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Maoist Kidnappings: Who Gains By The Blame Game?

By S.G.Vombatkere

22 February, 2011

Odisha's Malkangiri District Collector Vineel Krishna and engineer Pabitra Majhi were captured by Maoists and are in their custody. The Maoists are demanding the release of their cadres held by the state in exchange for the two government servants they hold hostage. This is being termed in a section of the electronic media as terrorism by the Maoists. This is an unfair charge. The Maoists are certainly militants but branding them as terrorists betrays ignorance on the part of the media regarding the large numbers of adivasi people who are held in state jails mostly on mere suspicion of being Maoists.

This observation is not in direct or indirect support of the militant actions of Maoists or to make an excuse for what is, without a doubt, armed militancy against governments. However if we objectively look at first causes, it is equally without doubt that governments have inflicted economic and physical violence on simple adivasi and rural folk over decades. More recently, these initiatives are in the interest of “national economic growth” or “development” through clandestine agreements and MoUs with corporate bodies, to establish extractive or production industries on land on which adivasis have lived since time immemorial. Resistance by adivasi people to displacment is met by state-directed (and often corporate-instigated) police force, designed to terrorise them to vacate the land. It is well known that much too often, government forest and revenue officials have oppressed and terrorized simple adivasi and rural folk by threat and use of police force even without acquiring land, as in collection of forest produce.

With forcible and illegal acquisition of land (as for Vedanta or POSCO or Tata Steel, merely for example), it is clear that the state is the first aggressor, and the Maoist cadres are reactive to that aggression. It is governments that have followed Mao's dictum and demonstrated how political power flows out of the barrel of a gun, when they use police force (including sponsoring vigilante groups like Salwa Judum, which was condemned by the Supreme Court of India) to kill people in “encounters”, evacuate entire adivasi villages on the false pretext of protecting them from Maoists, or arrest people in the dead of night on false charges or mere suspicion. In these operations adivasi women are frequently molested or raped. Will adivasi people ever view government as benign?

Whether the Maoists really represent the adivasi people is another question. It is also moot whether governments really represent adivasi people. Both governments and Maoists claim to represent people, often the same set of completely innocent people who are trapped in the vicious cross fire, when they do nothing of the sort.

Many districts of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh and Odisha are affected by Maoist operations, where the writ of government is weak or non-existent. Maoists are demanding the release of their cadres and even non-cadres arrested by government forces in exchange for government officials they hold as hostage, like Vineel Krishna and Pabitra Majhi at present. The real and obvious agony of the families of these two officials (and the families of others killed in Maoist attacks and ambushes) is brought out by the electronic media, but it ignores the agony of families of thousands of adivasi people who have been victims of governments' economic violence and police depredations over the decades. Is the electronic media being impartial or partisan?

Finally, it is the people “in contact” on the ground who suffer violence – adivasi people on the one hand, and police constables (and now higher officials like Vineel Krishna and Pabitra Majhi) on the other hand, while the initiators of the first causes sit in air-conditioned comfort in government and corporate board offices, planning India's economic growth by boosting GDP. Perhaps the sections of the media that are excessively corporate-friendly might like to take a more holistic view of the entire protest scene in India, and view people's dissent and resistance to governments' development initiatives with a less jaundiced eye. The media should recommend that it is the duty of government to take the initiative to unconditionally call Maoists to talk rather than use armed force against citizens of India.

Maj Gen S.G.Vombatkere retired from military service from the appointment of Additional DG in charge of Discipline and Vigilance in Army HQ, New Delhi. He is a member of the National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM) and People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL). Email: sg9kere@live.com




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