Thursday 24th Jan 2019
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Social Justice vs. Maoists Violence

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, by JUSTICE (RETD.) RAJINDAR SACHAR

This cycle of mindless violence and counter-violence may continue unless the state honestly acts in the interest of the poor and the tribals, and does not connive with corporate mine owners in their exploitive acts, observes JUSTICE (RETD.) RAJINDAR SACHAR on the recent Maoists’ attack in Chhattisgarh.

The recent murderous attack by Maoists in Chhattisgarh resulting in death of 28 persons, including Congress leaders, their security officers and ordinary villages of the area, has to be treated as a diabolical act by the self-styled leaders of the “revolutionary movement”, CPI (Maoist), who delude themselves that they are struggling for bringing about a revolution of workers and peasants. One of the seriously injured persons, senior Congress leader VC Shukla, died on 12 June. In fact, I would describe the activities of these “revolutionaries” a massive mad act which has damaged greatly the cause of tribals. It is also most foul as Maoists have tried to stop political activity they do not agree with through violent means. Their politics is as evil as those they claim to be fighting against and should be rejected outright by all those who stand for democratic norms in political struggles for peace with justice.

If people expected that the two major political parties, realising the urgency of the situation, will forget their petty public posturing, they were mistaken. While Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde and Chief Minister Raman issue a statement that they are going to work together, State Congress leaders have announced that they are boycotting the all-party meeting called by the Chhattisgarh Chief Minister. Even within Congress high-ups there is now a sharp division – while one Central minister, who used to take a somewhat humanitarian approach to the Maoist problem, now calls them “terrorists”, a Central tribal minister has rightly warned against this approach and reproached the state government for having encouraged Salwa Judum’s sinful strategy, and which was also so commented adversely by the Supreme Court.

Even the normally conservative Planning Commission has suddenly thought fit to suggest universal coverage and do away with the BPL test in 22 most backward of 82 IAP (Integrated Action Plan) districts. Did we need these murders to face the reality of the total deprivation of the tribals and their desperation which provides easy catch to Naxalite groups? 

Naxalite leaders have made no secret of their aim. They feel (though in my opinion they are disastrously mistaken) that by spreading terror and trying to keep some areas outside the civil authority, they would one day be able to launch a fierce onslaught to capture political power in Delhi even if they are said to have a strong presence in 185 districts out of the total 607 districts. This is because the Indian state, however weak, will never be so weak as to allow itself to be taken over by such rump groups, even if it is able to equip itself with some arms – the fire power of a modern state is too overwhelmingly superior to Maoist groups. The real reason for Maoist presence is the indefensible antipathy of the government to follow the policy of development with justice to the tribals, which alone will make Maoist influence wither away.

But that requires taking on the corporate sector which is ravishingly exploiting the mineral wealth and denying the tribals even their modest share. Why does the government not accept the suggestion of human rights organisations, including the PUCL, to hold public discussions on this vital matter in the presence of tribal leaders, among others? Is the reason the presence of many mine owners belonging to the ruling party at the Centre? This charge finds support from the continued detention of Soni Suri, a social worker among tribals, on a fake charge of being a conduit for passing money to Maoists on behalf of a mining company given to her by company’s contractor – inexplicably he has been denied bail, but the contractor or the owner has not been arrested. One is pained to see this strange nexus between the ruling party and the corporate sector.

Of course, I accept that the Maoist act of brutality and terrorism can never be justified, even if they be in response to equally heinous and brutal acts unleashed by the security forces, as we are seeing presently in Chhattisgarh. This situation no doubt poses a knotty question and the Supreme Court has answered thus:

“Indeed, we recognise that the state faces many serious problems on account of Maoist/Naxalite violence. Notwithstanding the fact that there may be social and economic circumstances, and certain policies followed by the state itself, leading to the emergence of extremist violence, we cannot condone it. The state necessarily has the obligation, moral and constitutional, to combat such extremism and provide security to the people of the country.

“However the primordial problem lies deep within the socio-economic policies pursued by the state in a society that was already endemically and horrifically suffering from gross inequalities. Our Constitution provides the guidelines within which the state is to act, both to assert such authority to transgress those guidelines is to act unlawfully, to imperil the moral and legal authority of the state and the Constitution.”

It is, however, very important that the revolting nature of extremist acts cannot serve as a basis or pretext for the governments to disregard their national and international obligations, the caution highlighted by the International Council of Jurists in its Berlin Declaration on August 28, 2004, namely that “both contemporary human rights and humanitarian law allow states a reasonably wide margin of flexibility to combat terrorism without contravening human rights and humanitarian legal obligations.   

A warning has been given in a report titled “Development Challenges in Extremist Affected Areas” by an expert group constituted by the Planning Commission of India in the following manner: “In the case of tribes in particular it has ended up in destroying their social organisation, cultural identity, and resource base....which cumulatively makes them increasingly vulnerable to exploitation.”

And yet, all that the government does is not to face the causes of the rage and despair that nurture such movements. Instead, it considers the matter as a menace, a law and order problem that is to be rooted out with the use of force. This cycle of mindless violence and counter-violence may continue unless the state honestly acts in the interest of the poor and the tribals, and does not connive with corporate mine owners in their exploitive acts.

[The writer is a former Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court.]

This cycle of mindless violence and counter-violence may continue unless the state honestly acts in the interest of the poor and the tribals, and does not connive with corporate mine owners in their exploitive acts, observes JUSTICE (RETD.) RAJINDAR SACHAR on the recent Maoists’ attack in Chhattisgarh.



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