My Inferences about the Maoist Problem in India


BlogAdda’s Spicy Saturday Picks This blog post had featured on BlogAdda’s Spicy Saturday Picks – Jan. 22, ‘11 (click) on self-nomination. Thanks, BlogAdda!

I am among the great majority of Indians, who have never been directly affected by Maoism and its brand of violence, nor have witnessed its effects unfolding before themselves, nor have heard of some kin, neighbor or even a distant acquaintance get directly affected by it. However, those who take even minor interest in Indian state of affairs must have heard about this phenomenon called ‘Maoism’ and must largely relate it with violence, because that is the only connection in which we get to hear about the Maoists. I will not launch here into how the Indian media is unreliable, but yet again point out that to base our impressions solely on what at best a third-hand information source like the media portrays might be erroneous as is the case with so many other issues. So, what Maoists truly stand for and what their mission is, remain largely indeterminate for me.

Going by the versions of people who express themselves on platforms provided by the Indian national media, e.g., Arundhati Roy and P. Govindan Kutty (on one side) v/s officers from the military and paramilitary forces (on the other), I realized that it was only possible to form two contrasting impressions of Maoists with no middle ground so to speak of – first, that they are speaking for the downtrodden and the exploited (by the government and industrialists) common people of the Maoism-affected regions, or second, that they are a violent group of people whose only aim is to stall development and disrupt peace in India (possibly, with foreign aid) because they hate India and envy the relative prosperity of other regions. It is tempting to believe that the truth might be somewhere between the two. Or perhaps, the truth is unrelated to both the apparently contrasting popular discourses on Maoism?

I am posting here three instances that I thought helped me understand much better what Maoism stands for, as against reams of impassioned rhetoric that just add to the confusion. However, in all the three instances, the information that had come to me was second-hand (but I believe for various reasons, more reliable than what comes through the media), and as it is being passed along to the readers through me, it becomes third-hand. It is entirely possible that either my sources of information were being less than honest, or of course, that so could I be in the information I pass on to the readers. Hence, I advise readers to maintain a high degree of skepticism.

I

The following account was given by a train co-passenger in November, 2010. Everything I write were his claims, and I had no other way to verify them. And as he was a total stranger, I had no way to tell how truthful he otherwise was.

He had worked in the Indian coast guard (I am presuming, as an officer, going by many cues) that he had left, and following that had been working in the security section of a public sector company.

We had discussed many issues for over an hour. Then, the conversation had turned to the rural-urban divide, and going by his background of working in a paramilitary force, I had asked him if he had any idea of the Maoist problem. He proceeded by telling me that Dantewada district was his naunihaal (place where his mother had been brought up as a child) and that many of his relatives still lived there.

He said that the problem in the district had begun long before even the Naxalbari rebellion had occurred. There was rampant lawlessness, and for some reasons, people had started taking to arms (not firearms) very easily. There were many instances when even minor conflicts would culminate in murder. This violence was not organized, just that somehow, it came to be seen as more and more acceptable. Gradually, minor factions started emerging – if one’s family would enter a conflict, as a matter of precaution they would seek ‘protection’ from a gang leader. He made a special reference to the movie Sarkaar to make his point. At this point I had asked him if there was any pattern to the use of violence, in particular, if it was the exploited/deceived people who were more likely to use violence against the more affluent persons like landlords? He categorically denied. He emphasized that these conflicts were as normal as they would occur anywhere else, e.g., arguments between cousins, or even neighbors, but the only difference was that they were culminating more and more in gruesome violence like beheading.

Then, I proceeded to ask him as to how did this violence take the form of Maoism. He expressed ignorance, but made a guess that ‘Maoism’ was just a convenient banner to carry out the same violence that had anyway been going on. He also added that with this violence (and along with it, the various factions) merging with Maoism, it became better organized and also conflicts between common people reduced.

