A Khaki Shudra To Our New Brahmins
How is it that the Maoists accumulate so much sympathy while the
police are damned by the uniform they wear?
I'm aware that I suffer from multiple handicaps as I stand to defend
myself and my police force for planning and executing 'Operation Green
Hunt' against the Maoist insurgents in the dense jungles of Bastar.
I'm acutely aware of the truth of a metaphor I flippantly coined many
years ago—that in India's transformed caste system of today, a
policeman is a Shudra, someone to be ridiculed, shouted at, spat upon.
Over the years, I have expanded the Shudra label to include writers,
poets, intellectuals, journalists and teachers from mofussil
towns—what I mean is, those who essentially know and think in Hindi or
other regional languages of India. And, by extension of that metaphor,
who are the Brahmins? The Anglophile Indians are the Brahmins—those
who write and think in English, those who teach in the colleges of
Delhi and other big cities. And I, unfortunately being a Hindi poet,
can only claim to be a counterfeit poet. Therefore, as policeman and
Hindi poet, I'm a double Shudra.
According to ancient Indian jurisprudence, as a Shudra, my evidence is
of little value. A Shudra's cry is a cry in the wilderness. An
allegation against a Shudra needn't be proved; it's the Shudra who
must prove his innocence. Despite the heavy odds, I must still defend
myself and my force.
I would like to begin with what Operation Green Hunt is all about. It
should not be confused with the operation launched jointly by the
central police organisations and the Chhattisgarh police in specific
areas of Bastar.
One of the tasks undertaken by the Chhattisgarh police as part of
Operation Green Hunt is the large-scale removal of mines laid in
public places by the Maoists. Lots of policemen were losing their
lives or having their limbs blown off in large swathes of Bastar mined
by the Maoists. It's strange that human rights bodies have never
spoken against the mining of roads, farms, jungles and public places
by the Maoists.
The second task was to identify and take control of ambush points
favoured by the Maoists. This, too, has been largely successful and
police casualties have dropped dramatically.
The third task was to conduct intelligence operations to help break up
Maoist camps, where cadres are trained in military tactics and field
manoeuvres. And our final goal was to win over the minds and hearts of
people by organising jan jagaran meetings at weekly tribal markets.
They were meant to wean away tribals from the Maoist ambit of
influence. From meetings at weekly markets, we expanded the programme
into jan jagaran abhiyans in the towns and villages.
What seems to have angered the Maoists the most about Operation Green
Hunt are the last two goals. They realised the police programme was
effective and villagers were sharing their concerns with the police.
So they reacted in the only way they know—by stepping up the terror
tactics. Many innocent tribals were killed after having been declared
"police informers". But the Maoists soon realised this was becoming
counter-productive, for it was making people respond favourably to the
jan jagaran abhiyan.
They changed tactics. The police have since August 2009 been receiving
credible intelligence about Maoist designs to oppose Operation Green
Hunt by killing tribals or committing other atrocities and then
blaming the security forces.
The truth about these inputs was confirmed in a letter dated September
10, 2009, issued by the subcommittee of mass organisations (SUCOMO) of
the CPI (Maoist) and seized by the police. The party asked its mass
contact groups to launch propaganda at the all-India and state levels
about alleged atrocities committed by the security forces. It said
such propaganda should include criticism of efforts to crush the
revolutionary movement through massive deployment of force. It
encouraged flexible methods—from agitations to seminars and signature
campaigns—and sought to influence sympathisers into bringing pressure
on the upa government, the US, and Indian embassies abroad, all aimed
at getting Operation Green Hunt called off.
It isn't hard to see why criticism of the Salwa Judum at the national
and international levels increased after the CPI (Maoist) politburo
decided in April 2006 to hit it in all ways. It isn't hard to see
either why the attack on Operation Green Hunt has increased after the
SUCOMO letter of appeal and instruction. These two 'soft' strategies
have resulted in the state and its police officers being dragged to
The Supreme Court is hearing the petition of Sodi Sambo, who was shot
in the leg, allegedly by a security personnel, so it will be wrong on
my part to comment. But let me state that the Chhattisgarh police is
not generally known for fake encounters or killing of innocents. If it
believed in extra-judicial killing, the prisons wouldn't be full of
arrested Maoist leaders and cadres. This isn't to say occasional
aberrations might not occur. Whenever such instances are brought to
the notice of SPs, action has always been taken: in Bastar alone, 25
cases have been registered against police officers and spos from 2005
on. Only a few of these were registered on the directions of the NHRC.
Ten have already resulted in chargesheets, with the accused cops being
sent to jail. Some cases pertain to rape, murder, rioting. If such
cases against policemen could be registered, investigated and taken
for trial by local police, how can one accept that the Chhattisgarh
police acts in partisan manner? Individual aberrations cannot be drawn
to brand the force a "bunch of hoodlums".
My police will continue its battle against the Maoist cadres. We will
fight them on the ideological plane as well as on the field out of our
belief in a liberal socialist democracy and the rule of law. We are
bound by oath to protect the Constitution of India. We will fight
because the fight has been forced on us by a group that openly
declares in its book, Strategy and Tactics of Indian Revolution, that
"the seizure of power by armed force, the settlement of the issue by
war, is the central aim and highest form of revolution". If this is
their main aim, it leaves the security forces very few options. The
only difference is that we will be fighting within the constraints of
the law of the land, while the Maoists are free to use both legal and
illegal means. We have accepted this and will still fight anyone who
intends to jettison our Constitution and replace it with a
totalitarian system of whatever shade.
To the metropolitan Brahmins, my assertion may be of little value. A
Shudra's testimony is a cry in the wilderness.
(The author is director-general of police, Chhattisgarh.)
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