Motivation as a Barometer of Real Politics

February 27, 2015

By Gautam Navlakha

Why are personnel of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), called Crown Reserve Police Force under British Raj, quitting the force in fairly large numbers? What weighs on the jawans’ mind which makes them less inclined to wage war against our own people? Are there limits to ruling classes preference for waging a savage war for big capital’s entry into mining and mineral based industry?

Abhishek Bhalla writing in Mail Today (“CRPF men press the exit button”; 5th February, 2015) reports that there has been sharp increase in those quitting CRPF between 2013 and 2014. In 2013 4,186 personnel had exited choosing pre-mature retirement but rose by 62% in 2014 to reach 6,700. The report cited “pathetic living conditions” and “high stress” as being primarily responsible for 30,297 personnel quitting CRPF since 2007. A report submitted by the CRPF itself on high stress within the force says that CRPF personnel are unable to “fulfill” social obligations such as attending marriages, deaths and other ceremonies which “creates a sense of isolation, hampers proper matrimonial alliances and ostracises them from society. The constant separation from family only compounds the problem”. And goes on to say that poor living conditions make personnel vulnerable to diseases and behavioural issues.

The same reporter writing on 23rd January, 2015 [CRPF men face toilet trouble in Red zone’; Mail Today] had drawn attention to the chief of Intelligence Bureau who after visiting Bastar had ‘red flagged’ toilets and was quoted as saying that this was “not the first time the (Union home) ministry has been alerted about poor toilet facilities leading to deplorable living condition of jawans”. He had then cited Director General of CRPF as saying that we “need to improve toilets as this makes life difficult for the force.” Earlier when the jawans went out to “relieve themselves” they faced the threat of being attacked. But now the situation is “sickening.” Local authorities are reluctant to undertake civil works in the camps citing security as major concern.(Sic!) So now CRPF will construct toilets although “its not our (CRPF’s) job”.

So is the morale low of the jawans low because they have poor toilet facilities and are unable to fulfill “social obligations”? Certainly, as the ancient sages have laid down, clearing one’s stomach everyday is most elementary of ways to keep a body healthy. So its no joking matter if the fear of going into woods or poor toilet facilities in the camps results in high stress for soldiers. And certainly, improvement in living condition, better compensation, easier leave to visit family etc. would make a government soldier less stressed. Nevertheless, its worth remembering that not only does a guerilla exhibit such complaints, but that even this will not solve all that troubles a government soldier.

A PTI report [Postings in conflict zones traumatizing CRPF men”; The Times of India) had cited the CRPF report as claiming that continuous postings in high intensity conflicts areas” is forcing jawans and officers to suffer from “social ostracization”. It says that at any given point 80-85% of the force is deployed in to fight Maoists (37%), militants in J&K (28%) and insurgents in NE (16%) along with pathetic living and working conditions and accounts for poor emotional and physical well being of its personnel.

However, Abhsihek Bhalla who in his February news report cited above, without waffling concludes that

continuous operations in the Maoist zone and casualties in the past few years are primary factors behind attrition. Death is more likely to befall a soldier fighting Maoists deep inside jungles than a security personnel taking on militants in Jammu and Kashmir or insurgents in North East. The gureilla warfare in the Red zone is killing more soldiers than all insurgent areas put together says an official data input of the Union home ministry.’

This receives corroboration from Rahul Pandita, [“Soldier Turns into a Powder keg”; the Hindu, 14th June, 2014] wrote from Bastar that there are “thousands of jawans and officers who are looking for an opportunity to make their exit” because they “dread” being deployed against the Maoists. Harendar Bajwa writing in Hindustan Times, [“Only Guns No Solution”;13/03/2014] refers to soldiers being averse to this war not knowing “who is a Maoist and who is an Adivasi”.

So does it mean living and working conditions of security force personnel are not important?

No. But its significance lies elsewhere. What it means is that these are professional soldiers. They have not joined the service to ‘serve the ruling classes and their order’ or ideologically motivated by capitalism and its inequalities and disparities or semi-fascist Hindutva which pits the working people against each other, but they are driven by desperation to get a job that offers material security for their family and pension. In order to keep the morale of such professional soldiers high to go out and fight it is not ideology of corporate loot and profit that inspires them. The stress on living conditions, social ostracization, toilet facilities, etc. brings this out. The main object of Government’s concern is to keep its armed forces personnel ‘happy’, so that they could be made to carry out their war for development and prosperity of the corporate class.

Difference between a government soldier and a rebel is, therefore, significant. What propels a person to join the Armed Forces of the Union are both pull and push factors. If the push factor is poor employment generation in rural as well as urban areas and/or non-availability of regular jobs, the pull factors are the burgeoning growth in employment generation in the Armed Forces of the Union compared to other branches of the government, at a time when the majority of the working people put in long hours, receive poor pay and benefits and are denied any right to form unions because the short-term nature of employment of contract and casual workers act as an impediment to their fighting for their rights. A study of the first volume of Expenditure Budget of the Government of India over the years reveals that whereas employment generation is negligible in other departments of government, the combined strength of armed forces of the union reached 2.5 million, which is 45% of total central government employees. Another way is to know that it means approximately one armed soldier for every 500 Indians. Military is one sector which remains immune to the problems of fiscal deficit, inflation targeting and cut in government expenditure. In line with this the compensation package has also been markedly hiked. No wonder for mere 60-70,000 vacancies in army every year, the Ministry of Defence said on 1st December, 2014 that they get nearly 3.5 million applicants! The case of central paramilitary forces is not very different.