On being asked as to what kind of people joined the movement he said that there was no particular pattern. But that usually, it was people in the late teens who would. I asked him if attraction to the movement was ideology-driven, he again denied and said that joining Maoists brought with it its own set of perks. First, most villagers would be awed by a Maoist, thus their family would be safe; second, that the Maoists tend to be relatively better off compared to other villagers as they would have a supplementary source of income. I asked him an almost leading question, something on the lines of: “so is it that just like how some people in cities like Mumbai join underworld gangs for similar perks, and not always would the parents and neighbors oppose them for some associated perks, teens in Maoism-afflicted regions join Maoism? And just like how in cities, those joining underworld gangs would be aware of the risks like imprisonment and death in ‘encounters’/’gang wars’, those joining Maoists would also be aware of the same risks but willing to take them owing to a sort of anti-social personality and a favorable assessment ‘risk-benefit’?”. He agreed quite wholly, but modified my understanding a bit by pointing out that in large portions of Maoism-affected areas, state jurisdiction is lacking to such a degree that being apprehended by any of the forces is not seen as a realistic risk.

Then, I asked him about the industrialists/state v/s tribes angle to the entire Maoist phenomenon. In particular, I asked him if big industries were showing interest in those regions for mining and/or establishing factories. He first clarified a misunderstanding that those that were referred to as “tribal” were not all that backward in development, but that they had sought that status because that gave them certain benefits like greater control over their produce, and some other benefits in education/jobs. So, they were more like villagers, largely into agriculture, though with their farming activities being less organized. He replied in affirmative to my query on industrialists’ interest in the region as most of the areas had rich mineral reserves and also because land would be relatively cheaper. So, I asked him if the residents were being forcefully evicted and if that were the reason for residents’ frustration with the government. His response startled me. He pointed out that quite to the contrary, the government and the industrialists were providing very good compensation and that most residents were happy with such deals. He further added that agriculture is not the best way to sustain ones household given the vagaries of climate. In fact, he cited the example of his own cousin/brother who was employed by the CRPF, that he had received a good amount (I vaguely remember it to be Rs. 14 lakhs) as compensation for the part of the plot he had sold. But he pointed out a problem. He said that the compensatory amounts were not directly disbursed to the individuals, but to a village representative. He said the recipient would be in possession of an equivalent of ‘power of attorney’ who would be then expected to give away the amount to the individual households. Now, the problem was that the Maoists were either controlling such village representatives or were attempting to, and that this was the strongest incentive for Maoists to exercise control over these territories. Thus, the Maoists would take a share out of the amount given to the entire village. And eventually when despite selling their land, the ordinary people did not get expected compensation amounts, few people got frustrated by the entire provision. I had forgotten to ask as to why this arrangement of an equivalent of ‘power of attorney’ existed, rather than simple disbursement to the individual households. My guess is, because these ares were officially recognized as ‘tribal’ lands, so no documented individual property rights existed, and whatever belonged to the village would be a ‘collective property’, but the villagers amongst themselves did respect each others’ property rights, so maybe vast stretch of lands had to be sold as part of a collective decision rather than making individual transactions.

I asked him if Maoists did not extort or loot common villagers, what is it that made joining them lucrative for the youngsters. He said that Maoists control large tracts of land, over which they grow profitable crops. I do not remember properly the examples he had given, but perhaps, they were tobacco and opium/cannabis. And one of the reasons they are fighting the State forces is to not relinquish control over these tracts. On being asked if the income from these tracts was shared with the villagers, he replied in negative. Needless to say, the produce from these plantations has to be sold off through illegal means. Then I further queried if the those lower down in the ‘power hierarchy’ of Maoists would be happy with their share of profit, or it would largely those who would be higher up that would keep most of the profit for themselves. He said latter was closer to the truth. Thus, I said that many of the young recruits must be getting disenchanted with the system – what do they do, do they leave the movement? He said, practically on once joining the movement, leaving it was not possible, because that would be seen as unfaithfulness and such recruits would be killed. So, I asked, that is it like once a Maoist, always a Maoist? He said “yes”. [To digress a bit, I felt a bit sorry for the young recruits, and told him that how then the Maoist tangle seems nearly impossible to undo. He agreed with me, and said the only hope was that large number of these people would grow old, and the frustration amongst groundsmen would increase, and then just perhaps, factions amongst the movement would emerge and the movement might weaken with time. But this portion of my emotional response and his speculation are largely irrelevant to the current blog post.]

