Not through the gun

Not many Indians are happy with the prevailing system. Too many disparities have come to be entrenched and too many people have been driven to live on the margin.
Corruption of the bureaucracy and the involvement of political masters are too blatant. And it may be a cliché but aptly describes the situation: crime has been politicised and politics has been criminalised.

The question that faces the nation is how to change the system. Should it be with the gun as the Maoists and their sympathisers in the civil society have come to believe or should the people decide it through the ballot?

It has become more pressing and relevant after the Maoists are on a killing spree. This week’s tragedy in the deep forests of Dantewada in Chhattisgarh where 76 policemen were killed is an adequate proof, if any more proof is needed, that the Maoists are out to capture power through the gun.

What is worse is that they not only planned the attack but also managed to take away all arms and ammunition from the police. This underlines the fact that the Maoists have improved their tactics and weaponry. On the other hand, the police remain ill-equipped, under-trained and ill-served by intelligence.

This carnage is the Maoists’ way of conducting an armed revolution. When India won freedom under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi, it did not fire a shot to oust the mightiest world power. The reason why the Mahatma could do so was the power of people behind him. The poor, the illiterate and the backward were all with him. In fact, most of the affluent were on the British side to enjoy their luxurious living. The bureaucracy too was part of the imperialist power. Still the Mahatma won.

If the Maoists represent the poor, the illiterate and the backward, let them prove so, not egging them on to use the gun but through elections which are held, by any yardstick, fairly and independently. This needs persuasion, patience and arguments to win people over. The Maoists believe that they do not have to do so. The gun can do the job. This was the language of the imperialists also.

What the Maoists do not understand or realise is that the state has many more guns and can ultimately silence other guns. The rulers may not be to their liking but they have come through a process where people have queued up before the booths to cast their vote.

Violence in today’s world is out of place. Even the limited violence can turn out to be dangerous. In India where there are so many fissiparous tendencies, violence can result into anything. Trigger happy groups or some other forces can try to seize power when the arbiter is the gunman.


Bhagat Singh was also a revolutionary. He too believed in armed struggle. Yet, he never preached violence. Nor did he or his organisation, Hindustan Socialist Republic Army, behead any person. The Maoists have much to learn from him. The British hanged Bhagat Singh because they were afraid of his philosophy, not him.

What did killing mean to a revolutionary? Bhagat Singh explained it in his own words: “We attach great sanctity to human life; we regard man’s life as sacred. We would sooner lay down our lives in the service of humanity than injure anyone.” There was no revenge, no vendetta, no brutality.

In his article, ‘The Philosophy of the Bomb,’ which Bhagat Singh wrote at the age of 21, he said revolutionaries do not shun criticism and public scrutiny of their ideals or actions. They rather welcome these as chances of making those understand, who have a genuine desire to do so, the basic principles of the revolutionary movement and the high and noble ideals that are a perennial source of inspiration and strength to it. But the Maoists are running away from talks. The killings do not tell what they stand for.

I do not like all the things that home minister P Chidambaram does. But in the case of Maoists, he has gone quite far to initiate a dialogue with them. He has not asked them to surrender their arms, nor to give up their ideology. He has only told them to renounce violence. If they were to do so, the Central government would talk to them, sitting across the table.

The government would, in the meanwhile, do well in stopping industrialists and businessmen from appropriating minerals and other natural resources which constitute the tribals’ wealth. They should be made partners in ventures which come up to utilise the resources. The Maoists have been harnessing grievances of tribals for their armed revolution. Once the tribals know that they have control over natural resources, they will stop supporting the Maoists.

In the name of revolution, the Maoists are getting money and weapons from ‘questionable sources.’ They cannot play with the Indian polity, however wanting the government may be. The rulers can be ousted in election. But the blows inflicted on India can be irreparable. The Maoists are making the mistake of equating the government with India.

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