Sunday, April 29, 2012

Democratic deficit in Naxal affected areas..

Is Maoism a law and order problem

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat

The abduction of Sukma’s District Magistrate Alex Paul Menon by the Maoists has raised serious issues of crisis of governance in India. According to the Maoists, he was ‘arrested’ on April 21 when holding a public meeting at a village. The Maoists have demanded that about 8 of their colleagues be released immediately and operation green hut be stopped.

It is a well known fact that a very large part of India is now under the Maoist or Naxal control but somewhere we miss an important fact of India’s ‘growth’ story which we have been speaking since 1990 in the post liberlisation era. Before India opened its horizons for the international brands and companies, the value of the areas where tribal were living was nothing for the big companies and government authorities as they were considered backward regions and none was interested to go there. We allowed them to languish in ignorance, miseries and humiliation. Our government never ever bothered to reach those zones which needed state to protect them, provide health care, housing and better schooling. Today, if you travel to these zones they look stark contrast to what you see in Delhi which we all claim is becoming one of the ‘finest’ capitals of the world, though with little ‘heart’. The problems of the tribal were aggravated by the greedy government officials who would never venture to those zones and forest department which is given the task of maintaining the forests actually exploit the tribal.

Indian state failed to work for the betterment of tribal. Rather than acknowledging the fact that it has not taken care of about 10% of its population which we call as Aadivasis, we made tribal like animals in the cage. The urban middle class go there on ‘Safaris’ to watch them naked and then comment on their life style. There were no attempt by the state as why people are dying of Malaria and other diseases in those regions. Now, in the post globalization era, these poorest regions of India have become virtually the most sought after areas. With enormous natural wealth in the form of mines, minerals and ores, the big industrial corporations are eyeing the region for their own benefits. The Indian state became a real estate agent and a facilitator to dislocate its own people and victimize them if they opposed acquisition of their land. India’s growth model became the death sentence for millions of Aadivasis and they rose up against it. Those who ignore these facts of tribal life must make a visit to Chhatishgarh, Jharkhand, Odhisa and agency areas of Andhra Pradesh and find out why the tribal resisting the state despite the power of Indian state.

The ‘Indian’ ‘ Nationalists’ want the government to give the military a free hand to ‘demolish’ these zones. Well, the military is already there in the form of operation green hunt. These are the soldiers who are well paid and trained to fight the guerilla war in the forest terrain. And they have played havoc in those regions as they go without any sympathy. For them, it is a war against ‘enemy’. How can a person protecting his or her land become ‘enemy’ in his own region? No army can win a war if the people have no faith in it. Indian army knows it well and therefore most of the generals were against war on its own people.
Often, we are reminded the example of Punjab and our security hawks want that story to be replicated everywhere. It is not possible. Much work was done to assuage the feelings of Sikh in Punjab. In fact, the congress party apologized too for the same. Before that, Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi invited Harcharan Singh Longowal for negotiations which culminated in the famous peace accord which brought peace in Punjab. Punjab was never won over by army but by confidence building measures which brought Sikh back to Indian mainstream. Similarly, in Kashmir, it is the governance that would win us the day and not the army.
The problem with the ruling establishment in India is that it is playing a big mind game. It is not coming into picture but want to fight the battle by defaming a whole movement. Maoists or Naxalism is not going to end with so called ‘law and order’ game. They are political battles and without active politicization you cannot win a war like this. Where are our political leaders who can go to Baster and talk to Naxals or Maoists? When the government can speak to different terror outfits why is Chidambaram not asking them to come on negotiating table. But for that the government has to show its real inclination. Home Minister Chidambaram and his colleagues do not want to call this battle off because they have to push these greedy corporations inside the forests.

Has Indian state ever apologized to tribal for its failure to protect their interest and identities? Australia and, Canada could do so with special session of their parliament when they acknowledge the indigenous people as ‘first nation’. Have we ever thought of showing our gratitude towards tribal for preserving our nature, our environment and habitat?
The Indian state has gone beyond all their reach to get its big people released from the Maoists heartland. The negotiators have refused to condemn the abductions as they say the state agencies have indulged in heavy violence against the tribal. That is a brute reality. The solution to the Naxalism lies in speaking with the people in the region and sincerely talking of peace. When Nepal could do so with Maoists why not India? More importantly, when Indian government could speak to various Naga nationalist groups or Mozo-Bodo groups demanding autonomy in the North east, what is wrong in inviting to Maoists to negotiations? At least the government must make political effort. We need a political home minister and not a bureaucrat. Unfortunately, most of the South block today is being handled not by the political class but the so called civil servants and right wing security hawks who have failed to understand India and its vast diversity. We need a political solution to these issues otherwise today it is Alex Paul tomorrow it could be some else and the Indian state would always be on its toes finding little time to do work for people. Let the government take initiative for peace talk and come with sincere proposal for the tribal zone. It is certain that Aadivasis too want to live in peace and develop their regions but they would definitely like their stake in whatever is planned for their regions. Any imposition of leadership and ideas from New Delhi would only be counterproductive and will never bring peace.

* already published in

Towards a new political intolerance in Bengal

Is it Mamatagiri or Dadagiri in Bengal
By Vidya Bhushan Rawat

West Bengal chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s antics are proving to be too dangerous for the country. It seems she is either blackmailing the already fragile UPA government or finding a way out to dissociate with it. Whatever are the differences, her posturing and unprofessional attitude have not helped strengthen her image. Moreover, they are proving too populists which will harm the interest of the people in long term.

