Naxalites did not air-drop last December,they have been operating since more than two decades in various parts of India. In fact, the word, operating, would be an understatement! For years, they have actually been ruling large swathes of territories which comprise nearly a third of the size of sovereign India's territories! Apparently,neither successive governments, nor was the Indian civil society much concerned about it. The region where the writ ran was considered far remote and in a manner, of not much consequence to the national politics. Columnist Santosh Desai explains this aspect of the problem in a much better way.
Anyway, the current situation is far too complex to be put in simplistic terms. True, there is a fissure between tribal,dalits and poor belonging to rural India and the relatively well off middle class and the elite. In fact,if the fissure continues to widen at this rate, a major disaster would be in store for us. However, it would be foolish to view this fissure as a battle-line, when one wages a war against oneself it is called suicide! But the distinction between an ordinary poor,exploited Indians and a Maoist militant shouldn't be blurred,the latter deserves to be treated as an enemy of the state ought to be.
Are the two really as entwined ? Most of the grievances of the tribal are related to acquisition of land by the government, yet it seems strange that these people would extend ideological support to a group that aims at a totalitarian state and complete state ownership of the resources. Indeed, India is too heterogeneous, too pluralistic, parliamentary democracy is best suited to it ,even the remotest groups are politically conscious enough to not allow a totalitarian regime to emerge. If at all they are found to be aligned with the Naxalites, it is mainly because the latter are seen as the only anti-establishment rallying point. The establishment on its part has shown little hesitation in tagging sundry groups as Far-Left militants. This tends to make things easy for the police in particular, arresting deemed Naxalite sympathizers and even exterminating them helps them satisfy their political masters. In some ways it is reminiscent of Sen McCarthy's policies but involving far more lives. This over-simplification is actually far more dangerous than it may seem if we were to not ignore the fact that the situation is as complex.
These hitherto wastelands which the mainstream cared little about have suddenly become much sought after owing to their richness in natural resources. Industrialization and mining have turned these regions into gold-mines and everyone out there wants a share of the pie. If the grapevine is to be believed, everyone from the state ministers to the worker on the ground is out to make quick bucks riding on the development wave. For instance,if a government official can make a fortune by extending favors to his/her corporate friends operating in the area, a rival contractor orchestrating a disruptive attack on site cannot be ruled out. There are plenty of similar examples where a particular attack could be personal in nature but the administration as well as the media labeling it as a Naxalite attack would only encourage similar attacks in future. Take for instance the recent detention of the Rajdhani Express in West Bengal. The government may not have done it but the media had absolutely no qualms labeling it as a terrorist attack. What now transpires is that the train was stopped by locals belonging to an organization called PCAPA (People's Committee Against Police Atrocities) whichis supported by the Maoists. A mass of three hundred people stop a train and detained the driver on knife-point, demanding the release of their leader. Is that the definition of terrorism ? This organization like many others doesn't adhere to Maoism or Communism in general. This group may have very deep grievances, it may even be hostile to the current government but from what the media says (especially print media) it cannot be said to be waging war against the Indian State.
What further compound the problem are the political games played by almost all political parties at all levels.Whether it is the ruling party, opposition or fringe parties, all of them keep stroking the fire to not only consolidate votebanks but to rake in moolah to buy votes with. Just take a look at the controversy unfolding in Karnataka now. According to the media again (ToI) ,Bellary-based mining lobby (Reddy brothers) has grown so wealthy that it now holds the Yedurappa government on ransom. One can just imagine what amount of money iron-ore and other minerals trade should be churning out to empower a few businessmen to blackmail the Karnataka government and disregard the national leadership of the BJP. The local leaders on their part have their own agendas, their share of the pie. Other players would include small-time entrepreneurs, brokers, officials, bureaucrats and of course gangsters, everyone has a role in this epic chessboard but this segment in particular sets things in motion. As for the Maoists, some of the basic tenets of the ideology, protracted war and perpetual revolution can exist only in a state of conflict,the current inequality is necessary for their existence. And while i am at it, why should i ignore the intellectuals who leave no stones unturned to declare the Indian establishment as elitist, tyrannical and apathetic towards the underprivileged people but they hardly make effort to change things. Of course whining now would help boost sale of their new books and may be, get honorary distinctions and certificates from other countries and agencies.
Caught between radical Leftist militants, overzealous cops and paramilitary forces, greedy corporates, young entrepreneurs, unscrupulous officials,politicians and local leaders, it is the tribals,dalits and the poor in general from these regions who now are in a very unenviable situation. As the Maoist writ run supreme in these regions they cannot but co-operate with the Naxalites. The administration has never bothered to either provide basic facilities (people still die of starvation in tribal regions of Orissa ) that every Indian is entitled to, nor has it attempted to take back the control of the areas from the Naxalites.
Now imagine, the guns falling silent, peace returning to the region and the media and the civil society having a very clear view of what is going on in these remote areas! One doesn't have to be exceptionally intelligent to guess who loses the maximum in such a scenario ;) Of course, the tribal, indigenous people suffer in either case.
Update: (16th Nov)
Feel like Cassandra yet again :P
Details of the illegal mining and money-laundering scam with ex CM of Jharkhand as the focal point vindicates several contentions mentioned above. To begin with, the scam involves a whopping amount of more than Rs.4000 crores! That is a huge amount of money, no matter which corner of the world you are in, for a poor state like Jharkhand,this simply unimaginable wealth. No wonder then Koda was one of those rare independent representatives who were appointed as the Chief Minister of a state.One can imagine the sort of money that illegal mining must generate and the socio-political fallout resulting from it.
Another key contention that stands vindicated is the involvement of a number of players from diverse backgrounds and including the governmental officals, corporate and the Maoists among others. The ToI has actually provided the profit-sharing ratio based on the statements of Koda aide. According to this break-up the Maoists got 20%-30% per truck,the politicians got 10% lakhs per acre, the businessmen had a share of about 50% while the bureaucrats got paid 10%-15% of the share. The report further implicates several important but unnamed politicians and businessmen and i belive it when it hints that this is only the tip of the iceberg.
McCarthyism : politically motivated practice of making accusations of disloyalty, subversion, or treason without proper regard for evidence. It is derived from the name of Senator Joseph McCarthy who led the crack-down against Communists, communist sympathizers and anyone who was deemed to have a soft corner for Communism