DW’s article on India’s Naxal war for Kantipur भारतको ‘नक्सली’ युद्ध
Why can’t those who can bring peace (or create war!) in other countries do the same in their own society?
Do you know what the update was from India’s commercial capital a day after the ghastly Maoist attack in Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh last Tuesday? “The stock market barometer Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) Sensex crossed the 18,000-mark for the first time in 25 months on Wednesday,” said a report posted on the website of The Hindustan Times. “Crossing 18,000 is a healthy sign and foreign institutional investors (FIIs) support continues,” said Divyesh Shah, CEO, Indiabulls Securities.
That India is a country of contradictions is a well-known fact, but the paradox comes out glowingly when its enviable economic rise and the spreading Maoist movement are put together. Both the activities happened simultaneously in the past decade. Throwing away the Nehruvian socialistic dreams and the License Raj, the liberalised and opened-up India forcefully emerged as an economic powerhouse on the world stage. At the same time, the Maoists who thrive on poverty expanded their presence like never before. They have done in the past 10 years what they couldn’t do in the previous 33 years of their movement. The Dantewada attack that killed 76 policemen was their biggest ever assault against the Indian state that they want to overthrow.
“India is a country where millions beg,” someone was saying on TV a few weeks ago. “This is also a country where a husband gifts a jet plane to his wife on her birthday.” Billionaires and beggars jostle for the same traffic space on India’s roads.
With the economy expected to grow in double digits in the coming years, India can certainly expect more of those FIIs that the Indiabulls CEO talked about. To fuel that growth, FIIs along with their Indian counterparts who are fast becoming multinationals in their own right must go to the villages, jungles and hills of Chhattisgarh and other states that are full of natural resources. These are the very villages, jungles and hills where many poor and uneducated Indian people (no one calls them people in Delhi, they are called tribals) live. When the companies start digging into their hills to take out minerals, the villagers naturally get worried. They feel that the companies, with permission from the “legitimate and democratically elected Indian state”, are taking away their resources, their livelihood and their identity without their consent, without their participation and without sharing the profits with them. They want to stop those companies. They want to teach a lesson to the corrupt officials who work on behalf of the alien excavators. But they can’t do that on their own. So they paint slogans on their houses: “Naxali aao, hame bachao” (come Naxals, save us).
Living in Delhi or Mumbai, it feels like the whole world is limited to these glittering metropolises. India is too big (area-wise and population-wise) a country to get affected by incidents that involve a few million people or a few hundred thousand square kilometres of land. More so if these people are from far-flung areas. But as its distribution system is failing to close the gap between the prosperous citizens of New India and the tribals of remote India, the insurgency infected area is only expanding. And rapidly. That is why people like Arun Jaitley, leader of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, are saying that the Naxal menace is “a threat to the Indian parliamentary democracy” and “we as the responsible opposition are with the government… to crush them.”
So how do we, the Nepali people, respond to what is happening in India, our indispensable neighbour many of us love to hate? This is what I tweeted when I heard about the attack: “Dantewada Maoist attack is similar to Maoist assaults in Nepal years ago when India provided shelter to Nepali Maoists. What goes around comes around.” I don’t condone Maoist violence, not just because many of us are victims of it. Living in the villages during the insurgency was like living between a rock and a hard place. The Maoists would beat and kill people in the villages who provided overnight shelter to army patrols and vice versa.
Because we have lived through difficult times, we don’t want our Indian brothers and sisters to go through the same sufferings. Warmongers in Delhi are talking about using UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) and air power (of the Indian Air Force) as if containing an insurgency that is deeply rooted in social inequalities and injustice was like playing a video game on iPad, the latest Apple release. I understand the argument that the Maoists don’t allow development activities in the villages because they thrive on poverty. But the great Indian state can come up with a better idea than just firing indiscriminately on its own people.
By their own high-sounding admissions, the Indians helped end violence in Nepal by prodding the Maoists into the peaceful mainstream. Why can’t those who can bring peace (or create war!) in other countries do the same in their own society? The rising Naxal movement could well be the biggest test for the rulers of rising India who celebrate the success of the Chandrayan mission and the signing of a nuclear deal with the US.
This article first appeared in today’s The Kathmandu Post (PDF).
DW’s earlier piece on India’s Maoist problem: