Every time Naxalites strike, the state wakes up to the problem of their menace. Yes, it’s true that today, the actions of Naxalites are looking similar to those of terrorists and I have often condemned their actions in the past. And in a democracy, such killings can’t be justified. Yet, let’s get into some facts. In Chattisgarh, more people get killed of hunger and curable diseases than gunfights. That’s actually putting it mildly. Forget hunger and the poor, more state CRPF jawans posted in the region get killed by mosquito bites than by Maoists! Yes, that’s the irony. In the last few years, more have died of malaria than have been killed on duty. These figures do tell a big story.
Of course, on one hand it tells the pitiable story of our CRPF jawans. The other side of the story is the story of India’s reality today. The story of how we neglect about 60 percent of our population and condemn them to die of hunger, curable diseases and mosquito bites. That’s roughly about 650 million Indians who live below the internationally accepted poverty line standard of 1.25 dollars per day. While India and the Indian media celebrate the rise of its billionaires in the Forbes lists, the poor die penniless out of hunger – unknown and unheard.
And despite the perception that the government wants to create of Maoists as terrorists, the truth is also that Maoists are from these very poor families who are marginalised and left to die of hunger. Worldwide, when leaders have kept such huge sections of masses marginalized, there have been revolutions. You ignore human beings and condemn them to die, they will one day believe that picking up arms is a better option than to die without a fight. History is full of heroes who have killed. Those who kill for a cause are celebrated and those who kill without a cause are called murderers. And the cause is also determined by history; not by today’s media and their judgement. When the army kills, it’s not considered a murder; similarly, very often, when you kill for a cause, the same is absolved by history.
While the government might be hell-bent on calling the Maoists murderers and terrorists, the fact is that our governments over the years have been full of murderers. Not just in terms of the cases against most of our politicians but also in terms of the way they murder their people by depriving them of food, health and employment – the three basic things a government was supposed to be judged by. Our governments kill about 40% of our masses before they reach the age of 45. These people would have gone on to live till 75 had they got access to food and health. Our governments, over the years, have killed millions through their unpatriotic acts of selfish politics – that of enriching themselves and a handful of business houses while allowing massive poverty to exist all around.
And that is why in the eyes of many – from Medha Patkar to Mahasweta Devi – Maoists are not terrorists or murderers but those poor people who have taken to arms and kill for a cause. They want food. They want masses to rise out of rampant poverty. They want health and freedom from destitution and freedom from an assured death sentence that the government has given them by not providing them the right to live and a life of dignity. Men thrown to die will always try to fight back. Such men have the support of the masses where they fight. They do not go and kill civilians. They do not go and plant bombs in cinema halls. They kill those who they believe are in power or are supporting the state machinery to keep the poor deprived of their rights.
If the government wants to really end the Maoist problem, it needs to look beyond. It needs to begin by finding its heart first... a heart that beats for the poorest. And then do real good work for the poorest of the poor. The poor have no reason to pick up arms. They need food. This food that they need is there with the government, rotting in warehouses and now in the open due to lack of storage facilities. It is said that the amount of food in our warehouses is so much that if the same were to be packed in gunny bags and lined up, one could make a road to the moon and back! Yet, we do not give the poor this food. We create a shocking state-sponsored Salwa Judum (refer to my earlier article on this, titled ‘Handing guns to poor villagers to contain the Naxalites is a humanitarian crisis in itself!’; http://arindamchaudhuri.blogspot.in/2008/05/handing-guns-to-poor-villagers-to.html) and then repent when the Maoists strike back and kill its founder. But we do not realise the need of food for the poor. Their need for employment. Their need for health, education and dignity. The fact is that if we were to give them these, they would not take to arms. Condemn them to die young, hungry and penniless, and they will take to Maoism.
To a large extent, Mamata Banerjee has been able to control the Maoist menace in Bengal just by making basic food accessible to the poor in those regions of Bengal. The country now needs to do exactly that. The slogan-mongering and name calling utilized by the government against the Maoists would not absolve the government of its terrorism on humanity. Real work for the poor in the Naxal-infested belts will save the government all the stress of how to deal with internal security. Otherwise, it would not just be every killed Maoist who would give birth to more such Maoists, but even the many children of the jawans dying of mosquito bites who could one day take to spraying bullets on the malaria-spreading ruling parasites of this country... And history, I repeat, might not call them terrorists.
- 30 May 2013 |
- Arindam on Indian Politics