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Books written by B G Verghese

Books written by B G Verghese

Books written by B G Verghese

The Maoists can legitimately seek justice, welfare and development for the tribals, but they cannot call on the State to wither away or yield to a revolutionary proletarian government. Consideration can be given on a case by case basis to a limited amnesty for sympathizers and supporters, and even parole for ideologues on certain conditions, but no wholesale release of those guilty of heinous crimes.

Maoists Soften, RSS Hardens Stand

Respected individuals, NGOs and others could act as intermediaries to establish contact, bring emissaries from the two sides together and play a catalytic role.

By B G Verghese

New Indian Express, 9 November, 2009

The Maoists have climbed down from their high perch as they too can read the writing on the wall even as they grandiloquently posture to take on the Indian state. One of their leading cadres, Krishna Rao or Kishenji, has said that they are ready to talk with the Government given a ceasefire and withdrawal of paramilitary forces.

A ceasefire is in order or, as phrased on some other occasions, a suspension of operations. But withdrawal of forces is another matter as the State has a duty to protect and secure its people. It should suffice for the Government of India to state (through any concerned State government) that the security forces will not undertake any offensive operations if the Maoists undertake not to parade or patrol with arms, extort or intimidate people or lay mines. Nor should the Maoists seek to foster further links, as reported, with the Nepal Maoists or terrorist bodies like the LTTE.

How do talks begin? Respected individuals, NGOs and others could act as intermediaries to establish contact, bring emissaries from the two sides together and play a catalytic role. The first task should be to set out the ground rules, learning from experience in Nagaland, Kashmir and elsewhere so that there are no infringements and agreement on a mechanism to supervise infractions and resolve petty irritants. Given such a framework, the substantive dialogue can commence.

The Maoists can legitimately seek justice, welfare and development for the tribals, but they cannot call on the State to wither away or yield to a revolutionary proletarian government. Consideration can be given on a case by case basis to a limited amnesty for sympathizers and supporters, and even parole for ideologues on certain conditions, but no wholesale release of those guilty of heinous crimes. The goodwill this created could help build the social capital of trust and confidence required to carry the dialogue forward.

The agenda could be broken into three parts: immediate issues and palliatives; means of promoting social justice and development; and a longer term structural review of the working and manning of the administration, tribal advisory councils, PESA and implementation of the social contract inherent in the Fifth Schedule. Providing for and promoting education, basic health, connectivity, minor irrigation and improved agriculture would appear obvious priorities together with implementation of the Forest Rights Act.

A review of the modes of collection, disposal and pricing of minor forest products, a major source of non-seasonal employment and income for the tribal people, is called for. The tribals should be assisted to undertake the initial processing of and value-addition to these MFPs by eliminating or minimizing the role of middlemen, who have theoretically been abolished but remain active in many areas. The rich tradition of tribal crafts – bamboo, textile, metal – need to be upgraded through the assistance of bodies like Dastkar and the National Institute for Design and Industrial Training Institutes set up to create the new skills needed for processing and other small industries.

Larger and mega mining, water resource, power and industrial projects cannot be banished as these constitute the prime wealth of the region, the local people and the nation. These natural resources must be exploited – but sustainably and in genuine partnership with the tribal population. New forms of corporate social responsibility and State-tribal-corporate partnership can be forged to ensure development with equity and justice, with some part of the profits going into area development.

It is grotesque and Quixotic to believe that “bauxite (iron ore, coal and other minerals), should be left in the mountain” (as one commentator would have it) and that the State is in league with Vedanta, the Tatas, Jindal, POSCO and others to clear the woods to enable these “vandals” to plunder the tribal homelands and their natural resource base for absolutely no gain to anybody but themselves. None wants a situation where wealth accumulates and men decay. Equally, none should work for a situation where men decay while the immense wealth they possess lies untapped. Yes, some may quote a bitter past. But, learning from mistakes, we must build the future.

This is a revolution the Maoists should seek in partnership with the State and the people. Let them also come into the political mainstream, contest elections and take over the reins of government within a democratic framework. The Nepalese Maoists have shown this can be done, though their experiment has, hopefully only momentarily, bogged down for other reasons.

Meanwhile, at the end of the other end of the political spectrum, the BJP continues to crumble under the weight of its own contradictions. The mess-up in Rajasthan has been followed by troubles in Karnataka where factions and mafia politicians battle it out. The prolonged wrangling over the formation of ministries in Maharashtra and Haryana show how individual greed and ambition have shamefully become the mainstay of UPA politics too.

In the case of the BJP, the RSS is increasingly showing its hand as the real master that makes the puppets dance to its tune. Mohan Bhagwat, the RSS chief, has pronounced who shall be the next BJP President and one of his lieutenants has indicated when this will happen. Once again in full flow in Delhi, Bhagwat pronounced that the demolition of the Babri Masjid was not a national shame as Advani had allegedly asserted in some context (which we may learn about when Justice Liberhan concludes his indefatigable labours, hopefully before we are all dead).

Bhagwat went on to advocate Akhand Bharat that would one day bring Pakistan and even Afghanistan back into the fold!. And then he handed a Grade A certificate to Narenddra Modi for good governance in suppressing communal disturbances in Gujarat and asserted that the chief minister had done nothing wrong and had no reason to apologise for the events of 2002. The RSS chief is steering the Sangh Parivar and BJP towards a hard line Hindutva that can only spell more grief, hatred and violence.

Raj Thackeray, another maverick rabble rouser, has upped the ante in Maharashtra by fanning Maratha chauvinism, encouraging Shivraj Singh Chauhan, the Madhya Pradesh chief minister (momentarily) to talk about keeping out Biharis in favour of sons of the soil. Meanwhile. the Darul Uloom at Deoband has once again done well to issue a fatwa denouncing jihadi terrorism as anti-Islamic. It then, avoidably, passed another fatwa against Muslims singing Vande Mataram, reopening a long closed question as certain allegedly offending lines from the song have been long removed. However, the reason given was that certain State schools are making the singing of Vande Mataram compulsory. Vande Mataram is not the national anthem and legally none need sing it if they do not wish to do so. Nobody can therefore insist that Muslims sing the song and the ulema would do well to avoid getting embroiled in unnecessary controversies.

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