard to abandon. Painful realities are easy to ignore.  Prakash has urged for a “unified strategy” in dealing with Naxalism, one that blithely ignores the social context of the rebellion.  “It is not a development issue. It is about the Maoist belief to change power through violence” (Times of India, May 26).

But the power of the bullet will be futile in the face of a movement that will remain powerful as long as the social conditions exist to sustain it.  Naxalism’s success is a direct attribution to the failings of governance.  Far from being a cancer, a mutation that says little of the Indian political tapestry, it says everything about it – development that is uneven, inequities that persist with painful relevance.

The best work of revolutionaries is, of course, done by the establishment of the day.  It is they, more so than the Naxalites, who will change.  Till that happens, the Maoist group shall remain what China’s People’s Daily (Jul 5, 1967) once described as: “a peal of spring thunder”.

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He currently lectures in politics and law at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
July 22, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Good as Goldman: Hillary and Wall Street
Joseph E. Lowndes
From Silent Majority to White-Hot Rage: Observations from Cleveland
Paul Street
Political Correctness: Handle with Care
Richard Moser
Actions Express Priorities: 40 Years of Failed Lesser Evil Voting
Eric Draitser
Hillary and Tim Kaine: a Match Made on Wall Street
Conn Hallinan
The Big Boom: Nukes And NATO
Ron Jacobs
Exacerbate the Split in the Ruling Class
Jill Stein
After US Airstrikes Kill 73 in Syria, It’s Time to End Military Assaults that Breed Terrorism
Jack Rasmus
Trump, Trade and Working Class Discontent
John Feffer
Could a Military Coup Happen Here?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Late Night, Wine-Soaked Thoughts on Trump’s Jeremiad
Andrew Levine
Vice Presidents: What Are They Good For?
Michael Lukas
Law, Order, and the Disciplining of Black Bodies at the Republican National Convention
David Swanson
Top 10 Reasons Why It’s Just Fine for U.S. to Blow Up Children
Victor Grossman
Horror News, This Time From Munich
Margaret Kimberley
Gavin Long’s Last Words
Mark Weisbrot
Confidence and the Degradation of Brazil
Brian Cloughley
Boris Johnson: Britain’s Lying Buffoon
Lawrence Reichard
A Global Crossroad
Kevin Schwartz
Beyond 28 Pages: Saudi Arabia and the West
Charles Pierson
The Courage of Kalyn Chapman James
Michael Brenner
Terrorism Redux
Bruce Lerro
Being Inconvenienced While Minding My Own Business: Liberals and the Social Contract Theory of Violence
Mark Dunbar
The Politics of Jeremy Corbyn
Binoy Kampmark
Laura Ingraham and Trumpism
Uri Avnery
The Great Rift
Nicholas Buccola
What’s the Matter with What Ted Said?
Aidan O'Brien
Thank Allah for Western Democracy, Despondency and Defeat
Joseph Natoli
The Politics of Crazy and Stupid
Sher Ali Khan
Empirocracy
Nauman Sadiq
A House Divided: Turkey’s Failed Coup Plot
Franklin Lamb
A Roadmap for Lebanon to Grant Civil Rights for Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon
Colin Todhunter
Power and the Bomb: Conducting International Relations with the Threat of Mass Murder
Michael Barker
UK Labour’s Rightwing Select Corporate Lobbyist to Oppose Jeremy Corbyn
Graham Peebles
Brexit, Trump and Lots of Anger
Anhvinh Doanvo
Civilian Deaths, Iraq, Syria, ISIS and Drones
Christopher Brauchli
Kansas and the Phantom Voters
Peter Lee
Gavin Long’s Manifesto and the Politics of “Terrorism”
Missy Comley Beattie
An Alarmingly Ignorant Fuck
Robert Koehler
Volatile America
Adam Vogal
Why Black Lives Matter To Me
Raouf Halaby
It Is Not Plagiarism, Y’all
Rev. Jeff Hood
Deliver Us From Babel
Frances Madeson
Juvenile Life Without Parole, Captured in ‘Natural Life’
Charles R. Larson
Review: Han Kang’s “The Vegetarian”
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail