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Monday, June 09, 2014



Time for transition from Violence to Non-Violence: Anurag Modi's open letter to the Naxals


"In the backdrop of Adivasi population (in conflict or non-conflict zone) of the country facing a war - a war that is so well designed by nexus of politicians and corporate lobby that it is sure to affect and displace the entire Adivasi population - the adoption of non-violent protest and giving away violence will leave government’s operation “Green-Hunt” exposed and redundant."

Anurag Modi  

Dear Naxal Friends,

The Indian State’s response to the Sarkeguda-killings in Chhattisgarh is not much different than US authority's response to civilian killings by its security forces in Afghanistan and Iraq. We all know the State guided by capitalist interests knows no limits and I am in no doubt that the present Sarkeguda-killing was not the case of mistaken identity. Instead, it was an exercise by the state agencies in its ongoing war against ‘Naxals’ to prove that it  would be more brutal with  civilian population too,  to warn them against being  sympathetic to ‘Naxals’. Time and again it has been proved that the Indian state has unleashed the war on Adivasi Population as it has been committed to hand over mineral rich India to the corporate houses. The ‘Naxal’ issue has proved to be a new tool in the hands of the Indian state to displace people of their land and resources, even without any compensation and rehabilitation offer.


Even, political parties like Congress and BJP, which don’t see eye to eye with each other, have befriended over the issue. The Salwa Judum launched by the BJP run government of Chhattisgarh was led by then leader of opposition Congress in the assembly Mr. Mahendra Karma.

But, when movements across the world are at crossroads experiencing transition in their strategies, at this historic juncture you should also have some introspection. Before you conclude on your strategy sessions, I would venture to share some thoughts with you. One, on my understanding of Adivasis and second, on history of transition of strategy in various movements across the globe, which have been churning my mind for a while now. I know we differ in ideology; you believe in violent means and we in non-violent. We both are hard to crack on ideology, perhaps impossible. And I have no intention either, or have enough intellectual ability or deep understanding to lecture you on the ideology.

In my opinion, understanding of Adivasis is important as they are the single largest group, be it associated with violent or non-violent movements, fighting for their share of freedom ever-since independence. My two decade long experience of activism with the Adivasi community suggests that Adivasis are very much contented; they have immense ability but no craving for power. This gets reflected in their way of life; they don’t believe in accumulation; have minimum land to survive; and possess bare minimum resources. Have they had any craving for power, they would have been the biggest landlords of the country and not the forest department. And like other erstwhile rulers, they would have been part of the power game in today’s politics. It does not mean they have no understanding of Marx or Gandhi. With the adaptation of salt-movement into Jungle-Satyagraha, they have shown their ability to understand the essence of Gandhi’s call. They too were on forefront in armed rebellion against British. An understanding of freedom is the essence of Adivasi life; he loves his traditions and does not like anyone controlling his life, nor does he have any craving for controlling other’s life by acquiring power, be it through bullet or ballet. His confrontation with British power was more against infringement on his way of life - influence and interference of outsiders in his life leading to exploitation, and less for power. Freedom was so crucial to Adivasi that he never thought twice before fighting a battle against British guns and canon with his bows and arrows, which resulted in the loss of thousands of lives of his people. Even to date, he is not concerned much about our ideologies of violence or non-violence. He would stand beside you and fight without calculating the gains but ready to pay any cost for freedom only if he believes in you.

Actually, the western mode of development has proved to be Adivasi’s biggest enemy and has brought them displacement and destruction. You know this better. The growing need of resources has been the reason behind operation “Green-hunt”. The basic foundation of modern development is not going to change with the mere change of power. This ever-increasing need of resources has brought immense and equal repression on both violent and non-violent movements. While authorities have been using strategies like operation “Green-Hunt’ and Salwa Judum against you, they have forest protection committees and various sections of IPCs and draconian laws for the non-violent crusaders as well. Both the strategies have one thing in common - pitch Adivasi communities against each other.

Now, let us see how there have been profound change in the strategies of non-violent movements across the globes, you will have more to learn from Bhagat Singh than Mao. Though, Bhagat Singh was influenced by Marxist ideology, when it came to the adoption of strategy, he was found more close to his Indian counterpart, i.e., Gandhi. Not only that, if you look at the history of violent movements across the globe, you will see the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (HSRA) in pre independent India, FMLN of El-Salvador-African National Congress and other movements of South Africa, Maoist in Nepal and the movements in Palestine, Jammu and Kashmir, all the non-violent movements have observed great shift in their strategy. In these movements, the adoption of non-violent form of protest left the governments isolated in their brutality and provided the movements with sudden advantage over the government. After decades of violent struggle in Manipur, non violent protest is gaining ground in the form of support to ten long years of hunger strike by Irom Sharmila.

With the example of pre-independent Indian revolutionary movements (HSRA) and Palestinian movements, we can understand the transition of strategies in the violent movements. They were non-violent at one time and later taken to violence but, eventually, switched back to non-violent as they found it to be the best suited strategy. The HSRA of Bhagat Singh and the Palestinians movements have many things in common. First, we take the example of Palestinians’. Around 1930, with the beginning of growing Jews settlements, Palestinians opposed it by way of peaceful demonstrations. In the face off all the repression, the movement remained non-violent till 1933 when, during a rally, British mounted policeman injured famous Palestinian leader, 81-year-old, Musa Al-Hussein Kajim who, few months later, succumbed to his injuries. The incident led to the sudden transition in Palestinian movement from non-violent to a violent protest. Similarly in India, famous leader Lala Lajpat Rai succumbing to his injuries, caused by lathis of the British mounted Police, led to British officer Saunders’ murder and sudden upsurge in revolutionary movement led by HSRA.

The non-violent Palestinian movement, which lasted unabated for almost 7 long decades, attained epitome of Guerrilla-war with introduction of suicide attacks. Now the movement is again passing through another sea change. They have been shifting to more innovative ways of non-violent protests like big rallies and hunger strikes by 10 thousand of Palestinian prisoners locked in the Israel jails. Though, these protests have not yet officially been supported by any big Palestinian party, they have been coming so naturally and having huge public support that it is only a matter of time before it gets backing from the big parties. Israel Defence Force (IDF), which is known for developing and supplying deadly weapons world over, has been finding it difficult to deal with these non-violent protests. Like Palestine, the movements in Jammu and Kashmir have also witnessed profound change of strategy. The movement that reached its peak with suicide bombings in 1999 now sees months of peaceful protest by thousands of protesters since non-violent groups have taken over. Jammu and Kashmir and Palestine protests have one thing in common,  both the protests are marred by incidents of stone pelting. But looking at their history of military occupation and state violence, we will have to be a little bit moderate in terming them non-violent.

HSRA transition of strategy without leaving their Marxist ideology, from Saunders murder to the assembly bombing and then the trial at the British court followed by a hunger strike in the jail, can be interesting to analyse. On 8th April, 1929, with throwing a bomb in the Central-Assembly in Delhi, they had shown how a ‘non-violent-Bomb’ can be more effective. Unlike their earlier efforts, this time due care was taken that none of the people of British authority got injured in the attack. Yet, the echo of the bomb is heard even today, louder than any bomb ever used in the history of violent movements across the globe. This was followed by wilful surrender of Bhagat Singh and Batukeshwar Dutt as they knew the Bomb could hurt only few but the historic opportunity they would get through trial court hearings would give them an opportunity to make their ideology, the “ideology of bomb”, reach the larger people. Then, from 15th June to 4th October, they have observed the longest hunger strike of 112 days; ever known in the jail, which continued for another 20 days despite their jail inmate revolutionary Jatin Das’ death on the 92nd day of hunger strike. It was followed by two other hunger strikes in 1930. With these timely adoption of strategy, Bhagat Singh’s popularity rose equivalent to Gandhi in few years time. No other violent or non-violent movement in the world has received such huge popularity and recognition in such a short period of time.

In the backdrop of Adivasi population (in conflict or non-conflict zone) of the country facing a war - a war that is so well designed by nexus of politicians and corporate lobby that it is sure to affect and displace the entire Adivasi population - the adoption of non-violent protest and giving away violence will leave government’s operation “Green-Hunt” exposed and redundant. This will be an historic opportunity to have the breeze of revolution flowing across the country.

[Anurag Modi belongs to Samajwadi Jan Parishad in Betul, Madhya Pradesh.]


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