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Read out of the red

By making ex-Maoists read inspirational books, will the Indian State manage to change them forever?

india Updated: Dec 01, 2011 22:36 IST

We’ve heard of Mao’s ‘Little Red Book’ doing wonders for a generation of communists in China and elsewhere. The impact of the wonderfully written Communist Manifesto (rather than the flashes of brilliance in the rather over-long Das Kapital) by the non-Booker Prize-winning duo Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels is there for all to see. So it was only a matter of time when those with a less revolutionary frame of mind caught on to the fact that to de-radicalise Maoist insurrectionists, it would be grand to introduce them to some books that shovel ‘positive thinking’ into their rather easily impressionable brains.

Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) authorities, no mean existentialists themselves, have started an experiment on a 17-year-old captured Maoist in Bengal in which they are making him read — no, not Gandhi’s My Experiments With Truth — modern classics that include management commissar Shiv Khera’s You Can Win, rags-to-riches poster boy Dhirubhai Ambani’s biography and former Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) chief Joginder Singh’s Positive Thinking. If these books make the young chap who had gone astray be enthused about becoming a happy cog in our joyous society again, we could see selected paperbacks airdropped all across India’s infamous ‘red corridor’.

It’s a jolly good thing that the CRPF bibliophiles didn’t think of starting with APJ Abdul Kalam’s Ignited Minds or any of Chetan Bhagat’s books. The title of the former book could have triggered incendiary ideas that ex-Maoists could well do without; while Bhagat’s novels, mirrors of India’s youthful landscape as they may be, do tend to make India’s glorious youngsters come across as hormonally-challenged morons.

Reading up ‘enemy literature’ has been an old strategy on both sides of all fences. It would be naïve to expect Prakash Karat to not have read Ayn Rand’s great paean to capitalism, The Fountainhead, or Mani Shankar Aiyar not to have read MS Golwalkar’s A Bunch of Thoughts. In other words, by making arrested Maoists read books meant to integrate them into society, the well-meaning CRPF folks may just be providing fodder to their adversaries. But then, people have been known to radically change for the better after reading books. Like so many people, after reading the Koran or the Gita or the Bible, eschew violence forever.