By Siddhartya Roy
Questioning the call of poll boycott and attacks on voters by Indian Maoists
As expected the naxalites have done it again. They went on yet another murderous spree and have gunned down people who were exercising their right to elect their leader in a democracy. In the first phase of elections spanning 124 constituencies in 15 states and 2 union territories, the naxalites have killed a total of 19 people including citizen, poll administration workers and a few security personnel. For all their self-proclaimed love for the commoners, 9 of the people killed were common civilians. This is quite a ritual now of the rainbow congregation of hoodlums who go by a now generic name 'naxals'. This ritual bears all the trademark symbols of the armed naxalites' other rituals such as blasting roads, uprooting telephone and electricity poles and so on.
2. Betraying the cause of the people
The armed factions of the naxalites, and the now disarmed ones at some point in history, have always called for election boycotts. They have claimed time and again that the Indian democracy is no democracy at all and is only a puppet in the hands of imperialist governments elsewhere. So as an obvious corollary, the elections of this country are meaningless exercises according to them. Now the obvious question that comes up at this point is if it (elections being meaningless) were so, then why do they become so active in trying to prevent it? If the elections are indeed a farce, then why do the self-proclaimed revolutionaries bother spending their valuable time, and bullets of course, trying to disrupt it?
The answer is that the elections are not a farce, on the contrary the 'analysis' of the insurgents is farcical in every sense.
The Election Commission of India's reports show that India has an overall steady voter turnout percentage. It varies, with little deviations above and below, at 60%. This has been the picture right since the first general elections of 1952. This is a very high figure amongst the 3rd world poor nations across the world, and especially in the Indian subcontinent. A region who's nations are homes to fragile democracies. Also this achievement becomes even more noteworthy when viewed in the light of the existent diversities and disparities of the Indian nation. Holding common elections in a non-federal union which is 3,287,590 sq km vast with more than a billion inhabitants across 28 linguistically divided states and 7 union territories is an unparalleled feat across this globe. Also the geographical, cultural, social and hence political needs of the people vary hugely. In spite of these very huge difficulties, the polity of this nation still holds forth the values of democracy year after year in elections at all levels, from village to the parliament level. Admittedly there are several lacuna in this process. But the existence of lacuna in the process certainly doesn't rob the electoral ethos itself of its due credit as is claimed by the ultras.
Another major point worth noting is the participation of the poor int these elections. The self-proclaimed 'champions' of the poor in this country seem ignorant of, and purposefully so, of the degree of involvement of the poor citizenry in the electoral process of India and therefore it's democracy. The study by Yogendra Yadav and others in Democracy and Diversity, written in 2007 throws up many interesting statistics. When comparing Indian and American voter turnout patterns, the book notes the following,
• The lowest 20% income group in India has 57% voter turnout as opposed to 47% in the highest 20% income group.
• The illiterate people of India vote at 57% of their strength and those with only mid-school education vote at 83%. This as opposed to the highly 'educated' post-graduates who vote at just 41% of their numerical strength
• The religious minorities belonging to the Muslim and Sikh religion vote at an astoundingly high 70% and 80% respectively. Followed by the SCs at 75%. This as opposed to the Upper Caste Hindus who vote at 60% of their strength.
All this goes to show the active participation of the rural and poor masses of this country in the elections held. As a corollary, this is representative of the faith the Indian masses have in the democracy this nation upholds.
The current attack on the people involved in the polling comes at a very crucial juncture in Indian democracy. After the half a century long largely unproductive rule of the Congress the Right wing BJP came to power on a negative vote. The BJP through its NDA ruled, or rather misruled, the Indian people for its 5 year full tenure, in addition to the few weeks in their first and second attempt. The people of India rightfully cut them to size for their communal and anti-people imperialist policies by squarely voting against them and voting in large numbers for the mainstream Left leading to the formation of the UPA. The paper by Dr. Desh Gupta, titled “An analysis of the 2004 Indian Parliamentary (Lok Sabha) Elections” notes the higher voter turnout in rural India vis a vis urban India. Dr Gupta very rightly concludes the failure of the obnoxious “India Shining” as being a result of the rural voters' ballot. Similar self imposed ignorance and disregard for the people's will is displayed by the naxalites who call for and kill for poll boycott. Now in the 15th Lok Sabha elections the Indian democracy is rife with new possibilities. For the first time the Indian masses have seen a major standoff at the legislative level between the Left's pro-people approach and the Right-Center's imperialist servitude.
