This election, CPI (Maoists) rebels will not threaten to chop fingers that dare press a button on electronic voting machines. They will not point their guns, and try to drive home their demand for a complete boycott of the world’s largest democratic process with a dose of fear. At least in this part of the country.
Maoist rebels march during their 9th Convention at an undisclosed location in the jungles of Chhattisgarh. AP Photo
In a marked shift from their policy, the red rebels have decided to engage in door to door campaigning in areas under their influence to appeal to the people to give the world’s biggest festival of democracy a miss.
“We do not believe in violence. Our fight is for, of and by the people. The weapons are for self-defence. We believe in dialogue and debate. But the state doesn’t favour talks. It has deliberately jeopardised all our previous attempts for dialogue,” CPI (Maoists) Bihar-Jharkhand-North Chhattisgarh special area committee secretary Deenbandhu said in conversation with an HT team at
an undisclosed location along the Jharkhand-Chhattisgarh border.
In the national capital on Monday, meanwhile, the government reiterated their message to the rebels: Give up arms and come for talks.
But in the interiors along the Jharkhand-Chhattisgarh border, their dictate stands. And with good reason, they say.
The rebels justify their demand to snub the election process by pointing to the ‘deception of political leaders’. “2014 Lok Sabha chunav ka har tarah se boycott karein (boycott the 2014 Lok Sabha polls by all possible means)”, says a two-page pamphlet written in Hindi.
India is a pseudo democratic country where governments—whether Congress or BJP—have implemented policies that are anti-poor, the letter says.
“Why is that even after 66 years of independence, over 77 % people are living below poverty line?” the Maoist leader asked, explaining why they insist on boycotting the state.
But this change in tactic, according to the police, is not borne out of a change in heart. “They have lost people’s support and are counting their last days,” Murari Lal Meena, inspector general of police with Jharkhand police said, on the rebels’ new charm offensive.
Maoist have strong influence in at least 50 districts spread over eight states in India, a drastic decline from 180 districts during the 2009 polls. Though they concede having lost formidable areas in the plains, the rebels disagree with Meena’s claim that they are on the verge of elimination.
“They cannot afford to write us off,” said the Maoist leader. “Nowadays we are engaging the mighty forces in gun battle for weeks and compelling them to retreat. This is possible only because of the people’s support we enjoy in the villages.”
On former Maoists contesting polls and reposing faith in democracy, Deenbandhu pointed to Palamu MP Kameshwar Baitha, ‘who has proved to a big disaster’.
The first Maoist leader to win the Lok Sabha polls, Baitha was a popular leader once. Now, Deenbandhu says, he has become like any other politician: corrupt and disconnected from the people. “Baitha’s popularity has nosedived over the last five years,” the rebel leader adds.
Favouring talks as well, the Maoist leader laid conditions: “Release all political prisoners lodged in various jails of the country, end all kinds of offensive operations against us and stop harassing innocent villagers accusing them of being Maoist sympathisers, stop arming people against us, stop displacement of poor people under the excuse of industrialisation, and protect the aam admi (common man’s) right to expression.”