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25th Anniversary day of the founding of The ‘All India federation of Organisatios for Demoratic Rights.

Posted by Indian Vanguard on May 30, 2007

We here publish an Article on All India Federation of Organizations for Democratic Rights on the occasion of its 25th Anniversary day.

Harsh Thakor

This day is the 25th anniversary year of the founding conference of the All India Federation of Organizations for Democratic Rights which was held on May 29th 1982 in Guntur in Andhra Pradesh.This federation marked the historic trend of an All India trend to promote the democratic Rights Movement as a struggle oriented one, which recognized the right to struggle against socio-economic repression as the fundamental right from which stem up all democratic Rights.The organizations that merged into the federation were the Association for Democratic Rights of India(Punjab),the Organization for Protection of Democratic Rights(Andhra Pradesh),the Lok Shahi Hakk Sanghatana(Maharashtra),the Gantanatrik Adhikar Suraksha SAmit(Orissa) ,Janadhipatya Avakasa Samrakshana Samiti,Kerala and the Janatantrik Adhikar Surkasha Samiit(Rajasthan) Although he civil liberties movement started from the 1950’s the demarcation of civil liberties with democratic Rights was not made. The historic manifesto was as follows


1.Mobilise public opinion against al fascist laws,acts and atrocities by the ruling classes.

2. Propogate and organize amomg the people about the democratic Rights

3.Give all assistance to the people whose rights were abused.

4.Build unity among all sections possible explaining the connection between their interest.

To build a movement for the right to political dissent and thus demand the unconditional release of all political prisoners.

5.To oppose all capital punishment and build public opinion against it.

6.To protect academic and cultural freedoms and oppose state interference

7.To strive to establish the correct practice o the democratic Rights Movement.


The first such democratic Rights organization representing the correct trend was the Organization for Protection of Democratic Rights formed in Andhra Pradesh in 1975.They fought against the trend where the democratic Rights platform was used as a platform for promoting political ideology. This is what differentiated the O.P.D.R with the A.P.C.LC(Andhra Pradesh Civil Liberties Comitee) .It was O.P.D.R that was the founder of the slogan’It should be broad-baded,pro-people, and recognize the right to struggle of the people as the fundamental right’In ontrast the A.P.C.L.C propogated that the democratic Rights Movement should uphold the path of ‘armed struggle.’The first major work of O.P D.R was the report on the Srikakulam Girjian Movement 1977 with regard to police encounters.This was one of the most significant reports in the democratic Rights. Movement in India and the first of it’s kind.Hundreds of Girijan families were interviewed and the agency of Srikakulam area was extensively toured.The report narrated the historic background f the Srikakula Girijan Movement which originated in 1967.The taem demanded the unconditional release of all political prisoners and for a all parliamentary committee to inquire into the socio-economic conditios in the Agency areas.It was also demanded that the guilty policeman be brought to the book,police camps removed and that he ‘Distrurbed areas act be scrapped.’ All the victims were innocent sympathizers and not what the police alleged them to be.Earlier O.P.D.R had also propogated against the death sentence of Kista Gowd and Bhumiah In 1975 during e emergency.In 1978 it conducted a historical investigation in East Godavri district.Several innocent Girijans were arrested and police camps were launched. Two innocent Girijans perished In police Firing.O.P.D.R demanded an inquiry and punishment to he guilty policeman.A demand for withdrawal of police camps was made as well as for the protection of Girijan’s lands.. A campaign was done to defend the 1917 and 1959 Tribal area land regulation act.


In the 1980’s O.P.D.R highlighted a huge range of other issues on all sections ,whether tribals, peasants ,workers students or middle class employees.(like teachers)Male chauvinism was opposed as well as caste Chauvinism.It also took out a campaign against te ‘Rape and murder of Shakeela’Custodial rapes were opposed like that of Ramizabee in 1978 in Hyderabad.Other cases wee of Shakhila in Bonagiri and Erukula Kistappa in Ananthapur district.Further reports were carried out on the East Godavri tribals in 1983 and the issue of Communalism was also highlighted. Living conditions of quarry workers was researched in Krishna district as wel as Guntur district. Starvation deaths were investigated in Kolapur Taluka in 1985Mass propaganda was done against Police encounters wiht A.P.C.LC.But the struggle-oriented trend was always emphasized.(The author attended 2 conferences of O.P.D.R.in 1986 and 1990). In Vijaynagarm district O.P.D.R organized a campaign against police firing on 4 people.O.P.D.R took out a report on repression in Sircila In Karimnagar. In 1978 opposing repression on the Rythu Coolie Sangham demands were made for the repealing of cases and charges on innocent peasant mass activists of the Rythu Coolie Sangham.. In July 1982.Again In 1982 November O.P.D.R investigated the killing of 2 Girijans,Kunja Rajulu and Madam Laxmiah in Kondomadulu In East Godavri District.


The O.P.D.R also took out several reports on issues of drought like in Krishna ,Medak and Nalgonda,Prakasham and Srikakulam districtdistrict, where the govt’s anti-people policies were explained .Even relief was carried out..This was predominant in Krishna district.Tremendous efforts we made to defend the rights of the rural poor.East Godavrid district was given great attention as well as Karimnagar. .Campaigns were launched protesting against attacks by Bank officials on Riots in Nalgonda district in 1982.


Mass campaigns were also organized against police firing.A campaign was launched to oppose the unconstitutional overthrow of the N.T.R Govt. The organisation also protected student Movements an once successfuly fought for thre right of the Andhra Pradesh Radical Students Union to propagate their programme in aUniversity room which he authorities at first disallowed. In 1984 Often the platform of the Andhra Pradesh Civil liberties Committee was used as a platfrorm of Maoist groups to propogate ideology.The Organization brought out an Organ ‘ Janpadam’O.P.D.R also opposed the trend of individual terrorism in the People’s Movement as opposed to mass based Movements.True O.P.D.R did virtually all it’s fact-finding reports wit AP.C.L.C but never compromised the ideological difference.It is significant that the left sectarian trend in the Maosit Movement deployed it’s cadre in the A.P.C.L.C and not in the O.P.D.R.(Could not differentiate between party and mass platform)It was a tribute that O.P.D.R had units in so many districts like Srikakulam,East Godavri,Nalgonda,Vijayawada,Krishna district,Hyderabd City


The A.F.D.R.(Punjab)also did significant work in investigating the Naxalite encounters of the early 1970’s .It also played an important role in defending democratic movements .In the early 1980’s the A F D R organized trade Unions opposing the black Laws and formed a joint democratic Front which opposed the curbing of trade Union rights. The way the govt was using black laws in the name of curbing terrorist was explained with great depth..Infact the no existence of such an organization in the time of the emergency was the prime reason of the defeat the Communist revolutionary led movements in Punjab in the 1970’s.

The federation(A.I.F.O.F.D.R) brought out many historic reports through fact-finding teams. During the Khalistan movement a report was brought out which gave a political analysis of the Punjab Problem in the political and socio-economic light had explained how the State functioned as an agent of the Khalistani terrorism.The report explained the genesis of the Khalistani Movement and how the Congress Govt led by Indira Gandi(It was Indira Gandhi who created Bhindranwale) used it to subvert the democratic movements and to topple the Sikh Communal Akali Dal.The ruling class parties connived with the landlords to suppress the democratic movements and used Khalistani gangs against each other to capture power. The report reported the progressive movements led by left organizations combating the Khalistani terror and upheld all the Communist martyrs In the struggle.The fact finding team interviewed all section s of people from peasants,to workers to students to politicians and gained very useful information.



A.F.D.R(formed in 1977) played a major role investigating false police encounters and standing by and giving solidarity to al the anti-Khalistani democratic movements by organisations like he Front against Communalism and state repression and the Revolutionary Centre. Several reports were brought about explaining the nexus between the landlords with the Khalistani forces.The Organization continuously explained the need of mass combat struggle to defeat the communal forces and how the ruling classes were using the Khalistani movement to suppress the people’s day to day struggles.Great anti-communal propaganda was done which as appreciated by the oppressed sections and many a policeman was brought to the book.Attacks on democratic rights by the police like the raiding of villages(Daoke in Amritsar district in 1984 and in the Malant-Lambi area are famous incidents which the organsiation investigated) was a common occurrence,like in Operation Woodrose.A.F.D.R did most creditable work campaigning against the police attacks on the innocent Sikh youth.The organsiation brought out a monthly paper alee ‘Jamhoori Hakk’. A protracted and sustained campaign was carried out exposing state and Khalistani terror.A.F.D.R investigated several instances of repression of workers.(particularly in Ludhiana eg in Sahan Woollen mils)).In 1995 it carried out a report on a May Day attck on workers at Sangrur of he Sangrur Industrial Corpoation where workers opposed their illegal termination.Creditable work was done against repression on members of a rickshaw Union and against kidnaping of student leaders by plainclothes polieman.Sustained campiags were taken out opposing the National Security Act,the Terrorist and Disruptive Areas act,the Disturbe Areas act Etc.Atrocities on women,o Harijan labour,on cases of bonded labour as well as legal aid comitees were it’s other contributions to the movement.A.F.D.R had units in Amritsar,Jalandhar,Ludhiana,Faridkot,Bhatinda ,Sangrur.


In Orissa the G.A S.S.made all efforts to promote the movement opposing the Baliapal Missile base.It also supported the movement of the Adivasi SAngh of the Malkangiri region and gave all support to the anti –people development policies of the govt. promoting high-tech. Another famous report was brought out by the Federation based on the peoples Movement against the building of a missile base in Baliapal in Orissa. The report covered all the areas of Baliapal and explained the policies of the government which promoted military expansionism at the cost of he economic welfare. The class angle as also elaborated but unity with the better off sections like rich farmers was suported .The report highlighted the false propaganda of he government which stressed that too little was spent on defence..


In Maharashtra the Lok Shahi Hakk Sanghatana(formed in 1978) did significant work in bringing out reports on repression on slumdwellers where the relationship with the trade Union movement was projected.L.H.S alos did acampaign against poice torture ,fought agaisnt the retrenchment of workers in Mukesh Mils in Mumbai in Colaba area,took up poster and leafleting campaigns against communalism(against the Ram Janmabhoomi and Rath Yatra or Mandir propaganda).With regards to communalism emphasis was palced on the role of the working class.LHS also brought out reports on drought and in 1983 and 1989 brought outrepost on repression by the C.P.M on Kashtakari Sanghatana,a struggling organization of Adivasis in Dahanu.(A tribal region of Maharashtra)The report brilliantly explained the relationship betwewn the socio-economic conditions of the Adivasis and the repressin by the C.P.M.In 1984 it investigated the riouis in Bhiwandi from aWorking class viewpoint and also the firing in Goregaon. L.HS also did propaganda in working calls areas opposing state trepresion in Bihar and in Andhra Pradesh.Peaasnt leaders from Bihar were invited to address the gathering.Significant work was done in 1992-93 during the Mumbai riots to build struggle committees promoting communal solidarity .L.HS brought out reports on Contract workers at the Airport in Mumbai and on the closure of the Mills in Mubai with a historic socio-economic angle.Although LHS worked with Commitee For Protection of Democratic Rights there was a difference in the approach of work.It was L.HS that worked I the factories and the Chawls projecting democratic Rights issues.Earlier it had a paper called ‘Lok Hakk’.The author has vivid memories how activists of the left sectarian trend in the Maosit Movement would use the O.P.D.R platform and not work within L.H S.In Rajasthan also significant solidarity work was done with regards to black laws and communalism


The federation held 2 Sammelans,one in 1990 in Udaipur and the other in 1995 in Faridkot..here was no great mass mobilization but the methods of work and issues we of historical significance.A.I.F.O.F.D.R also brought out reports on drought and on the massacre of Christian missionaries in Orissa in 1999.


Historic resolutions have been passed by the Federation on repression on Kashmiri People, Punjab Problem, ,state repression in Bihar and Andhra Pradesh,retrenchment of workers in West Bengal, Black Laws tc.Upto the early 1990’s the Federation progressed at an All India level but sadly by the late 1990’s the trend declined. The A.F.D.R hardly now displayed the same militant orientation and nor did the O.P.D.R.


