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Friday, June 14, 2013

India-Dual Power in a Guerrilla Zone-Part 2

From Maoist Revolution;

by Bernard D'Mello and Gautam Navlakha 

Maoist Resistance

For instance, on July 16, 2006, the PLGA attacked the SJ-SPO-organised, security forces-protected Errabore camp in Dantewada to free the detainees there. On March 15, 2007, the PLGA attacked a police camp that had been set up in a girls' school in Ranibodli (in Bijapur police district), killing 68 policemen, a significant proportion of them Special Police Officers (SPOs), and looted weapons, making sure that all the schoolgirls in the hostel were safe. It is significant that after most of such attacks the Party had appealed to the SPOs (locally recruited tribal youth) to quit their jobs and seek the people's pardon. In one such statement issued after the Ranibodli raid, Gudsa Usendi, the Dandakaranya Party spokesperson addresses these desperadoes:

[T]he government is playing a dirty and dangerous game of keeping you in the front and making you kill your own brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers. That's why we are asking you to quit this job.

Clearly, given the backing of the Party and the PLGA, the tribal masses could not be terrified into submission. But the SJ-SPO operation went on. On January 8, 2009, in the village of Singaram (Dantewada district), the SPOs displayed a level of savagery, indeed, barbarity that was shocking -- they took their hostages to a canal and butchered them, taking turns in raping the women before slaughtering them. But repression breeds resistance, and severe repression only hardens the resistance.

In September 2009, the Union Home Ministry, with the joint command that it had organised to coordinate the counterinsurgency operations of the central security forces with the police forces of the seven states -- Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Bihar, Orissa, Maharashtra, and West Bengal -- where the Maoist movement was spreading, launched OGH. Significantly, Dantewada -- the epicentre of what the Indian state calls "left-wing extremism" -- was where OGH began, in the Kishtaram-Gollapalli area. As expected the Maoists responded with an intensification of their "tactical counter-offensive campaign".

On April 6, 2010, PLGA guerrillas the size of a small battalion ambushed troops of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), including members of COBRA (Commando Battalion for Resolute Action), modelled on the lines of the Andhra Pradesh Greyhounds, between Tadimetla and Mukaram villages, killing 76 of the state troops. In the statement issued after the attack, in a section entitled "why was this counter-attack carried out?" the Party mentions, among other things, the barbaric acts of the state forces, the Singaram incident (the state atrocity mentioned above, in particular). The press release goes on to say:

Behind the April 6 attack on [the] CRPF in Tadimetla lies the anguish, sorrow, insults, exploitation and repression suffered by thousands of adivasis of Bastar. This is incomprehensible to those hypocrites and empty phrase-mongers who repeat endlessly that Naxalites should abjure violence.

There's a lot more detail one can add, but suffice it to say that OGH has been stepped up from January of this year. In the last major incident in Edsametta village on the night of May 17 in Bijapur district, personnel of the COBRA fired unilaterally and indiscriminately, killing eight ordinary adivasis, including four minors, none of whom were Maoists. This deliberate targeting of the support base of the Maoists is part and parcel of the state's counterinsurgency policy. It occurs so often, for instance, what the villagers of Sarkeguda, Kothaguda and Rajpenta (in Bijapur district in southern Chhattisgarh) suffered on June 28 last year when 19 of them were gunned down, even when there was no exchange of fire. It is as if whoever supports the Maoists deserves to be killed, for, according to state intelligence, these were villages that backed the Maoists.

Ethics of the Violence of the Oppressed

Now where was the chorus of righteous indignation against Maoist violence when SJ was committing crimes against humanity and when OGH was (and is) doing the same? We know what decent political behaviour is, and certainly a lot better than the leaders of this chorus. But we owe it to ourselves to analyse what happened, this on our terms and for our purposes. Given the fact that ordinary adivasis, including those in the Maoist militia and the PLGA, have suffered so much at the hands of their oppressors, there surely is a widespread emotional need to avenge deeply felt wrongs (i.e., seek revenge) and there must be a lot of frustrated and tortured people who are ready to sacrifice their lives to avenge themselves or their fellow victims. We do not think that we ought to condemn their motives or their violent actions, and we don't think or recommend that the CPI (Maoist) do the same. Indeed, we think that the CPI (Maoist) is doing exactly what we think is the right thing to do -- it has mobilised these people in a collective struggle to change the very conditions which have driven some of their fellow men and women to engage in violent acts of revenge.