Her stand against the railway minister Dinesh Trivedi was highly objectionable and absolute anarchist. The prime minister finally succumbed to her unreasonable demand by forcing the railway minister Trivedi to resign after presenting his maiden railway budget. Ms Banerjee is carefully nurturing her image as ‘messiah’ of the poor and has reacted undemocratically against all those who, she feels, are creating obstacle in her way. The way entire issue of resignation of Mr Dinesh Trivedi from railway ministry was dealth with by the United Progressive Alliance at the Centre does not bode well for the health of the country. India is in a coalition age and there is no chance of a single party government in Delhi in near future. It means stability at the policy level must be there despite coalition nature of the government otherwise all of us will have to pay for a heavy price of the instability of the political class. India has grown over the years and people of different regions are looking for their participation in power in Delhi. Therefore, it is more important for all the political parties to behave reasonably and not make their personal issues as national issues. Internationally, we will be reduced to non entity if the government ministers speak different tones according to their political ideology because they happen to be from different political parties. And Mamata’s action on Mr Dinesh Trivedi has rightly been criticized by journalists, writers and intellectuals who had supported her. In fact, one of the first persons who supported Mamata’s Singur and Nandigram movement was Mr Kabir Suman, MP of her party, has openly challenged her to take action against him. Even an icon like Mahashweta Devi is finding it difficult to support Mamata’t action.

In politics differences are natural and they are resolved democratically. There is no problem in Mamata’s asking for more from the Central government and demanding different schemes for her state but that need to be done according to coalition dharma not through humiliating your coalition partners or those who differ with you. Unfortunately, Mamata’s actions on the ground are looking like a person who is in a hurry to destroy the legacy of the left front government.

In her bid to control criticism, her supporters got a senior professor of Jadavpur University, Mr Ambikesh Mohapatra arrested for ‘spreading derogatory messages’ against ‘respectable’ persons. Actually, Prof. Mohapatra had circulated on email a political cartoon on Mamata’s treatment to Dinish Trivedi and appointment of Mr Mukul Roy as the new railway minister. Trinamul Congress workers continue to threaten the administration and politicizing the issues of public. Mamata has also asked the state education department to do away with the writings of Marx and Angels, two all time great political thinkers. Her actions are only proving that she is not different than her predecessors in playing vindictive politics and believe in politicizing the educational system according to her own ideological perspectives.
Mamata’s populist measures will cost Bengal heavily which is already reeling under severe debt crisis. Her continuous ranting of not increasing railway fares has already proving heavy on railways as it would be difficult to run railways on such charitable way. Just to make the train fare cheaper, she forced to compromise on the safety and infrastructure of railways. Unfortunately, like in Delhi where every wrong is thirst on the Congress party, Kolkata desperately wants to see changes which Mamata had promised before she took over the Writer’s Building.

Dictators are not really courageous but very cowards. They are afraid of public criticism as they fear the hollowness of their arguments will get exposed soon. Therefore, attempts are being made to divide the public opinion and blame the past for everything today. Despite all shortcomings of the political class, they did not carry the political differences home. Many of them were part of different political parties but would meet warmly on a tea party. But, the recent order by Mamata to her colleagues in the party that her party workers and sympathizers must not have any relationship with anyone who is close to CPM, is disgusting and sickening to say the least. Political differences do not make you enemy of each other and will not take our society anywhere.

We have seen differences of outlook and ideology between father and son, husbands and wife, between brothers, between mother and brother but that did not make them enemy of each other. It would be better for Mamata to concentrate on her work and leave the media doing its duty. She must not feel offended by media criticism. Now, she is in power and obviously the focus on the government’s work will automatically bring her in limelight. Is not it a fact that you like constant media glare when in opposition but when come to power feel they are offending you. Political satire keeps us going and we should be bold and liberal enough to accept our mistakes and allow this criticism to go. As Sudhir Telang, noted Cartoonist said that if people disappear from political cartoons means his or her political death. They keep politicians in lime light. Mamata would be damaging herself and her party if she feels that she can stop criticism by starting her own channels and dailies. We all know despite a dutiful Doordarshan and Aakashwani, people rose up against emergency in 1975 and defeated Congress Party in the general elections in 1977.

Power corrupt people and absolute power corrupt you more than anything else. Very few people survived this politically. In India such examples are too many where simple politicians got corrupted in the corridors of power. Their life style changed and they started maintaining distances with their own people resulting in their down fall. Mamata has got huge mandate and there is still a great good will towards her. She is considered to be honest and hardworking and it is time for her to concentrate on her work and not on her critiques. No politicians in India could survive because of their mouth pieces. If that were true then Ambanis would have been ruling India as they have everything at their disposal. Most of the big political families in the South have their own channels but they also got defeated. Karunanidhi, YSR and Jayalalitha have their own channels but they also have tasted heavy defeats and their corruption cases also unfolded. CPM has Gonashakti as their party mouth piece but then they were also defeated after 35 years. Mamata must not think that she would be able to control people’s mind through her newspapers. It is time for her to move beyond her critiques and focus on development of Bengal. People will take care of her critiques if her work help the people otherwise the same people would not wait till she is ousted.