Against disproportionate violence

It’s time the Indian government, youth and intelligentsia saw the Maoists as insurgents. Not rebels. Not crusaders. Not a gang of ‘Robin Hood’s. Not martyrs.

It is one thing to support the underdog and the subaltern, another thing to condone by action or inaction senseless violence in the name of an abstract and future glory. It is essential we separate the philosophy from the practitioners, the actions and consequences, and the means from the ends. I am not privy to the Maoists’ propaganda or agenda, but to this observer, their actions are not helping the peasants.

Articulating the shades of difference: The Indian Maoists are insurgents because they lost their credibility when they hijacked the peasants’ cause. These are belligerent; striking at what they can, they have waged war against a state which they see as writing off its poorest for ‘development,’ not against the companies actually harming the livelihoods of billions around the world. They would be rebels if they had a plan in place for the future of the billion-odd people they say they fight for. But they do not, and they are not insiders; their connections—arms, intelligence, support, and ambitions–exist beyond India. They are born of the same radical homogenization that is semi-globalization, the same that makes it harder for the manual worker and those with unfavorable skills in a global economy. But they do not fight the source of the radical homogenization (the MNC’s), they shoot the weak messenger or the vassal. And then, they seek to erect another monument of radical homogenization—practical communism. What do they fight, and why? What do they want, in this irrevocably changed world?

I oppose the Maoists. Their means and their methods. They are not fighting to defend, they are fighting to take. And I am suspicious about their plans for the future. I can support radical reform, and I underscore the absolute necessity of forcing many aspects of the Indian state to change: the lackeys and babus who grabbed power after the Raj have been around too long, maybe, and there are so many criminals in politics the system looks like the Augean stables. I would see the sense (from their point of view) of taking out some of the criminal class in power but why target some poor blokes who took the ‘wardi’ jobs to get regular pay? Who is the enemy here? If the bourgeoisie is the enemy, why is the Red War so profitable?

They say they fight for the poorest of the poor, for the peasant and the backbone of the nation. But it looks like they use the peasants’ cause for cover. They are belligerent towards the people they use as shields and rationale. The people are afraid to oppose them, they don’t want to be killed or tortured for betrayal. Do means not matter? Is brutality a rational course to power? Are the ordinary people so expendable to the Maoists that they are just fodder for the glorious end? How does that make the Maoists different from the totalitarian state they say they oppose?

Their political grievances may be legitimate but their road to their goals is disproportionate. There have been examples in many other oppressed countries of violence and retribution that were yet notable for just action. These Maoists may want to read a broader history if they wish their struggle to be respected and rewarded. No, if these insurgents really wish to control the country 3 decades hence, they may want to explain their actually existing ideology to the people in the middle. Of course, they may wish no such thing; they merely wish to climb the steppes of power into an international loose coalition of like-minded elites. In that case, we must decide if we wish them to control our homes in our old age. Of course, we can flee/migrate.

I understand some of their ideology and some of what Marx dreamed of, but total revolution is impossible unless some revisionism is accepted in the short term. Communism is wonderful in theory, but any theory is dangerous when used as gospel. Extreme nationalism is just as bad as Marxist theocracy. Perhaps the French Revolution should not be glorified so much? Revolution is an intoxicating word, but there are moments between revolutionary cycles when stability trumps turmoil in the people’s desires. The breadbasket goes empty in long periods of unrest. It’s easy to destroy something, and dangerous not to replace the empty space with something (usually) better.

And what is the vision for after the revolution? I have no problems with anyone’s ideas of installing a state better than the existing one. If the Maoists had a vision for governance, something that would make the common person see that they were ready to take the helm of the affairs of many, even a plan mirroring China’s, they might…might…find widespread support. But nothing in their history of actions suggests anything benevolent, and their country of the future might resemble many a luckless nation in Africa. I am unwilling to see my people given over to an outfit like the Shabab, because at the moment I believe they do not freely wish to be taken over by anything as brutal. At the moment, the Maoists claim support from the most desperate in the nation. I will only point out that desperation makes the slopes of consent slippery.

I do not advocate using the army to tackle the Maoists. I have no training in military strategy, so I would not venture to say anything about deploying its forces. Besides, such a move, to my layperson’s mind, would be foolish and useless, for this would be a guerilla war of long years and many tears. The army has two fronts to look after already, and it is not meant to work against the population who make up the body of the nation it is sworn to protect. No, putting value judgments aside, the army could be deployed only in situations such as the final battle of the LTTE in Sri Lanka. J& K is a whole other problem, an international problem, with a part of the population actively against the body of said nation, and where borders and allegiances are porous enough to present a threat to the rest of the billion-odd people. I do not support the brutality that armed forces can commit, but I do recognize the necessities brought about by low-grade war. Individual army personnel must be held accountable for their actions when they brutalize the population, but I am not against needful army presence, in any state.

There can be no successful war against social problems, or poverty, nor against terror. There can be no war against the Red Belt because such a war will not unite the nation, nor stifle dissent. No, the union will fragment. If that is the best option for India in the future, so be it. For now, it is not, and the nation cannot be permitted to divide into hostile factions. I do not support the policies of the Indian State most of the time, but at the same time I do not support the violent overthrow of the safety and security of tens of millions currently under the national aegis. There are other ways to gain prosperity, peace and security for more of the people most of the time.

It is and should be a long road to violence. There are other means of resistance and advocacy. I cannot believe the current modus operandi of the Maoists is the only way to their goals. If they wish to fight for the impoverished, they can do a lot with the money they raise for buying weaponry. In the 20 or 30 years they say they will take to overthrow the Indian government, some of the desperately poor could be helped by the general upward trend in the country. They (and I) could question and protest the costs of that development, and demand a fairer means to prosperity, but they are not doing that. As I said, they’re not ‘Robin Hoods.’ Many of them are in cahoots with many in the criminal class and state politics. I am all for
attacking the nexus between crime, corruption and political power, with some force if necessary. But I am not for killing the shields, for they are needless and wrong targets; that makes the face of the Maoist movement look like terrorism. If the Fatah can try nonviolent resistance, why not others? The answers probably lie in the sociology and psychology of violence and dissent. I am not an expert in those. I merely ask who stands to gain from the Maoist movement? Really? What’s possible, how much policy is a good thing? Who do we want to be ruled by, and for how long? Life and bread tend to trump death and blood for most people most of the time; that is the policy of ‘the public.’ They (we) need to put it into practice a bit more, with a bit more conviction and conscience, and an eye to the future of our children.

These are merely my opinions. I am open to information, persuasion and discussion.

Further complementary reading:

http://www.hindustantimes.com/Staring-at-the-void/H1-Article1-530439.aspx

A set of articles here :http://www.outlookindia.com/taghome.aspx?tag=259&name=Maoists%2fNaxals

Especially, http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?264871

http://atimes.com/atimes/South_Asia/LD08Df02.html

http://www.hindustantimes.com/No-time-for-war/H1-Article3-528437.aspx

http://www.hindustantimes.com/In-case-of-Emergency/H1-Article3-528433.aspx