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Books written by B G Verghese

Books written by B G Verghese

Books written by B G Verghese

The CPM outsourced law and order to its cadres who ran riot, indulging in extortion and other acts of high handedness. On the other hand, administrative and developmental neglect aroused tribal resentment.

Failure, Nemesis, Opportunity

The CPM's failure has meant that a considerable number of tribals, dalits and peasants have been driven into the hands of the Maoists.

By B G Verghese

New Indian Express, 22 June, 2009

The CPM’s failure is writ large in its inner-party guerilla fighting in Kerala on issues far removed from principle and in its abdication of governance in Lalgarh in West Bengal. Lalgarh also represents nemesis for years of repressive governance by the party, of the party, for the party. Something was achieved in the early days of 30 years of Left rule before the commissars took over. Frustration and anger boiled over in Nandigram and the rot was revealed. Not all of Trinimool’s tactics can be justified but at the end of the day the comrades were beaten at their own game and paid back in their own coin. The country needs to worry about that, but it would be rather precious for the Left to complain even as its leadership squanders what is perhaps a last opportunity to revive its fortunes as a democratic socialist party rid of outmoded ideological baggage.

In Lalgarh the State abdicated its responsibility to govern. Its orders to the police not to intervene or to resort to firing in any circumstances gave notice that its writ had ceased to run in that region. When the same thing happened in Nandigram, the Calcutta High Court had to direct the State Government to discharge its duty. Whatever the role of the Trinamool this time around, the Left Government bears responsibility for permitting things to reach such a sorry pass where the initiative passed into the hands of the Maoists who, emboldened by the masterly inactivity of the State Government, sent in cadres from Orissa and Jharkhand to build a revolutionary base in Lalgarh from which they are now being evicted with the assistance of Central forces.

As one newspaper put it, the CPM outsourced law and order to its cadres who ran riot, indulging in extortion and other acts of high handedness. On the other hand, administrative and developmental neglect aroused tribal resentment. The recent Leftist electoral discomfiture was a signal for renewed agitation which the Maoists exploited. Rather than take swift action, the Government dithered, restrained the police from acting firmly by virtually ordering it not to resort to firing, preferring to act politically – a euphemism for inaction as it turned out, despite having sufficient forces at its command. It finally sent urgent messages to the Centre for reinforcements, seeking to put the onus of firm action and any resultant fallout on the Centre. The Centre has responded and with the aid of these additional forces a cleaning up operation has commenced. Meanwhile, a senior Naxal leader Koteshwar Rao, addressed the media in Lalgarh some days ago, spouting defiance. He is subsequently reported to have slipped out of the State and returned to Jharkhand. Even now the CPI (Maoist) party has not been banned as it is in several States, thus giving it the cover of legitimacy when its avowed objective is violent overthrow of the State.

The Maoists have been active in recent months and sought to disrupt the elections through violent incidents in Orissa, Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, Bihar and Maharashtra. IEDs have been planted everywhere. More disturbing has been the report that the diary of Lashkar-e-Taiba’s head in Nepal, Mohammad Omar Madni, now in Indian custody, suggests that he has been in touch with the Maoists in Jharkhand in a bid to recruit and train them in PoK for terrorist missions in India. This is alarming, if true, both for what it says about LeT’s nefarious plans and that of its handlers and mentors in Pakistan and of the degeneration of the Maoists into crude, adventurist terrorists whose ideology is increasingly becoming a mask.

Yet there is no doubt that a considerable number of oppressed tribals, dalits and poor peasants have been driven into the hands of the Maoists as a last resort in the absence of hope of redress from any other quarter. The political class and administration have singularly failed and the law and constitution have been flouted in delivering both the rights and dignity that these wretched people demand and deserve. The Fifth Schedule, Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas Act and Samatha judgement of the Supreme Court in relation to corporate social responsibility for R&R and compensation have most often been disregarded. Most Governors, who have a special responsibility for tribal guardianship under the Fifth Schedule, have failed to live up to their high responsibility and have never been taken to task for gross dereliction. Indeed it is amazing that some outstanding political failures are being mentioned by the media as being in the running for forthcoming gubernatorial appointments, as consolation prizes. Hopefully there will no such misplaced appointments this time around. Even otherwise, all Governors should receive instruments of instruction from the President regarding their constitutional mandate for tribal areas and be held strictly accountable thereto.

The West Bengal chief minister, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, has declared himself in favour of inviting Maoists for talks provided they lay down arms. This plea has promptly been endorsed by the Home Minister in keeping with past policy. Koteshwar Rao has echoed this. Following the long overdue release on unconditional bail of Dr Binayak Sen from Raipur jail on the orders of the Supreme Court, a climate has been created to think afresh and take new initiatives. Barring some hard core ideologues and criminalized elements, many who find themselves involuntarily within the Maoist “rank and file” would probably be ready to accept an honourable negotiated settlement on the basis of their constitutional rights. The dialogue should not be entrusted to politicians looking for electoral gain or anxious to cover their tracks or to inflexible bureaucrats. Enlightened members of civil society and NGOs can play a role too, especially in the initial stages.

The Expert Group that reported to the Planning Commission a year ago and others have analysed the problem and made several recommendations. These should be implemented. Mouthing the mantra of socio-economic packages will not do without a completely different delivery system on the ground. The present administrative structure is hopelessly inadequate for the job and also compromised or unsympathetic. The Samatha judgement too needs to be updated and suitably operationalised with PESA and Fifth Schedule directives. There must be a powerful nodal office to handle and coordinate the effort. The Naxal problem is too urgent and serious a matter to be allowed to drift and be tossed around as hitherto. Seriously and compassionately tackled, the matter can be resolved within a reasonably short period of time.

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