What had started in Naxalbari, West Bengal, was supposed to have been a ’revolution’. In the end, those participating in it found themselves to be little more than ’misguided missiles’, first used to satisfy personal gains, and then left by the roadside like the tribal girl who has been forced to satisfy a master to her full extent, and has nothing more left to give.
For those of us still ignorant about the roots of Naxalism, here’s an utterly incomplete history of it, but I hope it suffices for the moment. Hundreds of Bengali students, the creme de la creme of the scholars in the 1970s, were convinced that their state was not being run in the proper manner by the Congress government led by chief minister Siddhartha Shankar Ray (SSR henceforth). They were asked to bring ’revolution’. Examples shown included the students’ revolutions in China and several parts of Europe, and their success was used as a carrot.
However, one small detail was omitted: that the success of these revolutions had been made possible because a part of the establishment had sided with the revolutionaries! Like the seasoned crime reporter tells the fledgling reporter in Madhur Bhandarkar’s Page 3: You have to be in the system to change the system!
Instead, while hundreds of these students died on the misguided quest for revolution, the anarchy was sighted by an opportunist political party to destabilise the Congress government, but that does not mean that the latter was any good either! In fact, so great an intellectual like Satyajit Ray put up a picture of that reign in the guise of the children’s film Hirok Rajar Deshe!
Of course, supporters of the CPIM will, at this point, cry themselves hoarse in pointing out that the SSR actually inserted goons in the ranks of these ’revolutionaries’ to discredit, arrest, torture or kill them. But folks, please take a better look at pieces of Bengali literature like Hajar Churashir Maa (later made into a film starring Jaya Bachchan and called Hazaar Chaurasi ki Maa) or Kalbela to discover both sides of the mirror!
The CPIM actually continued the same pogroms against the Naxals after coming to power that it had so ’despised’ when supporting the Naxals before the elections! And that, I believe, was the original sin that had been committed against the Naxals! There may be few other similarities, but at least in this phase of history, the Naxals share a trait with the Mujahideen in Afghanistan. The latter, however, were not ill-treated by their former ’friends’, and that is where the differences creep in!
As for now, the biggest gap that exist between the Naxals and their rehabilitation is the knowledge of what they exactly want! They want freedom? From what? The current dministration? So do we! True, that we have not gotten anywhere with that demand, leave alone achieving that goal, but that does not justify killing anyone, does it?
We have, for long, ignored the villages, and that is where these Naxals have strengthened their base! But have we learnt our lesson? Let me answer that question with a small snippet of information. Gadchiroli, located in the eastern extreme of Maharashtra and in the Vidarbha belt where farmer suicides are so common, is one of the heartlands of Naxal activity. Only last year was it’s annual budget tripled. Good, we say, but is it important?
Last year itself, when the assembly elections took place in Maharashtra, I remember (working as a freelancer with the good people at the Nagpur edition of The Times of India) that one of the chief election issues – one that could supposedly swing the votes both ways – was the non-introduction of buses in a certain root in Mumbai! Vidarbha’s issues were, as usual, given the stepmotherly treatment!
Why would the people of Gadchiroli take kindly to such an administration, or any other administration that represents similar authority?
Naxalism, like most of the other ’burning issues’ in India, has not band aid solution, neither a short cut one, and definitely not a surefire one. We need to remedy the situation in the rural areas, develop them, give them what they deserve. We need them as much as they need us. Unfortunately, they have only been givers, and we the unacknowledging receivers.
A last word: I DO NOT support the Naxals, especially not in the way they are trying to achieve their ends. I just sympathise with the treatment they had received earlier, and beseech one and all not to treat anyone else like that. No one deserves that. NOT EVEN YOUR GREATEST ENEMY!