After eight days of being detained in a densely forested area, Bavella Vineel Krishna, the Collector of Malkangiri district in Orrisa was released by the Maoists on 22 February, thus ending public fears about his safety. Krishna has been returned unhurt after three interlocutors held long-drawn, but ultimately successful talks with the Maoists.
The Orrisa Government reportedly has conceded all fourteen demands made by the Maoists in order to save the life of the Collector, justly famous for his deep concern he has shown for the welfare of the tribals.
In other words, the Orissa Government has capitulated to Maoist blackmail. It might be argued that the Orrisa Government had no option but succumb to Maoist pressures, but that is a different story.
Among the 14 demands made by the Maoists was one seeking withdrawal of cases against tribals and Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangh activists who had been arrested and detained.
According to reports, as many as 9,103 cases had recently been dropped against tribals. That the Government should have felt compelled to arrest that many tribals to get Krishna released indicates the messy situtation prevailing in Orrissa. The Malkangiri fast-track Court had earlier granted bail to one Sriramulu Srinivas whose release had been demanded by the Maoists. Srinivas allegedly was involved in a case of criminal conspiracy and sedition.
The question now arises: Can the Maoists do anything they want without being challenged and can anyone even be arrested, considering that the Maoist will kidnap a prominent citizen and hold him in hostage? What kind of government would we be having in Maoist-run districts?
Two points arise: Do the tribal people need Maoists to take care of their well-being? Can’t the same well-being be taken care of both officially by government servants and unofficially by private citizens and organisations? Do the tribals have to take to violence when their welfare can just as well - if not even better - be looked after by social workers? Aren’t there enough Gandhians in the country to serve the tribals? Do tribals have to be trained to fight and be taught how to handle Kalashnikov rifles, when their demands could be peacefully settled by well meaning negotiations? Do Indians need to follow the Maoist line of killing to get succour?
What is it that a State Government cannot do without having to face Maoist criminals? And why is it that concerned citizens of India are not going in a big way to lead tribals among Gandhian lines?
Mao belonged to another generation and culture - the culture of murder of the bourgevosie that was first developed by Stalin in the Soviet Union in the late 1920s and 1930s. Mao followed Stalin in treating death casually. When tens of million Chinese were starved to death under his rule, Mao is quoted to have told his inner ruling circle that it did not matter if people died and that death has even to be celebrated!
Mao was a wholesale murderer of his own people. That any Indian should follow his despicable example is to bring disgrace to India. Killing is not the Indian way to fight poverty.
In his biography of Mao, Jon Halliday reports that Mao’s policy was to 'kill every single of the 'class enemies' and burn and destroy their homes. His slogan was: burn, burn, kill, kill, kill! Anyone unwilling to kill and burn was treated with contempt and termed 'running dog of the gentry who deserves to be killed'. According to Halliday, in one place over 10,000 people were butchered and 'reactionary villages were razed to the ground wholesale'.
Maoist history is full of such terrorist acts. What fascinated Mao, according to Haliday was 'violence that smashed the social order'. Mao was an unbearable murderer and so were many of his followers, one of whom had 462 subordinates arrested and tortured. Among their lesser torments were being forced to eat bread soaked in excrement and being kicked in the genitals. Several were killed that way.
That some of our intellectuals support Maoists on the grounds that they are working for the welfare of tribals is a cruel joke. These are sick people. India is a nation famous for its exquisite culture of non-violence.
Our Maoists obviously haven’t heard of how Gandhi handled the probelm faced by tenants of indigo planters in Champaran, or of famers in Kheda district in Gujarat or of mill workers in Ahmedabad. Gandhi’s non-violent satyagraha worked in all three cases. But our so-called intellectuals who lead the tribals are still living in the first quarter of the twentith century to think that violence alone works.
Violence is self-destructive and anti-Indian. Maoism is spreading because today we have no Gandhian leaders. We don’t have a Mahatma Gandhi within the congress. We only have a Sonia Gandhi. We don’t have a Vallabhai Patel. We only have a Dr Manmohan Singh.
The authorities in India have three options before them: One is to let Maoism take over the country in due course. The second is to bomb out Maoist centres and fight Maoist violence with state violence. In their times, the British handled thugs very efficiently and Maoists are no better than thugs. The third is to follow the Gandhian way, to the letter.
But where are our leaders? If the BJP which could mobilise a thousand volunteers to march toward Jammu & Kashmir, can’t it organise another one thousand unarmed volunteers to march towards Maoist centres and dare the Maoists to kill them?
More importantly, all political parties must get together to work out how tribal problems can be resolved.
In the seventies, when a dam was built on Sileru river in Orissa, nearly 25,000 tribals were displaced. They had a genuine grievance. There was a case of development vs tribal welfare. Yes, development is necessary but at what cost? This is a matter for all political parties to get together and work out possible solutions, and not for murderous Maoists to exploit to the detriment of the entire country.
Our shameless intellectuals who support killing have obviously forgotten Gandhi. We don’t require Chinese culture to take care of our own people. We have our own culture of 'sarve janaha sukhino bhavantu'.
Only, we have to forget political rivalries and get together to find ways of serving tribals through understanding of their needs, even while undertaking development projects.
The two moves need not be contradictory and self-defeating as they seem to be now.