It’s all terribly confusing. First the CPI(M) said Mamata Banerjee was hobnobbing with the Maoists. Then Mamata said there were no Maoists in West Bengal. Now Mamata says Buddhadeb Bhattacha-rjee is a Maoist. Are they both Maoists? Whom should we believe? These are vital queries affecting the people of West Bengal. They’ll be voting in state elections in a few months and it simply wouldn’t do if they elected a Maoist by mistake.
What about a written exam on Maoism? It could be one of those multiple choice papers, so that all that Mamata and Buddhadeb have to do is tick the right answer. One of the questions could be: who said, ‘When waking a tiger, use a long stick’? The choices would be a) The proprietor of Gemini Circus, b) the director of Alipore
Zoo or c) Mao. Another one could be: who said, ‘In time of difficulties, we must not lose sight of our achievements’? The choices — a) Dale Carnegie, b) Deepak Chopra and c) Mao. And the clinching one: Which of these people swam the Yangtze? a) Manmohan Singh b) LK Advani and c) Chairman Mao.
Everybody knows that Singh or Advani couldn’t have swum the Yangtze, so if a candidate doesn’t tick Mao’s name as the answer, she’s deliberately giving wrong answers to prove she’s not a Maoist. Unless, of course, she knows something we don’t. You have to be really careful with the questions. We all know, for instance, that Mao said, “Power flows out of the barrel of a gun.” The problem is Ottavio Quattrocchi could have said it too.
The other option is to secretly follow Buddhadeb and Mamata and check out what they do in private. If Buddhadeb sings, ‘The East is Red’ in the shower, that should prove something. We could also surprise them by suddenly saying ‘Mao was a moron’ and see how they react. I know that if anybody said that about Sansuma Khunggur Bwiswmuthiary, the Bodoland People’s Front MP, I would knock him down on the spot.
Yet another way to find out the truth is through psychology. During the Vietnam War, US psychologists would often try and prove the Viet Cong were mad. One method was to point to the prisoner’s right arm and ask him which arm that was. The Viet Cong prisoner would invariably say it was his left arm. The psychologist would then smirk, point to the guy’s left arm and ask him condescendingly, “If the other one is your left hand, then which hand is this?” And the answer would invariably be, “Extreme left” since they hated the word ‘right’ ideologically. A similar interrogation could be used to identify Maoists.
Something must be done, because the situation is rapidly getting out of hand. Students are accusing teachers they dislike of being Maoists. When eight-year old Bablu was told to do his homework, he accused his mother of being a Maoist. And a TV producer is about to start a serial on a Maoist mother-in-law.
The people who are the most worried about the whole thing are the Maoists in the jungle. “It isn’t fair,” said one of them with his head covered with a towel, “After years of investing in the cause with our blood, sweat and towels, these upstarts crop up and claim everybody’s a Maoist. They’re devaluing our brand.” Another aggrieved Maoist pointed out that this is typical capitalist exploitation. “First they take away our property,” he said, “and then they come for the intellectual property too.”
(Manas Chakravarty is Consulting Editor, Mint)
*The views expressed by the author are personal