The author of his article wishes that the readers of this site could get hold of the earlier issues of he A.I.FO.F.D.R organ called “In Defence of Democratic Rights .’and help in reprinting and re-distributing the issues .Brilliant portrayals have been done on communalism ,Repression on peasants and Workers Struggles EtcThe genesis of the 1992 Babri Masjid demolition s and communal riots in the aftermath is well explained.


Today a struggle oriented democratic Rights Movement is very much needed which relates the cause of democratic Rights as different from mere civil liberties.Civil liberties are what exists in the Constitutio,but democarti Rights have always been won over by the people .Eg.The rights of Black people in America or the Working Class in England.Today in ligt of the advance of he Specia economic Zones and repression on the Nandigram peasant struggle a united democratic Rights movement is the need o the hour.


Let us remember this day when a federation was formed 25 years in Guntur in Andhar Pradesh ago to promote he Democratic Rights Movement.


The author wishes that readers could obtain articles on the history of the Democratic Rights Movement and get he earlier reports of te Federation.All readers could kindly request the author of the article.It is impossible in this article to refer to all of the reports and struggles.Please alo read the 1985 December issue of Democratic Rights which historically differentiates civil librties from Democratic Rights. Also purchase reports of A.I.F.O.F.D.R. like the 1987 All India Fact finding report on ‘The Punjab Problem-A Report to the nation.’done in 1987.Alos get 1983 L.H.S report on Repressio in Dahanu.’

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The war on Maoists in Chhattisgarh is beginning to turn on civil society

Posted by Indian Vanguard on May 26, 2007

Shivam Vij

The large number of protests by the civil society, both in Delhi and Raipur, over the arrest of a Human Rights activist in Raipur is the most significant sign yet of the Chhattisgarh government’s troubles over its policy against Naxalism. While the Intelligence Bureau has asked the Chhattisgarh government to explain why Binayak Sen was arrested, the Union Home ministry is considering cutting down funding for the controversial Salwa Judum project. The Supreme Court, acting in response to a pil, has also issued a notice to the Chhattisgarh government over human rights atrocities committed in the name of Salwa Judum or “peace movement”, which is supported by the government.


The People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) has been bringing to light cases where the police has claimed that it killed Naxalites, when in fact those killed were ordinary tribals whose only fault was that they did not join the Salwa Judum. Such cases are difficult to bring to light because they often take place in the remote interiors and the tribals often do not speak Hindi. The PUCL has been at the forefront of exposing these killings and other activities, wherein entire villages have allegedly been ravaged for not joining the Salwa Judum. Unfortunately for the Chhattisgarh government, the PUCL has been able to rally civil rights groups and the media across the country against the Salwa Judum. The arrest of Binayak Sen on May 14 is a result of this effort to put the truth out, says PUCL Chhattisgarh president Rajendra Sail.


The police also searched Sen’s organic farm without a search warrant in what, Sen and his family feared, was an attempt to plant evidence of Sen’s involvement in Naxalite activities by linking him to a jailed senior CPI (Maoist) leader, Narayan Sanyal. Sen often met Sanyal in jail and exchanged postcards with him, but this was all with the knowledge of jail authorities who were privy to these conversations. The PUCL says that Sen met Sanyal to enquire about his health and help him get medical attention. The immediate cause of Sen’s arrest was a letter found with Piyush Guha, a businessman, which was to be handed over to Sanyal. Guha has also been arrested and the police refuses to divulge the contents of the letter.


On May 21, the police searched Sen’s house and is now trying to use whatever they could lay their hands on as evidence. This includes CDs pertaining to five fake encounters, a computer cpu, books and pamphlets by or about Naxalites or Salwa Judum members.


Sen has not been arrested under the ipc or provisions of the crpc, but under the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act, 2005 (CSPSA) and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967. The CSPSA, which was passed after pota lapsed, is said to be even more draconian. The Act has a provision that makes punishable verbal or written communication and representation or publication or broadcast of anything relating to Maoist activities. A number of local journalists have been threatened and silenced using these provisions.


Sen’s arrest came just when the Chhattisgarh administration was facing charges of having fake encounters conducted by the Salwa Judum. On March 31, seven tribals were killed in an “encounter” in Santoshpur village. Civil society activists say that the Chhattisgarh Police and Salwa Judum officers took the seven from Ponjer village to Santoshpur to kill them. The police claims they were members of the Sangham, the Naxalite wing composed of local tribals. An autopsy confirmed foul play but the state government has only ordered a police inquiry. Home Minister Ram Vichar Netam has gone on record saying that no action would be taken against the police officials. The police officials investigating the case say that the killings were committed by Naxalites dressed as policemen. However, an anonymously shot video shows the spo sarpanch of Santoshpur spilling the beans (available at cgnet.in/santoshpur).


It is feared that Sen’s arrest may be followed by arrests of other activists in Raipur. Activists in other parts of the country could also be targetted. In Mumbai, the police have arrested one Arun Ferreira, who wanted to be a priest, for his alleged involvement in Naxalite activities. In February this year, the Union Home ministry was on the verge of acting against overground Naxalite symapthisers including academics and former bureaucrats, for statements they had made in a seminar in Delhi.


The Supreme Court, meanwhile, has issued a notice to the Chhattisgarh government asking it to explain its support to the Salwa Judum. This was in response to a petition filed by Nandini Sundar, Ramachandra Guha and EAS Sarma demanding an end to government support for the Salwa Judum; an independent inquiry into all killings, rape and arson whether by the Salwa Judum, security forces or Naxalites; registration of FIRs and prosecution of those found guilty; compensation to those affected by the Salwa Judum on the same lines as victims of Naxalites; rehabilitation of those who wish to leave the Salwa Judum; and preventing the state government from appointing minors as Special Police Officers.


But the Salwa Judum may die with a whimper even before the apex court passes a judgement. The Planning Commission, the Tribal Affairs ministry and the Panchayati Raj ministry have requested the Union Home ministry to stop funding the Salwa Judum and divert those funds towards development activities.


Tehelka

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Legacy of Indian Maoism-A Tribute to Tarimala Nagi Reddy’s 30th death anniversary and the 60 th anniversary of the launching of the Telengana Armed ..

Posted by Indian Vanguard on May 25, 2007

1.Telangana Armed Struggle


In 1946 a red Letter was written in the history of the Indian Communist Movement. This event was the Telengana Armed Struggle led by the Andhra Pradesh Unit of the Communist Party of India.Thousands of acres of land were redistributed.Mass revolutionary line was practiced. The relationship between the agrarian revolutionary Movement and the armed struggle and
formation of the peoples army was established and the issue of armed revolution and the principle of forming a people’s army based in the agrarian mass revolutionary programme and movement. was formulated.

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Among India’s Maoists: A rebel homeland in places forgotten by India’s economic miracle

Posted by Indian Vanguard on May 19, 2007


IN THE DHAULI FOREST, India – After the paved roads have ended and the dirt roads have crumbled into winding footpaths, after the last power line has vanished into the forest behind you, a tall, red monument suddenly appears at the edge of a clearing.

It’s 25 feet high and topped by a hammer and sickle, honoring a fallen warrior. White letters scroll across the base: “From the blood of a martyr, new generations will bloom like flowers.”

The monument is a memorial but also a signpost, a warning that you are entering a “Liberated Zone” – a place where Mao is alive and Marx is revered, where an army of leftist guerrillas known as the Naxalites control a shadow state amid the dense forests, isolated villages and shattering poverty of central India. Here, the Indian government is just a distant, hated idea.

“The capitalists and other exploiters of the masses feel increasingly vulnerable. And they should,” said a 33-year-old man known only as Ramu, a regional commander of the Naxalites’ People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army. He cradled an assault rifle as he sat on the dirt floor of a small farmhouse, temporary base for two dozen fighters set amid the forests of Chhattisgarh state. “For them, the danger is rising.”

Initially formed in 1967, the Maoist army has taken root over the past decade in places left behind during India’s spectacular financial rise since its economy was opened up in the early 1990s. Outsiders rarely see their strongholds, but a team from The Associated Press was invited last month into a region they control.

As India has grown wealthier, the Naxalites – officially called the Communist Party of India (Maoist) – have grown larger, feeding off the anger of the country’s poor. There are now 10,000-15,000 fighters in an archipelago of rebel territory scattered across nearly half of the country’s 28 states, security officials say.

For years, the government here paid little attention. That began changing two years ago. Today, Chhattisgarh state backs an anti-Naxal militia called the Salwa Judum. And in 2006, India’s prime minister called the Naxalites the single largest threat to the country.

Over the past two years, nearly 2,000 people – police, militants and civilians caught in the middle – have been killed in Naxalite violence. In March, 55 policemen and government-backed militiamen were killed when up to 500 Naxalites descended on an isolated Chhattisgarh police station.

The rebel patchwork reaches from deep inside India to the border with Nepal, where the Naxalites are thought to have informal ties to the Maoists who, after a long insurgency, recently joined in the Katmandu government.

The Maoist goal in India is nothing less than complete takeover.

“There is only one solution to India’s problems: Naxalism,” said Ramu.

The movement takes its name from Naxalbari, a village outside Calcutta where the revolt began in 1967. Inspired by Mao Zedong, founding father of the Chinese communist regime, they believe an army of peasants can one day overthrow the government. The Naxals are strongest in states such as Chhattisgarh that have large populations of “tribals,” the indigenous people at the bottom of India’s rigid social order.

More than ever, their once-marginal revolt seems like outright war, particularly in the rebel strongholds of rural Chhattisgarh.

India deals with other insurgencies, from Kashmiri separatists to a spectrum of ethnic militant groups in its remote northeast. But the Naxalites have proven different. They have support not just among the poorest or a single ethnic group, and have survived for forty years.

In places like the Dhauli forest, a tangle of vegetation unmarked on most maps – 500 miles from Bangalore, 450 miles from Calcutta and 600 miles from New Delhi – the Naxalites are more than surviving. They are winning.

“I won’t lie to you. We’re on the defensive here,” said a top Chhattisgarh police official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media. “We have the main roads, but they have the hills and the small roads.”

Here, government officials hold little power. Through much of the countryside, nervous policemen barricade themselves at night inside stations ringed by barbed wire. Politicians dismiss the Naxalites as criminals, but those politicians go nowhere without armies of bodyguards.

Victory, the Naxals insist, is coming.

“We don’t have the weapons. We don’t have the army,” said a young fighter named Soni. “But slowly, slowly, sometime in the future, we will succeed.”

That seems unlikely.

Most of the Naxalites’ guns are old or handmade. Their land mines are often made from pressure cookers, and bullets are doled out carefully. Their support in many villages has more to do with fear than genuine belief.

Their control can be fleeting. If security forces move into a Naxalite-run area, the fighters simply disappear into the forests.

But while there’s little chance they’ll overthrow the government, in this part of India their power is immense. Every day or so, another policeman is killed. Every few months, another politician faces an assassination attempt – sometimes successful, sometimes not.

Inside their self-proclaimed Liberated Zones, the Naxals are, effectively, the government. They collect taxes, control movement, and trade in valuable hardwoods from the ever-thinning jungles. They refuse entry not only to the government but also aid organizations, arguing they are tools of an unjust state.

There is an informal Naxal bank, Naxal schools and Naxal courts to settle village disputes and try suspected informants. For those found guilty of helping police, the punishment is public beheading.

“If they kill us, we also have to kill,” Ramu said. “Innocent people will get hurt in the process. But what can we do?”

As for the long history of failed communist states, he was unconcerned: “We will learn from their mistakes.”

Outside, a thunderstorm shook the sky, and rain pelted the straw roof. Inside, a half-dozen fighters sat in the darkness of the mud house, listening silently as Ramu spoke. One carried an AK-47 assault rifle, but the rest were armed with ancient British-made Enfield rifles, some dating to the 1940s, or homemade single-shot shotguns and rifles.

Few appeared to know much about the teachings of Marx or Mao, though both men were spoken of reverently. Some fighters believed Mao, who died in 1976, remains China’s leader. Instead, their beliefs are simple: The revolution will bring an idyllic jungle paradise for the tribals.

