To Ask or Not To Ask: A Few Thoughts

State repression is intensifying on all movements that stand opposed to corporate land grab and capitalist aggression, especially in the states of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Odisha. It is debatable amongst us whether the armed struggle of the Maoists is making the state more belligerent on all other resistance movements, albeit with other strategies. In Odisha, home to many mass movements against coercive land grab and mining projects of corporate giants, there have been movements with a range of ideological orientation from sarvodaya and socialist to Marxist along with a growing Maoist presence in recent years. But the relentless assault on the Adivasis, dalits, fisherfolk and OBCs by the forces of capital and state has only strengthened the opposition to state repression. In common platforms and joint actions in different places, we assume solidarity as we stand opposed to the corporate plunder in all these states. But if a landmine blast is made to happen on the same day when another established party or mass organization is holding a mass protest on some issue, and a woman and three others are abducted, then surely something is amiss. Let us briefly recap the events in Garhwa district of Jharkhand.

On January 21, Sushma Mehta, elected Zila Parishad Chairperson from the CPI(ML) and Akhtar Ansari, a state committee member of the party were abducted by CPI (Maoist) along with Mehboob the driver of the car and Sunesh Ram, the security guard. Sunesh Ram continues to be held hostage by the Maoists. They were on their way to the protest of the villagers of Bargad in Bhandaria block in Garhwa district. The villagers were sitting in a road block and demanding that the site of the proposed primary health centre be decided by villagers rather than at the behest of contractors. The CPI (Maoist) triggers a landmine blast that takes the lives of 13 policemen who were accompanying the BDO on his way to the protest site. Not surprisingly the Jharkhand police come down heavily on the CPI (ML) activists with the allegation that the roadblock and the protest were designed to lure the policemen. Several of those arrested during the protest were beaten and tortured in interrogations to establish links with the Maoists. Again, on 24 January, a vicious lathi charge takes place on a peaceful protest during a Garhwa bandh called by CPI(ML) against the state violence, where several people were beaten up. Some were hospitalized with fractured limbs. The Maoists who owned up the landmine blast, released three of the hostages on January 24.

The wife and mother of Sunesh Ram, who is still held hostage, attempted self-immolation outside the thana in Garhwa on January 28. In a TOI report ( we hear of the deep shock and trauma of their being held hostage for three days. Most recently, the police are implicating Sushma as part of the plot, and trying to get the guard’s family to do dharna at Sushma’s house demanding that she be booked for the conspiracy to perpetrate the blast and the abduction. Some of the arrested people were sent to jail but two of those arrested on January 21st, Budlal Kerketta and Mahfuz Ansari, were missing from custody. In the latest news today, they had been taken to Chhattisgarh and tortured severely, but are now with their family. While police say Ramdas Minz and Fida Husain are in jail, their families are not being allowed to meet them. So their presence in jail is not verified. The families have filed a case in court saying these two are missing and their whereabouts be revealed. According to Kavita Krishnan, a CC member of the CPI (ML), “the ‘lathicharge’ during the bandh on 24 Jan was no ordinary one, but a particularly vengeful and brutal assault. The DSP himself stamped with boots on Kalicharan Mehta, and similar brutal assaults resulted in severe injury and broken arm of 70-year-old Kishore Kumar, a broken leg for another comrade, and severe injuries for Comrade Rahina, another elected woman representative of Danda panchayat.” This repression has certainly been scaled up in reaction to the landmine blast and the death of the policemen.

Some crucial questions that come to the mind pertain to the timing of the landmine blast when the BDO accompanied by policemen is on his way to a protest organized by the CPI – ML members. Was the abduction of Sushma Mehta and three others a spontaneous act or preplanned? Or was it only to terrorize the state or CPI-ML or both? Can we simply leave it to be intra-party disputes since the territorial rights fought over by different streams of revolutionary groups are not new? Even as I attempted discussing these questions with friends and fellow travellers on email, an extremely warped and poor substitute for passionate discussions in each other’s physical presence (to which the state cannot not be privy to compared to today’s online surveillance), I began to see how the parameters of the debate have been drastically pruned by the nature of events around us. Questioning the squad actions and military assertions of the Maoists is simplistically reduced to peace mongering. Or, the next common response is to be told how much worse and more systemic state violence can be. In our continuous struggle against the state we now have to sit and hold our breath as there is someone calling the shots too. This is not the right time to ask these questions. We can only continue to send endless appeals to the state.

Surely, we cannot run the risk of condoning something simply because we are pitted against the mightier enemy, which is the state. Or that to breathe any question now is to ruin the balance of the forces arraigned against each other. For the state, the label of `maoist’ is a sufficient and often legitimate ground to torture or kill somebody; and for the Maoists, it is `police informer’. To question it is a blasphemy because they only know the truth, none else. What about other autonomous voices? There have been centuries of domination where coercion and violence were systemically used to subjugate different oppressed sections and continue to do so. Struggles of workers, women, lesbians and gays and dalits have made us all so clear that the state is a mighty force to reckon with but not the sole culprit. Till date, we struggle to broaden the canvas of issues though ideological assertion and logical persuasion. We can only seek to complicate our questions as the time demands; we have no choice there. But not to push these new parameters of the debate can be most counterproductive. Let us actually let a hundred flowers blossom.

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