Raman Singh, the chief minister of Chhattisgarh should resign, taking moral responsibility for the killing of 27 people by Maoists near Darbha in Jagdalpur district, 340 km south of state capital Raipur.
Or so feels the Congress Party. “Raman Singh should step down… We did not want to say anything political as we felt that the chief minister would himself resign owning responsibility…The irresponsible attitude of the state government has led to a huge loss to democratic values and the chief minister should resign admitting the security lapse,” Congress spokesperson Bhakta Charan Das said on May 28,2013.
Those killed included state Congress leaders Mahendra Karma and Uday Mudliyar. The state Congress chief Nand Kumar Patel and his son Dinesh were also killed. Senior Congress leader Vidya Charan Shukla, who was the information and broadcasting minister during the dark days of the emergency, was severely injured and is now battling for his life.
It is clear that the Congress party has woken up only after its leaders came under direct attack. The party had been very quiet when 76 CRPF jawans were killed by Maoists in April 2010, near Chintalnar village in Dantewada district. So by wanting the Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh to resign does the Congress party want us to believe that a life of a politician is more valuable than that of a CRPF solider? And that every time a Congress politician is killed democracy in this country comes to a standstill?
The second point that comes out here is that by asking Raman Singh to resign, the Congress party is trying to project Naxalism as a state level problem, which it clearly is not. Naxalism is a menace in other states like Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal, as well.The Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had acknowledged this in May 2010, after the massacre of CRPF jawans. “I have been saying for the last three years that
remains the biggest internal security challenge facing our country…We have not underestimated the problem of Naxalism,” he had said.
Also what is interesting is that Chhattisgarh is one state where the Maoists are concentrating on. Most of the top Naxalite leaders in this area are Telgu speaking and not locals. As Ramachandra Guha writes in a column in The Hindu “From the 1980s, Naxalites had been active in the region, asking for higher wages for tribals, harassing traders and forest contractors, and attacking policemen. In the first decade of this century their presence dramatically increased. Dantewada (in Chhattisgarh) was now identified by Maoist ideologues as the most likely part of India where they could create a ‘liberated zone.’ Dozens of Telugu-speaking Naxalites crossed into Chhattisgarh, working assiduously to accomplish this aim.”
This is further evidence of the fact that Naxalism is not just Raman Singh’s problem. For the sake of argument, if the Maoists had decided to concentrate on the neighbouring Andhra Pradesh, from where they have been driven out, an attack of similar proportions could have happened there. So would the Congress party then have asked for the resignation of its own Chief Minister?
Also the party seems to be trying hard to pin all the blame on on the state government. As an earlier article on Firstpost had pointed out, in a meeting that party Vice President Rahul Gandhi had with the Chhattisgarh government after the attack, he kept asking “who will take the responsibility?”
Naxalism did not start overnight. It started in the late 1960s, taking its name from the Naxalbari village in West Bengal. The story goes that an anonymous poet wrote on the walls of the city that was then known as Calcutta “Amar bari, tomar bari/Naxalbari Naxalbari”(My home, Naxalbari/Your home, Naxalbari)”, giving the movement its name.
The state of West Bengal was then ruled by the Congress party and so were large parts of India where Naxalism spread in the decades to come. Raman Singh became the chief minister of Chhattisgarh only in December 2003.
Also, the home minister of the country is responsible for the internal security of the country. When the attack happened home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde was in the United States on an official tour. He has since extended his stay there. The Indian Express reports that sources say that the minister is visiting close relatives of his wife in Maryland.
So much for the seriousness of the Congress led UPA government in tackling the Naxal problem. Of course, the official Congress line is that Shine is monitoring the situation from the United States. But as BJP spokesperson Meenakshi Lekhi put it “You can sit on the moon and say we are monitoring everything but that is not what is expected of a person who needs to be on the ground and be in control of the situation.”
Hence, the Congress is more responsible for the Naxal problem in this country than any other party. And in time like this to seriously tackle the issue of Naxalism, it should be working together with the state government rather than asking Raman Singh to resign.
