| Hot in their trail
The late G.D. Birla had once said in Calcutta that if he were a young man, he would also have become a Naxalite. Those were the days when the ultra-left agitation in the state was at its height. Possession of the Red Book and listening to Peking (the new spelling had not come in) was considered sure signs that a person was not a 'neo-revisionist'. And in the confused political situation, Mao, Regis Debray and Frantz Fanon were seen as gurus promising the same moksha. Thus when the patriarch of the Birla family uttered those words, there was great rejoicing among 'fellow travellers'. An excited senior colleague in the newspaper for which this writer then worked, went about asking everybody 'have you read G.D. Birla's speech', conveniently forgetting that in leftist circles, the family's name had been synonymous for long with 'capitalist oppression' for the simple reason that there was none other which could match it in the state in terms of financial power.
The old man was, of course, just expressing his disgust at the social and economic chaos that he saw, a very different atmosphere from the 'order' which he had experienced in his younger days. Today that chaos is comparatively far less and even the countryside presents a much more organized picture. Yet like him, a fair section of the urban intelligentsia seems to have a soft corner for those seeking turmoil for the sake of turmoil. 'The killings in far-flung hamlets have to be seen in the general context of lack of development,' is the message sought to be sent out.
It is perhaps futile to ask such sympathizers whether the absence of infrastructure justifies the killing of unarmed individuals just because they are members or supporters of the ruling party. It is also futile to ask why it is that even with such 'anger' against them, they are the only party functioning in these far away villages. Comfortable in their 'bourg- eois' settings, these sympathizers have decided to be intellectually radical in their opposition to the Marxists. They could have been with the Congress or the Trinamool Congress in their support, but that would not have been fashionable enough. What is fashionable is to scoff at the system while enjoying the benefits of that system. And in West Bengal, the Marxists are seen to represent the system for the sole reason that they are being repeatedly voted into office.
And what about the Maoist activists themselves' One thing for sure is that like their predecessors, they have also ignored the objective conditions. There is poverty, there is injustice, but are the people in the villages, the workers in the factories prepared for the massive upheaval that is a revolution' Are the objective conditions in West Bengal or India compar- able to that in Russia pre-1917, or in China' Social welfare, no matter how limited, has resulted in the deve- lopment of stakes in society. Even in the tribal hamlets, conditions today are comparatively better than in the past.
How is development to be measured' Apart from physical evidence, there is the question of the level of consciousness. Take the much-discussed Amlashol. One recalls seeing on television a group of TMC legislators in the village. The thing that was demanded most was a school in the village. Surely, education cannot be on the top of the agenda for a people supposed to be starving' Even at the risk of being labelled reactionary, one would like to ask whether a people seeking education within the system would decide to take up arms against that very system' They can be forced at gun-point to provide food and shelter, but that is all. Charu Mazumdar's disciples could not have forgotten how they used to be hounded out by ordinary villagers from places which, they had been told in Calcutta, were 'liberated zones'.
These 'revolutionaries' in India would do well to ponder another issue. How is it that there has not been a revolution anywhere in the world where the British has ruled' Malaya had seen an attempt which failed and in the African countries, there had been militancy, but only for national freedom. In India, British colonialism had been much more benevolent. With the end of the Company rule in 1857, the British government saw it prudent to introduce elements of democratic functioning that struck deep roots in the next ninety years. The Indian parliamentary system is seen to work, protests can be lodged through gheraos and blockades, bandhs and strikes, provision for which exists within the system. All attempts at following a different path have failed. Indeed the story goes that when a group of Indian communists met Stalin in Moscow, he advised them to participate in the parliamentary system that existed in India.
Also, can revolution be imported' Over three decades ago, a delegation of such revolutionaries from West Bengal had received a dressing down from the Chinese leaders, including Mao, for their slogan 'China's chairman is our chairman'. Lessons, alas, are not easily learnt and the new party that has been formed is known as the CPI(Maoist).
Otherwise also, there are attempts at imports. In a country like India, where regions are culturally and linguistically so different, the Maoists are seeking to bring in people from Andhra Pradesh and Jharkhand to incite actions in West Bengal. In the villages, these people are immediately seen as 'foreigners' and resistance grows. Yes, with their arms they can lord it over for some time, but which revolutionary doctrine teaches that you must strike terror in the hearts of those you wish to 'liberate'
The Maoists , of course, could not have considered such questions. They are bent upon ushering a revolution. Strangely, at the same time, they also want to hold talks with their 'class enemies'. Did Mao send any such feelers to Chiang Kai Shek or Lenin to the Tsar'
As expected, the sympathizers are touting the need for talks. But talks with whom and for what purpose' The Maoists have declared a war on the state and commonsense says that talks can be held only when the war is called off. That certainly they will not to do, and so discuss what' Now they are complaining of ill-treatment in prison. It is perhaps only a Bengali revolutionary who would want to overthrow the system and at the same time complain about the size of the fish. You are presenting a sorry spectacle, Comrade.