BY SAUMITRA MOHAN
THE recent spate of Naxal activities including the abduction of an MLA or two Italian tourists in Odisha, the continued mindless killings of security personnel as seen in the Garhchiroli district of Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh or Jharkhand clearly shows that Naxals have given up their anachronistic fight against the Indian state.
This is notwithstanding the reverses suffered by them including death of hundreds of their cadres in encounters with the security personnel including that of Koteshwar Rao alias Kishenji.
The Naxals just refuse to see the writings on the wall. They refuse to accept the antediluvianism of their horse and buggy methods that they have embraced since the heady days of sanguinary 1960s when thousands of Indians lost their lives in the prime of their youth in pursuance of a chimera. These youths were imbued with the ideals of a Marxist discourse and were ready to go to any extent to realise the same, including resorting to violence as is synonymous with Naxalism today. However, as Gandhi would have said, the means to achieve a goal is much more important than the goal. If the means are erroneous and immoral, then the insidious influence thereof starts corrupting the goal itself, howsoever lofty it might be. This is what has happened with Naxalism in this country.
The Indian State
Many of the critics at the dawn of our independence felt that India was too huge a democracy and too colossal an entity in terms of pluralities and diversities to survive the vicissitudes of time. India, to these prophets of doom, was like a Leviathan infested with the mind-boggling contradictions of castes, creeds, religions, languages, inegalitarian social hierarchies and ethnicities, which was sure to crumble. But even the strongest critics of the Indian state including the likes of Selig Harrison, who once, like Cassandra, predicted our downfall and balkanisation, would agree that the Indian state has managed its contradictions much better than any other state of comparable size.
The alleged frailties of the Indian polity as experienced in the immediate aftermath of its independence were actually the frailties of a nascent nation, trying hard to discover itself in its nation-building exercise. The ‘so-called’ frailties of the Indian state, in hindsight, would appear to be ‘a toddler’s baby steps’ before stabilising and learning to walk properly. Our founding fathers were discreet and visionary enough to leave us a Constitutional framework, which has seen us through the ups and downs of trying and testing times. But we, as a nation, have proved to the world time and again our maturity as a nation and the inherent strength of our society. Through consociational policies and interventions, the Indian state has ingenuously charted a sui generis course of development for its citizens who have seen the successful cooption of many of the anti-state forces to the satisfaction of all, be it the fissiparous or separatist movements in Tamil Nadu, in Punjab or in the North-East.
Coupled with constructive political engagements, the customised policy interventions to cater to the specific needs of each community and each region, the Indian state has successfully managed these intractable contradictions. The seeming stray and sporadic failures, as noticed from time to time, are nothing but some rough edges, which would be smoothened sooner than later. Be it securing the interests of the huge pageantry, ratcheting up development of the socio-economically backward communities or regions, or catering to the revolutions of rising aspirations of our increasingly demanding middle classes through multiple development schemes, particularly those in the field of health, education, nutrition and employment, to ensure a dignified quality life for our citizens, the Indian state has more or less come out with flying colours.
Those who rue our performance and criticise the working of our system just need to look around the working of the States in our immediate neighbourhood or elsewhere, be it Myanmar, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, countries of the Middle East including Iraq, Libya, Syria, countries of Africa and East Asia, to not only derive solace but also be proud of our sterling achievements. Those who criticise and attack the Indian state fail to see through the difficulties involved in managing the operation of a hugely complex society like India. The Indian political system has survived and proved its efficacy by tiding over sundry trials and tribulations of time. Any other political system would have been a sure recipe for disaster.
That is why the Naxals who are still imbued with the Marxist notions of a violent overthrow of the Indian state had better realise the follies and flaws in their (mis)conceptions. They need to revise and re-model their vision for the complex Indian society and put forward the same to the Indian public for appreciation. After all, the society and the people for whom they have been fighting a bloody war know nothing of their ideas, ideology or vision they have for this country. And before they do so, they should not forget that extremism of any ideology is bad as has been amply proved by history. The collapse of communism in the 1990s did that loud and clear though one refuses to accept that it was an ‘End of History’ as Francis Fukuyama famously declaimed. After all, the reigning laissez faire model led by liberal capitalism cannot be said to have succeeded given the raging recession across the globe and the near-collapse of many countries including Ireland, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Greece.
The call for rolling back the state has itself been rolled back now. The socialist, welfare state, as aptly envisaged in our Constitution, is the way forward. And it is this model, which has come to stay if we see through the functioning of all political systems across the world including the Western democracies or Eastern autocracies/aristocracies. The famed Social Contract through which the state is said to have come into existence dictates that the state must take care of its citizens, otherwise the citizens could easily overthrow the state as seen in the rise and assertion of the civil society in Egypt, Libya, Syria and elsewhere during the recent Jasmine or Spring revolutions.
The extremist Marxists masquerading as Naxal ideologues and activists in our society should also understand the realities and realpolitik well enough to jettison a moth-eaten ideology to creatively and constructively bring the same in sync with the times and needs of our society.
It would be well within the interest of the thousands of youth engaged in a war against the Indian state through a violent Naxal movement to reject violence and come forward to participate in the parliamentary democratic system which gives them ample opportunity to influence the Indian state in a more meaningful way than they have done so far. If they don’t, then they would only be showing contempt to the people for whom they are said to have taken up the cudgels.