One of the Congress leaders killed in the attack was Mahendra Karma. He was the leader of the opposition in the Chhattisgarh state assembly between 2004 and 2008, and was instrumental in the formation of Salwa Judum (which means purification hunt in the Gondi language).
Salwa Judum was essentially a local militia which was created to take on the Maoists. On July 5, 2011, the Supreme Court of India declared the militia to be illegal and called for its disbanding. Karma had the support of Raman Singh when it came to the Salwa Judum operating freely in the state.
Ramachandra Guha recounts his meeting with Karma in his column in The Hindu. He writes “We spent an hour in the company of the movement’s originator, Mahendra Karma. He told us that he was fighting a dharma yudh, a holy war. We asked whether the outcome of this war was worth it. We told him of what we had seen, of the homes burnt and the women abused by the men acting in his name and claiming that he was their leader. He answered that in a great movement small mistakes are sometimes made. (The exact words he used were: “Badé andolanon mein kabhi kabhi aisé choté apradh hoté hain.”)”
Karma’s quip was inspired from the famous dialogue from the Hindi film Dilwale Dulhainya Le Jayenge (DDLJ), which went like this: “Bade bade deshon main aisi choti choti baatein hoti rehti hain (in big countries these small things keep happening)”.
Salwa Judum further exaggerated the Naxal problem in the state. The tribals had to bear the brunt of it. As one of them told Guha “ “Ek taraf Naxaliyon, doosri taraf Salwa Judum, aur hum beech mein, pis gayé” (placed between the Maoists and the vigilantes, we adivasis are being squeezed from both sides).” And Salwa Judum ultimately even consumed its creator in the end.
The broader point here is that the attack by the Maoists was primarily against Mahendra Karma and a few other Congress leaders instrumental in launching Salwa Judum. As a letter sent across by the Maoists after the killings clearly says: “The purpose was to punish Mahendra Karma who had launched the anti-Maoist armed movement Salwa Judum and some other Congress leaders.” Or as the old saying goes “live by the sword, die by the sword”. Or in Karma’s own words “ Badé andolanon mein kabhi kabhi aisé choté apradh hoté hain.”
So the Congress party (with more than a little help from Raman Singh) was instrumental in ensuring that Naxals got further determined, after unleashing a private militia on them as well as the people of the state.
These lessons should have been well learnt by the Congress party by now. Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards after she messed up big time in Punjab and propped up Bhinderwale against the Akalis. Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated by LTTE, a problem created first by his mother Indira.
The final point I want to make is that the tradition of taking moral responsibility and quitting doesn’t exist among the politicians of this country anymore. Lal Bahadur Shastri resigned as the Railway Minister in 1956 after a rail-accident occurred in Ariyalur in Tamil Nadu, killing 144 people. As an editorial in The Hindu points out “In fact, he had put in his papers when an accident had occurred in Mahboobnagar three months earlier, killing 112. But Nehru had not accepted it. He refused to continue in the post after the Ariyalur accident.” They don’t make men like him these days.
When was the last time you heard a Railway Minister quitting after an rail accident which killed hundreds of people? In fact in July 2011, Mukul Roy of the Trinamool Congress, who was Minister of State for the Railways, even refused to visit Assam, where a train had derailed injuring hundreds of passengers.
The Congress government did not resign when Bombay (now Mumbai) was bombed by Dawood Ibrahim and the ISI in 1993, even though it was a huge lapse of security. Neither did it resign when rains and floods brought the city to a standstill on July 26, 2005. It finally took the savage attack of November 26, 2008, to get the heads rolling. Shivraj Patil kept bungling up as the Home Minister of India between 2004 and 2008, but was allowed to continue, finally being forced to resign after the attacks of November 26, 2008. Narendra Modi, the Chief Minister of Gujarat did not resign after the 2002 riots, despite almost everyone calling for his resignation, including those in his own party.
The culture of politicians resigning taking moral responsibility does not exist anymore. And this works across the political spectrum. Hence, the Congress asking for Raman Singh’s resignation sounds very hypocritical, when it’s leaders have behaved differently in similar situations in the past.
The article originally appeared on www.firstpost.com on May 29,2013
(Vivek Kaul is a writer. He tweets @kaul_vivek)