Podiyam Panda a Maoist operative and terrorist recently (May-9) surrendered to the Chhattisgarh police. Panda is alleged to have been involved in the dastardly massacre of 25 CPRF Jawans in April. Soon Panda was singing and leaving the over ground Maoist-sympathizers, supporters, and ideologues red-faced and running for cover.
The singing canary and the urban Naxals:
Panda soon after his surrender started singing like a canary. He specifically took the names of Delhi University (DU) Professor of Sociology Nandini Sundar and Bela Bhatia a former Associate Fellow at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS, Delhi) and an Honorary Visiting Professor at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bombay.
Panda further alleged that he was the liaison between these and other ideologues and the Maoist leaders holed up in interior villages of Sukma including Ramanna, Hidma, Paparao Aaytu, Arjun and others. While Sundar was quick to dismiss the allegation as having been obtained under duress and coercion she did not deny knowing Panda or ever having interacted with him. She could not have for; only a week earlier she had written a glowing piece on Panda for The Wire. Incidentally Founding Editor of The Wire, Siddharth Varadarajan is Sundar’s spouse.
In November 2016, Nandini Sundar was also named in a murder case along with 10 others in the murder of a tribal in Sukma district. She has been accused of instigating the murder and also of having travelled to the region under a false name, Richa Keshav.
Bela Bhatia the other co-accused has not come out with any statement but has been a long-term activist and overt supporter of the Maoists. She is presently based in the Bastar region for “research” purposes. It is again incidental that her partner is Jean Dreze, Belgian-born Indian citizen and a development economist associated with the Ranchi University and the Delhi School Economics. Jean Dreze is also the same person who was a member of the disastrous National Advisory Council (NAC) of UPA-1 and 2 that functioned as the de facto “Prime Minster” with the de jure PM Manmohan Singh being side-lined by this extra constitutional body that reported to Sonia Gandhi directly.
Coming back to the allegations/accusations made by Panda against Nandini Sundar and Bela Bhatia.
The point really is not about the extent of truth but rather about whether there is any truth at all and if the criterion be that even an iota of truth is enough to indict these ideologues, then this really is an open and shut case. What are a Professor and a Researcher doing dallying with hard core militants whose professed aim is to overthrow the democratically elected government of India?
These two are not the only ones. Recently DU Professor GN Saibaba was sentenced to life imprisonment by a court in Maharashtra for “waging war against the State” and for providing ideological and logistical support to the Maoists.
The need for intellectual heft and urban naxalism:
Naom Chomsky in one of his lectures “The great soul of power” said “The history of intellectuals is written by intellectuals, so not surprisingly, they are portrayed as defenders of rights and justice, upholding the highest values and confronting power with admirable courage and integrity” It is this feeling of intellectual superiority that is at the heart of what drives these intellectuals to lend their voice and much more to the Maoists attempts at overthrowing the Indian state.
To them, the Maoists are “freedom fighters” fighting for the rights of the land and the people against the unholy might of the state and therefore anything they do including brutal killings, torture, and massacre shall be justified as a defense against the massive oppression of the state.
For the Maoists, these intellectuals provide them with the perfect weapon to hit at the state. Sections of the intelligentsia consisting of people drawn from academia, journalists, and writers/authors are the perfect foil because they can direct and change public opinions and perceptions under the cover of their supposed intellectual heft while enjoying relative immunity within a democratic and free setup – this is the FOE and FOS drama that is often played out in an attempt to mask their real agenda.
Several articles and campaigns run by these self-proclaimed intellectuals like Arundhati Roy for example are nothing more than thinly veiled propaganda pieces that push the insidious agenda of these militants, completely lacking in balance and the principles of truth and justice.
The Maoist documents clearly state the need to build a strong base in cities that operate at three levels – secret, semi-open, open and legal. The Maoist insurgency and terror survives in the deep forests only and only because of the moral, intellectual, social, logistical, legal, and ideological support provided by the “Urban Naxals” who have over the years inserted themselves into academia, mainstream media (MSM), and even positions of power within the administration.
The way forward:
As we have seen without the overt and covert support provided by the “urban naxals” the Maoist movement would collapse like a pack of cards. The root of the problem lies in the cities and the government is mistaken in focusing only on the forests. The government would be well advised to tackle the urban naxals first – attack the root and the tree is bound to fall, chopping away at the branches is only an attempt at “pruning” the problem and is bound to fail.
For a permanent solution, the roots have to be tackled – they have to be defeated at their own game through a concerted effort that combines awareness, propaganda, rule-of-law, social boycott, and taking the necessary steps to remove these people from positions of influence and power. What are terrorist ideologues doing in our Schools and Colleges? If they are not removed now, they will inject their venom deep into the system and destroy it from within much like the wood termites that can silently and surely bore through the largest trees. These ideologues and Maoist sympathizers are against the very idea of India and the sooner they are prevented from causing any further damage to the body polity of our nation the better. The question though is this: Is the government listening?