Maoists have no growth mantra for tribals
By By Kancha Ilaiah
May 03 2010
In her impressive article Walking with the Comrades, Arundhati Roy
gave us both the salt and pepper view of Maoists in Dandakaranya as
well as the lives and hardship of tribals.
She definitely made more than a journalistic effort to tell the story
of tribal conditions, conflicts and the way the Maoists stood by them
in times of trouble, exploitation and land grabbing. There is no doubt
that the Maoists are working as their saviours from corporate
exploiters and the oppression of other agencies.
But do the Maoists have an overall developmental strategy for tribals?
To find an answer, we should try to understand the history of tribal
development in the Northeast, particularly Mizoram, Nagaland,
Meghalaya and Manipur. About 50 years ago, the tribals of this region
were as illiterate as those of Dandakaranya. But today Mizoram has 95
per cent literacy (more than Kerala), Manipur has 68.87 per cent,
Meghalaya 63.31 per cent and Nagaland 66.11 per cent.
The amazing thing is that English, which is seen as an alien but
desired language by many plain people, has become their common
communicative and administrative language. Anybody in India knows that
knowledge of English is a kind of power in itself. This educational
development has to be seen in the background of the committed
activities of missionaries. They averted violent struggles and at the
same time, ensured the uplift of tribals. It was a slow but sure
process of development and empowerment.
But what is the Maoist vision to develop the Central Indian tribes?
Roy knows that the Maoists moved into Dandakaranya after they lost
ground in plain regions of Andhra Pradesh. They did not start their
movement just to protect the tribals or to liberate them. They
launched their movement around 1967 with a theoretical formulation
that India was a semi-feudal and semi-colonial country. The Maoists
were of the view that India should go through a process of new
democratic revolution on the lines that Mao proposed. Their main idea
was to liberate the agrarian villages and encircle the urban areas
with a twin strategy of guerrilla warfare and mass mobilisation.
Having failed in this strategy and also having lost hundreds of
leaders and thousands of cadres they withdrew into this thick forest
zone. They have not changed their understanding of India since then.
Does Roy agree with their view of Indian capital, state and society? I
support her if she is sympathising with them for their fight against
"corporate invasion" but she seems to suggest that they are like gods
who have gone there to change the life of tribals. There is something
basically wrong with that understanding.
Maoism as an ideological agency does not have comprehensive liberation
and developmental agenda for tribals. Even in China it did not
liberate and develop them, in spite of Maoism being in power for so
long. The Chinese tribals are not as much developed as our
Yes, ever since Mr Chidambaram took over the home ministry, as an
aggressive agent of liberalisation and globalisation, the question of
the Maoist strategy of converting Dandakaranya into a war zone has
acquired critical importance.
There is a view that the Maoist problem is basically a law and order
problem both among the governing agencies and a vast number of civil
societal forces. It is actually a socio-economic and ideological
movement. It has developed as part of the larger communist ideological
development. It is one of the shades of the Indian Communist movement
with a history of 43 years.
There are intellectuals in this country who believe that it has been
working for the development and uplift of the tribals of the Central
India. But both in terms of practice and theory the Maoist movement
does not have a reformist agenda for tribals.
Ever since its main ideologues — Tarimela Nagireddy, Devulapally
Venkateswar Rao and later Kondapally Sitharamaiah, K.G. Satyamurthy —
started the Maoist stream they have been waging a war against the
Indian state. Charu Majumdar provided its "Annihilation of Class
Enemy" theory. But they could not succeed even in one state.
They are now focusing on the tribal areas as they are the most
underdeveloped. Some sort of semi-feudalism and semi-colonialism
exists in the tribal regions and the forest gives Maoists a cover that
plain areas cannot.
Nagireddy wrote his famous book India Mortgaged in the early 70s.
Today India's position even in the world has changed. The nature of
its capital has changed quite drastically.
Since Maoists as well as the exploiters of the tribals bank upon their
illiteracy, poverty and unemployment, the state must study the
development pattern of north-eastern tribals and employ some of those
strategies in Central Indian tribal regions.
Mere military strategy will not work. The Congress cannot afford to
acquire an image of tribal annihilator. The Maoists have no clue as to
how to bring the tribals into the mainstream bypassing the caste
structures that the Hindu religion has created. But it is part of
Hindu fundamentalist expansion into tribal areas with its own
Unfortunately Mr Chidambaram too is becoming part of that move. But
while we oppose Chidambaram's warmongering we should also understand
the limitations of Maoists.
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