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K Subrahmanyam: The dangers of playing footsie with Maoists

Political parties practise realpolitik but do not realise that allying with ideological opponents & then eliminating them is classical Maoist strategy

K Subrahmanyam  |  New Delhi 

The debates in the two Houses of Parliament last month on the Dantewada massacre highlighted why Maoism is likely to persist in India much longer than anticipated by the apolitical sections of the Indian security establishment. It was clear from the debate that many political parties still look at Maoism in terms of electoral vote-bank politics. And, since our political parties are avid practitioners of realpolitik in domestic electoral politics, many of them, including sections of national parties, are concerned more with short-term political benefit rather than long-term nation building.

They see electoral advantage in taking a soft line against the Maoists and prefer to turn a blind eye to the ideological commitments of the Maoists. That is not surprising, since for most of our political parties, ideology is only skin deep, as is evident from the party-hopping widely prevalent and encouraged. A secularist of yesterday can be a fervent Hindutva devotee today and, with equal felicity, a communalist becomes a freshly minted secularist overnight.

Such members of Parliament assume that Maoists also have a price and they can be purchased and accommodated within the system. The Pakistani civil and military establishment had the same attitude towards Islamic extremism, only to wake up one day to find that they were facing fanatical extremists.

What those playing footsie with the Maoists don’t realise is that forming a united front tactically with ideological opponents and then eliminating them is a classical strategy in the Maoist manual.

Sections of the ruling party are arguing that Maoism is not an adversarial contradiction threatening the democratic constitution of India, but only people devoted to the elimination of poverty and to the welfare of the tribal people.

One has to be quite advanced in age, as this author is, to recall all those Western liberals who portrayed Mao Dze Dong as an agricultural reformer fighting for peasant rights. They never anticipated that his fanaticism would cost 30 million peasant lives due to starvation during the Great Leap Forward and the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution.

The Indian Maoist leaders are not tribals but, as has always happened in Marxist revolutions, middle class individuals using the proletariat — or the tribals in India’s case — as their cannon-fodder in a war to achieve their fanatical and megalomaniacal ambitions.

Mao said that the masses were a clean slate on which you could write anything you wanted. The AK-56 wielding person is not a poverty stricken tribal fighting to sustain his livelihood and rights. Nor are people attempting to derail a Rajdhani Express. They are brain-washed killers, like any terrorist.

Why do many of our politicians have a soft corner for Maoists? It is alleged that even national parties made local electoral deals with the Maoists. The identity-based parties are more open about it. According to a news report one of them even facilitated Maoist acquisition of automatic weapons.

For quite a significant proportion of our politicians democracy is not an ideology or a way of life or a culture. It is just a career path, a road to power and affluence. Their disruptive behaviour in Parliament day after day exposes them as total strangers to democratic values and culture. Most of them have been elected to Parliament on the basis of a minor fraction of votes polled on the basis of the first-past-the-post system.

This breeds in them a total contempt for basic principles of democracy, like respect for majority Having been elected on a minority of votes and operating on the principle of winner takes all, they have not developed the basic democratic culture that a minority should respect the majority and in return be respected and accommodated.

The repeated holding of Parliament to ransom by a small group or groups is akin to what fascist and communist groups do to discredit democracy. Politicians with such an attitude have a fellow feeling for Maoists, who are out to destroy the Indian Parliament and Constitution. Every disrupter of Parliament is, therefore, a crypto-Maoist.

Quite a few of our political parties depend on money and muscle power for their sustenance and election. Engineers have been murdered for not submitting to extortion. Bandhs are enforced for extortion. Just as Maoists prevent access to development and thereby perpetuate poverty, our political parties think nothing of calling bandhs, depriving daily wage labour of their livelihood, depriving school children of their education and preventing the seriously ill from gaining access to timely help.

While our political parties do it in the name of democracy, the Maoists do it in the name of people’s democracy. Is it any wonder that Maoism has a lot of sympathy in our Parliament?

Will the Maoists succeed? Definitely not. Maoism did not succeed even in countries where it wielded state power, like China, Cambodia or even Stalinist Russia. There is no doubt that Maoism in India is mostly prevalent in areas characterised by mis-governance, political corruption, deliberate and intentional slow spread of education and in some cases casteism. Our Parliamentarians should devote their time and energy to dealing with these problems, and leave the task of defeating Maoist terrorists to the security forces.

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First Published: Sun, May 09 2010. 00:51 IST