Naxalism cannot be wiped out with violence, development alone: Education and popularisation of Constitution is key
The conclusion of the Lok Sabha polls in Chhattisgarh saw a campaign that inter alia involved Naxalism as one of the prominent issues
In addition to developmental initiatives, the State response to Naxalism has also been that of force
The first approach should be to counter the political philosophy of Maoism with another political philosophy, the one that our Constitution espouses, that of a liberal democratic political order
The second is to pitch the hard realities of Maoist strain of Communism into the consciousness of the people, and such tendencies should naturally subside, without any need for State violence.
The conclusion of the Lok Sabha polls in Chhattisgarh saw a campaign that inter alia involved Naxalism as one of the prominent issues. It should be a matter of grave concern for the political class that the Naxalite movement hasn't yet receded even seven decades after Independence, and continues to challenge the authority of the Indian State, even as we celebrate each election as a festival of democracy.
In one of his campaign speeches, Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked if the Congress is capable of removing Naxalism. However, the thing is that the political establishment of each hue and colour has tried defeating it, in their own unique ways. Paramilitary forces have been successful in rooting it out in a lot of areas, especially Andhra Pradesh. But the problem with this approach is that it might not be viable in the light of intensive Maoist propaganda that provides it with a lot of recruits readily available to join the movement, locally as well as nationally.
In addition to developmental initiatives, the State response to Naxalism has also been that of force. Which does make some sense because Naxalism espouses the use of violence and hence, the Indian State, like any other State, while claiming a monopoly over violence as one of the primary tenets of political theory, responds with violence.
Thus, the solutions offered by the political class oscillate between military ones and development ones, only. However, either of them, even when succeeding in the short term, haven't provided long-term and sustainable desired results. This piece will address the problem with a possible alternative approach to these two. This may be called an awareness approach, which focuses on letting people know the philosophy of Naxalism, for which they are raising their arms against their own government.
The ground organisation that bears the flag of Naxalism today is the Communist Party of India (Maoist). The CPI (Maoist) operates on a political philosophy, the end goal of which is to establish a political order as per the dictates of Maoism. While not suggesting that the Indian State should not bring to justice the perpetrators of violence, the first approach should be to counter the political philosophy of Maoism with another political philosophy, the one that our Constitution espouses, that of a liberal democratic political order.
This can be through a two-fold strategy — the first is to popularise the current constitutional scheme and the second is to highlight the shortcomings of the Communist political economy in the event of that being established.
The Constitution of India has laid down the foundations of the political system and order that the Indian State currently follows, and the Maoists want to overthrow it. Maoists instead want to establish a political order that is in line with Maoism. Therefore, the natural counter to it is to address the potential losses an individual might have to face if there is an overthrow of the Constitution.
The Indian State offers a lot of benefits to its citizens, and these will be lost if a Communist revolution was to materialise. The foremost of these costs is the loss of the democratic form of government and the repeal of most provisions of the Constitution. The Communist philosophy is antithetical to the democratic philosophy and its way of government. This means that abolition of all Fundamental Rights currently guaranteed under the Indian Constitution and possibly most of the institution of independent judiciary, as we know it.
This is evidenced in the countries where a Communist revolution did actually take place. In such political systems, there are very limited judicial remedies available, as the executive is all-powerful and its writ remains unchallenged before any other wing of the government. The developments mentioned above will manifest themselves in India as no free speech, no equal treatment of citizens, no right to life, no right to approach to the court, no due process, no rule of law etc.
Ironically, the Naxalite violence doesn't attract the kind of condemnation, in the popular discourse, like what terrorism does, even when Naxalism caused 12,000 deaths in the past two decades.
The CPI (Maoist) cadres fight in the name of Mao Zedong, and we have a full-fledged example of a governmental entity functioning on the political philosophy of Mao, which is his own country — China. Mao's philosophy was that the power flows through the barrel of the gun, hence, in his opinion, violence is essential for the overthrow of a political system. Therefore, it is only natural that the Naxalites use force, to fulfil their objectives. However, the use of violence just doesn't stop there and remains in the parlance, in fact, it becomes a part of the sociopolitical order, even if the revolution succeeds.
The People's Republic of China, for instance, while espousing Mao's ideas, awards death penalty to more number of people than the rest of the world combined. Mao's Communism at the cost of essential civil liberties, could also not usher in economic prosperity, which happened only when Chinese people led by Deng Xiaoping abandoned Mao's core tenets about Economics in 1989, and adopted market reforms, and called itself a 'socialist market economy'. Although this is a paradoxical and self-contradictory phrase, it nevertheless, did help the Chinese people to rise out of extreme poverty, while remaining politically dedicated to Mao and hence, civil liberties are not to be found in China, even today. North Korea also embraces Communism; with an erratic dictator at the helm, it has managed to earn a tag of a rogue State, and has also pushed almost its entire population to sheer misery.
To follow a political philosophy or not was a conscious decision taken by our constituent assembly that comprised stalwarts like Dr BR Ambedkar, BN Rau, Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, JB Kriplani, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Rajendra Prasad, C Rajagopalachari, Sarat Chandra Bose etc. Their combined wisdom makes a strong case to trust their judgment.
The above facts present a robust case for retaining our current constitutional system, as opposed to a political order that was conceptualised by Mao. This is something that should certainly appeal to the rational mind of all thinking Indians, and they themselves, who have taken up arms against the State, may come in opposition of Maoism and Communism. Therefore, it makes sense to just pitch the hard realities of Maoist strain of Communism into the consciousness of the people, and such tendencies should naturally subside, without any need for State violence.
The challenge, however, is how to do this? The answer is a straightforward one, and that is education. The Indian education system, especially at school level has absolutely no reference to political philosophies and their primary tenets, even when we have civics as an essential subject in almost every curriculum. For that matter the school education in India, lays a primary emphasis only on the sciences and hence, certain very essential social science and political concepts like these are sacrificed. The Civics syllabus of Classes 9 and 10 should include such portions, especially in areas where the Naxal movement is prominent.
It also hardly requires any expenditure, relative to what the State already does, to address the challenges posed by Naxalism. If not education, then the Indian State should invest in public information programmes on the perils of Maoism and Communism and how the current constitutional order beats that the one proposed by Maoists.
Modi has also stressed that Naxal-affected districts have been reduced during his rule. Although the progress should be applauded, it is difficult to establish that an approach solely based on countering the violence through commensurate measures will yield a long term and sustainable solution to the problem.
Through the awareness approach, and a trust on the rationally thinking mind of an average India, especially the one living in the Naxal-affected regions, a peaceful yet effective resolution to the issue can be achieved.
The author is an assistant professor of law at Maharashtra National Law University, Mumbai. He tweets @raghavpandeyy
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