“One day we will get it back,” said Soni, the fighter, a tribal who spends much of her time in villages performing songs about their struggle. “The forest is ours.”

For now, until paradise comes, people live in mud homes on tiny farms. They grow rice and tobacco and harvest what they can from the forests. Better-off families have $12 shortwave radios or $45 Atlas bicycles.

In a village on the fringes of Naxalite territory, a teenager named Meetu Ram – he thinks he’s about 17 – talked about his life one recent evening. His family, by local standards, does well: They have a well-kept compound with three one-room buildings and a half-dozen cows.

Still, Ram has never been to a doctor, and has not even heard of telephones. Asked to name India’s prime minister, he shrugged.

Government officials “never come here,” he said in Gondi, the area’s main tribal language. “So we don’t know who these government people are, and who they aren’t.”

It is in places like this where the Naxalites’ appeal is most resonant.

India may have one of the world’s fastest-growing economies, but it also has vast – and often growing – rural poverty. In Chhattisgarh, that has been magnified by conflicts over everything from forest conservation to mining rights, with tribals often expelled from their jungle homes.

“The tribals make a good guerrilla base,” said Meghnad Desai, a scholar at the London School of Economics. They “are really poor, and have a genuine feeling of being taken advantage of … The Naxalites are exploiting that.”

Much of Ramu’s time is spent spreading the rebel message. On a recent afternoon, he summoned hundreds of villagers to a rally to decry the Salwa Judum.

While leaders of the government-supported Salwa Judum insist they are protecting villagers from Naxalite violence – they have gathered some 50,000 tribals into dingy, guarded camps – rights groups accuse them of widespread abuses.

“The Salwa Judum is killing people!” Ramu shouted at the villagers. “We are protecting the rights of the people!”

Many, though, don’t see heroes on either side.

Sanjana Bhaskar, 18, has spent more than a year in a Salwa Judum camp. She fled there with her family after Naxalites slit her father’s throat, while her stepmother watched, because he refused to give them money.

She hates the camp. “There is nothing here,” she said, gesturing to the one-road expanse. “But where else can we go?”

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Callous about Maoist terror

Posted by Indian Vanguard on April 28, 2007

KPS Gill

There is much focus now on the Maoist threat in India and, despite entirely inconsistent assessments by various Government agencies, an increasing consensus around the view that this is the greatest internal security challenge confronting the country. At the same time – and particularly in the aftermath of the major incidents that are all-too-frequently engineered by the Maoists – there is rising concern at the ‘police failure’ or ‘security forces failure’ to contain this rising menace.

It needs to be recognised at the outset that a professional and motivated police force, with a sufficient numerical strength and adequate material and technological resources, and with a clear political mandate, can defeat any insurgency in India, including this latest bogey – the Maoist ‘protracted war’. If there is a failure to contain and defeat the Maoists, it is because the necessary capacities and mandate are deliberately kept in abeyance; indeed, the limited and entirely deficient capacities that do currently exist are systematically undermined by a cabal of corrupt political, administrative and police leaderships that have developed a deep vested interest in the persistence of the Maoist insurgency. Unless the dynamics of the implicit or explicit nexus between this leadership group and Maoist violence is understood and neutralised, an effective strategy to defeat the Naxalites can neither be framed, nor implemented.

The reality of the situation on the ground – irrespective of the theoretical and supposedly ideological constructs that are given currency in the mock discourse among the ‘intelligentsia’ – is that this is a fight between two corrupt entities that find mutual benefit and enrichment in fake engagements which can be sustained in perpetuity. A few hapless members of the constabulary and subordinate ranks in the security forces, and equally luckless cadres of the so-called revolutionaries are, of course, killed off from time to time. But no one is really concerned about the occasional massacre – despite the brouhaha that is raised in the media after each major incident.

Fatality figures, in fact, can be used to support whatever thesis is calculated to augment the flow of funds to personal or party coffers. A close scrutiny of the operational situation and the conditions under which the forces are working will demonstrate unambiguously that, in most States and areas, nothing really changes on the ground in the wake of major incidents.

This is the reason why almost no State – and some have been at it for 40 years and more – has been able to entirely and permanently eradicate Left-wing extremism. The Maoist movement, over the past decades, has steadily augmented to attain the status of a massive trans-State exercise in organised extortion and protection racketeering. And everywhere, opportunistic alliances between the Maoists and ‘overground’ political parties and entities are in place, most visibly around each electoral exercise, but in a constant intercourse at all times.

Almost all political parties have become mirror images of each other in India today, but in this regard they are even more so, with a multiplicity of corrupt parties and organisations woven together in a complex tapestry of duplicity and fraud that entrenches the ruling elite – an elite that grows increasingly more dynastic in all parties over time. Small cabals of violently criminal adventurers manage to break into the charmed circle of political privilege, from time to time, by their sheer ferocity and lack of restraint. The Maoist leadership and the many criminals in the State and national legislatures fall, naturally, into the latter category.

Drumming up a sense of crisis has become an integral part of the efforts at ‘resource mobilisation’ in this broad enterprise, and that is why the ‘developmental solution’ to Naxalism finds such strong advocacy among political leaders and state bureaucracies everywhere. Long years ago, Rajiv Gandhi noted that barely 15 paisa in each rupee of developmental funding actually reached its intended beneficiaries; the rest was swallowed up by the black hole of ‘power brokers’. In insurgency affected areas, the proportion of developmental funds that is actually utilised for intended purposes would be even smaller – virtually the entire sums, totalling thousands of crores, find their way into the pockets of corrupt politicians, bureaucrats and their hangers on, and through their symbiotic relationship with the ‘insurgents’ into the pockets of the Maoists as well.

Among the multiplicity of reasons for the military debacle in the Indo-China war of 1962, it was found that the Border Roads Organisation had ‘constructed’ many roads that existed only on maps, but of which there was no evidence on the ground. Forty-five years later, the same formula is now being applied in Naxalite areas, and it is difficult even to imagine how much of the exchequer’s money has been spent on roads that were never constructed, but for which payments have been made and distributed among the local ‘stakeholders’, with the Naxalites cornering a considerable share to bolster up their ‘revolution’.

The Centre now underwrites virtually all security related expenditure in Maoist afflicted States, providing support for police modernisation and force augmentation. Yet, States fail to create the necessary capacities to counter the Maoist threat. Even where significant disbursal of such funds occurs, their utilisation remains inefficient, and diversion to other, often unauthorised uses, is endemic.

The tragedy of existing or newly created capacities is as great. The State police leaderships are raising new battalions of armed forces, but recruitment is marred by widespread bribery. You cannot expect a man who secures his position in a police force through bribery to actually risk his life fighting the Naxalites. So the next stage is inevitable: Policemen pay bribes to the police leadership to secure postings outside the Naxalite affected ‘conflict’ areas, and in ‘soft’ areas and duties. The amounts collected through these and other ‘administrative’ channels – including the continuous business of transfers and postings – total in the hundreds of crores, and are naturally shared with the political leadership that enables corrupt officers to retain ‘lucrative’ positions, where they can continue with this despicable commerce. That is why, even in State’s where there has been a visible augmentation of forces over the past years, deployment in the ‘conflict’ areas remains disproportionately deficient.

These are ‘snapshots’ of the objective situation on the ground. How are we to extricate the nation from this predicament? The cabals that are currently exploiting the situation to the hilt will have to be broken. The right individuals – from constables to the highest force commanders – will have to be identified and correctly located. Political leaders will have to look beyond party coffers and the next election, to a future in which people can live without fear. If this does not happen, the corrupt state will continue to fight the corrupt ‘revolutionary’, with mounting casualties in widening theatres, till the collapse of governance reaches a point where the venality of the national elite threatens its own existence.

The Pioneer

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Women Lead Resistance

Posted by Indian Vanguard on April 9, 2007

Palash Biswas

Both feminism and nationalism in India emerged from the social reform movement of the C19th, it is widely believed. But fact is that tribal women enjoyed equality from the beginning and it is not the feminism advocted by the Ruling Brahmins in India. Even before Renaissance, Dalit Women of Bengal had the awakening as they were directly involved with the production system!

Women of Nandigram fought and led the fight from Front as they happen to be associated with indegineus production system. We may remember the fight of Mother India, fight of Dhania in `Godan, if we like.

The social reform movement originated within the Indian intelligentsia and spread to sections of the middle classes. But the peasant women were socially much more conscious from the beginning.

Mind you, Midnapur happens to be the Home of Matangini Hazra!

During the quit india movement, the people of Medinipur planned an attack to capture the Thana, court and other government offices. Matangini, who was then 72 years old, led the procession. The police opened fire. A bullet hit her arm. Undaunted she went on appealing to the police not to shoot at their own brethren. Another bullet pierced her forehead. She fell down dead, a symbol of the anti-colonial movement, holding the flag of freedom in her hand.
What Nandigram has seen, hence, it is nothing new for Bengal!

In fact, Indian Women have come in front to lead the Great Indian Resistance against Post Modern manusmriti, Neo Libetral Globalisation in form of eviction of the masses from the roots!

It is not only coincidence that Brahminical Hindutva considers all Women SHUDRA! Islam also says that women are unsacred! Varnshram never helped women!

Because all women are shudra, the women Mahashweta devi, Medha Patkar, Arundhati Ray, Aparna Sen, Nabaneeta Dev sen, Shaonli Mitra, Anuradha Talwar, Joya Mitra and all women from Singur and Nandigram shows us well how to Resist State Power!

We have seen it often in Manipur!

These ladies deny to be show piece fair commodity meant for the open market!

As Nandigram in West Bengal became a lightning rod for criticism of economic reforms, candidates in Dadri, home to more than 200 villages, are wooing farmers with a promise that they will not allow the forcible acquisition of land to set up industries or plush residential enclaves.
Farmers to whom the lands belong complain that they have been caught unaware by the acquisition process.

Political parties, including the Bharatiya Janata Party, Bahujan Samaj Party and former prime minister V P Singh’s Jan Morcha, have demanded that the Samajwadi Party government make the entire land acquisition process transparent so that the farmers’ right to just compensation is not affected.

“The compensation awarded to farmers is nowhere near the market price of land. There is no transparent move to uphold in full the rights of those who have been displaced because of this land acquisition,” BJP legislator Nawab Singh Nagar, seeking to retain his seat on the same plank, said as he walked into a dusty village of the constituency for his campaign.

Last year, V P Singh and Communist Party of India general secretary A B Bardhan were arrested by police as they headed to Dadri for a protest against alleged inadequate compensation to villagers whose land was acquired for a mega power project of Reliance.

“There have been similar protests and demonstrations in Dadri since Noida and Greater Noida came into being. But farmers continue to suffer. Nobody is genuinely concerned about their welfare,” said Congress candidate Raghuraj Singh.

Hazra, Matangini (1870-1942) a famous Gandhian leader and a humanitarian. Matangini Hazra (Matangini Hazra) was born at a village named Hogla under Tamluk Thana of Medinipur in West Bengal. Daughter of a poor peasant, she had no access to education at her father’s house. Given in marriage at an early age, Matangini became widowed at eighteen without having any children. She played an active role in the struggle for independence from colonial rule and followed Mahatma Gandhi’s creed of non-violence.

In 1932, Matangini participated in Gandhi’s civil disobedience movement (Salt Satyagraha), manufactured salt at Alinan salt centre and was arrested for violating the salt act. After her arrest she was made to walk a long distance as punishment. She also participated in the ‘Chowkidari Tax Bandha’ (abolition of chowkidari tax) movement and while marching towards the court building chanting slogan to protest against the illegal constitution of a court by the governor to punish those who participated in the movement, Matangini was arrested again. She was sentenced to six months imprisonment and sent to Baharampur jail.

After her release Matangini got actively involved with the activities of the indian national congress. She took to spinning thread and Khaddar (coarse cloth) like a true follower of Gandhi. In 1933 she joined the ‘Mahakuma Congress Conference’ at serampore where police resorted to baton charge on the protesters. Always engaged in humanitarian causes, she worked among affected men, women and children when small pox in epidemic form broke out in the region. People lovingly called her ‘Gandhi Buri’.