Though, I had not been privy to the above kind of details, my suspicion had always been that the Maoists were not true representatives of the ordinary people and nor were they working for the interests of the larger good of the tribes/villagers, so I was not greatly surprised by most of these revelations, and in fact, they did quite conform to my worldview. However, I had also been suspecting that Maoists must be forcibly abducting young kids or teens against their parents’ wishes and then brainwashing and training them in use of weaponry. So when I asked if my speculation was right, he again denied. He said that Maoists ordinarily do not trouble the villagers and reiterated that the teens join Maoists by themselves on their own volition, and usually they are the ones who are attracted by weapons and would have a bullying nature.

One of the last questions I asked him about Dantewada was as to what did the common people in the district want? Were they on the side of the Maoists or on the side of the State forces? He said that the majority of villagers did not take sides. All they would want is to be left alone. However, different villages have differing degrees of influence of Maoists v/s the State forces. Where the Maoists were dominant, no activity supporting the police would be tolerated, and on the slightest suspicion of sympathy towards the State forces, the Maoists would kill the suspected ‘informer’ (and sometimes even the family members). I had interrupted and asked yet again, if these killings were random (so as to inspire terror in the common villagers) or truly based on suspicion. He said, they would be truly based on suspicion. He pointed out that ideally the Maoists would not want to collectively aggravate the villagers, because if all of them would turn against them, then Maoists’ survival would be difficult. He also added that however, there were other regions were the State forces (CRPF, police, etc.) would be stronger. In these areas, villagers would tend to actively support the State forces, and many in fact would want to join the forces because of assured income and other perks of a government job. It was this way in which the Salwa Judum had succeeded. I asked if the State forces would extort the villagers or steal their farm produce/animals, etc (this was keeping in mind what I  had read in newspapers/magazines/web sites and come across on television news/programs). He chuckled at the question and said that usually these forces had very good supply of food so they would not need to do such things, and also that where their presence was stronger than that of Maoists, they were in fact welcomed. That very few personnel in CRPF would be locals would make looting anything further less attractive (as it is people of the region are poor), because they would have to carry the loot back to a faraway place. At this point he made one important point that it was easier for Maoists to use civilians as ‘shields’, meaning, if State forces would know that there were Maoists among common people, they would not be able to kill people indiscriminately, but whereas the State forces would not usually use civilians as shields, because Maoists would not desist from killing even civilians rampantly even on slightest suspicion of their shielding the State forces. And that this arrangement would put the State forces at a great disadvantage in getting an upper hand over Maoists.

Then, I pointed out that the Maoist movement had spread far and wide, so were the circumstances that led to their spread similar in all regions or if they were different. He replied that he did not have much idea about other regions, but believed that every district had its own typical problems and there was not a single, common factor that led to the growth of Maoism movement. But he said he had some idea of the situation in the very close by Orissa (Dantewada region is on the border of Chhattisgarh and Orissa). He pointed out that one of the biggest businesses of Orissa close to the border is of tendu leaves, and that few of the plantations were owned by Marwaris (something that had quite surprised me). Some local people had this grievance that the Marwaris were making all the money and they were being exploited. I asked if this perception was because Marwaris were ‘outsiders’ or because they were truly exploiting the poor people. He expressed his ignorance. But he hinted that if these plantations were to go, then the owners would be at loss, and not so much the daily wage laborers. So, I asked him if it was possible that the owners of these plantations were also sponsoring the Maoists. He said it was a possibility.

Then, he had made some references to how sophisticated arms would be smuggled across the porous Indo-China border (if I remember correctly, through Arunachal Pradesh) dipped in oil tankers, but I do not remember now if he had made the point in connection of Maoists or smuggling activity in general, but we were at that point discussing the Purulia arms drop case (click).

My impression: The Maoists and the villagers/tribes of the Maoism-afflicted regions were not one and the same. And secondly, that both among the Maoists as well as the common people, some sort of social and economic stratification indeed existed. So, it would be erroneous to look at both of them as a monolithic entity (which is quite the opposite of the picture painted by Arundhati Roy, who tends to portray Maoists and the tribals as one and the same, and also as if they are unified by some grand egalitarianism). Depending upon the social/economic stratum and also the region in which one lives, the individual interests would differ. Some people would thus be more apt to support the Maoists, others, the State forces, but vast majority had no such personal interest.

II

The second instance that had major impact on my perception of Maoist problem was watching a documentary by NewsX. I had started watching it midway, so I do not even remember what the theme was. But it was focusing on some agitation against a steel plant to be built in Orissa (perhaps, in collaboration with some Thai company).

