Now the onus is on the police and prosecution
Reluctant before, Maharashtra police have made public certain evidence against activists whom they link to the Maoist movement, and are confident of proving charges in court, aware that the accused were acquitted in such cases earlier
The 6th of this month will decide whether the intellectuals, lawyers and activists who were arrested and then put under house arrest following the Supreme Court order, get bail or cool their heels in prison as undertrials. The outcry the police action evoked in the last week of August, surpassed the reaction that the arrests of some activists, also linked to the Maoist movement, in the first week of June this year, had generated.
The Pune police were reluctant to say anything concrete on the case the day the activists were arrested, but selective material was leaked without authentication. Then at a press conference no questions were taken, only a statement was read out. When the public pressure threatened to explode the safety valve of the system called government, the senior police officials raced against each other to make statements. A day after the Pune police chief's press meet, senior cops at the Maharashtra police headquarters in Mumbai, reiterated that the case was strong enough. A lot of questions are being raised over the manner in which the arrests were executed and the charge of heralding an anti-fascist movement.
Is there something called urban naxalism? Senior journalist Vivek Deshpande, who has been covering the naxal movement of Central India for over 20 years, believes so. Deshpande echoes a feeling that the manner in which some reputed activists were arrested in the name of curbing urban naxalism was certainly wrong and even served as camouflage against criticism of the government on some major issues.
"But to say that there is nothing like urban naxalism is going too far. Maoists certainly have their logistical and ideological supporters in urban areas. Of course, it is very difficult to pin them down as they do operate under a different garb. If anybody advocates that we should simply forget it as "non-existent", then it will only serve the Maoists well," Deshpande wrote on his Facebook wall.
The senior writer has reported several ambushes in the jungle, witnessed arrests of urban activists and reported the court cases. He says, "It would be a folly to believe that the Maoists operate in the completely isolated vacuum of self-sufficient jungle and don't need any logistical and ideological support from urban centres. If those arrested now aren't their supporters, then some others definitely are. So, what do we do to identify them? Or should we not do anything about them at all?
The other prominent journalist from central India, Devendra Gawande, who has seen the Maoist movement from very close quarters and continues to report it extensively from its hub, the Gadchiroli district, and Nagpur where the command centre of anti-Maoist operations exists, advocates the Andhra Pradesh model.
"The Andhra Pradesh government deliberately ignored the intellectuals. They arrested poet Varavara Rao thrice but came out with nothing against him. They realised that every arrest added to Rao's stature as a vocal activist. In recent years, the activists have been given the liberty to speak their mind," he says, adding that in some cases, some activists were even encouraged to act as mediators for holding talks with Maoist outlaws. Gawande says that the AP and Telangana governments worked hard for the development of the people the activists claim to have fought for.
The right and the left
In acting against the extremist left, the current dispensation faces a hurdle in an allegation that it too is anti-constitutional in not treating extremists from both the right (say Sanatan Sanstha and Sambhaji Bhide's organisation, Shiv Pratishthan Hindustan) and the left in the same manner, and doing it with a purpose of vote politics.
The right and the left stand extreme opposite as far as their ideologies are concerned. Over the years, the left has lost its strength considerably, barring a few countries. Extremists from both right and left, who took up weapons, were dealt with a bullet-for-bullet strategy. But when civil society members are accused of supporting the Maoist movement, the charge must be proved in the court. For the record, the conviction rate in such cases has been very low.
Surprisingly, the job of public speaking has been left to the police alone, and the politicians who claim that their constituencies are largely affected by the Maoist movement are shy of speaking. Why? The leaders who were part of the erstwhile governments that had taken action against the alleged Maoists are now crying foul.
The BJP's elected representatives from the naxal-affected areas haven't said why according to them and their governments, Maoism does not augur well in public interest. If they and the articulate lot in the BJP do so, then, it should be seen as a democratic and civil way of countering the leftist views.
It cannot be denied that the extremist groups, be they left or right, become a threat to the country when they unleash violence on the streets, kill intellectuals, gun down innocent tribal people and ambush security forces.
Dharmendra Jore is political editor, mid-day. He tweets @dharmendrajore Send your feedback to email@example.com
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