October 23, 2009

India's biggest internal problem today

There is so much going on in some states like Orissa, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal and some parts of AP & Maharashtra, we hear in newspapers everyday, for the past year or so. The past two months have seen heightened activity and the news is alarming, to put it mildly. Yes, I am referring to Maoists' movement in these states.

What do they want? Who are they? Why are they resorting to such tactics? We all know the group started as a peasant movement in WB in a village called Naxalbari in the late 1960s, therefore the term maoists and naxalites are used interchangeably, I guess. But this movement has evolved with time and the groups are fragmented but loosely associated across many states and estimated to cover almost 50% of India's geographic area. Enough to get our Home Minsiter worried.

From what we are seeing, the locals seems to be on their side. This is a very interesting picture. If the locals are with them, either out of fear or because they are benefitting from the cause. If its the former, the support does not last and increasingly, the profile of these leaders suggest that they enjoy enormous local support.

To be frank, I have not been following their movement in media these past few years, but offlate, I am attempting to read up and learn about this movement. When Kobad Gandhi was arrested last month, there was a little story about his life and family which I read with great interest. And recently there have been quotes from two of their popular leaders - Maoist leader Kishneji told the BBC: "We will show the government what is people's power. No police or army can crush that." Another leader said, ""During a revolution, one does not see how many people or who are killed. Only when the goal is finally achieved, will this bloodshed be over," says Ravi Sharma, an agricultural scientist turned Maoist! And, what is that goal? "Our aim is to establish socialism in India to end the inequality between the rich and the poor."

Tall order, that. If you notice, it was interesting to hear our Home Minsiter drawing a parallel to a politician's role in society and a Maoists'. Both want equity, help the marginalized and want peace in every district of the country. But both are fighting each other!!! How ironical the situation is!

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