My memory of the entire program is quite vague. Some commentator had made a point that forceful eviction by the government in collusion with the corporates was giving rise to violent means of protests, which was in turn being supported by Maoists. Then there was an interview featuring an elderly owner of tendu leaves plantation. He was saying that if the steel plant would come in that place, then he would suffer a heavy loss. I do not remember the amount he had quoted, but perhaps, it was Rs. 30,00,000 per year. The figure was mind-boggling. He had not made any point about how a steel plant would entail loss of jobs for the poor people. There is a slight possibility that the old man was bragging, but well there is no way to determine that. Also shown working in the background were (I presume, daily-wage) workers, whose living condition seemed pretty dismal.

My impression: The poorest of the poor were anyway being exploited by the affluent owners of tendu leaves plantations. It is unlikely that it is the laborers who would oppose new employment opportunities, especially when they were evidently being exploited. If a new steel plant were to come, obviously they would get employed in some other capacity, and even when the construction would be finished, many would be still employed for jobs requiring little/no educational qualification. Hence, it must be unlikely that such people would be the ones opposing the building of steel plant. So, the ones who stood to lose most if a steel plant were to come up were the very affluent (and exploitative) owners of tendu leave plantations, and perhaps, all the protests were encouraged/supported by such owners.

III

The last account was given by an acquaintance, whose family hails from the Bahrampur region of West Bengal. He had told me that the people in his district did not distinguish between the Maoists and the political party that had been ruling the state virtually since time immemorial. That most elections were won through coercion. Villagers would be told beforehand by (Maoist) goons as to which candidate to vote for, and if the said candidate would not win, then random villagers would be killed. However, influence of Maoists as one moved closer to Kolkata wanes.

My impression: What he had said made sense to me, because if people of a state like Bihar that had gained much notoriety for mis-governance and involvement of criminals with politics changed their ruling parties and leaders so many times, it is surprising that that from a state like West Bengal, which has also not been doing particularly well on most developmental indices, would not want to change the ruling party or the leaders. Also, it seems the Maoists are not seen as a great inconvenience by the current Union government. By design or by coincidence, the Maoists switched their loyalty from the old ruling party to *the new Bengali alternative* almost exactly at the same time when *the new Bengali alternative* started supporting the current ruling party at the center and when the old ruling party of West Bengal had withdrawn support from the current ruling alliance at the Center.

To summarize:

  1. Circumstances leading to the growth of Maoism in different regions were no identical, but were unique to each region.
  2. In Dantewada district, violence had gradually gained much greater social acceptance than in other regions of India. This was made particularly possible by the prevalent lawlessness.
  3. Above kind of violence was not ideological, but became more of a social phenomenon. Those who become Maoists are not driven by ideology, but see the arrangement as one of convenience as it brings them some perks, which in turn help them tide over acute poverty the entire district suffers from. Also, those  otherwise more apt to take to arms join the Maoist movement.
  4. Maoists usually do not threaten common villagers nor coerce them into joining the movement, nor do they commit any crimes against them without any provocation.
  5. Maoists are brutal with those who they suspect of siding with the State forces.
  6. One of the sources of income for Maoists, which makes it lucrative for the youngsters to join them, is illegal trade of produce from plantations like that of tobacco, cannabis and/or opium. They want to closely guard monopoly over these tracts of land on which these plantations exist.
  7. Even on being disenchanted, it is not possible to practically leave the Maoist Organization once one joins it as they would be seen as traitors and would be killed.
  8. Villagers are largely neutral in the conflict between Maoists and the State forces. Their support is usually to whichever of the two forces would be stronger in a given region.
  9. While Maoists can use common villagers as a shield, State forces do not do that.
  10. State forces have little incentive to loot villagers.
  11. In regions of Orissa flanking Dantewada, it seems it is the relatively affluent owners of tendu leave plantations who are most interested in keeping industrialization away from the state, and hence could be supporting (Maoist) violence. The common poor people of Orissa who work in such plantations seem to have little to no incentive to try to maintain the status quo.
  12. In West Bengal, Maoists have enjoyed a sustained patronage from the ruling dispensation and in fact, been used towards electoral ends. Also, their loyalty seems to be to that Bengali political party that would support the current alliance at the Center.