In the context and circumstances we have outlined, and given the fact that the Constitution and the law have failed to bring justice to the victims, the violence of the oppressed, led by the Maoists, is a necessity. Or, to put it differently, in the context and circumstances, the use of violence is a necessary evil. Moreover, the violence of the oppressed is serving the cause of justice. And, given that the law and the Constitution have let the victims down, it is morally justified. The oppressed have been left with no other way but to challenge the violence that reproduces and maintains their oppression.

Nevertheless, there are dehumanising aspects of the violence of the oppressed. We are radical-left intellectuals who have learnt from Marxists, Marxist-Leninists, Maoists, feminists, ecologists, dalits, tribals, oppressed nationalists, civil libertarians and peace campaigners, indeed, even from pacifists. Often, violence and non-violence are contrasted as mutually exclusive ways of confronting oppression, and the Maoist way is claimed to be exclusively violent. This is far from the truth. At the heart of the political activity of the Maoists is organising and convincing people, not only of the need to fight against oppression, but of the need for a new society free of oppression, and most of this political activity involves only non-violent confrontation, albeit in a more committed manner. In the best tradition of the philosophy of non-violent resistance, Maoist practice is based on the "notion of witness" -- a small number of highly committed revolutionaries, by force of example, involving a great deal of sacrifice, and taking huge risks, teach a large number of people and, in the process, change the political consciousness of these people and win them over in the collective struggle for freedom and justice.

In their violent political resistance, however, we feel that the Maoists need to take account of the entire set of consequences. It is heartening to find that in the fight against the oppressors and their hired combatants, the Maoists are now sensitive to the injuries and deaths that they inflict on those who serve or protect the oppressors but who have to do so because they have little choice. Like the People's Union for Democratic Rights, we too want to persuade the revolutionaries to specify certain limiting conditions for the deployment of violent means, like the Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions and Protocol II relating to non-international armed conflict. Cruelty and brutality must never be a part of the means of revolution. Another consequence of violent means is that the mass base of Maoists then comes under attack and the Maoists are often unable to protect these supporters.

Political Goals of the Guerrilla Warfare

While the condemnation of the Darba ambush by the anti-terrorist chorus ought to be subjected to criticism, it is important that there is consistent and regular counter-political propaganda which places such incidents in a political perspective and articulates the political goal of the guerrilla warfare waged by the Maoists. For the Maoists, if we understand them correctly, this war is not merely the continuation of politics by other means. The political situation had developed to a stage beyond which it could not proceed by the usual means, and in the course of the war the Maoists are trying to sweep away the obstacles in order to achieve their political aims. At present, the Indian state, on behalf of the ruling classes, is waging this war to enable private, including foreign direct, investment in the industrial -- mainly the mining -- sector, while the Maoists -- again, in the present -- are fighting a war of resistance, a just war for the physical security of the adivasis, for the habitability of their natural environment as well as for the preservation of their socio-cultural environment. Contrary to official propaganda, in Bastar the war waged by the Indian state is not for the "development and welfare" of the adivasis; indeed, as a result of this "dirty war", the lives and livelihoods of the adivasis are under severe attack.

While this political message may be clear to many living in the proximity of the war zone, it is generally not understood outside the war zone(s). Hence, there is a need to explain to people all over the country why this war is being waged and in whose interests it is being fought. The PLGA is an armed body for carrying out the political tasks of the revolution and hence it is the responsibility of the Party to explain the politics behind every major strike by the revolutionaries. The paucity of such propaganda outside the war zone(s) is a weakness that the CPI (Maoist) has to overcome if it is to retain the credibility of its political project.

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