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Wednesday, April 07, 2010

What price the 76 (or more) policemen lives?

First, the massacre of the policemen in such a large number is an act of violence that needs to be condemned and the people behind the attack need to face the law of the land whether they believe it or not. These policemen were also citizens of this country and except that they were in the wrong place and time doing their duty the way they were directed to do, they had no reason to die. It is unfortunate and dangerous precedence.

The '76 policemen' will remain just that in the coming days, while we know the names of each of the military men that died during the Mumbai terror attack, we won't know the names or backgrounds of the policemen who died yesterday morning. They don't make a good story beyond the first few days. No one wants to know the details of those who are defeated. They too are the victims of the State, but, they will not have celebrity authors visiting them and writing long stories either.

The Ministry of Internal Security, under the Home Ministry has been going through several changes in recent times. P. Chidambaram (PC), has taken his own image more seriously than any one else. No one is asking for his head to warrant those media friendly statements few days back that sounded more like G.W. Bush's rant rather than an Indian Home Minister. (Madhi got it right as usual in his cartoon yesterday, the three monsters behind PC while he talks about rooting out Naxalites in two years are labelled 'unemployment', 'corruption' and 'poverty' and the label in the podium reads, '52 years of Congress rule' courtesy: Dinamani). Today, as I write this, he has already hinted at using Air Force against Maoists, what next, Carpet Bombing in Sri Lankan style and a victory speech atop an air ship with mining company logo?

The issue is Maoists are not visible terrorists, they merge into the invisible angry citizen mass. These are the State's angry citizens, armed because of the State only recognizes violence and these arms are available to them rather freely through a few who espouse this ideology. 

The State can stop people getting angry with itself by being more sincere with its 'development' agenda, by replacing sops with genuine opportunities and most importantly valuing the rights of people over their resources. Both tribal rights activists and environmentalists are 'anti-development' in the books of  PC, who believes that the natural resources are there to be exploited. The exploitation of the poor for the betterment of the rich is an old large war, India had some amazing social systems that by-passed this to benefit both. But, PC won't know, he thinks any Indian history that talks of a better time is all humbug, he is not going to respect or refer any tradition or culture to understand social inclusion. Yesterday's newspapers carried a half page advertisement from the Home Ministry as proof. Obviously, the citizen is angry.

You can have peaceful methods of listening to the angry citizen. It is not always that the angry citizen has to resort to violence as a means to be heard / noticed. It need not be. But, how much is the State listening to Himanshu Kumar or Arundathi Roy? Beyond ridicule what has the state offered to these people? Every naxal attack is followed by 'what will the intellectuals say now?' debate, as though the intellectual condemnation or approval has any respect either for the State or for other perpetrators of violence. Why should the MoU between the State and Mining Companies be kept secretive? Does the State listen to a peaceful protest of a citizen, if the citizen is not backed up by either the power of money, media or visible majority? Does it understand the voice of justice? The angry citizen thinks violence is the only medium the State recognizes.

You can stop illegal arms production, you can ensure that arms are not smuggled across your border, you can ensure that the chemicals that are raw material for arms are strictly regulated and ensure that these are not freely available. But, that would mean rooting out corruption in governance, which cannot be done. You may point out that they have no legitimate right to carry arms or kill, but, your government has shown that this can be done by the rich and no law of the land can reach them, time and again. Someone for his own benefit in this government, at some level is permitting the few Mao followers to smuggle a lot of weapons that can be distributed to angry citizens whose' peaceful protests you don't recognize. 

One thing I am sure, Indians cannot buy into any alien ideology whole heartedly or for a long period of time. The claim of Maoists that they will overthrow the State is stupid. Arundathi Roy in her article in Outlook last week chronicles the tribal culture and its manifestation in the camps of the Maoists, that is ideologically contradictory. This is the land of Gandhi and Gandhi lives in the attitude of the masses, given a chance between peace and war, the citizen would gladly take peace and that is the proof. So, if there are ideologues out there in the jungle, I am sure they are no better than the ideologues in Kolkatta or think tanks in Washington/Beijing or virtual groups in the web or others hiding in caves of NWFP, they are all equally unsuccessful in trying to convert the Indian masses into a single ideology of violence, some people can buy into it for some period of time to suit their own purpose. But, it is time bound and will not work in India.  I cannot see a Maoist State of India.

PC needs to step down, not from his power, but, the moral authority that he has granted himself vis-a-vis the Naxals. It can only push him in the path of more State violence against Maoists while seeking them to abjure violence all the time. He also needs to not succumb to the media pressure that personalizes the issue as though he is s Superman and this is his time to deliver or vacate the space for another Superman. Making statements like the one he made are neither warranted nor wise as he may have realized by now. But, the politician in him may not permit that. Maybe, he should step down to a humbler man? 

What would Gandhi have done under the circumstances?

Maybe visit the 76 houses that have lost a son, a husband, a father or a brother in full media glare and seek their forgiveness for the government's stupidity in sending them to an area so unprepared. Seeking their help to non-violently fight the menace of terror. Break the chain of terror in the hearts of the colleagues of those killed by talking about peace. If he had the power, remove all policemen from that area immediately. Maybe even seek the nation to go on a day of repentance and peace. Maybe, he would also sit on a indefinite fast in the middle of the jungle against all armed violence and request Arundathi Roy to visit him!


Chitra said...

The last two days were depressing and caused a lot of concern. The height of indifference and callousness of the government is shocking! you have rightly said that they will remain mere numbers, faceless lives to be dispensed with.

When you expressed the opinion that Indians cannot buy into any alien technology and would gladly opt for peace, it is like the light at the end of the tunnel. My day feels slightly better.

Iniyaal said...

You have said it rightly... After days since the attack, there is still a debate in vlaidity of the ungoing CRPF operations.Does this not show the value given to the lives of the slain CRPF men?

If only PC and his dept spend their time on understanding people and the reality... instead of public declarations on wiping out violence using brutal force.

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