I repeat, whatever I am publishing as part of this blog post is largely second-hand information, and as it reaches the readers, it already becomes third-hand. My first source of information was a relatively well-off person and had also been an employee of the Indian government, so it is possible that he might have had a soft corner for the ‘Indian State’ and antipathy towards the Maoists. That his brother was in CRPF furthers the possibility. But what all makes his account particularly reliable are:  that he had not brought up the topic himself; whatever information he had provided was in response to specific queries by me; he had little/nothing to gain by trying to alter my views on the issue; and most important, what all he said seemed to be based on sound reasoning, without resorting to rhetoric. Also, the picture he painted matched my conviction that mass movements are most apt to arise not out of some ideology, but of convergence of mundane personal interests.

Yet, I urge the readers to not lower their guard of skepticism in assimilating what I have published here.

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25 thoughts on “My Inferences about the Maoist Problem in India

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  2. Good post Ketan. I would like to bring up a few points. The Coastguard officer is more or less giving a correct picture. I agree with him on on some points while adding a few:

    1. The Maoist affected tribal regions like Dantewada had been more or less lawless. Now, criminals have become more organized gangs and operate under the ‘Maoist’ banner. I am not sure whether they do opium or cannabis farming on an industrial scale, but they sure do have great influence over traditional producers of controlled substance, licensed or illegal, both. Those were being run by local political leaders or feudal lords. Now, they don’t, but the Maoists do.

    2. Illegal mining is a huge source of income for the Maoists. So, if a Vedanta mine comes up, illegal mining will be affected. Hence, fight under the garb of protecting tribal interests.

    3. You must be surprised to know that elections are windfall times for those armed groups calling themselves Maoists. It is a known fact that Maoists threaten unarmed villagers to vote for one party or the other. The Chattisgarh BJP took their help, the Jharkhand JMM took their help and now West Bengal’s Trinamool is taking their help. They act as professional mercenaries if I can use the term. Now, the Maoists are against the Chattisgarh govt and fighting for the opposition Congress with the help of Christian evangelists who have converted hundreds of thousands of tribals.

    I draw the so called Maoist insurgency problem with that of the ULFA insurgency of the late-80s through the mid-90s. Unemployment and lack of occupation (in other senses) drove young men to take up arms and overnight became rich. They rode on the old ULFA doctrine of separate nation for the Assamese. The original leaders exploited them to further their cause. Similarly, the original Naxalbari cause is just an eyewash for the new recruits. It’s not that any more. It’s through this that the top Maoist honchos are earning their bread. One day, they will shun the gun, take to mainstream politics.

    Only, the dead would remain dead between this.

    • Jayant,

      Welcome to the blog!

      It was certainly nice to get inputs from someone who knows about the problem so well.

      Yes, I had read somewhere else also that Maoists carry out illegal mining. But isn’t mining sort of a complicated activity to carry out?

      What you say about Vedanta and its conflict with Maoist interests also sounds plausible.

      Thanks!

    • Jayant,

      Thanks for that brilliant explanation!

      I was largely reporting what that Coast guard officer told me. What you said and he said are not very divergent, really. Of course, there is no industrial scale production of banned crops, but any kind of production would lead to substantially more income than what could be earned by raising legally permitted crops.

      I wasn’t knowing about illegal mining by Maoists. I never thought they had that kind of technology at their disposal. Or do they mine very superficially and crudely?

      No, actually I am not at all surprised by the role these Maoists play during elections. My friend from West Bengal told me exactly the same about them.

      Thanks for the parallels you drew with the ULFA insurgency. I had and still have very little knowledge about the same.

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  4. An interesting post. One thing you should remember. Maoists have a core ideology even though many of their recruits may not be fully aware of it.They are a cadre based organisation with definite hierarchy and discipline. They are not just a group of mercenaries or anti-socials.

    1.As you inferred correctly,’Circumstances leading to the growth of Maoism in different regions were no identical, but were unique to each region’.Maoists exploit the situation in each region to recruit followers.
    2. Lawlessness and lack of Governance usually increase the exploitation of the poor and Dantewada might be a typical example of this phenomenon.
    3. Those who join are most likely not those who like violence or those who want to make some money. Then they will not join a tightly controlled army cadre,but become decoits. Most of the recruits may be jobless and landless youths who are awed by the might of a disciplined force that can creat fear among the hated and envied rich landlords.Also violence on the poor by local police in the name of tackling Maoism might also have pushed many youngsters into maoist fold.