The Left Front’s most recent record in ushering in capitalism in the state of West Bengal is shameful, but there isn’t even a muted response to the Pakistan judiciary reeling under the boots of a military dictator.

However, let’s stick to India alone. Even though the Left allows the UPA government to survive on its oxygen, it misses no opportunity to bare the Manmohan Singh government’s capitalists tendencies. And in its own bastions of West Bengal and Kerala, it’s not just rolling out red carpet to woo foreign investment but is shameless in suppressing popular revolt.

The contradictions are clear. Coming from the CPI(M), lofty ideas, talks of power to the people and human rights appear hollow. The emperor has no clothes. Scores of artists and intellectuals across the country have showed their resentment in no uncertain terms.

Also, West Bengal Governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi has hardly ever courted political controversy. He is known to be a man of scholarship, integrity and composure. When he criticises the government, it contains the credulity of honesty.

The state government thought it would get away this time, too. It thought that a nexus of party, police and a highly politicised establishment would again suppress opposition. It forgot, however, that communication technology and a vibrant media not only had gathered more strength in recent times but also spread the reach. Mamata Banerjee just fitted the bill.

The support of Jamiat-e-Ulema against the state government is again reflective of the withering away of its Muslim vote bank. So, did Nandigram happen due to CPI (M)’s overconfidence? Partly. More so, due to the bourgeois attitude that has crept into the leadership.

Nandigram, quite naturally, generated much political heat in both the Houses. The NDA and the ruling almost came to blows. It was only expected. But the sheer ruffian behaviour of the Kolkattan Left forced Speaker Somnath Chatterjee to offer his resignation for the nth time. No, the Communists did not attack any member from the Opposition benches but a Cabinet minister belonging to DMK, a fellow ally in UPA.

In accordance with written history, Faminism appeared first in Bengal – Ram Mohan Roy founded Atmiya Sabha in Bengal in 1815. 1828 Brahmo Samaj also formed in Bengal.It was partly inspired by Hindu revivalism and partly by liberal ideas.

Talwar (1990) points out that the movement for the uplift of women initiated by men in the early C19th – e.g. Raja Ram Mohun Roy – and included education, widow remarriage, abolition of purdah, and agitation against child marriage.
The author argues that social reform movements arose out of conflict between the older feudal joint family system and material needs of the developing urban middle class.
The urban m/c family was no longer a productive unit but a place of emotional fulfilment. The reform movement of the C19th was generally limited to urban areas.

‘As an Indian bourgeois society developed under western domination, this class sought to reform itself, initiating campaigns against caste, polytheissm, idolatry, animism, purdah, child marriage, sati and more, seeing them as elements of a pre-modern or primitive identity’ (Kumar 1993).

Nandigram

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India: Home to Asia’s Biggest Club of Billionaires and Half of the World’s Poor

Posted by Indian Vanguard on April 5, 2007

When we are told that our economy is growing annually at an impressive 8 per cent per annum, we wonder what it is all about and where it disappears without leaving any trace in our daily lives. The latest Forbes list of global billionaires gives us some clue to resolve this riddle. According to this list there are 946 billionaire families in the world today and there are as many as 36 Indian names in this club of the world’s wealthiest. This is 14 more than the number of Indians who had made it to the Forbes list last year, and the combined wealth of these 36 families amounts to $ 191 billion, which is one-fourth of India’s GDP.


And how have the Indian billionaires grown compared to the 2006 list? Here are some samples: Mukesh Ambani has jumped from $ 7 bn to $ 20.1 bn, his brother Anil from $ 5 bn to $ 18.2 bn, Azim Premji (of Wipro) from $ 11 bn to $ 17.1, Kushal Pal Singh (of DLF) from $ 5 bn to $ 10 bn, Sunil Mittal (of Bharati Telecom) $ 4.9 to $ 9.5 bn and Kumar Birla $ 4.4 bn to $ 8 bn! In other words, the combined wealth of these six families alone has registered a record increase of $ 45 bn in just one year! This is of course only part of the story of corporate India’s stunning accumulation of wealth, for the likes of Ratan Tata who controls the huge Tata empire that has acquired several big companies in recent months the most notable being the $ 11 bn acquisition of Corus by Tata Steel, are conspicuously absent in the Forbes billionaires’ list.

With this kind of astounding leap in accumulation of private wealth, India has now overtaken Japan. With 24 billionaires accounting for $ 64 bn, only a third of the combined wealth of India’s 36, Japan has now lost its place as home to the largest number of Asian billionaires. This dubious distinction now belongs to India. In fact, India now accounts for three among the top 20 billionaires in the world, next only to the United States which is home to five. It is another matter that India’s wealthiest billionaire Laxmi Mittal, who figures fifth in the global list, operates not from India but from the United Kingdom.


The Indian list is more than reflective of the global mix of billionaires. The march of India’s billionaires is powered as much by the booming real estate business as by IT and telecommunications. Among India’s 36 billionaires, there are five from the real estate sector with a combined wealth of $24.5 billion (Kushal Pal Singh of DLF, Ramesh Chandra of Unitech, Pallonji Mistry of Shapoorji Pallonji Group, Vikas Oberoi of Oberoi Construction and Pradeep Jain of Parsvnath Developers). The infotech/software sector too accounts for five Indian entries on the Forbes list (Azim Premji of Wipro, Shiv Nadar of HCL and three from Infosys – N.R. Narayana Murthy, Nandan Nilekani and Senapathy Gopalakrishnan) with a combined wealth of $25.4 billion.


Our governments and pro-liberalisation economists never tire of telling us the trickle-down stories and would have us believe that the accumulation of wealth at the top is the surest and quickest way of ‘development’ at the base of the socio-economic pyramid we live in. The truth is actually the reverse. The mirror image of accumulation of wealth at one pole is the concentration of poverty at the other end. While Marxism explains this dichotomy in terms of the paradox between growing socialization of production (backed amply by technology-induced increases in productivity) and private appropriation of profit (and consequent accumulation of wealth) and shows the revolutionary way out by abolishing the rule of private wealth, one does not have to be a Marxist to see through the deception of the trickle-down gospel.



The UNDP’s annual Human Development Report, for instance, is enough to expose the growing hiatus between the rising fortunes of the billionaire brigade of ‘Shining India’ and the pathetic human development indices that characterize the real India. The UNDP has been compiling these indices since 1990 and in terms of the human development index (which combines factors like life expectancy, school enrolment, public hygiene and standard of living), the UNDP’s 2006 report still places India at the 126th position in a list of 177 countries. The country that accounts for three among the world’s top twenty billionaires remains home to half the world’s poor and the starving while nearly half of India’s children below five remain suffer from
malnutrition.

This coexistence of the super-rich and the underfed has all along been a characteristic feature of capitalism. The developed countries with their welfare policies have managed to contain the mismatch within certain ‘tolerable limits’, but the disparity remains explosive in countries like India, and also in Russia where predatory capitalism has returned with a vengeance on the debris of the erstwhile socialist state. Today a ‘resurgent’ Russia has 53 billionaires in the global list (only 2 shy of Germany), much ahead of Japan’s 24, but the Human Development Report 2006 places Russia (which still has the historical benefits of seventy years of socialism) at the 65th place and India (which is still weighed down by its history of two hundred years of colonial plunder) down by another sixty-odd notches while Japan is ranked 7th in terms of human development. Incidentally, the country that tops the human development list – Norway – has only four entries in the global billionaire list of 946!

Liberation

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A Predator Becomes More Dangerous When Wounded

Posted by Indian Vanguard on March 11, 2007

By Noam Chomsky

11 March, 2007
I
n the energy-rich Middle East, only two countries have failed to subordinate themselves to Washington’s basic demands: Iran and Syria. Accordingly both are enemies, Iran by far the more important. As was the norm during the cold war, resort to violence is regularly justified as a reaction to the malign influence of the main enemy, often on the flimsiest of pretexts. Unsurprisingly, as Bush sends more troops to Iraq, tales surface of Iranian interference in the internal affairs of Iraq – a country otherwise free from any foreign interference – on the tacit assumption that Washington rules the world.

In the cold war-like mentality in Washington, Tehran is portrayed as the pinnacle in the so-called Shia crescent that stretches from Iran to Hizbullah in Lebanon, through Shia southern Iraq and Syria. And again unsurprisingly, the “surge” in Iraq and escalation of threats and accusations against Iran is accompanied by grudging willingness to attend a conference of regional powers, with the agenda limited to Iraq.

Presumably this minimal gesture toward diplomacy is intended to allay the growing fears and anger elicited by Washington’s heightened aggressiveness. These concerns are given new substance in a detailed study of “the Iraq effect” by terrorism experts Peter Bergen and Paul Cruickshank, revealing that the Iraq war “has increased terrorism sevenfold worldwide”. An “Iran effect” could be even more severe.

For the US, the primary issue in the Middle East has been, and remains, effective control of its unparalleled energy resources. Access is a secondary matter. Once the oil is on the seas it goes anywhere. Control is understood to be an instrument of global dominance. Iranian influence in the “crescent” challenges US control. By an accident of geography, the world’s major oil resources are in largely Shia areas of the Middle East: southern Iraq, adjacent regions of Saudi Arabia and Iran, with some of the major reserves of natural gas as well. Washington’s worst nightmare would be a loose Shia alliance controlling most of the world’s oil and independent of the US.

Such a bloc, if it emerges, might even join the Asian Energy Security Grid based in China. Iran could be a lynchpin. If the Bush planners bring that about, they will have seriously undermined the US position of power in the world.

To Washington, Tehran’s principal offence has been its defiance, going back to the overthrow of the Shah in 1979 and the hostage crisis at the US embassy. In retribution, Washington turned to support Saddam Hussein’s aggression against Iran, which left hundreds of thousands dead. Then came murderous sanctions and, under Bush, rejection of Iranian diplomatic efforts.

Last July, Israel invaded Lebanon, the fifth invasion since 1978. As before, US support was a critical factor, the pretexts quickly collapse on inspection, and the consequences for the people of Lebanon are severe. Among the reasons for the US-Israel invasion is that Hizbullah’s rockets could be a deterrent to a US-Israeli attack on Iran. Despite the sabre-rattling it is, I suspect, unlikely that the Bush administration will attack Iran.

Public opinion in the US and around the world is overwhelmingly opposed. It appears that the US military and intelligence community is also opposed. Iran cannot defend itself against US attack, but it can respond in other ways, among them by inciting even more havoc in Iraq. Some issue warnings that are far more grave, among them the British military historian Corelli Barnett, who writes that “an attack on Iran would effectively launch world war three”.

Then again, a predator becomes even more dangerous, and less predictable, when wounded. In desperation to salvage something, the administration might risk even greater disasters. The Bush administration has created an unimaginable catastrophe in Iraq. It has been unable to establish a reliable client state within, and cannot withdraw without facing the possible loss of control of the Middle East’s energy resources.

Meanwhile Washington may be seeking to destabilise Iran from within. The ethnic mix in Iran is complex; much of the population isn’t Persian. There are secessionist tendencies and it is likely that Washington is trying to stir them up – in Khuzestan on the Gulf, for example, where Iran’s oil is concentrated, a region that is largely Arab, not Persian.

Threat escalation also serves to pressure others to join US efforts to strangle Iran economically, with predictable success in Europe. Another predictable consequence, presumably intended, is to induce the Iranian leadership to be as repressive as possible, fomenting disorder while undermining reformers.

It is also necessary to demonise the leadership. In the west, any wild statement by President Ahmadinejad is circulated in headlines, dubiously translated. But Ahmadinejad has no control over foreign policy, which is in the hands of his superior, the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The US media tend to ignore Khamenei’s statements, especially if they are conciliatory. It’s widely reported when Ahmadinejad says Israel shouldn’t exist – but there is silence when Khamenei says that Iran supports the Arab League position on Israel-Palestine, calling for normalisation of relations with Israel if it accepts the international consensus of a two-state settlement.

