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Maoist violence is the consequence of increased atrocities against scheduled castes and scheduled tribes (especially in the central tribal belt) and widespread tribal unrest due to commercialisation of forest resources. Ignoring such analysis and acting primarilyon reports by the Intelligence Bureau, which is not equipped to study the multiple complexities of developmental conflicts, the Ministry of Home Affairs has resorted to brute police force to deal with the violence. But, as suggested by several reports, the problem should be handled politically and administratively, implementing the constitutional provisions for dalits and adivasis that
have so far been ignored.
his article will argue that there is a policy crisis in relation to the hand ling of
what is perceived as Naxalite/ Maoist violence in the country. The crisis stems from mistaking the consequence for the cause. Maoist violence in the country is the consequence of nonperformance on the basic issues related to tribal develop ment as laid out in our Constitution. It may be more accurate to say that it is state violence and structural violence that is provoking Maoist counterviolence in the country. The issues in this regard are brought out briefly b riefly and clearly in the re cen centt letter by B D Sharma, former Com missioner for Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs), to the president of India (Sharma 2010). A consequent organ isational, managerial and information cri sis exists in the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), once the nodal agency for the de velopment and protection of SCs and STs though it is now exclusively concerned with law and order matters. 1 Constitution and Maoist Violence
The core of the Constitution lies in the Pre amble, “reinforced in the Fundamental Rights, amplified in the Directive Princi ples of State Policy and enshrined in the Fundamental duties” (Buch 2010). This is the basic structure of the Constitution, which cannot be amended. If within these four corners of the Constitution, tribal development polices had been pursued in true spirit, the problem of Maoist/Naxalite violence need never have arisen. This has not been the case ever since the inception of the Constitution, as fully amplified in the 28th Report of the Commissioner for SCs and STs submitted to the president in 1986 and reiterated in B D Sharma’s recent letter. The State response to Maoist violence in the national context analysed here
K S Subramanian ([email protected]
) is a retired IPS officer based in Delhi.
Economic & Political Weekly EPW august 7, 2010
vol xlv no 32
implement special measures for the devel opment of these communities, including a Tribal SubPlan for the adivasis and a Spe cial Component Plan for the dalits. Two joint secretaries were in charge. Special arrangements were in place to study and deal with “atrocities” against SCs and STs. Increasing atrocities were seen as a con tributory cause for the emergence of Nax alite violence. The two phenomena were studied in juxtaposition with each other and guidelines were issued to state gov ernments on how to deal with them. The SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act was passed in 1989 to deal with atrocities and its implementation was supervised by the ministry. In the name of reorganisa tion, however, the Divisions dealing with SCs and STs were transferred in the 1990s to a newly set up social justice ministry. Separate national commissions came up for the SCs and STs. This arrangement does not appear to have worked well. From a nodal agency for the development and protection of dalits and adivasis, the home ministry gradually became just a law and order ministry. The obligation im posed by the Constitution on the State for the special care and protection of the dal its and adivasis was given less importance with the transfer of the subject to another ministry. The home ministry with its com mand over police forces across the coun try could have been a powerful agency for the delivery of social justice but it was not to be. This had a particular impact on “atrocities” management. In the early years of this century, these were increas ing sharply in the central tribal belt (CTB) affected by Maoist/Naxalite violence. 3 Genesis of the Maoist Movement
Maoist violence, which originated in a single police station area in a single dis trict in West Bengal, is now reported to have spread to over 2,000 police stations, in 223 districts across 20 states, as admit ted by the home minister himself. And the police budgets of the union and state gov ernments have reportedly gone up over a thousandfold from 1967 to 2007. The lesson seems to be that a mere police response is far from adequate to respond to Maoist violence. Though state violence tends to aggra vate the cult of violence, the colonial 24 precedent of using violence to quell vio lence appears to have become customised with our postcolonial rulers. The emergence of the Maoist/Naxalite movement was originally a result of irrec oncilable differences within the Commu nist Party of India (CPI) over the nature and significance of the 1947 transfer of power. The “subaltern” historians of the 1980s have viewed the pre1947 political arena as a site of “strategic manoeuvres, resistance and appropriation” by different groups and classes. Many of the contests remained unresolved despite independ ence. The 1947 “transfer of power”, which was a “passive revolution” à
la Gramsci, ignored the interests of large masses of peasants and workers, leading to the phe nomenon of “dominance without hege mony” by the ruling elite (Guha 2000). This “ontological divide” in politics led to intense debates on strategy and tactics within the communist movement, which led to the emergence of the CPI (Marxist Leninist) and other Naxalite groups be lieving in the efficacy of armed peasant struggles for capture of political power. Two of these groups – People’s War and Maoist Communist Centre – united in 2004 to form the CPI (Maoist). Though “public order” and the “police” are state subjects under the Constitution, the MHA plays the key role in formulating government policy to deal with Maoist violence. The prime minister stated at a chief ministers’ conference in April 2006 (he repeated it frequently) that Maoist violence is India’s biggest internal security threat. This was probably based on the IB analysis on the subject. Communism, based on the philosophy of violence and under the tutelage of foreign interests, has been perceived by the IB for long as a ma jor security threat. The “normalisation” of the CPI and the CPI(M) by their adoption of the parliamentary path, led the IB to revise its understanding and project Naxalism/ Maoism as the major security threat today. The then home minister sent a large force of the Central Reserve Police Force battalions to the Naxalite/Maoistaffected states. He asked the states not to enter into a dialogue with the Maoists unless they gave up arms. “Local resistance” by vigilante groups (Salwa Judum in Chhat tisgarh) was to be “upscaled”. Though the 2004 National Common Minimum Programme had said that ex tremist violence was not just a law and order problem but had deeper socio economic roots, the state police agencies thought otherwise and acted on the sug gestions contained in documents on “left wing extremism” produced by the IB. The MHA, influenced by the IB reports, further geared up to deploy CPFs on a massive scale. The MHA annual report for 200809 states that the states of Chhattis garh, Jharkhand, Bihar and Orissa together accounted for about 86% of all incidents of Maoist violence in 2008. Though the Constitution imposes a spe cial responsibility on the Indian state for the welfare, development and protection of dalits and adivasis with special provi sions in law and procedure for the pur pose, the home ministry is no longer in charge of the subject. The prime minister’s statement on Maoism in 2006 did not make even a passing reference to the growing violence against the dalits and adivasis. Interest ingly, neither the newly created Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment (now in charge of responsibilities for dalits and adivasis) nor the National Commissions for the SCs and STs were in vited to attend the 2006 and 2009 meet ings of state chief ministers though this was required under the Constitution. Speakers came out strongly against Mao ist violence but none referred to the vexed issue of the increasing violence against the dalits and adivasis especially in the CTB, as reported by the National Com mission for the STs.