    I agree with your points Nos 4,5,7,8,9,10.

    6.Maoists rule some ‘liberated’ areas and must have control of cultivation there. But most likely the money they get from it will go to a centralised party apparatus and the cadres may not directly benefit from it.But overall in many poor villages the life style of Maoists cadre may be little better than ordinary folks.
    11. In Orissa you must be meaning the anti-posco agitation. Learn about it more here

    http://stoposco.wordpress.com/

    I think the question here is whether the Govt can forcibly take away land from people and also what agriculturists can do with compensation cash but no land.

    12. Maoists were always a strong and many a time violent opponents of mainstream Left Parties not only in Bengal,but also in Kerala.That is one of the reason that they are now in alliance with TMC to unseat CPM.There might have been rigging in Bengal elections by CPM themselves as it occurs in many North Indian States,but not by Maoists for CPM.

    • Charakan,

      I must repeat I only reproduced whatever the ex-coastguard official had related to me. So, I would not like to feign any confidence about my understanding of the matter.

      I’ll respond to the points above that you raised where I feel I might have something to contribute.

      3. Nobody can become a ‘freelancing’ dacoit in Maoist afflicted regions because that would become a challenge to the authority of Maoists who possess much better resources for fighting than individual tribal/village people. In fact, the prerequisite of Maoist rule is that their authority in the regions they control should be unchallenged, and that is why they fight the State forces so vehemently. Because if once their authority starts getting challenged, people will stop getting intimidated by them and they would lose control over their sources of income. Jayanta Bhattacharya has interesting inputs on this.

      6. Yes, money from illegal plantations and arm-smuggling must go the central command. But what this ensures is such Maoists would themselves be armed with firearms, and that would ensure that they would be in a position that would enable them to intimidate other villagers and extract small favors from them, which would be a form of extortion.

      11. Yes, it’s possible that the News X documentary was about POSCO plant.

      12. I wouldn’t know either ways about Bengal. I was merely reporting what my friend from West Bengal told me – villagers make no distinction between Maoists and CPM cadre, especially during elections. 🙂

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

  5. The origin of Maoist activities in India is often attributed to exploitation of the tribes of the forest by greedy businessmen.

    Illegal mining isn’t their exclusive domain. There are adequate documentary and video proof for that. Karnataka, Orissa, Tamil Nadu and many other states have illegal mining taking place by scores every day, every week, every year.

    People of the forest who have been living there for centuries, were controlled by use of force and payment of pittance as reward for collecting forest produce / goods worth crores. What else would explain payment of two rupees or so for collecting hundreds of beedi or tobacco leaves by them? An increase of further two rupees, doubles their standard of living over night. It is doubled after decades of decadence. The middle men make a windfall, with the final person in the chain selling it for a whopping five or six thousand. What is the value addition by the middle men? Fucking zilch! Agreed, it is business they need their profits, the owners need their proper reward as well. Who will argue in their favour? This is true from Taliban to our own Maoists. That they deal in drugs, opium and cocaine etc is of no consequence. Who supplies them finally to the final consumer? If one thinks that it is the same maoist, he needs to get his head checked.

    May be the purpose was lost midway. Today they may be no more than goons who play the political games as well. May be thats their way of surviving the efforts of political pigs who take a cut in everything from sale of water to sale of women.

    The sorry state of affairs is that the police who fight them are pawns in the larger trade among the those who can make a change.

    I am not Maoist lover or hater. But reasons for their rise is often attributed to anything other than exploitation. My observations are also based on some genuinely second hand information and some published articles. May be I choose this view among the others that is available. But I believe it reflects far more relevant truth than the one the media feeds us.

    Cheers

    • Saimukundhan,

      Thanks for your comment!

      Yes, it would be fallacious to believe that there is only ‘one’ truth. In fact, there have to be many, many factors in the growth of Maoist movement. In fact, as my co-passenger had emphasized, the reasons for growth of Maoism were varied everywhere.

      I also I would be very wary of using labels like ‘politicians’, ‘middlemen’, ‘villagers’, ‘tribals’, etc., because it is the roles that are to be played that remain constant, but the people who play those roles keep on changing. And ‘ground level’ Maoist today, driven by angst and desperation or may be criminal tendencies, a few years would be driven by avarice and envy if he makes it ‘big’. Same person, different role and different motivations.

