Salwa Judum, Maoist movement far from spontaneous, says book

March 2nd, 2008 - 5:32 pm ICT by admin  

New Delhi, March 2 (IANS) Isn’t Salwa Judum out of control? What about giving people - even children - guns all of a sudden? Isn’t that a recipe for disaster? These are questions raised by journalist and writer Sudeep Chakravarti in his new book on Maoist insurgency in India. “But both movements - Maoist and Salwa Judum - are far from spontaneous. They are deliberately set pieces, like chess,” Chakravarti says in his book “Red Sun: Travails Through the Maoist Country”.

Chakravarti bagan his career as a journalist for the Asian Wall Street Journal and worked in Sunday, India Today and Hindustan Times.

Salwa Judum is a civil militia movement started by tribals of the region against Maoist insurgence. The government later provided arms and monetary backup.

The book, a first hand account of the writer’s journey through the red heartland of India, was launched Saturday evening at the India Habitat Centre here.

A large chunk of the book deals with complexities in Bastar, where villagers are caught in the crossfire between Salwa Judum and the ultra-Left insurgents.

“The Salwa Judum is like a large gravy train…While it provides the Maoists great leverage to take forward the ideology citing state-sponsored onslaught, the resistance leaders are making money and political capital out of it,” the author said.

In his disturbing examination of the ‘other India’, Chakravarti combines political history and extensive interviews as he travels through Maoist insurgency zones.

His book begins with an introduction to the problem in the backdrop of the widespread underdevelopment that characterises the heartland states, the hotbeds of Left-wing insurrection in central and eastern India.

His journey accounts are supported by facts and figures from global reports, driving home the point that underdevelopment is the key reason for the politico-civil unrest in the “other India”.

“The danger lies in increasing the degree of denial. By all accounts, half a billion people will remain a long way from the country’s high-growth party in the foreseeable future… They won’t like it one bit,” the author says in his book, excerpts from which were read out by actor Avijit Dutt.

The nature of Maoist insurgency has changed in India, he points out. “In 1967, Naxalbari, a village in West Bengal, became the centre of a Mao-inspired militant peasant uprising guided by firebrand intellectuals.

“Today, Naxalism is no longer the Che Guevera-style revolution that it was. Spread across 15 of India’s 28 states, it is one of the country’s biggest and the most sophisticated extreme-Left movements,” the book says.

Launched by Penguin India, the book encapsulates grim realities of the “outland”, the scores of socially and economically backward villages outlying the great Indian metros where three-quarters of the country’s 1.12 billion population resides.

According to the National Sample Survey Organisation, nearly a third of the rural population lives on less than Rs.12 a day in states like Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh - all affected by Maoist insurgency.

But Ajai Sahni, executive director of the Institute of Conflict Management, feels development by itself is not the solution to Maoist extremism.

“The problem is more complex and progress cannot be treated as a bulwark against it. There is a dichotomy between the security option and development option.

“It is as if development is not the duty of the Indian state in those areas because there is violence. There has to be development irrespective of whether there is violence or not,” Sahni said, addressing a post-launch debate on the dynamics of the Maoist insurgency.

“There will be violence and we will have to learn to deal with the continuous wave of violence,” Sahni told IANS.

Historian Dilip Simeon, a senior research fellow at the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, said Maoist insurgency was a fallout of the failure of the criminal justice system.

“Violence is not the product of economic deprivation. Humiliation leads people to violence, it is not how much you have got to eat, it is the result of repeated failures of law,” said Simeon, one of the panellists.

He said that the state should train the police in the Indian Constitution and on how to be “sensitive” citizens of India. However, he agreed that half of the problems would disappear if minimum wages were implemented in villages, along with fast-track justice.

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