The people have seen the materialisation of ground breaking acts in their favour in the form of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, The Tribal Land Rights Act, etc. In fact the fall of the UPA is also on a very radically pro-people note, that of a standoff between the Left's pro-India view, the Congress' imperial bootlicking coupled with the Right wing's undignified silence and lip service to the real causes. The Left has uncompromisingly stood by the National Common Minimum Program (NCMP), which was made to ensure that the people wre given some tangible achievements post this government's tenure. The Congress ditched the people and deserted the promise it made to the people. As expected the BJP stood by talking only on non-issues like building temples and the deprivation of their 'right' to enforce bigotry.
All this happened owing to the Left's increased visibility and power, which came from a strong mandate in their favour in the 2004 elections.
This is also the first time that the Indian voter has seen an alternative before he goes to the polls. An alternative apart from the Congress and the BJP who have proven to be the same fare just differently packaged as far as the daily livelihood related issues of the common masses are concerned. Now in all this churning of the Indian democracy, the entire onus is on the Indian voter who has become decisive in his ballot like never before. This is true to the extent that the sponsored analysts of big business aren't venturing much far in their predictions, which till date has been ever so boastful and entirely predictable. This owes its origin to their self induced insulation from the rural and hence majority voter, just like the 'India shiners' and the armed hoodlums. At this very crucial juncture, where the rural and poor masses could possibly install a government of their interest and choice, the hoodlums are striking. The armed naxalite by their own contorted logic cook up their pet theories of comprador bourgeoisie being the only existent socio-economic structure in this country to justify their poll boycott threats and hence their killings. This is a perfect case of rationalising acts of murder and loot dropping heavy sounding words.
3. people's war minus the people
For all their lofty talk it is ironical that they must at every opportunity resort to the bullet to get people to abide by their word. They claim to be the vanguards in the battle for the have-nots' rights. By virtue of which the armed insurgents have always claimed to have the support of the downtrodden in the tribal belts. Not very long ago talks between the congress led Andhra Pradesh state government's CM with the insurgents were 'arranged' as per pre-poll agreements. The naxal's told the press that the next meeting would be in the jungles, in 'their territory'. To buttress this claim of ownership of the jungles, their media savvy balladeer in his ceaseless theatrical style claimed they were the Rajas of the jungles! One wonders why then must they kill the tribals to make them boycott the polls? Why is it that in Chattisgarh, the state with the highest ratio of tribal people, do they need to kill to make people obey their diktats? Why is it that Kandhamal, a tribal and minority region, registers a voter turnout of 50% in spite of the blood bath and mayhem they faced just months before? Why do the hoodlums' calls for boycott fall on resolutely deaf ears of the poor people of this country?
The answer lies in the falsity of their claims and the charlatan approach of their theories and praxis. They do not enjoy the support of the tribals or poor rural masses at all. How could they when they are the ones who do not let roads, water pipes, electricity and all such necessities to come into the lives of these deprived people? They did the foolhardy act of killing the Hindu priest in Kandhamal and then disappeared into their jungle retreats leaving the 'liberated' tribals to be butchered and maimed by the Hindu fascists. They blew up the mobile hospital in Laalgarh, West Bengal, that was used as a way to provide very necessary medical facilities to the tribals of that region, using a land mine. Their act of 'war on the state' killed the doctor and the nurse in the vehicle and along with that the only form of emergency medical aid available to them. Ironically the doctor and nurse who were killed in this act were of tribal descent themselves! It is a well documented fact that the number of civilians, who are form their claimed 'support base', are killed with shocking regularity in witch hunts called people's courts run by the hoodlums. So in such a scenario, the track record of the insurgents and the facts pertaining to their activities belie any and every claim of being representatives of the people's interests. The have no interest or capability of withstanding the ballot and hence they choose the bullet.
The Indian masses all over the country are reaffirming their faith in the democracy of India today as they vote for the 15th Lok Sabha. The people and their needs and aspirations certainly have more visibility toady than earlier. This is evident from the rise of the regional parties and the strengthening of the Left in the parliament. Both these political formations have left behind the era of being junior partners to the eponymous 'national' parties. Along with that has been left behind the era of only empty slogan based poll campaigns which promised the heavens and left the people on bare earth. The Indian voter is much more discerning today in terms of his daily needs and is aware of the travails he endures in maintaining himself and his family. The farmers of India are certainly more interested in knowing what agrarian economic policies the next government will take up, both quantitatively and qualitatively, than he is to listen to parroting of lines talking of untimely thunders and patches of dead grass. The future of Indian democracy and it's emancipative nature lie in the very participation of the people of this country and not in boycotts.
Sat, 2009-04-18 14:37
Sat, 2009-04-18 14:37