April 22, 2010

‘Can You Combat Maoist Menace, When A UPA Ally Patronises Them?’:SITARAM YECHURY

The following are the excerpts from the speech made by Sitaram Yechury, CPI(M) leader in parliament on April 15, 2010 while intervening on home minister's statement on Dantewada massacre.

At the end of the statement that the home minister has made on the Dantewada massacre, he said that let us wait for the inquiry committee report to come and then we can take stock of what actually happened in this particular incident in Dantewada.

We agree with that; we shall wait for that. But the point that I would like to highlight right now is that the Dantewada incident is not an incident in isolation. This is happening as a part of a policy, as a part of developments and activities that have intensified since the UPA-II government has come. Since the general elections in 2009, according to the figures of the home ministry itself, 993 lives have been lost due to Maoist violence, of which 340 are security personnel.

Only yesterday (April 14), in West Bengal, two more of my Party's cadre were hacked to death by the Maoists, taking the total to 176 in the months since May last year. This is something which only demonstrates very, very eloquently, but chillingly, with murderous assaults and attacks that the Maoist menace is mounting. Now, taking this as a general figure, looking at it in a general way, we entirely agree with the fact that this is not an issue or menace which can be tackled by apportioning blame. If you look at the states that are involved, apart from the central government, you have West Bengal, Orissa, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Bihar, all these states where this current problem is persisting are states that are run by governments led by different political parties. So, unless we have a unified approach on how to tackle this issue, we cannot succeed and that is something we must actually keep in mind and not be bothered about where the buck stops. The buck stops with India. The buck stops with the government and the buck stops with all of us here in the parliament. Are we going to break up the parliamentary democracy that we have built up so laboriously? Are we going to change it for the better for the people or not? That is where the buck should stop. Let us not pursue these bucks and let us actually try in right earnest to come down to how do we try and solve this problem.

The point that was made by the leader of the opposition, a point that I have been making and we from the Left have been making in this House for the last nine months or so, is that there is a fundamental contradiction that is feeding the growth of such Maoist violence in our country and that contradiction lies within the central government and the union cabinet of ministers itself. I have repeatedly stated that on three occasions, the prime minister has drawn the attention of the country stating, 'Maoist violence represents the gravest threat to India's internal security.' Now, having said this, how can you have members in the cabinet, the same union cabinet, who not only say things to the contrary but actually act to the opposite? How can you have union cabinet ministers -- it has been read out by the leader of the opposition and I do not wish to read out those statements again -- demanding the arrest of the elected chief minister of a state under our constitution? The chairman would have to assure us; we are the council of states. If this is the way in which members of the union cabinet deal with elected chief ministers of the states and ask for their resignation openly in the media, can the government keep quiet? Is the government not answerable to the country? How is it that on the one hand, the prime minister, the leader of the cabinet, says that this is the gravest threat to India's internal security and on the other, you have members who not only say that it is not the gravest threat but also that there are no Maoists operating in Bengal at all. They say there are no Maoists operating in Bengal at all and ask for the withdrawal of the central forces. How can you co-exist with these contradictions? If you are co-existing with these contradictions, I am sorry to say that it is the height of political opportunism. Just for numbers in the Lok Sabha, if you are going to allow the country's internal security to be compromised, then this government is doing a very big disservice to the country, just for the sake of its survival. Governments may come and governments may go. But, what is of concern is the nation; what is of concern is the country; what is of concern is this institution called parliament and parliamentary democracy. Don't play with it. Don't, for the sake of your political survival, allow such forces to feed and provide sustenance for this Maoist violence to spread. And that is my point. Why is it that 30 years after this movement came into existence, the Maoist violence has reared its head in Bengal again.

That is the point this country must understand. You have the re-entry of Maoists into Bengal behind political flags and banners of legitimate political parties operating within parliamentary democracy. Maoists are being used in order to serve petty electoral purposes and petty electoral ambitions in a particular state. Can we allow such indiscriminate use, such despicable use of methods in order to somehow wrest power in a particular state?

