Violence and intimidation are the staple of extremist politics. It is not surprising, therefore, that Maoist rebels in Jharkhand depend more on guns than on popular sympathy for their disruptive activities. But the two-day bandh that the Maoist Communist Centre organized in the state makes a mockery of its politics. Maoists in Jharkhand, like their counterparts in Bihar, Orissa or Andhra Pradesh, have no faith in “bourgeois” democracy and its institutions. That is why they rehearse for their revolution to usher in a “people’s democracy”. Yet the MCC called the bandh to protest a local court’s verdict of death sentences to three of its leaders. It is not that the rebels would have discovered a new-found faith in the judiciary if the verdict were different. Their own idea of justice is cruelly expressed in the “people’s courts” which routinely condemn innocent people to death by firing squads. There is thus little scope for misunderstanding the MCC’s aims, even if these are sometimes sought to be disguised as popular causes. Maoists in India remain hopelessly bound to their guns and therefore alienated from the people.
That, however, is no reason for the government to lower its guard against these enemies of the people. Unfortunately, the government in Jharkhand often shows an inadequate resolve to fight the menace. The manner in which policemen abandoned their posts at some railway stations for fear of the rebels showed them in a poor light. This abject surrender of authority not only aided the Maoists in disrupting train services but also put the security of the passengers at great risk. It was clearly a betrayal of the government’s commitment to maintain public order. Besides, if this were symptomatic of the administration’s inability to meet the Maoist challenge, it would be a great cause for concern in a state where the rebels are active in 16 of the 22 districts. The government’s inaction will only embolden the Maoists, while rendering the people completely helpless in the face of their violence. Instead of running away from the battle, Jharkhand should join it together with the neigbouring states. Winning this battle is crucial for the new state’s struggles against poverty, illiteracy and economic backwardness.