[A few related posts here, here, and here.]
In the wake of the Maoists declaring Lalgarh (in West Bengal's Midnapore district) a "liberated zone", the state and central governments last week decided to move against the Maoists, amidst the usual (and breathless) media focus on the military/police action -- and utter disregard for the material conditions that might have led "tribals" in Lalgarh and elsewhere to support the insurgents. Indeed, one CNN-IBN podcast spoke (with no trace of irony) of the liberation of Lalgarh as proving difficult, in part because most of the tribals there were sympathetic to the insurgents! Just who or what is being liberated here? Not too many Naxalite leaders give interviews to the English-language media, but the Lalgarh crisis seems to have changed that for the moment, as even the Naxalites have woken up to the value of public relations: see, for instance, here, here, and here, for first-hand encounters with some Naxalite voices:
...You see, power doesn’t come through weapons alone. Look at the people of Lalgarh (where tribals seized administrative power after the police allegedly tortured some of them on the suspicion that they were harbouring Maoists)—with just home-made bows and arrows, they have stalled police. Guerilla operations depend a lot on people’s support and because people are with us, we have managed to keep the police from reaching us. Our party runs on an annual budget of Rs15-20 crore. That’s what we spend on our operations across the country, and it’s almost the same amount that we raise through donations, seizures and heists. Most of the money is raised in Dandakaranya, Bihar and Jharkhand. ...
...There is no end to revolution. There is no time frame—it seems it will take time… But, if the war strategy is right, we’ll reach our goal soon. Otherwise, we will have to retreat and change course. But we are strictly against joining mainstream politics. Over the last few years, politicians such as Sonia Gandhi and Buddhababu have been advising us to follow the example of Maoists in Nepal, but look at what happened to them. I met Prachanda several times and told him that they were on the wrong track and urged him to change his political stance. We won’t make the same mistake. ...
...I don’t have kids. Our party doesn’t support the idea of having children. There is no ban as such, but the leadership expects the women in our party to undergo sterilization after marriage. This is done to ensure that their political careers are not compromised. ...LINK
One hardly needs to be a Naxalite sympathizer (I am not) to observe that the system has failed "tribals", and nowhere more so than in eastern and central India (in Chattisgarh alone, as Anand Teltumbde recently noted in an incisive piece, "over 100,000 people have been displaced and hundreds of villages abandoned, besides the killing of hundreds in the crossfire between the police and the Naxalites"; the likes of Andhra Pradesh have a somewhat better record -- although that isn't saying much -- of responding to the concerns represented by the Naxalite movement by incorporating some of them (along with erstwhile Naxalites) into the political mainstream) -- and the ruling Left dispensation in West Bengal is not (ideologically) nimble enough to inspire much hope on that front. As Nandigram showed, its response to contemporary ideological challenges has been limited to throwing in its lot with industrial "development", no matter how many farmers have to be displaced; in one fell swoop transforming the Comrades in West Bengal from proletarian revolutionaries to neo-liberal champions of "development" eminently acceptable to the very middle classes once scorned by them. A reminder, if any were needed, that India needs an alternative to Communism in terms of the progressive political space, one that speaks in terms of the Indian polity's great "tribal"-shaped (and Dalit and minority-shaped, though these groups fare better) and perhaps even modernity-shaped blind spots, not in the rhetoric of post-industrial class struggles that even the CPI(M) has trouble taking seriously anymore. As the country negotiates the challenges of twenty-first century globalization, a "post-modern" political ethic is a necessity; India can ill-afford the luxury of a Left simultaneously operating along the political axes of a 1960s time warp, and an authoritarian pro-heavy industry paradigm.
Aditya Nigam has an interesting piece on Kafila about the possibility that was Lalgarh, before the area became a battleground between armed Maoists and state forces: a must-read.