Please remember, Naxalbari is a village that exists in Bengal today. It existed in Bengal always and the uprising that took place in Naxalbari in 1967, from there the term 'Naxalites' has arisen. After that uprising there in 1967, there was a big debate within the Indian Communist movement. I need to refer to this because sometimes there have been references saying that we, CPI(M), are after all cousins of Maoists or, at one point of time, we had allegedly supported them and this only can come from those people who have not really understood our history. The Communist Party of India (Marxist) was divided in 1967 by a small group of people who had argued that Naxalbari uprising was the way for revolution and emancipation of India. We had disagreed with them. We had told them that it was only through the combination of parliamentary means and extra parliamentary means that we could achieve social transformation. But with an erroneous understanding that the Indian ruling classes are comprador in the sense that they do not have their own social base and all that is required is to arm the people. They armed the people and, therefore, by arming the people the slogan of People's War emerged. The slogan of People's War was 'Arm the people' so that they can capture power. It was all easy because the ruling classes do not have a social base. That was the wrong ideological understanding and that understanding had to be combated and that was combined with the policy of individual annihilation, individual annihilation of originally class enemies and now, as it is being pointed out, individual annihilation of all those who are opposed to them. It is the combination of this which is ideological and the ideological strain which we think is completely wrong both in terms of understanding Indian reality and in the methods employed to achieve a social transformation in our country and it is an ideological battle that we, CPI(M), have been in the forefront for the last forty years. We have lost thousands of our people in this ideological battle and it is because of this ideological battle that we succeeded in isolating them in West Bengal. So, today if we think of combating Maoism without an ideological battle, it can never succeed. The question of ideological battle rests on the basic fact that social transformation in India is necessary, but what are the means that you will apply and adopt for achieving such a social transformation and what is the concrete analysis of the concrete conditions that you are living in? This ideological battle is as important as re-establishing the writ of civic administration in these areas and re-establishing of the writ of civic administration is not negotiable. On that, there is no dispute among all of us. But it has to be combined with a political battle or political offensive against this, particularly the ideology which we think is undermining the foundations of modern India. That is why whenever such problems have occurred in West Bengal, in order to resolve these problems, we have repeatedly adopted the approach where an all-party meeting is called in these affected areas. Twenty-eight all-party meetings have been called since the last general elections to tackle this Maoists' violence in these areas, but not one of them was attended by the ally of the Congress Party who is now sitting in their cabinet. The reason for not attending is not to legitimise this process but to allow or use the Maoists in order to create terror in a particular area and use the terror to browbeat people into politically supporting them.

So, this is a tactic of terror. This is politics that is being operated through terror. And it is this politics of terror that needs to be fought today. I think what is required is a combination of measures required by law and order and ideological political struggle against the Maoists and Maoism itself. Unless this combination is adopted, I don't think we can actually succeed. Therefore, I would sincerely urge the government at the centre and I sincerely urge the prime minister, the leader of the house, to please come here and explain to us how he has members in his own cabinet who think completely opposite of what he has been telling the nation as far as Maoists’ violence is concerned and do not compromise the interest of our country for the sake of continuation of your government.

You may be happy, like once Winston Churchill famously remarked during the Second World War, "Let the Communists and Fascists kill each other and then we shall enter", and he delayed the second front. If that is the thinking of the Congress Party today, I am sorry, it will only lead to a sort of devastation that the world had seen during that time. If they think that let the Maoists and the Marxists fight each other out and let them deplete themselves, and then, they will enter in order to restore the peace in that region, then they will destroy the very basis and the foundations of the parliamentary democracy in our country. So, they have to be extremely clear. In this, what is required by the central government, as I mentioned earlier, in these five states that you are talking about right now with five different governments, but unless you take on board all the political parties and that requires a complete non-partisan approach and the central government co-ordinates these activities, you cannot really solve this problem.

Mr Deputy Chairman, you come from a state that was also infamous for having bandits like Veerappan. For two decades, you could not catch him because whenever Karnataka Police moved, he would move into Tamilnadu; whenever Tamilnadu moved, he would come back into Karnataka, or go into Kerala. And, in this way, between the three states, he managed for two decades. You require a co-ordinated approach between all these states if you want to solve this problem. And, that requires a strong political will. That requires a strong political will to be able to co- ordinate between all these state governments. That is required, and my appeal would be to all other political parties also who are running governments in the states that this is not something on the basis of which, we should calculate our electoral fortunes for the future. This is a threat that needs to be met squarely. Otherwise, you will have series of actions that will continuously undermine the foundations of a modern parliamentary democracy in India.

And, that is why, when Dr Keshava Rao, was talking about the method employed in Andhra Pradesh and he was talking about negotiations or talks as the way in which the problem was solved, please remember, the biggest thing that was undertaken by the Andhra government then was Operation Grey Hound. Therefore, it is a combination that will have to be done. In fact, we have to learn from our own states which have actually tackled extremism in a very successful way, and one of those states from which we have to learn is the tiny state in the North-East called Tripura. In Tripura, they have tackled it by a combination of a political approach, a political will using the law and order measures and addressing the most important issue of development. And, addressing that issue of development can only be with a combination of this that you could actually control the growth of these extremist activities. And, the development issue is the third arm of this tripod. You require a tripod approach, and in that tripod approach, one leg is the law and order; the second leg is the political will and the political battle; and the third leg is to address the developmental concerns. Look at the area where all these activities are taking place. This is one of the richest areas in terms of mineral resources in our country. You have, through the years, successively in the government, privatised mining. And, all of us know what havoc private mines have been playing in other parts of the country. But, here, privatisation of mining activities in the areas which are predominantly inhabited by tribal people has only added to the woes of the people there. The private mafias that come with the private mines and their activities, had only caused further miseries to the tribal population there who already could not have the benefits of development reach them. Therefore, what is required is to also look into the policies, re-look into the policies, and, at least, try and understand why we oppose the privatisation of these mines. You are creating situations of over-exploitation and extra burden being imposed on the people there. That is also adding to the backwardness of the people there apart from the traditional backwardness of the tribal areas. Therefore, what is required if you really, sincerely want to tackle this problem is a combination of this tripod. You will have to address all the three - law and order, a political will and a political battle against them, and address the developmental issues of the concerned population there. Unless this holistic approach is undertaken, we cannot really tackle this problem. The home minister, in his statement, said that there are two pillars of the policies that the central government has adopted. One is that of calibrated police action, and the other is that of development.

