Thursday 6 April 2017

Bastar and the Revisionist Left- Humanist and Maoist

In a quite ceremonious and inescapably subversive manner, the situation at Bastar was discussed by writer activist Bela Bhatia chaired by advocate Sanjay Hegde in the third annual Shahid Azmi lecture. Shahid Azmi was a lawyer who fought cases for Muslim youth falsely accused under TADA and POTA then, which is UAPA now, and got them acquitted. The movie ‘Shahid’ starring Raj Kumar is falsely based on him. The topic of the lecture was ‘Democratic Rights and Political Responsibility in a Conflict Zone. Ganesh Hegde opened the session by giving a short account of Shahid Azmi, giving a brief glimpse into his past and laying down the principal ambit within which the matter of the talk was to rotate. The general line of the lecture was precisely that of affirmative action, but on a level that ought to engage the larger level of civil society. The words ‘battle’ and ‘fight’ were thrown around a lot of times during the entire lecture. The liberalism of the entire lecture could be gathered by the emphasis of both the speakers, each on their level, about the power, sanctimony and the supreme justice of the constitution. They decried the state, its corporate nexuses, the Maoist insurgency but they hailed the constitution. Lawyers and civil rights activists were termed as soldiers of a constitutional democracy and the written law was seen as the source and site of struggle.
The Ambedkarite belief in the battle for the enactment of constitutional provisions for the citizens against a colonial state which used historic laws like sedition to put innocent students behind bars was a resonant tone in the voice of both the speakers. Both the speakers attributed this shortage to the shortage of time in the venue which was a hall in the Indian Law Institute, not JNU mind you, and the mood of the audience was mellow and that is why there was no real engagement with the issue at hand, the democratic responsibility of Indian citizens in Bastar. The colonial terror and the subsequent rebellions in Bastar was historicied by ela Bhatia since the Bhumkal rebellions in 1910 and the bloody assassination of the tribal king Pravir Chandra Bhanj Deo by the then Congress government in 1966. The war of the state against ‘the people of Bastar’ was rightly characterized as a fascist, authoritarian and a totalitarian one on the part of the state. The characterization of the CPI (ML) People’s War cadres coming to seek shelter among the tribal people for their operations in Andhra shed no pragmatic light into the program of the then underground party which later merged with other parties to form CPI(Maoist). She just mentioned that some development models were put into place by the dalams to ensure the sustenance, not even clarifying whether the methods put into place were revolutionary or a mere economist measure to secure revenues for the sustenance of the party at the cost of the native. The scope with which the present scenario was looked at in the lecture was unapologetically short-sighted. According to Bela Bhatia, the Bijapur movement by the insurgency fizzled out due to inner party strife. While this holds true, one has to also keep in mind the variance between the tendencies of the different outfits and organizations that came together to form the Maoist party also noting that the state always uses a whopping number of statistics to fool the public through media about Maoist surrenders. For this reason, Bela Bhatia chose to talk about organizations that are pitted against each others such as the Salva Judum movement, which pitted pro-Maoist adivasi groups against a united and state funded organized armed outfit of different adivasi groups. She also talked about the misrule of government especially in the way they handled and executed the counter-insurgency operations. Probably the strategic tact of the Indian executive machinery was heartache for Bhatia as she links a part of it to state violence upon the people and the other to the structural violence evident in any insurgency.
The situation of Bastar is no less than a state of war. Around ten thousand foots soldiers of the Indian state forces and private armies are deployed in the area to deal with the Maoists arousing people for a New Democratic Revolution which has led to effective eradication of the traditional means of livelihood and the provision of state support through public services and schemes. This really brings to question the intent of the Maoist cadres fighting in the jungles for a cause that is almost lost with a romantic fervor strong enough to influence intellectuals like Arundhati Roy and G.N Saibaba and students like Naveen Babu and Hem Mishra braving the inhuman torture and still standing tall for the emancipation of the adivasis. As it seems for ground reports and journalistic narratives, the people in Bastar or the people in any conflict zone for that matter are made to follow special form of citizenship, a citizenship where political allegiance is tantamount, and political reality becomes almost an existential reality, so much so that you can be abducted from the hamlets in Kumma and bus stops in Jagdalpur and killed for your political beliefs since any political belief system becomes a pragmatic and categorical social reality especially under the purview of the militarized surveillance state apparatus. Civil war in Bastar has claimed and wreaked havoc on such an extent that no amount of nationalist justification can render the actions of the state valid.
Tribals are beaten up when they demand justice the most primary information about their deceased and since 2015 social justice groups have tried and succeeded in bringing a large number of people for protest; however, due to their reformist and revisionist methods, an active investigation is never taken up by the state authorities. It should be noted that as long as the struggle of the adivasis in Bastar is alive, it will, as it should be, a struggle to seize state power and use the state machinery for the development of the toiling masses. It is quite obvious that the present state, a bourgeois parliamentary one, has closed its doors and denied the local people of Bastar their fair share of justice, according to the narratives furnished by Bela Bhaita. The scenario is so bad that even Devati Karma, the wife of Congress leader Mahendra Karma, could not fight for the rights of the people under the democratic ambit of court. If we look at the conflict from a class angle, we can see that it is the poor who are dying while the rich are making money from the mineral mining and other underground resources. The CRPF is in such a deplorable condition that if one serviceman is killed in the line of duty, another from the same family takes his or her place. On the one hand, social groups like Samajik Ekta Manvh are banned and on the other hand the saffron fascist regime is creating one vigilante group after another to mobilize the non-affected section of the population along the lines of their Hindutva ideology. These local vigilante groups enjoy direct as well as indirect support by state forces such as Koya Commandos and District Reserve Guards
With the appointment of a new IG in Bastar, things have taken a turn for the worst and democratic spaces have been drastically reduced; right-wing people can now openly talk of killing democratic political activists rather graphically and gruesomely. The language of violence has been embossed in the modes of communication between the people of different districts in Bastar in an attempt to diminish the space of dialogue and defame the activists in public.
She also went on to give a structural model conceptualizing the key players in the political process there. As we have seen earlier, there is the state with its corporate nexus n administration firstly and secondly the Maoist party with its party cadres, armed guerilla units, tribal militias and adivasi sympathizers. Thirdly, we have the groups in the interstices, the bourgeois parties not enjoying state power but desiring it to fill their pockets, opportunist shifters who may also be victims of Maoist program, and fourthly we have market apologists there to earn money through proper utilization of resources which can be acquired only through the dislocation of tribal communities and grabbing their lands, and the defectors from the Maoist cadres who surrender and are politically rehabilitated in the state apparatus through government jobs.
Then she began talking about the violence from the Maoist ends, starting with the brutal way in which they kill police informants and sometimes even their family members. To this point she was questioned by someone who claimed to had done investigative fact-finding works in the villages whether the narrative of the people about Maoist violence, or even state violence can be trusted because according to his political experience there, the people liked to tell the stories that these individuals associated with civil rights activist groups were primarily interested in, and many of these stories may be skewed or vague. Whatever may be the political case, we can see there is a deep and dangerous rift between the theoretical principles and the political praxis of mostly all the groups involved in the conflict which has left the common people dissatisfied and dismayed at the lack of a scientific progressive political alternative. It is also important to see the desertion of Umar Khalid and his clique from the revolutionary politics of DSU that students have begun to develop their own agenda to use educational institutions as a site of class struggle so much so that they even cease to understand the Leninist need for a revolutionary party for bringing about a revolution.
Bela Bhatia also stressed on how the Maoists have maintained a hard-line stance when it comes to questions of ideology and have defended their acts of crime and violence as imminent for a greater social transformation. “There is no room for dissent in Maoist polics”, according to her, and she is saying this though she is conscious of the fact that the CPI(Maoist) only managed to surface by uniting the fragmentary groups of the CPI(ML) and local militant groups such as the MCCI. She was very optimistic about the struggle waged by CPI and the triumph of their trade economist trade union movement against Tata Steel. She ended by calling for an open battle, an open form of struggle in which people can participate on a much bigger level.

