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Maoists Are No Maoris!
In Chhattisgarh, the Salwa Judum is more than a popular tribal movement against Maoist repression. It is the bulwark of civil society and strategic resistance to Maoist designs of forging a red corridor from Andhra Pradesh to Nepal. In New Delhi, thanks to Leftist propaganda, it creates an opinion divide. A bunch of Left-liberals who toured Dantewada district recently branded Salwa Judum as a civil war within tribal society fomented by the
BJP government. They recommended disbanding the Salwa Judum. Ironically, there was no such advice for the blood-thirsty Maoists. Instead, they wanted the Union government to compromise with the Maoists.
PM Manmohan Singh, addressing the second meeting of CMs of Naxalism-affected states on April 13 last, described Naxalism/Maoism as the single largest insurgency faced by India. Yet, the draft tribal policy views the Maoist war against Indian state as nothing more than a 'violent manifestation of tribal unrest'. Thus, even against the UPA government's implicit support to the Salwa Judum movement, the draft tribal policy recommends its termination.
The Congress is waiting for the Harikesh Bahadur panel's report to clarify its stand on Judum. I wish to remind how the Congress erred on the nature of Maoist menace. An AICC task force had said the proliferation of Naxalism was owing to socio-economic factors. It had no ideological content. But the Congressmen in Chhattisgarh know the reality better. Thus, it is not surprising that the Judum is led by a Congress leader, Mahendra Kumar Karma, the leader of the Opposition in the legislative assembly. "It is a battle for the tribesmen's livelihood and self-identity and the society has left their leaders behind in this fight," he told me during a recent visit there.
Salwa Judum (mobilisation for peace) originated amongst the tribesmen of Dantewada in June 2005. The ruling bjp and the opposition Congress merely facilitated it. And if today Chhattisgarh is in news, it is not because Maoists have stepped up their activities, but because the tribal society has dared to stand up to them. Dantewada is the most uncharacteristic place to become a Marxist laboratory. It has been an aboriginal, egalitarian and exploitation-free society since time immemorial. Incidents of murder, limb amputation, rape and extortion were unheard of before the advent of the Maoists. Dantewada showcases a unique tribal way of life. Its extensive landmass of 10,239 km has a population of just over six lakhs. One of the most sparsely-populated districts of India, it is full of forests, hills and inhospitable terrain sans roads. Perhaps, that makes it ideal for guerrilla warfare.
The institution of state, much maligned in Marxist parlance, has been conspicuous by its absence from this region. With such low population numbers here, there was little in stake for governance. With little intervention from the state, this left them unfettered to continue with their perennial tribal way of life. On the flip side, this led to underdevelopment or non-development. The area suffered from, or enjoyed, a political vacuum. Since nature abhors vacuum, the Maoists ran to fill it. There was neither state nor exploiting class in Dantewada's tribal society to justify Maoism's rise.
The issue of development is, of course, subterfuge. The Maoists resent any development in their region, marking it as the state's aggression. They extort a heavy cut from contractors of highways, bridges and levy taxes from tendu leaf traders, and transporters. Maoism in Dantewada, or anywhere else in India, is organised banditry. People are lured to it by the lucre of loot. No wonder the living standard of an average guerilla is far superior to the living standard of a policeman.
The spectre of violence unleashed by Maoists has threatened the physical security and economic freedom in the tribal society. It has also outraged its religious and cultural ethos. The tribesmen are visited with gory murder or amputation of limbs for the simple offence of non-compliance with Maoist demands. Many tribeswomen have met with rape and molestation. This created a sense of revulsion in tribal minds. Thus on June 10, 2005, around 10,000 tribesmen converged in a field off Karkeli village, in Kutru area of Dantewada, to contemplate a public action. But while returning, a heavy onrush of Maoist bullets drew the blood of innocent tribesmen. There were numerous fatalities besides missing persons. Judum was thus born amidst blood and fire.
Maoism is far from being a 'violent manifestation of tribal unrest'. Does it express itself in indigenous idiom or restrict itself to tribal territory? It speaks in the lingo of Marx-Lenin-Mao, and envisages overthrowing the Indian state with 92 per cent non-tribal population. The tribesmen of Salwa Judum have little stake in violence per se. They would be happy to return to their carefree tribal life. But Maoism is a militant doctrine that abhors pluralism, rejects democracy and negates cultural traditions. Judum is the indigenous answer to this imported, intolerant creed of Maoism.