The US invasion of Iraq virtually instructed Iran to develop a nuclear deterrent. The message was that the US attacks at will, as long as the target is defenceless. Now Iran is ringed by US forces in Afghanistan, Iraq, Turkey and the Persian Gulf, and close by are nuclear-armed Pakistan and Israel, the regional superpower, thanks to US support.

In 2003, Iran offered negotiations on all outstanding issues, including nuclear policies and Israel-Palestine relations. Washington’s response was to censure the Swiss diplomat who brought the offer. The following year, the EU and Iran reached an agreement that Iran would suspend enriching uranium; in return the EU would provide “firm guarantees on security issues” – code for US-Israeli threats to bomb Iran.

Apparently under US pressure, Europe did not live up to the bargain. Iran then resumed uranium enrichment. A genuine interest in preventing the development of nuclear weapons in Iran would lead Washington to implement the EU bargain, agree to meaningful negotiations and join with others to move toward integrating Iran into the international economic system.

Noam Chomsky is co-author, with Gilbert Achcar, of Perilous Power: The Middle East and US Foreign Policy.

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Telangana: Naxal Conflict And Press : A Left Perspective

Posted by Indian Vanguard on February 28, 2007

K.Stevenson/ Download

Background:


Telangana with a militant history dating back to the Telangana Armed Struggle, with all its failures and successes continues to be a source of inspiration for the Marxist-Leninist parties. Opinions vary on the phenomenon of Naxalism, the generic term used to connote Left Wing Extremism (LWE) in Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Bihar. The Naxalite movement owes its origins to the revolt of Santhal tribals at Naxalbari, West Bengal led by armed Communists who parted ways with the CPI (M).The uprising was crushed by the police in a few months by the United Front Government in West Bengal. The revolt against poverty and alienation acquired the label of ‘Naxalism’ and paved the way for waging struggles against the established feudal order by the oppressed masses in different parts of India. There are close to 40 groups in the country proffessing adherence to the philosophy of Marxism, Leninism and Maoism. About 11 of them occupy a predominant position. It is believed that 13 groups operate in Andhra Pradesh, 10 of which are splinter groups of CPI-ML. In Andhra Pradesh, Left Wing Extremism tends to be equated with the activities of the CPI-ML People’s War Group (PWG) and the CPI-ML Janashakti.

Academic debate projects Naxalism as a social movement and social workers view it as a problem of back wardness and poverty. In this context, Gunnar Myrdal calls India a ’soft state’ owing to the failure of theIndian State to vigorously carry out effective land reforms and other pressing socio-economic changes in the society with a view to establishing an egalitarian and less repressive society. This has led to agrarian movements like the Naxalite movement turning violent. Competition for land and jobs available with the increased allocation of resources under the State / Central plans has only sharpened this sense of deprivation. To counter this, Naxalites have adopted the avowed strategy of political activity (with the ultimate goal of seizure of power) supported by armed squads who are trained to create terror among counter revolutionaries.

Be that as it may. The State Government has been following an inconsistent and incoherent policy to tackle this problem by declaring a ban on the militant outfit and its front organisations. Despite employing coercive methods like declaring Naxal infested areas as ‘disturbed’, invoking the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Act (TADA), creating a separate police force in the State and coordinating with the Joint Command by the State Government has not achieved the desired effect in the northern Telangana districts where the problem is more acute.

What holds our attention in the context of Naxalism is the increasing reliance of the State on the police and other such organisations for effective governance. The role of the press in such conflict situations assumes significance also when viewsd against Gramsci’s formulations that the media and press comprise one of the hegemonic apparatuses in the definition of the State.

Also, as Mcquail points out,’content (in the mass media) is a function of ideological positions and maintains the status quo (the hegemonic approach) The concept of ‘hegemony’ borrowed by critical theorists from Gramsci’s term for ruling ideology, helps to maintain the class divided and class dominated society. A ruling ideology is not imposed but appears to exist by virtue of unquestioned consensus. Hegemony tends to define unacceptable opposition to the status quo as dissident and deviant. The mass media do not define reality on their own but give preferential access to the definitions of those in authority. In the context of Naxalism. A discussion on how the Press is responding to the Naxal conflict becomes imperative because of the rapid expansion witnessed in the regional press which in the hands of business class with other business establishments. A couple of them (Vaartha and Eenadu) have publication centres in the Naxal infested districts. The strong rural news network, growing awareness of their rights among the masses; rise in literacy levels etc. are other reasons.

All this makes defining news much more elusive. Communication scholars, newspaper editors, media professionals and the common public tend to define and interpret news in different ways. Likewise, individuals indoctrinated in a particular ideology also look at news differently. This paper summarises the views of Left ideologues on the press coverage given to the Naxalite conflict.

Broadly speaking, the views expressed by respondents reads like a charge sheet against the existing newspapers in the State; their ownership, their lack of objectivity etc.,

Failure to understand the essence of the movement


By and large, the Press, both the English and the Telugu newspapers have failed to understand and highlight the social transformation that has taken place in the northern Telangana districts during the past two decades. It has failed to present the positive achievements of the Naxalite movement.

The movement was instrumental in bringing about a sea change in the rural economy. This is borne by the fact that the movement could demolish the feudal oppression which impeded rising of capital by the landless labour. Also because the Naxalites were able to curb the practice of Vetti-forced labour, indiscriminate levying of taxes and collection of ‘Dhandaga’- surplus yield from the landless.

Significantly, the feudal landlord was transformed into a feudal capitalist. In other words, the economy changed from feudalism to feudal capitalism as the rich landlords fled the villages and made forays into capital ventures by setting up shops, real estate business etc in towns and cities. This paradoxical development, the transformation of the economy from feudalism to feudal capitalism has not been noticed by the Press though the movement aimed at radical transformation/ revolution.

In the process of transforming the society from feudalism to feudal capitalism, a section of the Naxalites who reneged from the party or were suspended rejoined the movement and turned into capitalists with the help of the money ‘received’ through voluntary contributions and ‘extortions.’

In its efforts to move from New Democratic Revolution to Socialism, the movement, in the process, as the Ford Commission Report said on Indian Agriculture, helped “change traditional rural country into a modern society that suits the purpose of the exploiters” but the Government failed to impress upon landlords. Naxalites helped this transformation which had nothing to do with the Communist or Marxist ideology.

On the social plane, people belonging to the Scheduled Castes / Scheduled Tribes and the backward classes unfurled the flag of self respect – a Paleru – servant who was dependent on the landlord had become independent. The social and political consciousness of the landlord’s and those belonging to the lower classes changed owing to the Naxalite movement. The changed mindset of the villagers manifest in simple statements like ‘we are raising our voices, we are not like before’ has been facilitated through the Naxalite movement. But this does not find a place in the press.

In a curious development, some squads developed contacts with the landlords in their struggle against them land which has hindered the development of the society. In the absence of their main targets-wicked landlords who had either fled after selling their property or hoodwinking the Government through benami transactions or giving it for lease, the Naxalite squads now fight only the police. Also, as there is no strong organisation, the movement depends on ‘militants’-which has led to lumpen elements gaining a strong hold over the movement. The Press has failed to turn its focus on the lumpenisation of the movement; it can never understand this basic phenomenon.

The newspapers have been and are missing the leadership class struggle in the Naxalite movement between members of the lower caste and the upper caste. The Dalit Bahujans want to lead the present history not only in the outside world but also in the underground. The Ambedkar movement in Andhra Pradesh led by those who were discontented with the Naxalite leadership, has impacted and rattled the underground movement. Based on the Marx-Ambedkar thought, which a section of revolutionary forces recognise, there is a raging debate on how to carry on the struggle both against caste and class as there was no deliberation on the strategic significance or tactical necessity of caste in a revolution.

The Press has failed to understand the ’soul’, the inner meaning, economic and social significance, the scope and limitations of the Naxalite movement. Newspapers and economists failed to take cognisance of neither the positive aspects nor the negative trends.

Censoring or blacking out of Left Wing News


The capitalist press adopts a method to black out or censor news and views favourable to the Left Wing parties. For example, if there is a price rise or other issues like retrenchment closures, lock outs etc., or any other political development which affects people, the reactions of various shades of political development which affects people, the reactions of various shades of political opinion is available in the press prominently while the views of the Left wing leaders are not covered prominently. Even if they are given by force of circumstances, their views are mostly projected in a manipulated manner by not giving prominence in terms of content, space and place in the newspaper. This suppression or manipulation by the capitalist press gives an impression that the Left wing groups and their leaders are apathetic to the problems of the people. Instance where news of massive protests by people organised by the extremist groups against the anti-people, pro-capitalist and pro-monopolist polices of the successive governments are totally blacked out by the Press. A recent example, When Nalla Adi Reddy, a top PWG leader addressed a press conference to announce the party’s stand on the issue of Telangana four journalists attended the same. While The Hindu, Deccan Chronicle and Andhra Pradesh Times covered it prominently, Indian Express pushed the story into one of its inside pages. Subsequently, the staff reporter of Andhra Pradesh Times from Warangal, based on the PWG document in his possession, filed a series of reports. The same was not reflected in other newspapers.

Legitimising Government Actions


Over the years, the press has been successful in moulding public opinion to make people believe that violence has no place in a democracy. But in reality, under capitalist economic, social and political conditions, the rich are given full freedom to injure any section of the society while the poor is asked to follow the path of non-violence. The umpteen murders which take place every day, communal politics leading to riots, group clashes, personal hatred, and faction feuds are adequate testimony that violence is a part of our society which is highly stratified.

For instance, the Telangana Armed Struggle involving peasants was a movement against exploitation by the landlords and demand for land to the tiller. The uprising was crushed with the might of the Indian army and over6, 000 peasants were killed for demanding a decent livelihood. The Press, in the first instance failed to identify and set an agenda for the government and the politicians.

Later, when the aggrieved organised themselves and resorted to violence and agitations for their economic demands, the violence was crushed. The press nods in appreciation and supports the State, through its law enforcement machinery ruthlessly suppresses the struggles of people who seek social justice, then such State sponsored violence gets the sanction of the press. The press is being engineered in this subtle manner.

Promoting the ‘dominant’ ideology or the ideology of the State


The Press supports and promotes the ideology of the State. As long as there is no ban on the PWG and its front organisations, the press gives coverage to its activities. But once, the ban is imposed, there is an unwritten ban on a section of journalists in some newspapers to write about Naxal related news. Ironically, even during such periods of undeclared ban on news on Naxals, some newspapers encourage news only on Naxals which becomes a saleable point for the newspaper. But the moment something is written against the State, the journalist earns the wrath of the management. This is best illustrated through the coverage on the recent bed on the balladeer Gaddar’s life. It is learnt that a leading Telugu newspaper management instructed its editorial and reporting staff that the paper would like to have stories on Gaddar’s health after the attack, stories on the attackers and Gaddar’s future plans after his recovery. A journalist filed a story on the formation of a Struggle committee on the attack of Gaddar was immediately shifted to the editorial department. This incident amply testifies that as long as the journalist filed news stories as dictated by the management, it was fine but the news on the formation of a committee which is spearheading the movement against the State denouncing the attack on Gaddar, it goes against the journalist. The Press is not independent but is enslaved to the interests of the State while the State is interested in the capitalist and the consumer class not the commoner’s cause. It serves the interests of only certain sections of the society. It is for maintaining the status quo of the establishment, to strengthen and consolidate it. There is no place for tribals, women, oppressed, the underprivileged.

Whither Press?


Casteism has crept into the press which is evident in the coverage when names of activists / victims of extremist violence are clearly mentioned. Also, in case of surrender, there has been no news about harassment of those from underprivileged sections who are harassed and killed while those from the upper castes are given good treatment. During the 1980s, till 1988 the mainstream Telugu Press, especially Udayam owned by a Congress Member of Parliament, absorbed people with Left leaning for their is a deliberate attempt by the newspaper managements to avoid recruiting people with a Left background. The job seekers are grilled about their antecedents. Any news clipping opposing the entry of multinationals, expansion of the activities of the monopoly business houses would go against him.