      What I sought to point in this article, apart from passing on the information I had gathered in dispassionate fashion, was that Maoists are *not* representing the interests of common tribal/village people. And that they are not even same as tribal/village people. In fact, vast majority of tribal and village people look at them as as much or more nuisance as the police forces in that region. Of course, how much sympathy villagers harbor for Maoists v/s state forces varies from region to region.

      Take care.

  6. All this lawlessness bcoz of Congress. Congress has failed to eliminate poverty. People say that China’s Human Right condition is poor , I say that the condition of Human i India is very poor because we have NHRC- national Human Right for Criminals (only). The criminals enjoy prisons while innocent read So this is why we pay taxes !!! people live the life of misery -All because of Congress party

    • The Mindset

      I’d be wary of blaming all the major problems on the Congress Party. I tend to blame the idea of socialism. Now one can say that it was the Congress that ‘installed’ the idea firmly in Indian Constitution and used it unobstructed for decades, but the fact is, even their chief opposition, i.e., the BJP has never opposed socialism head-on!

      What socialism does is makes people think that theirs is all to receive, and that the only thing that makes them ‘deserving’ of government favors is to be ‘needy’. Government elevates simple needs that every citizen ought to have the resources to fulfill to the level of ‘rights’. So, ‘food’ becomes a right. ‘Seat’ in a college becomes a right, not the books that might be needed to study and to compete to earn that seat. ‘Job’ becomes a right, but again, not the resources that would lead one to be competent in the market.

      The thing is 99% of would be capable of making a living and earning themselves resources if the government would not be so obstructive in the economic activities.

      Thanks!

  7. Hi Ketan, it’s good to read what you had to offer .. 🙂
    I am in touch with some engineers building and maintaining schools in a small village called Mayurbhanj in Orissa. I’ve personally been there and seen and heard a lot of “funny” things there.. What I do know is that there is water n yet drought, the place is naturally rich and the people awfully poor.. and the ones taking no sides are struggling beyond anything we can imagine- to have some form of a future which is physically, sexually and financially somewhat safe. In our visit there (a 3 member team from Touching Lives Welfare Trust for Teacher’s Training) we realised, what the relatively aware and some educated folks want, is ATTENTION vs the neglect the rest of the Indians show so whatever active decisions that need to be enacted occur- education wise -which for women there is atrocious- and after that what else? The industries are not going to happen overnight nor is the decision to not go ahead with it.. so till then what’s going to happen to those people who dont get the concept of they are Indians, there is a country called India and that they belong to it? For them the police or terror groups- are one’s that have power, are ones that are holding guns in their hands and one’s who can take things away from them, break their homes and schools for local political intimidation (forget the larger picture) and most importantly their morale. I cant help being diplomatic and I’m avoiding to speak anything highly polarized.. but if you want to know and see what these engineers have experienced first hand, will gladly connect you to their online group. Let me know.
    For me, personally, the experience was enriching..an eye opener..the perspective it gave me in terms of priorities in life..is huge. Its funny how the Bhubaneswar city airport has locals who do not gt concept of using toilet paper and then not throwing it all over but in the bins-which are so many..and finding awesome tech savy motion detecting taps n etc which even Mumbai airports do not have..and the contrast of seeing the old woman in the field high on fermented rice-which is their usual way to get by theie hard working day..was quite a bit to take in.. My objectivity may not be at its best here, but I suggest, if you are interested , do visit and see for yourself- the place is breth takingly beautiful and at every step an interesting if not sad paradox as well..
    Love n Peace~
    K.

    • Kunjal,

      Welcome to the blog!

      Thanks a lot for your perspective! Yes, I do have my biases, and it is clear from my ‘analysis’ that the human element in it is missing. My knowledge of the hardships faced there is too off hand to have figured prominently in this post.

      However, somehow I’m unlikely to want to be at a place where I’d know I’d get to see human suffering in abundance. It would make me a bit more ashamed about my resolve of not trying to change the world. Why I have such a resolve is an entirely different matter. I hope it never comes across in my blog posts that what I write here is my desire/attempt to change the world for the better, because it never is! Most of what I write here is what I term as (intellectual) ‘entertainment’. Yes, there are few times when I actually pour in my own feelings in my blog, but that is rare, and furthermore not related to my wanting to change anything about the world.

