India’s War on Maoists


One of Charles Dickens’ characters, Ebenezer Scrooge (A Christmas Carol), when asked to make a donation for the sake of the poor responds acridly that the poor were none of his business and that they should go to the prisons or workhouses.  Despite being a disgruntled curmudgeon, Scrooge did not suggest that the poor should be killed.  He thought that it was the duty of the State to look after them.  Workhouses were the old institutions in England that provided food and shelter to the poor in exchange for labour. 

The government of India is not even as generous as Scrooge.  The Prime Minister has been asserting time and again that the Maoists are “the single biggest internal security challenge ever faced by our country”.  The Home Minister has declared a battle on Maoists by fielding 55,000 troops of security forces against the Maoists.  “The centre is committed to fight Naxalism [Maoism],” Mr Chidambaram has declared. “We will provide all possible help to… eradicate the left-wing extremists completely.”

Maoism is a serious problem in India today.  They are using ruthless violence in order to achieve their goals (securing the rights of the poor).  Violence of any form is not justified for rational creatures.  Yet when an extremely violent movement sweeps almost the whole country (Maoism has spread to 18 states in India), one cannot just sit back and utter platitudes about the futility of violence.  Nor should the country merely treat it as a law and order problem and use more violence to suppress the infectious violence. 

“The Maoists say they are fighting for the rights of the poor,” says a recent BBC report which also says that the paramilitary offensive against the Maoists is likely to begin in October.  Do the poor have no rights in the present world driven by the egotistic greed of capitalism?  Should their clamour for the basic amenities of life be silenced with machine guns and battle tanks?  Should the poor be exterminated from the face of the earth?

India is a country with an enormous number of people (300 million at the least) living in abject poverty.  Their number keeps increasing because their sources of livelihood are being taken away from them.  Their land is taken away by dams, SEZs (Special Economic Zones), industries, or housing schemes for the affluent.  Their traditional jobs cannot be sustained any more.  Other job opportunities are not provided by the government or any other agency.  What should they do?  Commit suicide? 

The Marxist Party (CPM) in India, which was supposed to defend the rights of the poor, has become capitalist all but in name.  In West Bengal the party has joined hands with the industrialists and other capitalist agencies and waged wars against the poor.  In Kerala the party has been corrupted thoroughly by the charms of capitalism.  When there is no one to defend the poor, they will defend themselves.  This is what the Maoists are doing.

But it is a bad defence.  The ruthless violence they have resorted to will not carry them far.  It is an act of despair.  It is a terrified cry for serious help.  It is the roar of the mortally wounded but ferocious animal. 

The government of India may succeed in putting out that cry by killing large numbers of Maoists.  But is that the way to overcome poverty: killing the poor?  Why does the government of India refuse to learn the lessons from the mess its military actions have created in the Northeast?

“When a few people decide to live larger than life, we all get trampled,” wrote Naomi Klein in 2001.  The Colossuses have been taking giant strides creating a system that is not very different from the ancient caste system of India.  The new Shudras are the economically deprived lots.  How long should this new socio-economic system keep the balance tilted before we realise that the tilt of the balance is as unjust as the old caste system that we now repudiate?

In the meanwhile, one hopes that the contemporary (economic) Brahmins will at least acquire the humanism of Ebenezer Scrooge.


Other related articles of mine:

From Naxalbari to Lalgarh

Slums in Capitalist Utopia

Needed an Alternative to Capitalism


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3 Responses to India’s War on Maoists

  1. Dawn and Dew says:

    “…the humanism of Ebenezer Scrooge (despite being a disgruntled curmudgeon)” — well said, sir. The very allusion refers to the ruthless violence afflicted to the poor in today’s world. But you are true that even Scrooge betters today’s governments (may it be Indian govt. here).

    Furthermore, I think of these “workhouses” whenever I teach this play (A Christmas Carol) in class rooms. Can’t Indian government think of such methods of opening workhouses to eradicate poverty? It seems they are bent on another place suggested by Scrooge. “Are there no prisons?”, says Scrooge.

    However, it is another point that the Gentleman replies with utmost humanism that the poor would rather die than go to those places – prisons and workhouses! So, the Indian Government, in stead of thinking all such measures, strides to kick their bucket!

  2. Raghuram Ekambaram says:

    Matheikal, when money is the only currency of social transactions what do you expect? Why did you separate SEZs and areas for affluent residences? These are the same – have you not heard – behind every SEZ there is a real estate mafia, the industry is just a ruse, and none well disguised at that.

    And, I am not sure the Maoists are as wounded as you portray. My cynical antennae are up and are looking for hidden motives. They seem to be following the trend set by LTTE, an inexorable escalation of violence, no ears for anyone else except self serving rhetoric, to end in disaster for someone or the other. Have they ever set the goals they are working for? I am not aware.

    But, I am with you that the Indian government is also playing the same game.

    Raghuram Ekambaram

  3. Parag says:

    Harsh, blunt and straight in the face of the topic. A very strong article, sir. I feel a large part of the general public is ignorantly biased against the maoists.
    But peole who have dug deep into the issue also arrive in support of the govt. Maybe the problm really is that their Cause is right and strong but their means are as evil as those of the terrorists.
    And, rightly, it wont take them far. Somebody from the govt side has to understand this reality and act but the need to keep their cause alive is also important.

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