17 September 2014

Withering away of a revolution

by R K Vij 
September 16, 2014

The recent surge in the surrender of Maoist cadres, particularly in Dandakaranya, seems to be a reality check for the protagonists of Maoist ideology, who claim that only a protracted armed struggle can bring about social transformation in a class-ridden society. Maoists of all hues — members of military formations or the People’s Liberation Guerilla Army (PLGA), political formations and the Janatana Sarkar (people’s government) — are leaving the so-called “revolutionary” path they had pledged to tread when joining the movement against the feudal and semi-colonial ruling class. The romance of the armed struggle for capturing power is, perhaps, waning.

There are three main reasons for the surrender of Maoist cadres. The first and foremost is the realisation of the futility of the (people’s) war. More than three decades of violence have not produced any convincing results. Whatever existed in the name of development has been vandalised by the Maoists. An ex-president of the Janatana Sarkar in the Indravati (Maad) area, venting his frustration while surrendering, said that he was fed up with the Maoists’ lofty claims and false promises of realising collective party goals, and that the party has little to show in terms of achievements. Another cadre said he had joined the Maoists because he had seen only Naxalites in the jungles of Maad. But when he encountered the real world outside Maad, he decided to join the mainstream. A former member of the Chetna Natya Manch (CNM), of the Dandakaranya Special Zonal Committee (DKSZC), said the party could no longer charm people with its revolutionary songs and dances to make them join up. Despite their serious efforts, more cadres are now leaving than joining. People’s support, the cornerstone of any revolution, has been eroding steadily.

Second, the police’s continuous persuasion has resulted in a change of mind and heart in many cadres, who had been brainwashed by the Maoists. The police have been approaching Maoists’ family members with the government’s surrender and rehabilitation (S&R) schemes. A “back-home” programme initiated by the former Gadchiroli superintendent of police, Suvez Haque, and followed by many others has proven efficacious. This has also helped the police gain the trust of Maoist cadres who have become disgruntled with their decision to tread the path of bloodshed. Often, pamphlets are distributed in local markets and hung in remote areas, so that the message of returning to the mainstream may reach wandering Maoist cadres. One dalam commander on surrender revealed that when such posters were being put up by a villager, he had grabbed one and decided to surrender with his weapon, as it carried a huge reward. The media, due to its pervasiveness, has also played a significant role in spreading awareness of such schemes.

Third, many Maoist cadres are deserting because of personal reasons. After tying the marital knot in forest camps, they are not allowed to enjoy married life. Therefore, many couples are surrendering. The killings of family members by the Maoists, allegations of informing the police about their movements, and discrimination against and exploitation of junior cadres, especially women, have prompted many to surrender. “Despite my protests, they killed my younger brother, only because he had joined the police department,” said a divisional-level Maoist who had himself recruited many dalam members because of his influence. He then facilitated the surrender of each cadre he had inducted.

At their fourth Central Committee meeting in 2013, the Maoists admitted that their cadres were deserting in large numbers and that they were not being able to recruit new ones. At the last DKSZC meeting in February 2014, the Maoists not only expressed serious concerns about this trend, but also pondered the shrinking sizes of their formations. They were worried about the increased deployment and movement of security forces in their strongholds.

Meanwhile, Left-Wing Extremism (LWE)-affected states are revising their S&R policies to make them more attractive. Until recently, Andhra Pradesh’s policy, which carried a cash reward of Rs 25 lakh on CPI (Maoist) General Secretary Ganapathy, had been the most lucrative. At present, while the Maharashtra government has increased the surrender amount to Rs 1 crore, the Chhattisgarh government has hiked the earlier amount and fixed it as high as Rs 60 lakh for the Maoists’ top leader. Also, Chhattisgarh’s policy is far more rewarding when any Maoist cadre surrenders with his weapon. The Central government’s S&R scheme is oriented more towards vocational training, so that surrendering cadres can be self-employed in the course of rehabilitation. However, the objective of all these policies is to get the misguided youths who have now resolved to abjure violence back in the mainstream. Therefore, surrender must bring about a change of mind and heart at an appropriate time.

However, the surrender of senior cadres, who spend most of their youth pursuing the Maoists’ violent ideology, needs to be viewed more critically. Although S&R policies cannot set temporal limits for surrender, they intend to persuade cadres who show their willingness to change. A DKSZC member, Arjun, who was in charge of the first military company when it was constituted in Maad in 2004 and was throughout involved in numerous brutal killings, surrendered recently in Andhra after spending his entire youth spreading terror. Surprisingly, his surrender did not evoke any criticism from the Maoists. Similarly, the claim made by G.V.K. Prasad, alias Gudsa Usendi, a surrendered spokesperson and member of the DKSZC, that he was against the killing of innocent people is difficult to believe. How can a person who oversaw ruthless killings for almost three decades, justifying the same on the whims of ideology, be given the benefit of a change of heart? Such cadres must be intellectually sifted and cost-benefit analyses done to assess the impact of their surrender. Unless their surrender causes sufficient damage to the Maoist organisation, directly or indirectly, the state should be wary of rewarding them with post-retirement-like benefits, since this might be a tactical move in disguise.

People’s support is crucial to the survival of any movement. If this trend of Maoist surrender continues, and the state seizes this opportunity to showcase its responsibility in rehabilitating erstwhile cadres properly while pushing development into such areas to remove structural socio-economic disparities, the Maoist movement is sure to lose its revolutionary zeal.

The writer is additional director general of police in Chhattisgarh

- See more at: http://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/withering-away-of-a-revolution/99/#sthash.vBd58eEj.dpuf

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