This is in marked contrast to the Maoist guerrilla. They know they will not get any salary but food, clothes and their personal needs will be fulfilled when they join PLGA and their families helped by Janatana Sarkar. So if one joins not for salary, and/or remains when the movement suffers major setbacks, and the government propagates desertions have increased, what could motivate them to join and remain? In a different context but something that is related to the issue I am discussing, General Shankar Roychowdury, ex chief of the Indian Army once lamented (“From General Giap, doctrine for India”, Asian Age 29/10/2013) that “India has so far failed to develop a core ideology of positive nationalism for its armed forces. It places them at a disadvantage with militaries as in Pakistan, indoctrinated with the Islamic ideology of jihad”. What is implied is that “positive” ideological motivation among Indian soldier is lacking.

In contrast a guerrilla chooses to join the Maoists he/she does so out of ideological motivation because they see that as the only way for their self-preservation. The personnel of the Armed Forces of the Union (AFU) join services for employment. One cannot blame the soldiers for demanding more and better facilities because, if they are not ideologically convinced, and are in the Armed Forces of the Union for want of better alternatives, they have to draw their motivation from somewhere else. Therefore when Director General of CRPF told the Times of India (27 June 2014) that a “disparity in pay” between soldiers in J&K and the LWE zones “brings the morale of the forces down” he wanted to incentivise combat, presumably as a substitute for absence of ‘positive ideological motivation’. But the important thing to note is the acknowledgment of ‘low morale’ of soldiers.

When General VK Singh during UPA II rule as army chief rejected use of Army against Maoist guerrillas and characterised them as “our own people”, but simultaneously defended use of army in Jammu & Kashmir and the North East, the distinctions between war theatres became relevant. Among other things it was implied that it is one thing to motivate soldiers to fight our own people by telling them they are fighting a ‘proxy war’ waged by our favourite enemy Pakistan (or China) and/or that they have to crush those trying to dis-member India. But it is quite another thing when they are deployed to fight Maoists guerrillas, predominately Adivasis and Dalits, who are fighting for their self-preservation against corporate takeover of their forest and land and livelihood. Fear of dis-memberment of the country can stoke jingoistic rage. But promotion of ‘development’ does not have the same traction. Corporate led development is divisive and causes joblessness, loss of livelihood and encouraged ‘lumpenisation’. In short ‘development’ being fostered by the Government is bitterly contested. In other words motivating a soldier in such a war theatre, where local population is fighting for its right to live in dignity and prevent land, forest and river waters from being grabbed means the Government has to incentivise soldiering.

In this sense, the motivation level of a Maoist guerilla is far greater than that of the government soldier, because the cause for guerrillas is not abstract but concrete, something for which there is willingness to sacrifice one’s life. This deep bond has to do with social composition of the movement and its long history of struggle and mobilisation of people. Maoists have been living and working among for e.g. tribal peasantry of Bastar for more than 35 years as in the forest areas of Jharkhand and Odisha-Andhra border region for more than four decades. While Guerilla Zone is an area of contention and unstable, yet they run parallel administration in what they call the guerrilla base in these zones. Here they run parallel administration with community based economic model of self reliant development. They raise taxes and employ them for their own model of development and to fight the war.

The work teams, cooperative farming, on the one hand and organising tendu leaf pluckers or bamboo cutters for better wages (better piece rate) on the other; social reforms as well as ensuring basic health and education; building a fighting force but also a mass cultural movement; preserving and promoting Adivasi languages as well as preparing text books for children, are all results of their labour. There’s is a model of ‘sustainable development’ based on social and intergenerational equity, where common resources are concerned. Modest and partial as it may appear to some, it does not make it less significant in terms of what was being attempted. This picture of Maoists conflicts with the demonic image Government is busy promoting. That is the reason why even hall meetings and press conferences organised to discuss the alternative development model of Maoists and/or criticise ‘Operation Green Hunt’ have been disallowed in Andhra Pradesh and Telengana, in 2014. That Government discourages propagation of this, however, does not mean that it is not legitimate to debate and discuss either alternate development model or the war itself.

In contrast, the Government soldier fighting a Maoist guerrilla discovers his motivation in monetary compensation for his services to suppress popular upsurge. Therefore, the mark of motivation, positive or negative, for soldiering is not killing others, it is willingness to face adversity and take risks for something they believe in. This is where the government soldiers are no match to a Maoist guerrilla.

