National Situation

Maoism, Green Hunt and Democratic Rights

Kunal Chattopadhyay

One recurrent campaign by the Government of India, by numerous mainstream politicians, as well as by a number of newspapers, journals and their journalists, is that civil rights organisations who stand up for the rights of Maoists are in effect aiding the Maoists. They too, it is argued, are guilty of waging war or perpetrating terror in order to damage the Indian state.

A number of vital issues are involved here, and in one essay one cannot cover them all. The first point that needs to be clarified is that according to the Constitution of India, every citizen of India is entitled to certain rights. Nobody can be convicted without the due process of arrest, production in court, charge sheeting in proper time, case hearings, and conviction, with proper legal assistance being available to the accused. It is for this reason that any genuine civil liberties/democratic rights movement will always make a distinction between the Maoists and the Indian state. The CPI(Maoist) is by its own proclamation an organisation that rejects the Constitution of India. It is an organisation that is banking on an escalation of violence, whereby the people in the middle, those who do not feel any urge to identify themselves with the state regardless of its errors and crimes, will, in case the polarisation is complete, will tend to choose the Maoists. Moreover, the CPI (Maoist) is an organisation that rejects democracy – not merely the limited bourgeois parliamentary democracy, but even more the vision of a wider socialist democracy shared not only by Marx and Engels and their colleagues, but the early Bolsheviks all the way to the seizure of power and till the outbreak of the civil war. Rather, they identify socialism with the dead end of one party rule, extreme violence on any dissent, all the way to summary “trials” and killings of opponents, a line opened by Stalin and continued with minor variations by heroes like Pol Pot and Ceausescu.


Any opposition to the CPI (Maoist) will therefore be a political opposition, rather than a civil rights opposition. One can take a liberal position, and condemn them for their non-acceptance of an abstract democracy. One can take a Gandhian position and condemn them for their adherence to violence. Or one can take a revolutionary Marxist position and condemn them for substitutionism (replacing the working class as the revolutionary subject by the self-proclaimed and self-elected vanguard), for their rejection of genuine working class democracy, which for Marx meant a great deepening of what he saw as a limited, truncated democracy under capitalism, and not for their acceptance of violence, since under certain circumstances violence may be the only method of resistance, but for their glorification of violence. What cannot do is accuse them of violating their responsibilities under the constitution, since they repudiate it.


The Indian state cannot repudiate the constitution. This has nothing to do with whether one is soft on the Maoists or not. This has, instead, everything to do with protecting the rights of every Indian citizen. This state was created through a process that also made the constitution. Repudiation of the constitution in the name of fighting “Naxalism” can lead to a police state.  Consider the case of Arundhati Roy. Roy wrote an article on the Maoists, which could be legitimately characterised as a romanticised picture, and one that, through its absolutely valid characterisiation of the violence perpetrated by the state while remaining silent about the Maoists, and indeed while only painting a rosy picture of the commitment of their cadres and so forth, can create a false image about the Maoists. But if this is the reason to charge her with being a Maoist sympathiser and arguing that she too should be prosecuted under the UAPA or other laws, then obviously civil liberties have gone for a toss. Or take the case of Nandini Sundar. This Delhi-based Professor was part of a government committee that submitted a report, warning the government that systematic exploitation of adivasis was at the root of their anger, and improving their conditions was a key challenge. Sundar has been extremely vocal against the Salwa Judum, a non-governmental militia set up by the government, which has been creating terror in the name of fighting the Maoists. According to the government and large sections of the media, the Salwa Judum is a spontaneous and self-initiated reaction to Maoist oppression, and they hailed it as a turning point in the fight against Naxalism. Fact finding teams, sent by the CPI, by the PUCL, and others, have reported differently. As far back as April 2006, several civil liberties oranisations reported the following: more money was being allocated for anti-Naxal operations than for development; and the adivasis are acutely aware that under the present dispensation they have no opportunity for development. Interestingly, this report explains that Salwa Judum means, approximately, “purification hunt” (an apt forerunner of “Green Hunt’?). The report goes on to state that “the fact is that the Salwa Judum is being led by sections of local elites, contractors and traders, that it is officially part of anti-naxal initiatives, and that it is being actively supported by state agencies to an unprecedented degree”. It also explains that “video shots of Salwa Judum meetings clearly show the Chief Minister, the Collector and politicians like Mahendra Karma addressing these, and security personnel accompanying Salwa Judum processions”. Thus, Nandini Sundar is hardly a voice in the wilderness when she explains that state backed terrorism in the interest of the upper classes is being conducted in the name of fighting the “Naxalite menace”. But since she has persisted in criticizing the government for what is happening in Chhatisgarh, she is to be viewed as a Maoist sympathizer. As she reported in the internet earlier this year, when she and a colleague visited Chhattisgarh, the police followed them, made it impossible for them to book rooms in hotels, and tried to intimidate their drivers.


This line of attack can be constantly widened. If Roy, Sundar, or members of PUDR, APDR, PUCL, etc are targeted as covert Maoists, without any proof, without cases being disposed, but the people being smeared at will, then anyone who defends them in turn can be targeted next. Binayak Sen of PUCL was arrested as a Maoist. He got bail after a very long and sustained national and international campaign, including such actions as campaigns by numerous Nobel laureates. Being Maoist is not a crime under the ordinary laws. One must understand that special laws are being created to tackle them. Thus, the UAPA amendment, passed unanimously by Parliament after the terrorist attacks in Mumbai, are being invoked, because one otherwise has to bring specific cases. What has Sundar done? Has she taken shots at some police officer? Has she smuggled guns from across the border or built them in some cellar? What did Sen do? This is a restoration of the concept of “political crime”. So while murders committed under instigations of khap panchayats will be treated as “sensitive issues”, anyone speaking for civil liberties will be accused of being a Maoist. And while urban figures may have some protection, tese methods will lead to intensification of an already massive state terrorism on ordinary people who protest and demand their rights. Thus, women who protested against the police brutality and rape in Sonamukhi village near Jhargram are now being smeared as font persons for the CPI(Maoist). This can only end, unless halted by a determined struggle, by turning the whole of India into a police state, where any criticism of the government will be viewed as signs of Maoism.