And, then, he goes on to say, the state governments, therefore, have a primary responsibility. I find it completely contradictory. Now, you are saying that the state governments have a primary responsibility. Yes; law and order is a state subject, and, the state governments have a primary responsibility. There is no doubt about it. But when a law and order problem spreads beyond the borders of a particular state and goes into the borders of other states, then, of course, the concerned state governments have that responsibility, but the task of the centre in coordinating these actions of the state governments becomes important.

I hope that instead of the central government standing ready and willing to assist the state governments, and, to coordinate the inter-state operations -- I am quoting it from the statement of the home minister -- this coordination of inter-state operations and willingness to assist the state governments, should come in right earnest. There is no political scoring of points. The home minister is not here; perhaps he has gone to the other House. It is very, very ironic that he said to the chief minister of West Bengal, "the buck stops with you", and, then, within 48 hours, he had to say to the country, "the buck stops with me", after the Dantewada incident took place. Today, you may try and score a political point saying that the buck stops with him. Tomorrow, the developments will tell you that the buck stops with you. Finally, as was said in the beginning, the buck stops with the country, buck stops with the nation, and the buck stops with the government, which, at the moment, is given the responsibility to run the country.

I would also want to just touch upon one point, which, in this ideological battle against these forces, we also have to understand. We have made one appeal to the naxalites since they started and formed their party in 1969. They started work in 1967; splintered into various groups; got regrouped, and, in 2004, they came together and formed this party, the Communist Party of India (Maoists), and, since then, there is this growth in violence. Since then, we have always been saying, if you have a difference of opinion, come forward and put that difference before the people; let the people decide whether we are right or you are right. That is the approach, which we will have to adopt even now; and, in that ideological battle, we have to say this very clearly.

Unfortunately, -- I wish; I don't believe in such things -- but if there is a grave and if there is a Mao, then he would be turning upside down in his grave because his name is being grossly misused by these forces, I mean, when they call themselves as Maoists. Poor Mao was the man who said, no communist can survive unless he mingles with the people like a fish takes to water. It was Mao, who said, let a hundred flower bloom, let a thousand thoughts contend, and, it is only then that you know what truth is. You have to seek the truth from the facts, and, that is what Mao taught us. They misused the name of Mao; anyway, that is their democratic right, and, we can take on them ideologically. But, we have to realise that in this battle, we will have to be united in taking on them, on the basis of this tripod understanding. Finally, I would like to recollect, with some degree of anguish, the warning that Dr Ambedkar gave to all of us and the country when he presented the final draft of the Indian constitution to the Constituent Assembly for consideration and adoption.

Yesterday (April 14) was his 120th birth anniversary. When he commended the Constituent Assembly to accept it, in his speech, he said, 'but this constitution that we so laboriously have constructed, and, this structure that we so laboriously want to build, is beset with contradictions." And, he defined the contradictions, I think, very, very well. I can't find a better way of defining it. It is that the constitution provides one man with one vote, and, one vote with one value. But our social conditions have not created one man with one value, and, as long as you have this contradiction that one man does not have one value, but you have one man having one vote, and, a vote having the same value.

So, unless you create a society where all men are equal, he warned that, and I quote, "What we have so labouriously built will be blown asunder by the very people who are suffering from this contradiction". And, if you really want to tackle the problem of extremism, the problem of anarchy, you will have to have a very serious re-look on the trajectory of this neo-liberal economic reforms that we are adopting because that is generating this sort of a situation where it is easy for an unemployed, insecured youth to take to arms and take to militancy because that is the only security life offers. Therefore, finally in conclusion, while waiting for the inquiry report on this specific Dantewada massacre, we will urge upon the government to immediately inform us what is their decision with the people within their union cabinet who are providing both protection and patronage to the Maoists. Unless you take a firm, decisive step in that direction, we cannot succeed in combating this menace.

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