EPW, Vol XLVII No.16 April 21, 2012

Take away Maad from the Maoists, but with profits taking precedence over people the movement will not die.

We do not think that Union Home Minister P Chidambaram is so naïve as to believe the narrative of the counter-insurgency camp that last month the central and state forces stormed the “red citadel” of Abujmaad (Maad) in Chhattisgarh as part of their Operation Hakka (“Hakka” apparently means a hunt for wild animals in the local dialect. So much for the sensitivity of the security forces). That is what the corporate media propagated. But going by the US Counter-insurgency Guide issued by Washington in January 2009 – which has been the doctrine of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in its counter-insurgency strategy against the Moro National Liberation Front and the New People’s Army, and is now being adopted in India against the Maoists – while identifying and striking the centres of gravity of an armed guerrilla movement at its core, the operation must be made to appear deceptive by another component of its grand design, namely, a psychological war (“psy-war”) conducted through the media. The unthinking and corporate-controlled media in India is ideal for this purpose. Apart from Aman Sethi’s report in The Hindu (“Chasing Shadows in Abujmaad”, 10 April 2012), free and ­independent reporting on last month’s paramilitary foray into Maad has been hard to come by.

What does one make of the media reports claiming to be from “Inside the Red Citadel”? The security forces were armed with the best of weapons, “Swedish Carl Gustav rocket launchers and C-90 rifles, and satellite phones”; “flat plateau regions were identified where helicopters could land and the Air Force kept on alert – just in case”. Claims of having “busted a major arms factory at Hikonar” and of the unearthing of Maoist “literature on making rocket launchers and on hunting down choppers”, as also the “drills” the Maoists have devised to “successfully thwart an aerial attack” surely make for spicy ingredients in the psywar conducted through a pliant media. But what will happen to the claim of the security forces of having arrested 13 Maoists, if it subsequently turns out that those apprehended are ordinary villagers? Narayanpur Superintendent of Police (SP) Mayank Srivastava seems to have inadvertently exposed what the security forces actually do when they go on such forays when he boasted about the forces having demolished some schools run by the Maoists’ Janatana Sarkar. Of course, in his view, this is what needs to be done, for these are centres for the “easy brainwashing of tribals”. In sharp contrast, Aman Sethi’s independent reporting, to an extent, seems to corroborate some of the claims of human rights violations of ordinary villagers (non-combatants) by the security forces which were made by a 30 March report of the Dandakaranya Special Zonal Committee of the Communist Party of India (Maoist).

There is one interesting aspect of police behaviour that ­recurs in the Maoist version of events – after severely beating an ordinary villager, the police gave him/her some money, and if the person refused to take the money, he or she was thrashed once again. This must be seen as part of a more ­recent trend wherein the repressive apparatus of the Indian state is made to participate in social welfare programmes to convey an image of social service – Chidambaram’s “winning hearts and minds”. In the “Inte­grated Action Plan (IAP) to ­develop Maoist-affected areas”, the district SPs now play an ­important role as part of the introduction of an element of ­deception as regards Operation Green Hunt (OGH). The ­increasing say of the police at the district level in the construction of roads and buildings under the IAP will surely make easier the task of the state’s armed forces. And, the media through its role in the psy-war will then use this portrayal of the police as a developmental partner to manipulate public opinion in favour of OGH.

Coming back to Maad, is it really the Red Citadel that it is being made out to be? Is it really the main “base area” of the Maoists where the top-ranking leaders of the movement have taken shelter? In 2001, Punjabi writer Satnam spent time with the Maoist guerrillas in Maad and wrote about them in Jangalnama (Penguin, 2010). Gautam Navlakha (along with Jan Myrdal) visited this “guerrilla zone” and wrote about life in the region “Days and Nights in the Maoist Heartland” (EPW, 17 April 2010). They found the guerrillas alongside the people engaged in such activity as agriculture, education and healthcare. The guerrillas have harnessed the “collective energy of the people in improving their material conditions”. But now what? In all likelihood, with the completion of the security forces’ initial foray into Maad, the process of setting up paramilitary camps there will begin. Like elsewhere, whether in the rest of Dandakaranya or in Jangalmahal, paramilitary personnel will then pick on ordinary civilians (non-combatants). Let us not make any bones about it – the ordinary adivasis of Maad and the rest of Dandakaranya, backed by the Maoists, are fighting for their rights toJal, Jangal aur Zamin against the Indian state and its corporate backers who want to appropriate these resources. Profits-over-people is what the whole business is all about.