      And I do not know how things will improve there. I could be wrong, but my belief is that Maoists themselves would be most opposed to some such reforms as that would lead to dilution of their ‘rule’. Maybe, the only way things might improve is if the villagers/tribal people get too fed up of the Maoists and openly rebel against them, which of course would be possible only if my impressions are correct and if indeed ‘Maoists’ and ‘tribal people’ are distinct entities.

      Thanks, again!

      • I understand.. I would never have gone like this either. When I was desperate for a change in my life, I ffound myself working with slum communities by railway tracks.. before that I always worked from mu cushy home, frankly-hated involving myself with any social service really, and preferred my work as change agent within the realms of “normal” people like you and me. So in ways more than one, I was ‘placed’ there..through which I went to Orissa, for which normally I would’ve declined and my parents too would have raised the roof especially when the Naxalite activity was intense in the areas we were planning to go- a plan which also by the way, we did not make, it just happened and was presented to the organisation in such a way, we couldnt refuse.. in a nut shell- I didnt plan on facing or looking at any sufferring. And frankly, I didnt. I was the one who suffered. For them, it’s daily living.
        Don’t sell yourself short, I don’t know you so well, but from what I read, given a chance and ‘placed’ some place or position like this, you might be surprised with yourself..you dont seem the type who’ll turn your face away and run for the cushy resort in the hills 😀 If I’ve said much more than you’d have liked.. I’ll apologize beforehand.

  8. to add.. the other day I saw a beggar or a rag picker type woman sprawled on the footpath inside Milan subway with her head lying in a pool of what must have been blood.. I did report it to 100 and it took a long time for the one on phone to understand what i meant by inside Milan subway, and when I passed by it again in the evening, the body was gone. Had there been a rich person’s body there the area would have been cordoned or some sign of something would’ve been there.. And it’s no surprise I’m assuming for anyone, that no action must have taken place cause it was a nobody? Well, I’m assuming too much so I’ll stick to the point I’m trying to make.. Most places where there’s unrest is cause ANY government is failing to or faced failure to facilitate the growth and smooth running of things among locals..the poorer the locals, poorer governance and further poverty. And as far as progressive ideas are concerned, there’s something like a baseline and progress matched to that versus comparing it with some imagined and ideal progress… like you mentioned in some comment here tht what about the notebooks? ..It needs attention and INVOLVEMENT, not only great big projects.. That is like putting something up so one can say see I’ve done my bit and “these people” just do not get the idea of progress..I’m finding it superficial. After all it’s “progress” not “shiny end product”…. just my ideas..

    • My understanding of economics is this: irrespective of whether what one produces is shiny or otherwise, one would earn in return of selling it if it is desired/wanted by others. In that I believe ‘progress’ is needed in tribal belts if I got the drift of your comment right. In my understanding, urbanization sort of automatically ensures that basic amenity improve (as compared to the baseline), because urbanization ought not be about glamor, but efficient use of limited resources.

      So yes, projects need not be big, but but those who’ve access to big resources must find some incentive to invest in such areas such that amenities like schools and resources like electricity would become collateral benefits. But it’s also possible my understanding of economics could be wrong.

      I’m sorry if my comment sounds too off-mark, because I’m not all too sure if I got your comment right. 🙂

      • dont apologize 🙂 i get drifty all the time..

        what i meant was progress- a step by step thing- not backwards from desired goals, but forward , from where the current reality is. As an anology- when say a traumatized child enters therapy, progress would be ability to talk about the trauma, crying it out, ability to narrate imagined future fears, etc. being rid of nightmares could be next, ability to enjoy the current moment hopefully a successive step and lastly or perhaps even simultaneously, ability to engage with people. By shiny product in this analogy, I’m referring to getting above average results in academics, being cheerful and “appearing confident” 🙂

  9. A problem tht probably seems simple n not tantalizing enough but is deserving attention is Social Reform.. till the time any kind of progress is not FELT and found to be helpful to the locals, solidarity is a distant thing.. internal jealousy and local political vindictiveness is not something they can afford- on a utopian constructive note, our marketing guys and admen and fellow psychologists can probably be of help out there..

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