The occasion was the launch of a book of fiction on the Maoist movement. But the chilly afternoon on the Press Club of India lawns was turned into a platform for the exchange of well-rounded views and facts on the movement with CPI's AB Bardhan and former IB intelligence officer MK Dhar supporting it and KPS Gill saying it is nourishing meaningless violence.
'Seeing through the Stones: A tale from the Maoist Land' by senior journalist Diptendra Raychaudhuri is a tale of the lives of a group Maoist leaders and cadres. Bardhan called the Maoist movement - which the author had done extensive research - as necessary to shake the society out of its existing slumber.
"We are only talking about the sensex, GDP, foreign exchange. These are very good figures. But they do not provide food to the vast majority. They do not provide clothing and shelter to millions. What should they do," Bardhan said, adding that the Naxals have shaken the society out of its complacency.
He said there is no reason to idealise the Maoists or the Communists. "But the movement is a symptom of the struggle in our society. The Government can not just crush them and go back," he said.
The veteran Communist leader called the Salwa Judum - apparently initiated by the Chhattisgarh government in 2005 to wean away the tribals from the Naxals - as the work of "perverted minds."
Dhar, who retired as joint director of the Intelligence Bureau, said the towns and cities maybe dazzling, but rural India is still buried under poverty. "The Maoist movement is a symbol of the divide between rural and urban India. The movement cannot be solved by police action at all. There could be a time when they (Maoists) could overrun urban citadels," Dhar said.
Gill, who is currently advisor on security matters to the Chhattisgarh Government, said that the addiction to violence to bring about social change is futile. "Ultimately all these movements compromise with the corrupt. It is senseless and meaningless violence that is being carried out on some of the most oppressed people," Gill said.
The former Punjab DGP added that by killing a few people and extorting money from industrialists the Maoists cannot change society.