Ebbing of Maoist ascendancy : The Tribune India

Ebbing of Maoist ascendancy

Irrespective of who wins the current elections in Chhattisgarh, the Maoists have already lost, particularly in Bastar division, one of their last strongholds.

Ebbing of Maoist ascendancy

A PALE SHADOW: Violent formations are quickly de-legitimised by defeat and the Maoists, having taken a beating, have lost their capacity for disruption in most areas.



Ajai Sahni

Ajai Sahni
Executive Director, Institute for Conflict Management

Irrespective of who wins the current elections in Chhattisgarh, the Maoists have already lost, particularly in Bastar division, one of their last strongholds. In a resounding vote for democracy, and an explicit and courageous rejection of the CPI-Maoist’s call for a boycott of what they described as a farzi election process, the voter turnout in eight districts across 18 Assembly seats averaged as much as 76.28 per cent.

Crucially, the first phase of elections in Chhattisgarh was intended to address some of the country’s worst left wing extremist (LWE) affected districts. Bastar has long been dominated by Maoist activities and has been the principal haven for its leadership since the progressive loss of areas of dominance in the Telangana region of then Andhra Pradesh through the early 2000s.

Since the last Assembly elections in 2013, Bastar has accounted for 929 LWE-linked fatalities — 98.41 per cent recorded in Chhattisgarh, and 43.95 per cent of the 2,114 fatalities recorded across the country in this period (South Asia Terrorism Portal data, till November 12, 2018).

Significantly, of the 18 Assembly constituencies in Bastar, nine registered a voter turnout of over 80 per cent (Dongargaon constituency with 85.15 per cent, recorded the highest polling). Just three constituencies recorded a vote of less than 74 per cent. These, significantly, are the worst affected by Maoist violence. Of them, Bijapur constituency recorded the lowest turnout, at 47.35 per cent, and has seen 244 Maoist-linked fatalities since 2013 and has already recorded 57 killed this year (till November 12). Similarly, Sukma district, which recorded 321 fatalities since 2013, and has already counted 67 killed this year, saw its Konta constituency register an astonishing 55.3 per cent voter turnout — higher than what would be the average for most urban constituencies in peaceful states.

As in the past, the Maoists had called for a boycott and violent incidents, intended to intimidate the population and to disrupt security arrangements for the electoral exercise, continued through the 38 days from the announcement of the schedule on October 6 and the vote on November 12. At least seven civilians and nine SF personnel were killed in 15 lethal attacks during this period. Significantly, at least 14 Maoists were killed in operations during this time.

It is clear that the Maoists have lost credibility and that democracy, with all its imperfections, is more in line with the aspirations of the people in regions where rebels have long claimed to represent popular will — a myth that has won great favour with elements within the intellectual classes and even among the ‘strategic community’ in this country. Indeed, even during the last Assembly elections in 2013, when the Maoists had threatened to cut off fingers if people voted, the turnout in Bastar was a high 75.93 per cent.

For decades now, poorly informed commentators have projected movements of armed violence in India — particularly Maoist rebellion — as some sort of inchoate expression of the popular will of the people, an incipient version of the ‘people’s democracy’ the Maoists promise, against the ‘fake democracy’ of the parliamentary system. The truth is, once guns enter the equation, claims to popular support (on both sides) become unverifiable. People go along with the side that threatens greater violence or offers the greatest protection. Despite the capacities of the state and its agencies, and their many aberrations, state violence is exercised under significantly greater constraints than the violence of rebel formations and their kangaroo courts. It is not difficult to simulate the manifestation of ‘popular support’ through acts of demonstrative cruelty, an art the Maoists have mastered well in their areas of dominance.

The Maoist choice of violence does not flow from any evident superiority of their so-called ‘people’s democracy’ — a notion that has been left entirely undefined, and that has collapsed into arbitrary tyrannies wherever Maoist or Marxist-Leninist power has been established; nor does it flow from a long experience of seeking, and failing to address, problems through constitutional democratic processes; it is, rather, an ideological given, an end and a good in itself. Apart from a tiny core of the top leadership, it is not the Maoist ideology that inspires or provokes people to join the movement. It is, rather, frustration with the democratic state’s inability to meet the least of their aspirations; or it is the complete absence of choice in areas where the state has abdicated or failed to fulfil its duties, and where the Maoists have established their transient dominance. When the movement begins to lose ground, much of the Maoist recruitment becomes progressively coercive, even as large numbers abandon rebel camps to return home or to surrender.

Another reality is that such violent formations are quickly de-legitimised by defeat. The Maoists have been taking a beating over at least the past six years and have lost their capacities for disruption and violence in most areas of past dominance. Small pockets in poorly connected regions, mostly dense forest, remain a challenge, but the time when the Maoists would put up improvised checkpoints along many principal roads and extort ‘taxes’ from travellers are long gone.

The Maoists have openly declared themselves the enemies of democracy, and are not alone in this hostility. While armed LWE constitutes a significant threat to the stability of the system in shrinking areas of the country, the gravest threats come from extremist ideologies that seek to subvert the system from within. The voter turnout in Bastar is a demonstration and a warning to movements of fascism, both Left and Right, that they do not reflect the will of the people, in particular the most marginalised and impoverished (Bastar is among the poorest regions of the country, though this profile is changing). India’s faith remains in its constitutional democracy; the powers that seek its subversion will be rejected, again and again.

Top News

Odisha health minister Naba Kishore Das shot at by cop in Jharsuguda district

Odisha Health Minister Naba Kishore Das shot at by cop in Jharsuguda district

The accused ASI was nabbed by local people, who then handed ...

MP aircraft crash: Mirage plane’s black box, part of Sukhoi flight data recorder found

MP aircraft crash: Mirage plane's black box, part of Sukhoi flight data recorder found in Morena's Pahargarh

Two frontline combat aircraft of the IAF crashed during a tr...

Bharat Jodo Yatra: Rahul Gandhi unfurls National Flag at Srinagar’s Lal Chowk

Bharat Jodo Yatra: Rahul Gandhi unfurls National Flag at Srinagar’s Lal Chowk

Gandhi was accompanied by his sister and Congress general se...

Cocaine, charas seized at Gurugram nightclub

Cocaine, charas seized at Gurugram nightclub

288 detained, FIR filed

Mann Ki Baat: PM Modi urges citizens to read about 'Padma' awardees, insists curbs on E-waste

Mann Ki Baat: PM Modi urges citizens to read about 'Padma' awardees, insists curbs on e-waste

PM Modi also appreciated people for eating food items made o...


Cities

View All