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:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

January 24, 2017
Anthony DiMaggio
Reflections on DC: Promises and Pitfalls in the Anti-Trump Uprising
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
Developer Welfare: Trump’s Infrastructure Plan
Melvin Goodman
Trump at the CIA: the Orwellian World of Alternative Facts
Sam Mitrani – Chad Pearson
A Short History of Liberal Myths and Anti-Labor Politics
Kristine Mattis
Democracy is Not a Team Sport
Andrew Smolski
Third Coast Pillory: Mexico, Neo-Nationalism and the Capitalist World-System
Ted Rall
The Women’s March Was a Dismal Failure and a Hopeful Sign
Norman Pollack
Women’s March: Halt at the Water’s Edge
Pepe Escobar
Will Trump Hop on an American Silk Road?
Franklin Lamb
Trump’s “Syria “Minus Iran” Overture to Putin and Assad May Restore Washington-Damascus Relations
Kenneth R. Culton
Violence By Any Other Name
David Swanson
Why Impeach Donald Trump
Christopher Brauchli
Trump’s Contempt
January 23, 2017
John Wight
Trump’s Inauguration: Hail Caesar!
Mark Schuller
So What am I Doing Here? Reflections on the Inauguration Day Protests
Patrick Cockburn
The Rise of Trump and Isis Have More in Common Than You Might Think
Binoy Kampmark
Ignored Ironies: Women, Protest and Donald Trump
Gregory Barrett
Flag, Cap and Screen: Hollywood’s Propaganda Machine
Gareth Porter
US Intervention in Syria? Not Under Trump
L. Ali Khan
Trump’s Holy War against Islam
Gary Leupp
An Al-Qaeda Attack in Mali:  Just Another Ripple of the Endless, Bogus “War on Terror”
Norman Pollack
America: Banana Republic? Far Worse
Bob Fitrakis - Harvey Wasserman
We Mourn, But We March!
Kim Nicolini
Trump Dump: One Woman March and Personal Shit as Political
William Hawes
We Are on Our Own Now
Martin Billheimer
Last Tango in Moscow
Colin Todhunter
Development and India: Why GM Mustard Really Matters
Mel Gurtov
Trump’s America—and Ours
David Mattson
Fog of Science II: Apples, Oranges and Grizzly Bear Numbers
Clancy Sigal
Who’s Up for This Long War?
Weekend Edition
January 20, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Divide and Rule: Class, Hate, and the 2016 Election
Andrew Levine
When Was America Great?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: This Ain’t a Dream No More, It’s the Real Thing
Yoav Litvin
Making Israel Greater Again: Justice for Palestinians in the Age of Trump
Linda Pentz Gunter
Nuclear Fiddling While the Planet Burns
Ruth Fowler
Standing With Standing Rock: Of Pipelines and Protests
David Green
Why Trump Won: the 50 Percenters Have Spoken
Dave Lindorff
Imagining a Sanders Presidency Beginning on Jan. 20
Pete Dolack
Eight People Own as Much as Half the World
Roger Harris
Too Many People in the World: Names Named
Steve Horn
Under Tillerson, Exxon Maintained Ties with Saudi Arabia, Despite Dismal Human Rights Record
John Berger
The Nature of Mass Demonstrations
Stephen Zielinski
It’s the End of the World as We Know It
David Swanson
Six Things We Should Do Better As Everything Gets Worse
Alci Rengifo
Trump Rex: Ancient Rome’s Shadow Over the Oval Office
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail