Maoism’s ideological threat to India

Ideologies are creatures which know various survival tactics. That’s how Maoism spread across one-third of India.

Kunal Majumder May 13, 2012

Every time there is a Maoist orchestrated kidnap or a killing in India, we hear the same old arguments in the streets of Delhi and Mumbai. The rightwingers speak about getting rid of the menace through armed action. The leftwingers and the liberals speak about the state-sponsored violence and the state of development in the Maoist-infected areas of the states of Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand. Of course, there will also be some who openly speak in favour of the Maoists. But it surprises and even shocks me that people of all ideological hues refuse to understand the true nature of this ‘movement’. People speak about the poverty, the deprivation, the state-led violence or even the corporate-led “stealing” of resources in these mineral-rich areas. But they fail to see that these are mere causes. The actual threat is from the ideology.

Finally, there is now a shift in the discourse of mainstream media on Maoism. Liberals often make the mistake of mixing up the Maoist movement with the tribal developmental cause. Popular middle class understanding fails to look at history. The Maoist movement in West Bengal in the 1960s had almost nothing to do with that of the tribals. It was a fight for land rights. In Bihar, the Maoist struggle came about because of caste conflict. In Andhra Pradesh again, it was land. It is in Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh that the movement has taken up the tribal cause. However, if one looks at Jharkhand Maoists, at the moment there is a presence of a strong caste factor which is leading to factionalism.

The Maoist movement, wherever it has spread across India, has picked up the issues that are troubling the local population. We have even seen Maoist statements supporting separatism in Jammu and Kashmir and northeast India. Maoist ideologue Varavara Rao speaks about the “common enemy” of the Maoist and the separatist, i.e., the Indian state. Though there is still no evidence to show a direct link between Maoists and the terrorist groups operating in these regions, such statements only help create the image of bonhomie between forces who are fighting the Indian state.

The biggest setback to the idea of India came 65 years ago when the country was divided on communal lines. Over the next six decades, the leadership and the intelligentsia tried their best to keep this original idea intact — a secular free society where caste, creed, religion and region didn’t matter. It faced numerous challenges in the form of separatism, communalism and even regionalism. Yet the broader consensus about this Idea of India managed to survive. But in the last few years, the biggest threat to this idea of India has come from another idea — rather an ideology — Maoism.

Both the Left and Right and the Indian state fail to understand that you cannot treat an ideological movement as a law and order issue, nor can you deal with it just as a developmental problem. Violence — Maoist sponsored or state sponsored — and kidnapping are just methods used in an ideological game the two sides are playing. The tribals, ordinary policemen and paramilitary soldiers are mere pawns. Ideological games cannot be won by a military victory or by merely developing a region physically.

One must not confuse between an ideology and a fight against injustice, though often ideology takes up the fight to justify its survival. The conflicts in Jammu and Kashmir and in India’s northeast have weakened primarily because it’s been a fight without an ideology. The challenge for India in both these regions will be to ensure that any ideological group — such as the Taliban or the Maoists — stays far away from the fight on the ground.

Ideologies are creatures which know various survival tactics. That’s how Maoism spread across one-third of India. Look at al Qaeda’s ideology and how it is spreading in India’s immediate neighbourhood. For them, America is the enemy today, tomorrow it will be someone else. Ten years down the line, the Americans have failed to contain this idea. Why? Because it made the same mistakes as the Indian state is making at the moment.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 14th, 2012.


Hasan | 9 years ago | Reply

LOL yeah, well said - why should the Hindustani Parliament have to waste its time debating drone strikes and NATO supply routes? Instead it has the pleasure of discussing crippling poverty, female infanticide and caste politics. Since all these issues seem to be Hindustan-specific, it's pretty clear that whatever debate that goes on around them isn't amounting to much.

In other words...God bless Partition.


Haroon Riaz | 9 years ago | Reply

You should write this article in an Indian paper, where it needs to be read. Though they won't find much in it that they already didn't know.

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