Judicial probe of Tudu’s death, the NSCN model of ceasefire, and the assault on Gandhian movements

February 26, 2010

By Sumanta Banerjee

At the outset, the offer of a “72-day ceasefire” attributed to the CPI(Maoist) should be clarified. The CPI(Maoist) did not “offer a 72-day ceasefire”, as reported by PTI. In his telephone conversation with The Hindu newspaper, a Maoist spokesman Raju said that his party was ready for dialogue with the Centre “only if it (the Centre) stops violence against innocent people in the forest belts across the five States for 72 days.” (The Hindu, Feb. 23, 2010).

The media on the contrary have created the impression that the Maoists have unilaterally declared a ceasefire, and are now violating it. In fact, the Maoists can claim to justify their continuing resistance against the security forces, if the latest incident about Lalmohan Tudu’s murder turns out to be a cold-blooded killing by the CRPF or some other police force. Doesn’t such an `encounter’ killing – soon after the Maoist announcement of willingness for a dialogue – indicate the state’s insincerity in having a dialogue ?

An independent inquiry by a commission headed by a retired judge and consisting of eminent personalities and human rights activists, including members from outside West Bengal (so that it gains all-India publicity) should be formed immediately. This should be an immediate demand from activists.

Secondly, the statement made by Chidambaram (Feb. 23 2010) that he would not accept any conditions before talks with the Maoists, and that they would have to fax to him their unconditional agreement to abjure violence, smacks of impudence of the highest order. Chidambaram is out of touch. He sounds like a gun-toting American sheriff from Texas.

While demanding that the Maoists should abjure violence, why doesn’t he instruct his forces to abjure violence against innocent tribals in Chhattisgarh and Lalgarh ? Where will this bluster lead him?

It will lead to further escalation in the war between the security forces and the Maoists – resulting in the loss of lives caught in between. In order to avoid that, both the Home Ministry and the Maoists should be prevailed upon to agree on a truce – a ceasefire for a certain period (may be a month or so) – during which the government should withdraw its forces and camps from the affected villages, and the Maoists stop any violent retaliation.

Taking the NSCN-Indian State negotiations as a model

The talks between the two sides that would ensue, will have to follow the pattern that has been officially recognized as a model for negotiations between the Indian government and the Naga rebel outfit – National Socialist Council of Nagalim (NSCN-Isak-Muivah) .

The ceasefire agreement between the Indian Home Ministry and NSCN, which has been in operation for several years now, allows the NSCN cadres to keep their arms in their camps, and retain control over their areas of influence. The agreement tacitly accepts a mutual co-existence of parallel administrative models – one run by the Indian state (in the towns of Nagaland, and another by the rebels in the far-flung hill villages).

In the Maoist-controlled areas, it has been ascertained by the Planning Commission expert group and other independent observers, that the tribal poor have experienced a better deal in terms of economic and social benefits than they had in the past under the governance of the Indian state officials. So, why shouldn’t they be allowed to continue to enjoy those benefits under Maoist governance ?

Relentless violence on Gandhian movements

Further, the Indian state’s excuse that it is compelled to use force only to resist the violence of the Naxalites sounds hollow, since it has been consistently using the police and para-military forces to suppress non-violent, Gandhian forms of protests (as in the case of the Narmada Banchao Andolon, the anti-POSCO agitation in Orissa – and the latest, in Bhavnagar district in Gujarat where farmers threatened with dispossession of their fertile lands by the government’s decision to set up a cement plant there, brought out a silent procession on February 20, and  were attacked by the police, leading to serious injuries to the participants).

In other words, isn’t the Indian state violent by its very nature – deliberately using violence to suppress any form of protest (whether by the peaceful Gandhians or the armed Maoists) ?

These simple questions challenging the present policies of the government should be highlighted, and public opinion in favour of an armistice built up.