Security-centric approach cannot resolve Lalgarh conflict

June 29, 2009

By Sujato Bhadro. June 28, 2009, The Times of India. This page is a part of Sanhati’s Lalgarh reporting.

Unlike Singur-Nandigram, the initial social resistance movement in Lalgarh revolved around police atrocities; with tribal people raising their voice against law enforcing agencies breaking the law of the land. So, this movement is political in nature; a story of demand for the restoration of civil liberties since November 2008. The people of Lalgarh are not concerned about problems of land acquisition, issue of development and displacement; the sole issue is fundamental: the right to life. If we focus on the historical, and oppose the fictional sense of the reality in which the people of Lalgarh live, we will be able to get a proper understanding of the problem.

As usual, the government refused to concede the biggest demand of the people of Lalgarh: that the then SP of West Midnapore tender an apology to the people for the torture and terror inflicted on the people by his forces, which saw the women suffer physically and mentally. A reign of terror was let loose by the police. What made the people furious was the culture of impunity and a police boycott was started.

The problem was further aggravated in February when armed troopers of CPI(Marxist) attacked the protesting villagers in order to break the movement started under leadership of PCPA, resulting in the death of four PCPA members. Even after that, as part of agreement reached at the tripartite meeting held on April 22, election was held smoothly and without any kind of violence. The first post-poll political violence occurred when the gangs of the main ruling party attacked the villagers of Dharampur; admittedly, the Maoist cadres joined openly in retaliatory action.

The question is whether the presence of a few gun-toting Maoist cadres are sufficient, reasonable and proportionate factors for joint military operation in Lalgarh. Are more reinforcements of force and deployment of deadly COBRA jawans going to serve any purpose except more suffering and torture of tribal people? It is a clear case of “pre-emptive” military action. As reports reveal that such “war on terror” has created “tyrannicide” in the affected region. Even the NHRC has expressed deep concern over the violations of international human rights standards by forces of the joint operation. The institutionalised left parties now fiercely argue that the “world is a better place” without Maoists and hence eliminate them.

Another question: why did armed oppositional politics gain a social base among the “wretched of the earth”? The answer lies in the actual condition of the area where people live in abject poverty. They are deprived of all sorts of civic amenities and simply denied all their entitlements as citizens of this country. If we read parliamentary debates on internal security, if we read left party perspectives on insurgents within the nation, we would find the same discourse.

Crores and crores of allotted money have either not been spent on uplift of the poor adivasis or siphoned off. It is a matter of shame that after 32 years of rule, the self-proclaimed pro-labour government is still announcing fresh schemes for social and economic development of regions like Lalgarh! In addition, all democratic forums for justice are either ineffective or insensitive to demands of the poorest of poor or have simply failed to deliver the public good, for which the government is solely responsible.

Now, the security-centric approach will not resolve the conflict. An Indian research scholar based in Australia in a recent paper argued that community-based interaction is essential to identify the root cause of “terrorism”; anti-terror laws are no longer required to tackle such human violence as has already been shown in countries like Spain and Australia.

Unfortunately, the Left Front government has been pursuing the same traditional repressive policy to contain Maoist activities in three districts of Bengal since 2001. And the chief minister has made a tall claim in 2005 that this policy is paying dividends”. How could we then explain such a presence of an organization even in 2009?

We claim to value life itself. But this military operation values some lives over others. This operation wants to eliminate “bare life” and protect “quality of life” of some people. The government has the power to not only use deadly force but also to justify it with the rhetoric of saving society from “evil forces”, humane versus monstrous, and legitimate versus illegitimate.

If one wants to go beyond philosopher Alian Badiou’s quest for neutral readability of terror’, one has to understand sources and causes, means and methods, ideologies and structures of Maoist nomadic violence, because such collective violence garners massive representation of the local people. If one looks at R J Rummell’s data and does some arithmetical calculations it is shown that in the last hundred years fully secular states have killed at least forty-five times as many people as non-state actors’ violence have killed. Thus we should sadly acknowledge the costs of democracy : primarily one of the unmitigated , unapologetic violence by the State and also by the misadventure of non-state actors.

What we need today is to build up a new ethic to enhance all potential for non-violent pursuit for the creation of dialogue and articulation of alternate versions of comity as public good.