While we understand the need for an open struggle, one has to also analyze the history of the transformation of theory and practice of what Charu Majumdar termed as ‘Mao-tse Tung thought’ to Maoism. The movement in Naxalbari  spread like forest fire in the different states of the country while the movement in Bastar is probably the last recourse for Maoists now. Instead of a people’s war, they now fight a contracted guerilla warfare where the state will have the upper hand in terms of both the technology and the manpower. The Mao Tse-tung thought of Charu which also lost its essential elements of people’s war when the mass base of the movement shifted from peasantry to adivasis. The guerilla tactics of the Maoists took an influence also from the focoism of Che Guevara to rely more on a band of armed romantic revolutionaries than the armed masses through mass raids as forms of social protest to seize ammunition. A broad unity of working class is needed at this time when fascism is at its peak and the fighting forces are slowly dying off. New villages with new insurgencies have to be liberated from where the struggle at Bastar can be made more strategic and beneficial for the people. It would also help developing cross-economy between villages. The fight for tribal rights in Bastar should lead to more peasant movements with participation from a larger section of society but it is only through an anti-state class struggle backed up by the armed peasantry can we truly ensure that the land belong to its rightful owner and all justice prevail. It is only when the party of the proletariat seize the means of production and state power that we can see India develop in its secular, socialist vision. Let humanists like Bela Bhatia be content with 'self-rule'. We say 'combat self interest, criticize and repudiate revisionism'. 

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