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Posts Tagged ‘Arundhati Roy’

The brutal massacre of 76 CRPF personnel in Dantewada last week should have shocked our conscientious nation out of its summer torpor with a far greater jolt than the events of 26/11 in Bombay, but such has not been the case. After all, anything that is not covered live on TV fails to deserve our attention nowadays. We didn’t see any live footage of bombings, nor could we hear any gunshots from behind the reporter’s back, and neither was there any ‘survivor’ to narrate his bloodcurdling experience. All we were treated to was an array of 76 neatly arranged corpses, after all the action was already over. Moreover, most of us didn’t even know that a place called Dantewada existed on our map before the events unfolded. Our lukewarm reaction to the massacre should therefore, in all fairness, be excused, and we should be allowed to pursue our voyeuristic interest in Shoaib Malik’s second marriage and Shashi Tharoor’s prospective third. With so much happening around us, one can hardly expect us to remain with one incident for too long. Sarcastic as this may sound, it is unfortunately the reeking truth and only goes to show that we like to put our money (and attention) where the drama is. 26/11 was high drama, and on that scale, Dantewada was a passing short sketch and does not even deserve a handy nickname like “6/4” or “April Massacre”. So subdued was the public interest in this event that it was left to the CRPF alone to declare the day as Martyr’s Day (in a function telecast only on DD).

Collective public response to any event is predictable and is guided by the same laws always and everywhere and the mass media generally plays a pivotal role in moulding it. Passive response to an act of terror is one thing, but to sympathise with the perpetrators is a very different thing altogether. What defies understanding is the behaviour of certain members of the so-called ‘civil society’ who pose themselves as voices of the collective conscience and are generally designated by the term ‘intellectuals’. A closer study of their antics reveals that they are neither conscientious nor intellectual. In the particular case of the Naxal movement, these individuals have always taken the side of the Naxals and consistently criticized any attempt by the state to enforce the majesty of the law upon these criminals. A casual survey of the backgrounds of such ‘intellectuals’ reveals that they are mostly practitioners of what we call the liberal arts, who may now have lost their former verve, and have taken up the cause of misguided and brainwashed people in a desperate attempt to remain relevant in the scheme of things. (Arundhati Roy fits this description to the tee, and Aparna Sen’s latest movie convinces me that she too is headed the same way).

To all such self-proclaimed champions of civil society, one must pose a few straightforward questions: What comprises ‘civil society’? Do the armed forces of the state, who risk their own lives to protect the lives of civilians, not belong to this category? Are they not civil, and do they not belong to society? The usual justification that the intellectuals offer for their support to the Maoists is that the acts of violence committed by them is their way of revolting against decades of neglect, deprivation and oppression, and therefore, their conscience prohibits them from condemning these acts. Do they even realize that in so saying, they are positioning themselves in the company of those who support violence as a means of salvation, including terrorist outfits like the Lashkar, Al Qaeda and the Taliban?

The Maoists do not believe in the way of life that we are accustomed to. In the words of their late ideologue Mao Zedong himself, “War is the main form of struggle and the army is the main form of organization”. In a society guided by this principle, Mao goes on to say that “armed agrarian revolution will be the key in the creation of the unending flow of armed revolutionary forces from the mass of the peasantry, which will lead towards establishing the invincible people’s army. The protracted people’s war will advance towards victory by liberating the vast areas of the countryside first and then encircling and finally capturing the cities”. No sane person can remain unmoved by such a horrific agenda. By this definition alone, the Maoist movement is terrorism in its most pristine form – bloody, macabre, calculated and ruthless. However, in most discussions on this issue, we hear it said that there are two sides to this debate; that the root cause of the violence is the state’s apathy towards the backward tribal districts, and that use of force to counter the Maoists is not a justified course of action and will further alienate the tribals from the mainstream of society. At best, such an assessment is unrealistic and naïve.

A garden can overgrow due to neglect and in due course become a haven for snakes and pests of all kinds. Unknown to the landlord, the snakes multiply and organize themselves and one day bite his own children to death in a show of audacity. The landlord understands that a stitch in time could have prevented this disaster, but now that the situation is beyond his control, does he try to strike a deal with the killer snakes and try to explore options of peaceful coexistence with them, or does he protect himself and the rest of his family by razing the undergrowth and flushing out the vipers once and for all? To my understanding, the Maoists are no different from these virulent snakes, and need to be smoked out of their hiding places in the jungles and brought to task. If lack of development be the reason for the growth of the Maoist menace in backward areas, then they are admittedly monsters of our own making, but nothing should compel us to tolerate monsters beyond necessity. They are no Robin Hoods of modern day, championing the cause of the poor and killing only the rich. Their only agenda is terror, and they kill rich and poor alike. They terrorize the villagers, force them into compliance with their demands, extort money from businessmen to feed their own minions and buy illegal weapons. They destroy schools, hospitals and police stations and subvert every attempt at development. They revel in the backwardness of the people they claim to defend, for that is what keeps them going. I do not know of a single characteristic of theirs which distinguishes them from the Taliban of Afghanistan, just as I do not know of a single reason why we should not deal with them in the same way as the world dealt with the Taliban.

Opponents of war rightly describe recourse to violence as abdication of reason, but in breaking the backs of the Maoists, we shall not be abdicating reason, but forcing reason down the throats of those who have long abdicated it. However, for this war to have a meaningful and lasting impact, its aim should not be to merely eliminate the miscreants, but to substitute them with a contented and industrious people who shall have no reason or inclination to take up arms in future. Undeniably this is a war that we have brought upon ourselves through decades of inaction, malgovernance and skewed development, but if there be any meaning left in the vision of India as a land ‘where the mind is without fear and the head is held high’, then we must fight this war to a logical conclusion.

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