Misleading headlines


The capitalist press in pursuance of its anti-Left policy, takes full advantage of the habit of the reader to go through the headlines owing to time constraints, and twists headlines or inserts misleading headlines. The readers are deceived in the process. Interestingly the contents of the report and the headline do not corroborate with each other. There is deliberate distortion by the Press as it sometimes says that the ‘Naxalite movement is finished’. In case of a major offensive by the Naxalites, the Press reacts stating ‘Naxalites are regrouping’ followed by another news story that ‘Naxalites are building a Red Army’ or ‘running parallel governments’ in rural areas.

Propagating Lies/ Distortion/ Misinformation


‘The Press spreads lies. The biggest lie is the Press never speaks of the social and political significance of the movement.’ Also there are several instances when the Press published reports without checking facts. When Gaddar, the ballad singer, heading the cultural troupe of the PWG, Jana Natya Mandali was issued a show cause why he should not be expelled for collecting donations for his school, Andhra Jyothi published that he was suspended. When Gaddar, staged a demonstration before the newspaper office that it was a lies and a clear case of misleading people, the paper issued an errata the following day.

Another instance Balraju, legislator from koyyuru in Visakhapatnam was kidnapped by Naxalites who demanded the State Government to release one of their comrades, Kranti Ranadev, from the Warangal jail. When there was a stalemate, the State Government through its representative, Arjun Rao and Dayachary, both senior IAS officers sought the help of the leaders of the Andhra Pradesh Civil Liberties Committee (APCLC) to facilitate the exchange of the kidnapped MLA. Insiders confided that nearly 30 journalists who had converged on Koyyur were only interested in the sensational part of the event and were insensitive to the social role they could play in the release of the legislator.

For instance, a leading national newspaper reported that the police forces had moved very close to the hillock (the Naxal hideout) and the latter may be attacked at any moment. It was also reported that the commandos were on their way. A Telugu newspaper reported on its front page, in bold letters, that the police had fixed a 24-hour deadline. This was done when the police, under tremendous political pressure, was in a restrained mood. Such terroristic-journalism does not serve any purpose; it only frightens the readers who have concern for human life and human rights. Certain weekies, fortnightly and monthlies had their own stories to write. Quite a few of these reports were distorted, loaded and prejudiced. They hardly made any effort to interview the persons concerned or make a fair assessment of the situation. Such reportage of events poses a threat to human rights and violates the right to reliable information and fails in creating a healthy public opinion.

No proper debate


The first and foremost objective of the capitalist press is the protection of capitalism and projection of its leadership. In the process of defending capitalism, the press does not evoke a general debate on the social and political happenings in the state. Instead it suppresses the evils of capitalism, pushes the corrupt practices of the capitalists under the cover and gives misleading interpretations to various issues to suit the capitalist politics.

The capitalist press has failed to expose that the pro-rich policies of the Congress Government which has been in power for most of time in the post independence era has widened the gap between the rich and the poor. The so-called incremental developmental policy of growth based on private enterprise has not solved the needs and expectations of the poor people in providing food clothing and shelter even after five decades. In fact, capitalism has accentuated corruption, violence, poverty, deprivation, unemployment and disease because of the inherent defects of selfishness, profit motive, opportunism, unequal opportunities and corruption which are bred by capitalism.

The needs of the people-health, drinking water, education, shelter and food and nutrition, and the claims of the Government of their achievement are never debated; instead stories are invented on violation of human rights etc. The press continues to remain silent on the Government’s policies to raise additional resources.

They import high-tech goods when there is a need for austerity and self reliance. How can the luxury imports generate employment for the millions of jobless youth and how can the country’s resources be put to proper use to ensure higher productivity? Why is it that the Government does not tax the rich landlords or rehabilitate those displaced by Government sponsored projects? No questions are asked on the closure of small scale units and laying off manpower after the Government embarked on the economic reforms.

The Press has failed to interpret the problems attributable to capitalist economic crises or violations of human values and rights. Instead, it projects that such values are better protected in capitalist societies where in reality millions of workers and farmers are crushed under the yoke of the feudal capitalists with meager wages, under employment, unemployment, unhealthy working conditions and perpetual poverty. Fierce competition resulting in deterioration of human values is manifest in the level of violence in the society. Indignity to women, prostitution, suicides, corruption and adulteration of food items have not been analysed from the viewpoint of a crisis in the capitalist economy.

The Press has suppressed and does not factually analyse the evils of capitalism. The capitalist media experts and intelligentsia have ensured that the evils of the capitalist system are not told to the people truthfully. Even if some facts are published, they should not be attributed to evils of capital system. On the other hand, news from socialist countries is distorted or suppressed lest it catch the imagination of the oppressed masses. This would place constraints on the thinking processes of the people in arriving at certain facts and conclusions as the media becomes an impediment to know realities. The people are incapacitated to analyse the exact nature of capitalist system correctly.

From this point of view, the press has been containing the Naxalite movement as persistent negative coverage about kidnaps, landmine blasts; killings build a negative opinion on the ideology and the tactics among the masses.

Sivaramakrishna P (1991), reacting to the draft report of the Cabinet sub Committee on Left Wing Extremists, states that the only information the government or media always compile carefully is on Naxalite encounters and never the violations the instruments of rule of law such as minimum wages, fifth schedule, management of forests, equity in the distribution of welfare benefits, displacement, fragmentation of socio-economic entities etc.

He adds that various groups of individuals study the Naxal issue from different stands; news value, ideological, political and welfare implications, civil liberties, bureaucratic action etc. without any grassroots level knowledge of the issues involved the bottlenecks and the self-interest of local leaders as well as their parties in the extra- constitutional arbitration.

Causes unreported


Seldom do newspapers provide more than cursory attention to the reasons for the actions / events. Instead the coverage focuses on facts and events and presented the LWE as an unfolding drama to be chronicled, rather than as a manifestation of a severe societal maladjustment that requires explanation. The result of this kind of coverage is two-fold. As various critics have noted, by covering ‘protests’ simply as events, without explaining the underlying causes, reporters fail to provide readers with the information they need to understand the dissidents’ grievances. The various segments of society remain sealed off from each other, and opportunities for increased understanding and remedial action are lost.

Also the papers’ focus on violence combined with their inattention to the activists’ motives, helps create a picture the LWE as unreasonably demanding and militant. This type of coverage, Eric D.Blanchard has observed, frightens and alienates the readers, reinforcing the beliefs of those who believe the protesters are criminals.

The contention of the ideologues on media inattention to causes lends support to the theory that the media tend to act as preservers of status quo by providing unsympathetic coverage to those whose behaviour threatens it.

It is indeed possible for the journalists to dig below the surface to uncover the causes of LWF or even simply to seek out dissidents’ and allow them to explain their grievances in their own words. Such coverage could make a significant contribution to the health of the society by clarifying the issues involved in social upheaval and possibly outlining possible solution. Violence, defined as the exertion of physical force to injure, damage or destroy is the primary subject of news stories covered in newspapers. This is not surprising as the Naxalite groups engage in violence which is reported in the headlines. Thus news stories with violence and headlines indicating violence appears to be an eye catching means to capture the market besides performing the function of informing the reader.

The data appear to support Podohertz’s claim that the actions of violent organisations receive undue attention. Podohertz, however, also asserts that the ’social causes’ of the groups are given equally undue attention.

For news stories about violent incidents, there are three major types of sources;

a) Perpetrators-either a member of the group, a prepared group statement, or a lawyer representing a member of the group and
b) Authority sources-police, the government officials, and
c) Eye witnesses.

Authorities routinely hold news conferences to provide the media with prepared statements on anything considered potentially newsworthy. For the stringers working in the rural areas, it is convenient to include only the authority sources and ignore the challengers.

Heavy utilisation of the authority sources leads to labeling the groups. As mentioned earlier, one person’s ‘freedom fighter’ can be another man’s ‘terrorist.’ Invariably, the police tend to look at the groups, irrespective of the social moorings of their movement as extremists or terrorists. The activists, however, however, prefer to be labeled as independent groups, people’s armies or liberation forces. In the context of Naxalism, an anti-Naxal feeling has been built among some sections of the people that they are ‘anti-socials’ and ‘criminals’ indulging in indiscriminate killings and ones without any ideology.

Poll Process and the Press


Another weakness of the press, according to ideologues, is that it does an excellent job of events but fails to evince interest in the processes that led to the events. For instance, the press has failed to focus on the unresolved and question and the continued tribal exploitation that provided a breeding ground for Naxalites. Nor has it adequately dealt with the inconsistency of political parties in dealing with the poll boycott call of Naxalites. For example, the founder of the Telugu Desam Party N.T.Rama Rao described the Naxalites as patriots. Later, in 1991 he said that he would neither seek Naxalite help nor would he reject it. The Congress claimed that it was implementing land reforms and tribal welfare programmes while Ramvilas Paswan, one of the top leaders of the Janata Dal, who left the party during the height of the mandal agitation shared public platform with PWG’s singer-poet Gaddar. Laxmi Parvati during her campaign tour of the Naxal infested areas in her speeches in favour the Naxalites.

The press chooses to be a key player in the political process but it failed to document the disinterest and disregard in the democratic process by the voters who turned out in poor numbers on the day of the election. In the last parliamentary elections, 480 people filed their nominations for the Nalgonda constituency. Elections were held much later. The long standing grievances for water needs were not highlighted by the press but the travails of the election officials were duly mentioned. There were no follow up stories, not to mention the newspapers’ silence over the propriety of the Election Commission’s decision to postpone the election. Another glaring lacuna pointed out was the absence of people and issues in the electoral coverage which centered round petty political squabbles, feuding in parties and switching of loyalties of local politicians.

Trial by the Press


Ideologues questioned the propriety of the police taking the initiative in publicising every arrest and surrender and commenting on it in the press. This, they said, takes place much before the person is charged as an accused or produced before a magistrate. Elaborating on the issue further, they said this raises questions concerning the freedom of the press, its rights to access to the news and the accountability of the police to the public and not the least, the people’s right to know. Also another significant aspect attached to it, they said is the fairness of a criminal trial. This interest is endangered every time a police officer holds a press conference or meets pressmen and brags about the arrest or surrender of a ‘leading Naxalite.’ The people undoubtedly have a right to know whom the police has arrested/ or taken them in as surrendered members, lest such things happen in secrecy and be denied. The press, on its part, is not only entitled but is bound as a surrogate of the public to ferret out the facts of the arrests/ surrenders. Noted Civil Liberties leader, A.G.Noorani (1981), opposes such moves of the police to divulge details to the press about the arrests of Naxalites and subsequent comments on the accused.

Glorifying Surrender of Naxals


Ideologues remarked that certain noted Telugu newspapers glorify surrenders and publish them on their front pages. The State apparatus and its representatives generally, specifically senior police officials manage the press during such surrenders by calling for press conferences and put out elaborate details of the various offences and ammunition seized by them. They pointed out that no reporter probes into the drama preceding the surrender. However, according to a published document of the People’s War Group, people in the villages are gathered by the police and issued stern warnings that all the militants and leaders of sanghams should surrender to police or the consequences will be very severe. Police officers fix time limit and dates for surrenders. In the villages people are beaten enmasses, humiliated and harassed in various ways and an atmosphere of terror is created in rural areas. The police release press statements that Naxals are surrendering. In the due course of increasing repression some sympathisers have begun to surrender. Due to serious repressive conditions, the number of surrenders in certain areas is in hundreds. That the capitalist press distorts deliberately to erode the credibility and the ideology of the movement is exemplified by the following.

The daughter of a leading member of a front organisation of the PWG wrote a letter to her father complaining of harassment and desire to get divorced. The police got wind of this information and leaked it to the press which flashed stories on the front page exaggerating and distorting the information stating that even ideologically indoctrinated people do not have scruples. However, the same press remains silent on the sex escapades of the Ministers, legislators including the Chief Minister. Another instance When a distant relative of the same leader was engaged in a real estate business in partnership with a person belonging to the Bharatiya Janata Party, newspapers screamed ‘ Kashaywar”- hinting at the ‘unholy nexus between the saffron party and the Peoples’s War in real estate business.

