Monday, 19 November 2018

The debate on the arrest of ‘Urban Naxals’

With the recent arrests of the ‘Urban Naxals’ as they are being called, a lot is being said about the term and who coined it. I saw many people picking up Manmohan Singh’s quote referring to Naxalism as the single largest internal security issue faced by the country.

First, one premise that I make. You may disagree with me and that’s your prerogative. Naxalism involves violence. Let’s not deny that. In the same breath, we cannot demonize people like Charu Majumdar, Kanu Sanyal and Jangal Santhal who provided the intellectual backbone to the Naxal movement. But, for me, the utility of that violence in the movement today, is suspect. Naxalism at the time it was started, promised to be a struggle of the oppressed peasant against the landed so that no peasant would again be oppressed. But today, can such a violent uprise give the poor, their recompense? With a rise in Naxal violence, “Schools do not run, dispensaries do not open and PDS shops stay closed.” Will, that brings the tribals and the outcast, nearer to their goals? I’m not sure.

But after stating that premise, you will surely ask, so what’s the solution. First, we need to appreciate the reasons for this uprising. Most of the times, it has been “ Exploitation, artificially depressed wages, iniquitous socio-political circumstances, inadequate employment opportunities, lack of access to resources, underdeveloped agriculture, geographical isolation and lack of land reforms”.

When it’s violence against the state, it is obvious that the state would strike back. But that striking back should only be to contain the violence and not to repress the voice and rights of these people.

1. The government steps should include effective implementation of development programmes, periodic monitoring and ensuring that there are no leakages

2. The Chief Ministers should work on covering every poor family in Naxal-affected areas under effective poverty alleviation schemes

3. The Chief Ministers could consider, at the same time, in reducing the burden of debt on the rural poor tribals.

4. They could reduce the unnecessary harassment of tribals by compounding and closing small forest offenses.

5. They could provide effective price and procurement support to produce, in tribal areas.

6. They could initiate another wave of rural reforms, which can ensure employment and land to the poorest in these areas.

7. They could promote local participation in governance, through effective implementation of the design of the Panchayati Raj

Our strategy, therefore, has to be to “walk on two legs” to have an effective police response while at the same time focusing on reducing the sense of deprivation and alienation. The police response is necessary so that the obligation of the Indian state to uphold public order is fulfilled. However, an effective police response does not mean that we need to brutalize the Indian state. Legitimate needs and aspirations, even if set out in procedurally or presentationally inappropriate terms, should be examined with due care and due sympathy. We are dealing after all, with our own people, even though they may have strayed into the path of violence.

Now, if you thought I was the one who thought out all this, let me introduce you again to Manmohan Singh, who said most of the above in 2006, in his speech to Chief Ministers, who were in Delhi to discuss the issue of Naxalism faced by them. You can find the whole speech here

The current government making an excuse about the arrests, citing UPA actions/inactions is fine, because neither has the current government taken any action with due deliberation and consultation nor has the Congress actually covered itself in glory, in all aspects.

But when liberals cherry-pick speeches, it’s not only lazy but also dishonest. And to compare an intellectual pygmy like Agnihotri to Manmohan Singh is downright sinful. Manmohan Singh understood and empathized with the reasons which give rise to violent Naxalism, unlike the current lot who have no clue of what they are talking and who would not know empathy from Adam. And No, Manmohan Singh did not coin the term ‘Urban Naxals.’

Copy Edited By Adam Rizvi

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