Sympathy for the devil? Maoist supporters get flak

May 18, 2010


Hours after Maoist rebels detonated a landmine under a bus in central India on Monday, killing about 35 people including policemen, Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram was unapologetic in his criticism of civil society organisations that he said were getting in the way of the state’s efforts to contain the rebels.

It is “almost fashionable” to be sympathetic to the Maoist cause, Chidambaram said in an interview to NDTV news channel.

In defending the rebels and questioning the motives of the government — and not of the rebels — they were weakening the apparatus of the state, he said.

Maoist rebels have been romanticised by some writers and filmmakers, portrayed as modern-day Robin Hoods fighting the establishment and corporate greed to protect the rights of the poor and the marginalised.

Rights activists, some NGOs and writers, including Booker Prize winner Arundhati Roy, have slammed the government for failing to address what they say is the root cause of the Maoists’ fight: isolation from India’s economic growth party.

The government offensive has brought charges of excessive force and human rights abuses. This is set to grow with Chidambaram indicating there was broad support for the use of air strikes against the rebels.

The government, in turn, has argued rebels, who control vast swathes of some of the most resource-rich but desperately poor areas in the country, are keeping the fruits of development from reaching the very people it claims to protect.

A healthy debate is the hallmark of a robust democracy; stifling criticism is no way to win hearts and minds. If, as Chidambaram claims, the government is ready to accept responsibility, then it should not shy away from scrutiny from rights groups who question the government’s methods or motives.

Questioning the government or its tactics should not be cause for condemnation.

Or are the battle lines so clearly drawn here that there is no room for debate?


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Another typical comment written from the comfort of South Bombay or South Delhi. The civil group should please give actual practical suggestions on how to bring growth and also handle Maoists. saying no industries and let them remain in bliss collecting tendua leaves is not a solution.

Posted by IndianBeginner | Report as abusive

Questioning the government or its tactics should never be cause for condemnation but why does no so called intellectual or civil rights activist question the maoists? There are ample reports that Maoists recruit young teenagers and indoctrinate them. They burn schools and dig roads which hampers development and further alienates tribals. Why does nobody question their strategy of violence. Do the activists imply that it only security forces which harass villagers and the maoists are saints? Going by Arundhati Roy’s article one is led to believe that Maoists are modern Robin Hoods.

Posted by Askhanna | Report as abusive

Debate is the perhaps the biggest casualty in the tackling of the Maoist movement. And while it need not involve everyone in the country, it is essential to include people affected by Maoist violence. To blame Maoist sympathizers after every attack is to ignore diagnosing the problem of the lack of local support for the government. Movements like Salwa Judum are a sign of trying to arm twist local communities into line and the effects of it are there for all to see.

Posted by Gobblygook | Report as abusive

Civil Rights activists speaking the typical Army language of ‘Collateral Damage’?? ‘Civilian casualties are unavoidable’?

By the way, how can anyone ever justify the killing of people.. how sick is this mentality!!

Posted by ashokatg | Report as abusive

“….stifling criticism is no way to win hearts and minds.”

Who has stifled criticism? By this logic, it is ok for others to criticise and point out failings of the government, but if the government rebuts that criticism it is charged with stifling criticism? Strange logic. Please allow the government also the same liberty of ctiricising and answering their critics, without accusations of being despotic. After all, what is fair for the activists is fair for the government too.

In fact, if you look at it discerningly, you will find that the administration has admitted its lapses regarding the so called ‘root causes’ and has accepted that criticism. How many activists have we heard asking the Maoistis to lay down arms and refrain from attacks on innocents and to accept government offers of talks?

I am not aware of a single activist, including the most celebrated and oft quoted, Arundhati Roy, of ever having offered even one constructive suggestion towards solving this problem. They are merely criticising for the sake of criticising, there is nothing constructive coming from them. Surely, as so called intellectuals and those who shed copious tears for the downtrodden, they should be interested in finding a solution and at least have some suggestions?

Posted by DaraIndia | Report as abusive