Pressmen do not have the basic understanding of the inner party functioning and the ideology of the movement. So much so, every secret conclave becomes a plenary meeting. Also, every performance of Gaddar, is reported as a cultural event or dealt in the same way as the modern day rain dances organised by the five star hotels attended by the elite and the monied class to relieve themselves from ennui. The ideology propagated by the songs and the issues taken up are never properly highlighted or debated in the press so as to sensitise people on the issues and concerns of the masses.

Those journalists have become so insensitive to the killings of Naxalites and the police repression is also exemplified by the fact that the headlines both in the English and the Telugu dailies on encounters just give figures. In all such instances and regarding underground activity, the press carries only the police version in a manner justifying the police action. For encounter reports have become stereotyped; “Three Naxalites belonging to the People’s War Group were killed in an encounter here today. Police said, the Naxalites on seeing the police party opened fire and the police returned the fire. The firing continued for two hours and, at the end, the police reovered the dead bodies of Naxals”. Ethics have been given a go by as journalists; in their haste to meet the deadline; they have stopped verifying facts thus violating one of the basic tenets of journalism-verification or checking facts with the various sources or taking the version of the party/ institution or individual named in the news story.

Market-driven Newspapers


The newspapers in the state, both English and the Telugu are market-driven. Profit motive is their primary concern. Any news story which has the potential of raking in revenue is worthy enough to be published in their columns.

Right from the day of the Srikakulam struggle, when Vempatapati Satyam was killed, newspapers screamed’Narakasuruni Vadha’. Perhaps it is understandable because a new ideology was ranged against the State. But in the subsequent years, especially during the 70s, Eenadu run by a chitfund and pickle baron was just an information source. The emergence of Udayam on the newspaper scene in the State introduced the element of competition. Udayam donned the activist role and anti-state role by publishing gory details of encounter deaths. Eenadu, not to be left behind, and to boost its circulation changed its strategy and the day Gaddar surfaced from the underground and performed at Nizam College during Channa Reddy’s liberal policy regime, Eenadu covered it on the front page with a banner headline along with his photograph. Later, when some miscreants attacked him, the same news was pushed into the inside pages. Again in 1997, when he survived an assassination bid newspapers gave wide coverage not because they were interested in him but because Gaddar sells.

Such instances abound which only reflects the passive role of the press while reporting the Naxal conflict.

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"Neoliberal" Leninism In India And Its Class Character

Posted by Indian Vanguard on February 21, 2007

By Pratyush Chandra

21 February, 2007

“Criticism – the most keen, ruthless and uncompromising criticism – should be directed, not against parliamentarianism or parliamentary activities, but against those leaders who are unable – and still more against those who are unwilling – to utilise parliamentary elections and the parliamentary rostrum in a revolutionary and communist manner. Only such criticism-combined, of course, with the dismissal of incapable leaders and their replacement by capable ones-will constitute useful and fruitful revolutionary work that will simultaneously train the “leaders” to be worthy of the working class and of all working people, and train the masses to be able properly to understand the political situation and the often very complicated and intricate tasks that spring from that situation.” (Lenin, “Left-Wing Communism: an Infantile Disorder”, Chapter 7)


1. Lenin and the CPIM’s Leninism


The Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPIM)-led Left Front government in its endeavour to industrialise West Bengal, admittedly within the larger neoliberal framework of the Indian state’s economic policies, is ready to scuttle every act of popular vigilance in the manner which Lenin would have called “bureaucratic harassment” of workers-peasants’ self-organisation. India’s official left position on neoliberal industrialisation and its potentiality to generate employment is very akin to what Lenin characterised “Narodism melted into Liberalism”, as the official left “gloss[es] over [the] contradictions [of industrialisation] and try to damp down the class struggle inherent in it.”(1)

In fact, the mass organisations of the official left in West Bengal have for a long time been the main bulwarks of the state government to pre-empt any systematic upsurge of the workers and peasants. They have become increasingly what can be called the ideological state apparatuses to drug the masses and keep them in line. And in this, Leninism has been reduced to an ideology, an apologia for the Left Front’s convergence with other mainstream forces on the neoliberal path, giving its “steps backwards” a scriptural validity and promoting an image that in fact this is the path towards revolution – all in the name of consolidation and creating objective conditions for revolution. For justifying their compromises locally in West Bengal, CPIM leaders have found handy innumerable quotations from Lenin, and sometimes from Marx too. Contradictory principles and doctrines can easily be derived from their statements, if read as scriptures and taken out of contexts. Hence, as a popular saying in India confirms, baabaa vaakyam pramaanam, which loosely means, you can prove anything on the basis of scriptures.

Of course, this can be a variety of Leninism, as there are varieties mushrooming like religious sects, but such was not Lenin. Lenin himself never treated Marx’s writings as scriptural for justifying his every tactical move. Furthermore, especially after the defeat of other European revolutions, on many occasions he was ready to acknowledge Russia’s “steps backwards”, even during the formulation and implementation of the New Economic Policy. His defence of the independence of working class organisation and power beyond state formation in his attack on Trotsky’s advocacy of the regimentation of trade unions was especially for countering the counter-revolutionary potential in the Russian state’s “steps backwards” by ever-stronger working class vigilance. Lenin had the guts to say, “We now have a state under which it is the business of the massively organised proletariat to protect itself, while we, for our part, must use these workers’ organisations to protect the workers from their state, and to get them to protect our state. Both forms of protection are achieved through the peculiar interweaving of our state measures and our agreeing or “coalescing” with our trade unions.”(2; emphasis mine)

Such was Lenin even as the leader of the Soviet State, unlike the CPIM-led Left Front’s leadership, which seeks to stabilise its rule in a tiny part of India, where, it admits, its government can have no sovereignty.

The CPIM’s energetic peasant leader Benoy Konar (who rails against Naxal conspiracy in every disturbance in West Bengal), a major stalwart in the present debate on repression and agitation in the state, says, “West Bengal is a federal state in a capitalist feudal country. What its government has done is just a miniscule step compared to what Lenin was forced to do, even after the revolution. If this is what upsets these “true” Marxists so much, we request them to stop living in their imaginations and step into the real world.”(3) This logic is very instructive, indeed. It is precisely the case – Lenin could afford to do what he was forced to do because the revolution had taken place. Also, the “steps backwards” were essentially for the sustainability of the state, without changing its basic character – workers-peasants state, taking the risk of further bureaucratisation and distortion, which he thought the independent assertion of the working class would weed out eventually. If Konar and his gurus are forcing themselves to do the same in a “capitalist feudal country”, then it is for whose sustainability – of the “capitalist feudal” state?


2. CPIM and its Self-Criticisms


Throughout its thirty years of continuous rule, the West Bengal government’s main concern has been to stabilise its local rule within the parameters set by India’s state formation, and the hegemonic political economic set-up in the country. It boasts of its successes, but at what cost? The exigencies of the parliamentarist integration reinforced the accommodation and consolidation of a “supra-class” ideology within the communist political habits imbibed during its appendage to the nationalist movement, throughout India in general, and West Bengal in particular. This explains a less radical approach towards land reforms in the region.(4) The CPI-CPIM’s role became limited to controlling and policing the radicalisation of its own mass base, as in the 1960s-70s, especially with regard to the Naxal movement. It is interesting to note today how every attempt to form an organisation of the rural proletarians and small peasantry, independent of the rich and middle peasant (who benefited from the movements on tenancy rights and against the Bargadari system) dominated Kisan Sabhas, is systematically repressed by Bengal’s state machinery and party.

When the CPIM capitulated to electoral politics resorting to tactical measures and strategic sloganeering, because of the so-called popular mandate in its parliamentarist pursuit, militancy became a thing to be repeated only in speeches and slogans as its practice can alienate few votes, precious votes. This is not to say that it was only a subjective transition or a matter of conscious choice, rather, it represented the latent politics of the party leadership’s class character. In fact, the only thing lacking was a conscious and consistent opposition within, despite the fact that the party was aware of this from the very beginning. In one of its early documents, it noted:

“The struggle against revisionism inside the Indian Communist movement will neither be fruitful nor effective unless the alien class orientation and work among the peasantry are completely discarded. No doubt, this is not an easy task, since it is deep-rooted and long-accumulated and also because the bulk of our leading kisan activists come from rich and middle peasant origin, rather than from agricultural labourers and poor peasants. Their class origin, social links and the long training given to them give a reformist ideological-political orientation which is alien to proletarian class point and prevent them from actively working among the agricultural labourers, poor and middle peasants with the zeal and crusading spirit demanded of Communists. Hence the need and urgency to rectify and remould the entire outlook and work of our Party in the kisan movement.”(5)

To this P. Sundarayya adds in 1973 (when he was the party’s general secretary), “the same old reformist deviation is still persisting in our understanding and practice”, which frequently leads to “the repudiation of the Party Programme formulations.” (6)

This was all before the concern for stabilising its rule and building social corporatism – “peace”, “harmony”, etc., in West Bengal became the party’s prime agenda. Today, the state government’s industrialisation and urbanisation policies express the needs of the neo-rich gentry, a considerable section of which is the class of absentee landowners, dominating the bureaucratic apparatuses and service sector, who legitimately want a share in India’s corporate development. When the Kolkata session of the All India Kisan Council held on January 5-6, 2007 asks “the state government to forge ahead on the path of industrialisation based on the success of land reforms and impressive agricultural growth” (7), it is simply expressing the interests of all those who have benefited the most from the success of limited agrarian reforms.

The party is aware that if they alienate these class forces, it will not be possible to remain in power in “a constitutional set-up that is not federal in nature” and which reproduces their ideological hegemony through various identitarian and legal relations influencing the voting pattern of the electorate. As the present party general secretary Prakash Karat, notes:

“It was clear then as now that the policies implemented by Left-led governments would always be circumscribed by the fact that State power vests with the centre while state governments have very limited powers and resources. This is the reality of a constitutional set-up that is not federal in nature. This understanding was further clarified when Left-led governments began to rule in the three states of West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura for longer periods of time. Within all the constraints and limitations of office, these governments have to take steps to fulfil their commitments to the people and offer relief to the working people. While there are urgent issues before Left-led governments, including those of protecting livelihoods in agriculture, creating jobs by means of industrial development, and improving the quality of people’s lives, alternative policies in certain spheres can be implemented only within the constraints imposed by the system.”(8)

If this is not the Third Way, the there-is-no-alternative (TINA) syndrome, then one wonders what it can be. Zizek defines the Third Way as “simply global capitalism with a human face, that is, an attempt to minimize the human costs of the global capitalist machinery, whose functioning is left undisturbed.”(9) It is an old disease that inflicts all social democratic parties, once they start talking about consolidation within the bourgeois framework. Compare:

“Let no one misunderstand us”; we don’t want “to relinquish our party and our programme but in our opinion we shall have enough to do for years to come if we concentrate our whole strength, our entire energies, on the attainment of certain immediate objectives which must in any case be won before there can be any thought of realising more ambitious aspirations.”

To this Marx and Engels answered back in 1879:

“The programme is not to be relinquished, but merely postponed – for some unspecified period. They accept it – not for themselves in their own lifetime but posthumously, as an heirloom for their children and their children’s children. Meanwhile they devote their “whole strength and energies” to all sorts of trifles, tinkering away at the capitalist social order so that at least something should appear to be done without at the same time alarming the bourgeoisie.”(10; emphasis original)

This is the state of a self-acclaimed “revolutionary” party caught up in an existential struggle – “tinkering away at the capitalist social order”! Why not, “the journey towards socialism would begin only after the accomplishment of the task of the bourgeoisie democratic revolution. If the bourgeois did not join the democratic revolution, it would be easier for the working class to establish its leadership in it which would help in the next stage of socialist revolution.”(11) So friends, nothing to worry about, on behalf of the working class, the CPIM is actually taking a time out for accomplishing the ‘democratic revolutionary’ tasks. If the working classes – rural and urban – are being forced to shut up, it is all for ensuring their leadership! So, “the programme is not to be relinquished, but merely postponed – for some unspecified period…”

The CPI(M)’s capitulation to an alien class-ideological orientation is stark in its continuous effort to de-radicalise the left trade union politics. Parallel to Sundarayya’s self-criticism, Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya too has been time and again indulging in his own variety of self-criticism. His statements are very straight-forward, as he seldom minces words in his pandering to corporate interests. In one of his interviews to The Hindu (November 16, 2005), he says: “We did commit certain wrong things in the past. There were investors really afraid of trade unions here. But things have changed… I am in constant touch with our senior trade union leaders and keep telling them that it is now a different situation. …I tell [trade union leaders] they must behave. If you do not behave companies will close, you will lose your jobs.”(12)

The combination of subjective and objective factors determines the tenor of the official left politics everywhere in India today. So the repression of strikers at the Kanoria jute mill in 1993-94 and Singur/Nandigram incidents are not something unexpected. They are expressions of the Left Front’s stable rule in West Bengal for thirty years. These are the imperatives rising from the limitations, about which the Front and CPIM never tire to talk, and in which their existential politics is embedded. They do so, as there-is-no-alternative.


