Saturday, May 19, 2012

Maoist: Crafty Capitalist or Committed Communist?






The big question is what are the Maoist fighting for? Is it money or power? Are they political or economic actors? Are they Robin hoods or rent seekers? Are they committed communists or as the home minister PC Chidambaram says, “crafty capitalist”? And more important, can the entire resistance movement be clubbed under the  Maoist monolith.


Recently, media flashed pictures of Milli Panda, wife of Sabyasachi Panda, a Maoist leader in Orissa. The videos showed Milli immaculately dressed in an expensive saree, wearing pirated sun glasses. Besides, the glittering gold chain hanging down her neck, the most distinctive feature in her attire was a red Hindu sacred thread tied on her wrist. If anything, Milli’s dressing sense defies all logic about her Maoist leanings.

Her outward appearance would surely have gone unnoticed had she been a Delhi based leftist, but an immaculately dressed up woman emerging from the most backward conflict zone in India raises genuine doubts about the ideological purity of the brand of politics that the media identifies her with. She certainly appeared to be a “crafty capitalist” than any disciple of Mao.

Milli’s dazzling personality also illuminates the fact that the problem is not one of communist ideology but an offshoot of capitalism. It is sheer greed that is driving many rent seekers in the area that has been thrown open for mineral extraction. This is not to suggest a complete absence of politically motivated Maoist, but the growth of rent seeking criminals can also not be discounted. These criminals are nothing but a more dreaded version of Salwa Judam who are being employed to create an atmosphere of instability in the area.

Who is behind these criminal elements and why are they being promoted? The perception among many middle-class Delhites is that the main cause of trouble is the tribals who are instigated by city-bred, ideologically driven Maoists, to take up arms to overthrow the Indian constitution. Many of those who argue on these lines know  that the problem is far from being political – it is an economic problem.

To devise a coherent strategy, it is important to know the true nature of dissent. There are various shades to this movement - Some are born rebels, some have achieved Mao-hood but a large chunk have Maoism thrust upon them. It is the last variety of Maoists that are more lethal to the national health.

According to the Minister of State for Home Affairs Jitendra Singh, “The CPI (Maoist) has close links with foreign Maoist organizations in Philippines, Turkey, etc. The outfit is also a member of the ‘Coordination Committee of Maoist Parties and Organisations of South Asia”. In addition, as PV Ramana of IDSA says, “there also existed entirely opportunistic, non-fraternal linkages with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) of Sri Lanka.”

Indian Maoists connection to Europe is what compounds the problem manifold. There is hardly a strong Maoist movement in Europe. The European members of these groups who hold seminars professing armed revolution neither believe in its applicability in their home country nor are they convinced about it occurrence in any of the sister states of Europe.

These so-called communist actors of the West are generally on the payrolls of criminal elements and multi-national companies involved in mineral extraction business. The cloak of communism that these agencies wear only masks their criminal intent. Much like the western NGOs promoting democracy and coloured revolutions in various parts of the world, the western Maoists are also involved in promoting trouble in third world countries. We have seen how the western connections of the LTTE movement resulted in Sri Lankan population losing decades in a frivolous war. Similarly, the connections of Punjab terrorism to the West are also well substantiated.

In addition to the foreign connection, the Maoist in central and south India also thrive on direct support from local business houses. Why are all these foreign and local agencies funding the same elements that they profess to dread the most?

The normal logic suggests that business requires peace to flourish. However, the history of business in most of the mineral rich areas of the third world tell a different story - It is actually in the interest of the business to have an atmosphere of violence. The business of mineral or fossil fuel extraction actually thrives in a communally and ethnically vitiated environment. When the natives are busy fighting each other and when the focus of entire nation is fixated on violence, the multinational companies (largely from the west) quietly extract minerals. A very recent case is that of Iraq that lost one million people and most of its infrastructure just to make sure that Halliburton and its ilk could extract oil in tranquility.

Mr Chidambram in one of the interviews to a leading newspaper had said, “ I think we need to rewrite the rules and regulations so that anyone who wishes to do business in these areas can do so under a different set of rules…No one will put money unless two conditions are satisfied. There has to be reasonable security and two, the rules and regulations in these areas must be known.” Now the question that one needs to ask the home minster is, why this unnecessary haste to generate wealth from India’s mineral resources?

The solution to the problem lies in apprehending profit seekers of all hues.The focus must shift towards those who are exploiting the Indian government’s liberal economic policies for personal aggrandizement. However, one is not sure if the government is ready to acknowledge the role of ‘big ticket’ miners in the game. The administration is focused on how to provide a convivial environment for corporate investments in the disputed area, rather than stabilizing the area for people to sustain their livelihood. More than the Maoists, the problem relates to government’s priority that places ‘business first’ rather than putting ‘people first’.

It makes economic sense to delay the urges to extract minerals because in an unstable region the businessmen may make profits but India will lose out by incurring huge costs in maintaining security. And more important we cannot afford to inflict upon India the “mineral curse” that so many other mineral rich regions of the third world are afflicted with.

The 'maximum force aficionados', that include aggressive TV anchors, retired generals and terrorism experts who repeatedly assert the "inevitability of muscular and violent statecraft" are actually aiding the designs of all those who want large portions of central India to get entrapped in a perpetual cycle of violence.