By M.V. Kamath
In all of South Asia there is violence of an extremely high order. The fundamentalists and jehadis in Pakistan are creating havoc on their own. In Bangladesh it is the same story. Hindus are being pushed out of the state with utter ruthlessness. In Nepal Maoists are creating havoc. Presently they are working hand in hand with five other parties to oust the Maharaja from his unsteady throne. In Bihar, Andhra Pradesh and even in Karnataka, Maoists are steadily thriving. Their influence among the lowly and the dispossessed is growing by the day. In Bihar, out of 38 districts, over twelve are now thoroughly Maoist-infested. In the adjacent Jharkhand, official figures reveal the number of Maoist victims in the years 2003, 2004 and 2005 as 128, 171 and 75 respectively.
According to an Intelligence Report supplied to the Home Ministry, after a long fratricidal war, the CPI(Maoists), the Peoples War Group (PWG) and the Maoist Communist Centre(MCC) merged in 2004 to establish what they called a ?Red Corridor?. The idea, apparently, is to establish a ?Liberated Zone? stretching from the ?Siliguri Corridor? of West Bengal to Andhra Pradesh and consisting of districts in Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Orissa and Madhya Pradesh.
The order of the day is: Kill. On January 5, 2005 the district police chief of Mungher was killed by the Naxalites. In a second major attack, on June 23, 2005, over 200 Maoists went on a rampage in Madhuban, East Champaran District in Bihar, setting a police station on fire and indulging in wholesale looting of arms. By now a total of 510 persons, including 295 civilians, 89 security personnel and 126 Naxalites, so-called, have been killed. And the attacks continue.
The last major incident is one involving over 1,000 Maoists who attacked an unguarded jail in Jehanabad in Bihar on November 13 and set free large numbers of prisoners. And one can expect more such violence. The question arises: Why is there so much violence? The obvious answer is: High and unacceptable economic inequality leading to distress and emotional trauma. Naxalites thrive where social and simultaneously economic inequality is the highest.
Maoism is now dead as the dodo in Mao'sown land. And, irony of ironies, China wants to help Nepal put down Maoists! That'sthe biggest joke of all. As a people we have still to grow up.
It was so in West Bengal in the sixties where Naxalites first raised their heads. It was the heyday of CPI(M) power struggle. The appeal of the CPM was great among the dispossessed. In the end the CPM won-and it has been in power in West Bengal for three decades.
There was re-distribution of land; CPM cadres held sway in every village. Once in power, CPM could no more afford violence and Naxalism was put down with a heavy hand. But West Bengal, economically is in no better shape today than it was when first it came to power. And under Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, the CPM is slowly changing its colours.
Haven't Naxalites learnt their lesson from events in West Bengal? Murder and mayhem may strike terror into the hearts of the few, but the great middle class will always have the final word. The answer to economic disparity is not large-scale killing but large-scale land reforms, and socio-economic development at the grass roots level. Violence only begets violence.
In Bihar, upper class landlords sought to defend their interests by setting up an ?Army? of their own: the Ranvir Sena. The Ranvir Sena was formed in 1994 to defend the interests of upper class landlords. The victims were, obviously, the landless labourers, mostly dalits, who were in a state of revolt. Dalit violence was met by upper class (mostly upper caste) violence. Running wild, the Ranvir Sena killed 59 dalits at Lakhimpur Bathe in 1997, 21 dalits at Bathanitola, 23 at Shankarbigha in 1999, twelve at Narayanpur in 1999 and at Mianpur in 2000. So much waste of life. And with nothing by way of peace to show. So what is the answer? Empowerment of people?
The truth is that there is no true leadership.
According to Nitish Kumar, the new Chief Minister of Bihar, to him empowerment means when Indians begin to realise that they can'tlet Bihar slide into darkness. Fair enough. Bihar, at the time of Independence was in a far better shape. According to Nitish Kumar, Bihar had the highest agricultural production, contributing as much as 25 per cent of the country'ssugarcane production in 1947. Now, it is reduced to a bare 2 to 3 per cent. How come? Shouldn'tthere be an inquiry into this simple fact which speaks volumes?
The number of jobless in India has grown four times in ten years, from 10.8 million in 1991 to 44.5 million in 2001; Bihar contributes the highest number of unemployment. Again, how come? Why aren'tindustrialists interested in investing in Bihar or Jharkhand, or Madhya Pradesh? Bihar is known for an abundance of natural wealth and educational opportunities. Today all the states now infested with Maoism are at the bottom of the scale. Instead of rushing armed forces into these disturbed states, the governments both in the states and at the Centre would do well to make a detailed study of economic conditions in these states and suggest remedies. How come that Bihar, for instance, is burdened with a deficit of over Rs 40,000 crore? How come Bihar'sState coffers are empty? Why is Gujarat prosperous? Why are people interested in investing in Gujarat and not in Bihar, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh or Chhattisgarh? Should we not try to answer these questions faithfully instead of beating our breasts and criticising Maoism?
The irony of it all is that Maoism is now dead as the dodo in Mao'sown land. And, irony of ironies, China wants to help Nepal put down Maoists! That'sthe biggest joke of all. As a people we have still to grow up. The truth is that there is no true leadership. The Planning Commission is silent. It is not that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is unaware of the facts of economic life.
Only the other day inaugurating a conference of State Water Resources Ministers in Delhi, the Prime Minister consciously admitted that during the First Five Year Plan, irrigation was given 23 per cent of the total outlay. This, he said, has fallen to less than 5 per cent. Who is responsible for this? Will Mr Singh kindly explain? Wasn'tCongress in power in most of the years since Independence?
The point is that we can handle Maoist violence not through counter-violence, but through economic measures that create jobs fast and bring a measure of security to all classes-and not just a few castes. India'sprosperity is on the rise, but efforts must be made to see that the prosperity is wisely and widely shared. It is only then that Maoism will die a natural death. And India shining will be a fact of life. When a dalit knows that he has guaranteed three meals a day and a bank balance to boot he knows how to handle a Maoist. By his neck.