Central security forces are continuing with the crackdown on Maoists in Lalgarh, West Bengal after the insurgents caused violence in several areas of the state and declared some villages as alleged free zones. The Centre, consequently, has banned CPI (M). Hindustan Times' Anamika Dutt discusses the issue with Dr Ajai Sahni, Executive Director, Institute for Conflict Management, New Delhi.
What do you feel about the fact that the Centre has banned the CPI (M)?
It's no leap of faith because the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act specifies any group attached with the MCC or other groups like that. It is an absurdity that after five years of the group’s existence they are putting a ban on it now.
How do you see CPI (M) leader Prakash Karat's statement on having a “political war” rather than having a physical one?
One should tell Karat and his whole 'coffee house' Marxist to ask their own Chief Minister Manik Sarkar, how did they control the problems of Maoist in Agartala? The “political war” cannot exist where you cannot maintain presence without central forces. Sitting in Kolkata and Delhi, they don’t understand the history, tactics and ideologies of the Maoist. This situation is only possible when the government have beaten back the Maoists.
The demands by the Maoists are outrageous so there is no reason to come to the negotiation table. This purpose crates a consolidation of the Maoists. The police in Andhra Pradesh knew what they were doing, in West Bengal they don’t have the capacity to fight back.
We need to see what Andhra Pradesh has done with its own police force.
The Maoists believe in giving rights to the oppressed. But how many tribals are still at the receiving end of the war between the government and the Maoists?
They don’t believe in anything. They only believe in seizure of power. The idea of taking up people’s grievances in a democratic context is not the agenda of the Maoists. As Azad says the democratic system is like a ‘democratic pigsty’. They believe in demolishing the existing system of law and order and setting up a different system. In this process, they sacrifice many of the marginalised and the poor tribals.
If the Panchayati system is strengthened can the Naxal problem be solved?
I am not sure. The Panchayati Raj has not been successful in many cases. For the poorest of the poor we need to generate employability, the Panchayati system cannot do it for about 700-800 million people. The solution has to be a meaningful resource configuration within a meaningful time frame. We need to have growth with equity to act against the Maoists.
Law and order is a state issue but the problems of the Naxal are faced by the whole nation. Do you think the center should have more participation?
No, if it was such then how did Andhra Pradesh solve the problem. Large amounts of grants are being provided by the Centre to solve insurgency issues. The only limitation is that these grants are not being fully utilised. It is about nine per cent. The Centre is actually doing more than the state. The main reason of the shortfall is the incompetence.
Can peace talks be held between the government and the Naxals?
It can’t be done in good faith but as a traction. Once we start having talks we give the Naxal’s complete immunity from the police.
How do you neutralise the Maoists?
People say that development is a solution and give the excuse of a disturbed area for not implementing developmental policies. I say why not develop the areas where there is no problem and violence. I suggest we develop the areas around the affected places and then envelop these in the developmental processes.
We should take the example of Andhra Pradesh, we should have an effective system where we can arrest the Maoists and fire if the need rises, if they die they die.
People think the use of force is alien to democracy. We should have fullest concentration on coercive power, to be exercised within law by the government. The less the monopoly of power the greater the randomisation. For effective policing, we need to make everyone realise that any criminality will not go unpunished. If the judicial system is weak, people think that they can engage in criminal activities without any consequences. There will be progressive randomisation of violence if the state fails in its duty to defend.