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Mamta, Maoists And Mediation

By Rahul Pathak

11 August, 2010

The opposition has stormed the parliament on the so called ‘links’ of Mamta Banerjee with the Maoists and Kishenji’s support for Mamta’s rally in Lalgarh and the Left parties and BJP have openly taken on the tirade against Mamta Banerjee. Although UPA has not officially taken any position on the issue the implicit support to Mamta has came from some quarters of the congress party. Also, under suspicious circumstances Mamta with a Z plus security cover is injured by the truck which leads to cancellation of Mamta’s attending monsoon session of the parliament. Certainly, the picture is not as clear as it may seem to be but we can sense a ray of hope for the UPA government in all this in a long term perspective and an immediate challenge of handling the opposition in the short term.

The opposition’s hue and cry about Mamta’s link with the Maoists has to be looked in a proper perspective. The opposition has gone gaga over the ‘links’ of Mamta with Naxalites primarily based on two arguments, firstly she is a part of United Progressive Alliance and holds a ministerial berth in the Manmohan Singh’s Cabinet and thus her acts do not resonate the U.P.A.’s official two pronged approach to Maoism. Secondly, it is unprecedented that ‘someone from the establishment’ is reaching out to the Maoists and is probably also getting some positive response from the other side.

Left has its own reasons to oppose as the result of this rally might prove to be the last blow to the political monopoly of left in Bengal and when the ground zero of the debacle of left in Bengal, the Lalgarh is chosen for the same, the response has to be more strong than ever. BJP indeed has to oppose the move since it is the largest opposition party and it’s job is to oppose. However, within all this political drama the basic question which has to be asked to both these parties is that whether they hold the opinion that no one from the establishment should reach out to the Maoists and they should be sabotaged by military means without even giving them a chance to raise their concerns?

If there is a probability emerging of mainstreaming Maoists in the democratic processes of the country a very large of section of population will be in support of it. I will here take the liberty to suggest that the rally of Mamta in Lalgarh has been one of the major steps towards a possible reconciliation of the Maoist problem. The rally of Mamta was not a stand alone political act; it was also supported with the civil society stalwarts like Swami Agnivesh, Medha Patkar and Mahashewta Devi and it is quite known that these people are the interlocutors who can facilitate the talks with the Maoist leadership. So, if the Lalgarh rally suggests towards the possibility of mediation which can bring some peaceful solution to the naxalite problem, the opposition should welcome this move rather than politicizing it. The pro-poor political parties who swear by the name of Adivasis and Dalits have forgotten that the question at hand is of their ideological cousins who had estranged them and went on a different path to violence, and now if there is a possibility emerging that they will shun the violence and become a part of democratic process the opposition should be in support of the vast majority of adivasis rather than gaining political mileage from the same.

The Kishenji’s support to the Lalgarh rally and raising of the questions about Azad in the rally by Mamta suggests that there is a substantial engagement between the interlocutors and the Maoists. The reference to Azad is a more symbolic act that the Maoists will also get a space for the questions they want to raise, however disturbing they may be for the mainstream. If we are seeking for a talk with the Maoists they should also have some legitimate space for raising questions about the government policies towards them and encounters of their comrades. If the opposition wants to have talks with the Maoists with a cane in one hand and guns in the other, the future of such talks seems evident.

Lastly, the question about Congress party’s stand on the issue, the UPA II might have failed on several measures as compared to UPA I, but one thing that has become evident in UPA II is the space for a voice within the party and often we get to hear conflicting viewpoints from various party members. There is a space for debate and dialogue within the party and it is good news since the issues at hand are not homogenous issues on which there is a diversity of opinion in the country, if such opinions are not reflected in the working of the party system it is harmful for the democratic objectives of the party. The regimental parties which are loosing there hold now on the electorate are bound to be disturbed by the political innovations of the UPA. However, there is always a need for healthy opposition in a democracy but the choice a responsible opposition should make on what to oppose for, raising the voice of the unheard or the political mileage.

(The author is with Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad and can be reached at rpathak@iimahd.ernet.in The views expressed are personal.)