3. No “Doublespeak”, but the “Narodnik-like Bourgeois” speaks


Unsurprisingly, the CPIM’s present general secretary Prakash Karat whom some of us used to admire for his strong positions uncomfortable for the parliamentarian lobbies within the party has come out strongly in defence of the same parliamentarianism. His general secretaryship demands that. In India, the days are gone when within these communist parties, a general secretary used to be the voice of a particular programmatic tendency. The designation has been increasingly reduced to a ‘post’ in the permanent hierarchy, where the post-holder like a civil servant voices whichever tendency dominates in the party.


Prakash Karat accuses the ‘left opposition’ to the Left Front’s industrialisation policies of Narodism, which too is not very surprising. It is one of our standard abuses, along with ‘infantile disorder’, ‘revisionism’, etc… However, Karat in his defence really means it, when he says: “The CPIM will continue to refute the modern-day Narodniks who claim to champion the cause of the peasantry”, as he appends this with a note on the Narodniks.(13)


It seems Karat is ignorant – either he feigns it, or it is real – about Lenin’s analysis of Narodism. Lenin’s criticism of the Narodnik revolutionaries was mainly centred on their faulty understanding of Russian reality; unlike the Narodniks he saw a slow, but definite evolution of capitalism and capitalist market. He stressed strategising on the basis of this new reality. On the other hand, the Narodniks saw capitalism still simply as a possibility, and thus like true petty bourgeois revolutionaries dreamt of evading the ruthlessness of capitalist accumulation, while often lauding bourgeois freedom and democracy. Lenin in his diatribes obviously underlined the utopianism of this programme, but only on the basis of a critique of the political economy of capitalism in Russia. His fundamental stress was to describe the processes of capitalist accumulation, the ruthlessness of which was compounded by its impurity, its ‘incompleteness’. Definitely, an important component of Lenin’s programme was embedding the democratic struggle against feudal remnants in the unfolding of the socialist revolution:


“Thus the red banner of the class-conscious workers means, first, that we support with all our might the peasants’ struggle for full freedom and all the land; secondly, it means that we do not stop at this, but go on further. We are waging, besides the struggle for freedom and land, a fight for socialism. The fight for socialism is a fight against the rule of capital. It is being carried on first and foremost by the wage-workers, who are directly and wholly dependent on capital. As for the small farmers, some of them own capital themselves, and often themselves exploit workers. Hence not all small peasants join the ranks of fighters for socialism; only those do so who resolutely and consciously side with the workers against capital, with public property against private property.”(14; emphasis mine)


Lenin’s analysis of capitalism in agriculture showed a growing peasant differentiation. This led him to stress on the heterogeneity of proletarian attitude towards diverse peasant classes. He criticised the populism of the Narodniks and also the liberals who put forward a homogenised notion of “narod” (people). The same notion is found in the Indian official left’s attitude towards the peasantry and its assessment of the land reform efforts in the left-ruled states. When it calls upon consolidating the gains from land reforms achieved in a “capitalist feudal” society and pursuing industrialisation on their basis, it consistently evades the question of peasant differentiation. Such evasion is a reflection of the consolidation, within the left leadership, of the hegemonic interests that necessarily rose after the limited land reforms measures. As Sundarayya indicated, this lobby had already congealed within the CPIM and been affecting its work in the rural areas, much before it enjoyed the cosiness of the state power. Its consistent success in undermining the rise of the rural proletarians and their organisation in West Bengal is indicative of the strength of this lobby. When Benoy Konar and the All India Kisan Sabha speak for industrialisation based on the gains in agriculture, they speak on the behalf of the rising kulaks and upper middle class in West Bengal who would like to invest and profit on the peripheries and as local agencies of the neoliberal industrialisation – in real estate, in outsourcing and other businesses which are concomitant appendages to the neoliberal expansion.


While differentiating the agrarian programme of the Social Democrats (when the revolutionary Marxists still identified themselves with this name) from that of the liberals, Lenin criticised the latter’s “distraught Narodism” – “Narodism melting into Liberalism”, which represented the Narodnik-like bourgeoisie, and explained:


“Firstly, the Social-Democrats want to effect the abolition of the remnants of feudalism (which both programmes directly advance as the aim) by revolutionary means and with revolutionary determination, the liberals-by reformist means and half-heartedly. Secondly, the Social-Democrats stress that the system to be purged of the remnants of feudalism is a bourgeois system; they already now, in advance, expose all its contradictions, and strive immediately to extend and render more conscious the class struggle that is inherent in this new system and is already coming to the surface. The liberals ignore the bourgeois character of the system purged of feudalism, gloss over its contradictions and try to damp down the class struggle inherent in it.”(15; emphasis mine)


Here Lenin clearly states that “distraught Narodism” lies, firstly, in its reformist means, and secondly, in not recognising that the system is already a bourgeois system, hence the basic struggle is against the rule of capital. As Lenin indicated and as it is clear in the case of the CPIM in West Bengal, the ideology of “distraught Narodism” is an ideology of the class of Narodnik-like local bourgeoisie, which is necessarily Janus-headed. On the one hand, it feels insecure before its established competitors and their ‘bigness’, thus consistently calls upon the state to protect its interests. On the other, it is mortified when it feels the presence of its impoverished twin – the growing number of proletarians – as a result of capitalism in agriculture and also due to neoliberal “primitive accumulation”. Most dangerous is the faithlessness and weariness that this class of rural and urban proletarians displays towards the neoliberal euphoria – since it has already experienced more than 150 years of ups and downs of capitalist industrialisation, and its increasingly moribund nature. The Bengali political elites’ “doublespeak” vocalised by the CPIM is actually the reflection of the “Narodnik-like” character of the local bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie, torn between the ecstatic possibility of their neoliberal integration, on the one hand, and the rising competition and class struggle, on the other. However, the ideology of homogeneous Bengali interests, along with the “communist” organisations and pretensions come handy in controlling these volatile segments, at least temporarily. It is interesting to note, how the CPIM leadership evades recognising the class character of “land reforms”, “impressive agricultural growth” and industrialisation as far as possible in its discourse, while overstressing their virtues. It is similar to the discursive habits of the Russian liberals – “distraught Narodniks”, which Lenin thus noted, while criticising “Mr L.”:


“Depicting the beneficent effect of the French Revolution on the French peasantry, Mr. L. speaks glowingly of the disappearance of famines and the improvement and progress of agriculture; but about the fact that this was bourgeois progress, based on the formation of a “stable” class of agricultural wage-labourers and on chronic pauperism of the mass of the lower strata of the peasantry, this Narodnik-like bourgeois, of course, says never a word.”(16)


Conclusion

When enthusiasm for neoliberal industrialisation is not well received, as a last resort in defence of the neoliberal policies in West Bengal, ‘vanguards’ like Prakash Karat and his associates have a ready apologia that “in a constitutional set-up that is not federal in nature”, the left government policies “would always be circumscribed by the fact that State power vests with the centre while state governments have very limited powers and resources.” (It does not matter that the CPIM’s other leader, Benoy Konar, talks of the same constraints by admitting West Bengal as “a federal state in a capitalist feudal country.”)


It is tempting to interpret this demand for more federalism in India as representative of “the demand made in certain circles that local self-governing institutions should also be given the autonomy to borrow and to negotiate investment projects with capitalists, including multinational banks and corporations”, as Prabhat Patnaik, a foremost Indian political economist, known for his allegiance to the CPIM and who has been lately appointed as Kerala’s State Planning Board Vice-Chairman, puts it. He continues, “this will further increase the mismatch in bargaining strength between the capitalists and the state organ engaged in negotiating with them, and will further intensify the competitive struggle among the aspirants for investment… This can have only one possible result which is to raise the scale of social ‘bribes’ for capitalists’ investment. This increase in the scale of social “bribes” is an important feature of neo-liberalism.”(17)


Particularly relevant in this regard are the CPIM leadership’s and the West Bengal government’s statements on Singur, in which they consistently fetishise the Left Front’s ability to win away the Tata project from a poorer state of Uttarakhand – an example of its competency in ‘social bribery’! Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya again and again with all his frankness defended his Singur sale to Tata – “We showed them various sites, but they settled for Singur. We could not say no to such a project, otherwise it would have gone to Uttarakhand.”(18)


This is symptomatic of the extent to which the official Indian left has re-trained itself in the competitive culture of neoliberal industrialisation. Of course, it does not have any parliamentary stake in Uttarakhand. Or does the party leadership want to entice the Uttarakhand people to choose CPIM, for its efficiency in negotiating or ‘bribing’ for neoliberal projects? It is obvious that in order to remain the sole contender of the nationalising and globalising interests of the West Bengal hegemonic classes, the CPIM leadership has been giving vent to Bengali parochialism of the local “Narodnik-like bourgeoisie”.


Notes:


(1) V.I. Lenin, The Narodnik-Like Bourgeoisie and Distraught Narodism, 1903. http://www.marxists.org.uk/archive
/lenin/works/1903/nov/05a.htm


(2) V.I. Lenin, The Trade Unions. The Present Situation and Trotsky’s Mistakes, 1920. http://www.marx2mao.com/Lenin/TUTM20.html


(3) Benoy Konar, Left Front Govt And Bengal’s Industrialisation, People’s Democracy, October 08, 2006. http://pd.cpim.org/2006/
1008/10082006_benoy%20konar.htm

(4) See Dipankar Basu, Political Economy of ‘Middleness’: Behind Violence in Rural Bengal, Economic & Political Weekly, April 21, 2001. http://www.epw.org.in/showArticles.php?
root=2001&leaf=04&filename=2411&filetype=pdf

(5) P Sundarayya, Central Committee Resolution on Certain Agrarian Issues and An Explanatory Note, CPIM Publications, 1973.

(6) Ibid.

(7) All India Kisan Council, Resolution: Unite To Fight And Defeat All Moves To Stop The Industrialisation Of West Bengal, People’s Democracy, January 14 2007. http://pd.cpim.org/2007
/0114/01142007_aiks%20meeting.htm

(8) Prakash Karat, “Double-Speak” Charge: Maligning The CPI(M), People’s Democracy, January 28 2007. http://pd.cpim.org/2007/0128/01282007_prakash.htm

(9) Slavoj Zizek, The Fragile Absolute, Verso, 2000, p.63.

(10) Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Circular Letter to August Bebel, Wilhelm Liebknecht, Wilhelm Bracke and Others, 1879.
http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1879/09/18.htm

(11) Benoy Konar, West Bengal: Rationale For Industrialisation, People’s Democracy, November 06, 2005.
http://pd.cpim.org/2005/1106/11062005_benoy%20kumar.htm

(12) The Hindu November 16, 2005.
http://www.hindu.com/2005/11/16/stories/2005111605361100.htm

(13) See (6)

(14) V.I. Lenin, The Proletariat and the Peasantry, 1905. http://www2.cddc.vt.edu/marxists//
archive/lenin/works/1905/nov/12.htm

(15) See (1)

(16) Ibid.

(17) Prabhat Patnaik, An Aspect of Neoliberalism, People’s Democracy, December 24, 2006.
http://pd.cpim.org/2006/1224/12242006_eco.htm

(18) Frontline, Jan. 27-Feb. 09, 2007. http://www.frontlineonnet.com/fl2402/stories
/20070209002911200.htm

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