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07 April, 2010

Maoists will not save India’s poor, says AHRC

The following is a statement issued by the Asian Human Rights Commission, Hong Kong on Wednesday:

The Maoists operating in India ambushed and killed 74 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) officers in Mukhrana of Dandewada district in Chhattisgarh state early yesterday morning. The success of the Maoist operation is proof to the lack of preparedness and training of the CRPF. The unfortunate incident showcases the absence of professionalism in gathering credible intelligence, coordination, planning and execution of operations by the state agencies like the Chhattisgarh state police, its intelligence unit and the CRPF.

The failure of the state agencies, however, does not justify mass murder. Yesterday's incident is once again a proof to the fact that the Maoists have nothing in common with the need of the landless peasants and the rural poor in the country. A direct and anticipated result of yesterday's mass murder is intensified combing operations by the state and state-sponsored private agencies.

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) expects that the government of India will not change its decision not to engage in a Vietnam-era style operation of air assaults and frequent aerial attacks. An aerial attack of rural villages is the trap into which the Maoists want to lure the government. The AHRC hopes that the sensibility and maturity shown by the government in the past, offering solutions through discussions and affirmative actions within the constitutional framework, will continue to prevail in New Delhi.

It has to be presumed that yesterday's massacre is a calculated move by the Maoists to attract blind offensives by the state, so that they could use this as an excuse to recruit more cadres from the villagers to intensify the armed offensive upon the state machineries against which they have declared an incessant war. Bringing the state's firepower, which is often unable to identify between the terrorist and the layperson, will not in any way help to end feudalism and caste based discrimination in rural India.

Over the past decade the Maoists have swelled their cadre by recruiting from the poorest of the poor in rural India. Landless peasants, Dalits and members of the tribal communities makeup the majority of the Maoist cadre. Caste-based discrimination and landlordism prevalent in rural India are the catalysts that help Maoist recruiters to convince the poor to take up arms.

It is no surprise that those cornered to the brink of extinction is easily lured into waging war against the state. This is a scenario that neither the government of India, nor its 'Maoist affected' state governments have tried to address so far.

The expanding network of Maoist activities in the country and their improving sophistication in attacks must be an eye-opener to the government. The Prime Minister and the Home Minister have been lamenting against the Maoists, describing them as "the single largest threat to India's internal security" since 2006. Except for the failed attempts to engage in a peaceful dialogue with the Maoists, the government's response to the Maoist threat has been largely offensive in nature, with repeatedly demonstrated lack of coordination, resulting in loss of life among the security forces, Maoists and that of innocent villagers.

Probably a way of dealing with the Maoists is for the government to take immediate measures to address Maoist recruitment in rural India. Sheer use of force and other ill-conceived tactics adopted by the government so far, like the formation of village defence forces and forced migration of villagers into guarded camps with limited freedom have not only divided the rural population, but has also resulted in generating grievances against the state. Such steps have only benefited the local landlords and those politicians with tainted credentials like some in the Chhattisgarh State Assembly.

Violence is promoted not only by the Maoists. The statement issued late yesterday evening by Mr. Rajeev Prathap Rudy, the national spokesperson of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), demanding an immediate end to the offer of dialogues by the government, and an all-out offensive against the Maoists is an example. Rudy cannot however wash his hands by placing an irresponsible demand on behalf of his party demanding the government to engage the Maoists in an offensive war.

The Maoist movement gained momentum when Rudy was the Union Minister of State for Commerce and Industry in 1999. Some of the industrial policies Rudy emulated from the Singapore model and conceived and executed in the country have sumptuously helped the Maoists to spread out in the country, expanding the length and breadth of the Maoist red-corridor.

Indeed, an offensive as called by the BJP against the Maoists will get complete cooperation from the Chhattisgarh state administration. This is not only because the state is ruled by a BJP-led government that has shamelessly lobbied for Maoist support during the election, but also since some of the state's corrupt politicians can use the fight against Maoists as an excuse to wipe off the remaining tribal population from their dwellings. The Chhattisgarh state government has been doing this in the past few years and has a record of having sold many of the state's natural resources, including rivers and forests, to private corporations.

Among the manifold causes for Maoist insurgency in India are extreme poverty; loss of livelihood options; feudalism and caste-based discrimination. Unfortunately, some of the state governments, like the one in Chhattisgarh, have a large number of corrupt politicians who have not spared an opportunity to steal whatever little the poor landless peasants have.

While emphasizing the need of the country to develop, and unfortunately at a breakneck speed causing sometimes permanent and fatal loss to the rural population, the government must also take measures to provide reasonable and just options for those who do not want to support at all costs the development paradigm. For instance, industrial and infrastructure development must not be an excuse to force distress migration of the rural population and end in loss of livelihood options as it is the case in Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal.

Development that lacks the emotional ownership of the ordinary people cannot sustain. Such forced developments alienate the people from the state. Secessionist forces reap the benefit of this intellectual animosity between the state and the citizens and the Maoists are no exception.

The government of India has a constitutional mandate to guarantee the security and prosperity of its citizens. The constitution that empowers the state to use force to contain internal threats also requires the state to address the threat within the framework of the constitution. Ending feudalism, extreme poverty and landlessness are thus equally important responsibilities of the government like containing internal insecurity. These responsibilities are not options for the government to be prioritized at will, but are necessitates that require immediate attention.

Probably, a solution to the Maoist insurgency in India also lies in this. But that require the government to have the resolve to address these real problems that affect ordinary Indians. The Maoists know that many of India's mainstream politicians will find it difficult to give away their rural power banks that rest in feudal and corrupt frameworks. It will not be surprising if it is exposed later that the Maoists are in fact supported by some of these corrupt politicians who pretend that they are fighting internal insecurity. It is certain that without their help, the Maoists cannot acquire modern weapons, which they have reportedly used for yesterday's offensive.

It is the strength that the Maoists gain by conniving with corrupt politicians and from the knowledge about the inability of a large number of Indian politicians to effectively address the needs of India's rural poor that helps them to drag the government and innocent people into the Maoist path of destruction, presented as a guerrilla war against the state. It is only when New Delhi realizes this fact and acts against it that internal insecurity in India can be permanently addressed.

The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.

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