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Not a very civil war

You can now be a flag-saluting patriot and not be a heartless bastard who wonders why everyone doesn’t practise non-violent ways of protesting against the Indian State, writes Indrajit Hazra.

india Updated: Apr 10, 2010 23:14 IST
Indrajit Hazra
Indrajit Hazra
Hindustan Times

Everyone’s getting bloated with concern. Not to mention getting concerned about whether they’re showing enough concern.

Choose your side: the State, under whose teats you’ve found shelter and succour Romulus and Remus-style and owe the no-small pleasure of knowing that it’s perfectly legit to flinch if outsiders still think that we’re citizens of a dinky Third World country.

Or the Maoists, a horde of Spartacus-like vigilantes tired of a defunct agrarian existence in these post-agrarian times, taking on a bloated class-enemy institution that has forgotten that it has basic duties towards people who are sitting in the cheap seats but also came to see a show.

But there’s a new twist to the choice. Since 76 CRPF soldiers were wiped out in a Maoist attack in Dantewada on Tuesday, you can now be a flag-saluting patriot and not be a heartless bastard who wonders why everyone doesn’t practise, like normal civilised beings, non-violent ways of protesting against the Indian State. (Surely, candle-light vigils, innovative techniques like eating mud and voting could have got the government’s attention.)

It turns out that these soldiers being sent into god’n’government-forsaken terrains are also very badly off. They live in terrible conditions, have rotten training and many come from the same deprived background as the tribals. (Yes, it’s time for that Deewar remake, boys — one brother grows up to be a CRPF jawan, the other a Maoist leader.) A helluva roundabout way to figure out that our law and order personnel — from the tired and panicking soldier to the tired and chai-paani-seeking havaldar — have got a raw deal.

The Maoist surge that’s making the rest of India or India (depending on your reading of Theodor Adorno, Munshi Premchand and today’s newspaper headlines) wet its pants in a potent mixture of fear and outrage, is being seen as a battle-to-the-death between dogged topdog and rabid underdog over a bone that till yesterday didn’t interest the former: 76 soldiers taken out by some 2,000 renegades. No, it’s worse: 76 taken out by 1,000. No, on last count, it’s 76:200. Who’s coaching our cannon fodder?

Then there’s the great denial about the possibility of those living under the thrall of Maoist control being sympathetic to their dastardly overlords. It would be so helpful if we know that these tribals — playing the role of water to the Maoists’ fish, according to the old imagery on guerrilla warfare by Mao — are being held hostage against their will by tribals with guns. Who knows, some of these destitute villagers may even be suffering from Stockholm syndrome, turning into full-blown admirers of their captors. Just like we, despite moaning about its many falling-off hub-caps, are smitten by our nation for a decent reason.

What confuses and petrifies us the most is how Indians, regardless of how desperately dispossessed they are, may be killing, or helping to kill, fellow Indians. As those towel-wearing sensitive-but-tough guys in the Turkish baths of politics, armed forces and public opinion fora keep saying, “How can we wage war against our own people? This isn’t an enemy from across the border.” Try moaning on about that to Krishna at the wheel in Kurukshetra.

In the end, it boils down to the people India lost and now wants back on its side. The trick is to make these folks who hate us — and I use ‘us’ in the same conflated sense of India that we use ‘them’ for Maoists — love us. Or, at any rate, stop hating us.

How do you do that quickly without, to filch Mao’s imagery again, throwing lit dynamite sticks into the water to catch fish, I have no idea. The idea of scattering currency notes, bubble-wrapped TV sets (oh, only if the tribals watched our news channels they would understand our concern for them) and Milk Bikis from drones did occur to me. But, no, that won’t help. That won’t help at this stage at all.

First Published: Apr 10, 2010 23:10 IST