Consider this. In Tahakwada attack in March 2014, 11 CRPF and four police personnel were killed. IG, CRPF in Chhattisgarh, blamed the State Police leadership for blocking a ‘massive operation’ by CRPF, across Maoist ‘base zones’ in Bastar, Further, CRPF, in first week of September, shared findings of its probe into the incident. The enquiry said that 23 of the 28 survivors; seventeen CRPF and six police personnel, were prima facie guilty of “inaction and lack of satisfactory counter-action”. The inquiry noted that “there was delay in sending reinforcement” although police camp was barely four to five-minute drive from the spot. (Indian Express 8th September, 2014). Thus in order to understand why Maoists still command respect of the most oppressed sections one has to step into the social reality on ground. Then the low morale of the government forces and the reason for this becomes legible. Verily, in a war zone poor motivation, low morale of Government forces is being addressed by improving the compensation package of the jawans and officers. Not because they are ideologically inspired to serve the Government which serves the ‘fat cats’ of India.

One cannot blame the soldiers for demanding more and better facilities because, if they are not ideologically convinced, and are in the Armed Forces of the Union for want of better alternative they have to draw inspiration from somewhere else. Seeking money and perks and better ‘working’ conditions or regular peacetime postings as compensation for the time served in war zones is not an unfair demand. It’s obvious that all those who work for wages tend to demand more. Then there is the demand that every personnel, even those fighting their own people, should be considered a ‘shahid’ (martyr) and receive the same benefits as the army personnel get when they are either disabled or die in the line of duty. That a soldier or an officer of the Indian military—suppressing a people who are either calling for something eminently democratic and peaceful such as the right of self-determination or a people fighting for their land, forest and livelihood against a capricious establishment determined to enable foreign and domestic mineral conglomerates access to exploit the buried wealth—is accorded a status of a ‘martyr’ tells its own story of the iniquitous system and how those fighting for their self-preservation get reduced to the status of ‘non-persons’.

A pamphlet which is part of a Maoist recruitment drive (from 2 December 2009 to 10 February 2010) for its PLGA (People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army), carried an appeal to unemployed boys and girls of Bastar not to join the government’s armed forces. The leaflet says that when one joins PLGA

you will not get any salary but food, clothes, personal needs will be fulfilled and your families would be helped by the Janatam Sarkar. What you will earn will be love and affection of the people. Whereas those who join government armed forces will get salary and right to loot, kill and rape but also earn undying hatred of the people and you will not be remembered. Instead your death will be celebrated.

Another leaflet tells the personnel of the government armed forces that their war is akin to the wars waged by foreign aggressors against our own people. Towards the end, the leaflet is addressed to those joining the government armed forces:

Government does not regard you as anything more than animals. Indeed, no better than slaves. Sometimes you are called dogs (Greyhound), sometimes snakes (Cobra) and sometimes cats (Black Cats).

Dandakaranya Special Zonal Committee for a three-day bandh (25–27 January 2010) contained an appeal to the police and paramilitary forces inviting them to ponder over why the government had launched Operation Greenhunt. The pamphlet after reminding them that they are fighting a war in the interest of the capitalists and foreign multinationals and that they are being asked ‘to kill and get reward, or get killed and receive compensation’, also reminds them of their class roots; then it appeals to them to cease using their weapons against their own class brethrens, which would earn them the people’s hatred.

Does it mean that government soldiers are incapable of acts of bravery and courage as soldiers? In terms of warfare even a soldier fighting an unjust war can carry out acts of bravery. More often than not it is when one of their own is killed. Loyalty to their own unit and defending each other are at the very heart of professional soldiering. ‘Drill, Skill, Will, Kill’ are not just the boast of Gurkha Regiment but is what soldiering is in essence. But such occasions sometimes turn into acts of retribution, such as happened in Kashmir 1990-2010 where massacres, burning of bazaars and neighbourhoods occurred with high frequency. These war crimes, are considered disproportionate under extant rules of war.

It’s not as though soldiers are inherently predatory or inherently heroic. It is the nature of war they are deputed to fight, particularly against our own people designated ‘enemy’ by the commanders and decision makers, which defines their soldiering in internal wars. In such situations, a commanding officer plays a catalytic role. He/she can ensure that soldiers act with restraint and do not rape, molest, torture, loot or engage in blood-letting. Alternately, the same commanding officers can use their authority in encouraging them to go berserk. On top of that, even when a commander encourages a soldier to ‘do whatever’, the soldier or officer cannot escape the choice he/she has of not raping, torturing or killing those in custody or killing anyone under the fallacious argument of doing so ‘in the heat of the moment’. Natural disasters are moments that help bring out their inherent ability to rise above themselves and offer selfless service as a collective disciplined effort. To read either one or the other as the defining characteristic of soldiering would be misplaced, especially in India, because of the propensity of the Indian State to wage wars against our own people. In other words, it is the circumstance and the context that defines a soldier’s role.

It is this that makes this class war different from other war zones and why there are inherent limits to ruling classes waging what is a class war by drawing on the very members of the underclass to make up their foot soldiers to carry out the military suppression of a popular movement. The very nature of such a war today, between two organized military forces, one representing the present social order and the other determined to break the social status-quo, is a specie apart.

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