The Green Hunt can be criticised from more than one points of view. The Green Hunt should not be evaluated only on the basis of the last few months i.e. since the name was coined. The idea of the green hunt actually started some years back with ideas like the Salwa Judum. What has been the achievement of that Green Hunt? It has led to the death of more security personnel than maoist rebels. But many times greater has been the deaths and suffering faced by innocent tribal people. Tribal women have been raped, young tribal men and women butchered, hundreds of villages have been gutted to force tribal people to move in to camps that bring the horrors of Hitler's Camps to one's mind. Tribal youth who have been forced to join as SPOs are given the worst kind of treatment by their superiors. They have the worst kind of weapons – 303 rifles that are no match to the AK 47s and AK 56s of the maoist rebels. They get a salary of less than 3000 rupees, something that is less than even the minimum wages for NREGA work. And when the combing operations are held, it is these young boys, many of them hardly out of their teens, who are set in the front. To get killed by the first gun shot, the first ambush, the first landmine that comes in the way. Not only is there truth in the allegation that the elites of the country have sent a force of the children of poor people to fight the maoists, even among them, the tribal youth suffer further discrimination.
In the parent country of Maoism, the poor are in worse state than they are in India. The maoists in India may try to come out in support of the people facing displacement. But in China millions of people get displaced every year without even the slightest opportunity for protest and perhaps without the little compensation that the Indian government throws at the displaced people. If we compare the respective official estimates, the number of people displaced by the Three Gorges project is more than 12 times that of the Hirakud Dam. Of course the official figures lie and the number of people actually displaced by the Hirakud Dam is at least double the official figure. But it can also be assumed that the Chinese government figure would be equally, if not more, likely to be an understatement. Of course the maoists can make the claim that China does not follow Maoism anymore (even if they are not able to make that claim because of ideological reasons, the truth is that China is more Deng than Mao).How are the maoists planning to ensure that India does not become like China (or like Stalinist Russia)? If the dream of the maoists is actually to make India like today's China, they need not bother much. They can actually come out of the forests and join the Congress or the BJP and create more SEZs. Both parties are leaving no stones unturned to follow in the footsteps of today’s China. But if the maoists actually want to set up in India what Mao sought to set up in China, then they are in the same state as Tom Hanks in the 'Terminal'. The country of their ideological passport no more exists. But it has to be admitted as well that ideologies do not need a country to exist.
While travelling in Dantewara I saw totally demolished school buildings and ICDS centres. The maoists had destroyed them as they felt these could be used to house the security forces. I saw blown up culverts that maoists felt could aid the movement of the security forces. Not very far from such places I found a booster station of Essar's hundreds of kilometres long iron ore pipeline – without any security, along a rather deserted road. We met the caretaker of the place, a rather frail looking man in his late forties or early fifties, unarmed (and unharmed). Was he afraid of the maoists attacking and destroying the boosting station? He seemed surprisingly secure in his belief that the maoists will not attack this installation. Later I came to know that maoist cadres had convinced in favour of the pipeline, when villagers in certain places did not want to allow Essar to dig their lands to install the pipelines. "Its not going to take away your land, the pipeline will only go under it without affecting your agriculture" the maoists had reasoned with the reluctant villagers – of course tribals in the maoist heartland know that you are not supposed to say no to the maoists. So why do the maoists blow up schools, Anganwadis, railway stations, and seem to be having no such problems with the plants and pipelines of the private companies – I say private companies as they did attack NALCO recently? Your guess is as good as mine!
Will Maoism solve the problems of the Tribals? I am not so sure. For a variety of reasons. The first, and let me be upfront on that, is that being a pacifist and an admirer (though miserable follower) of Gandhi and non-violence I am not really able to appreciate how violence is going to end violence. But the maoists can have a cheeky response to this one, "Whoever said we want to end the violence. We want dictatorship of the proletariat with violence in hands of the state machinery and the state machinery in the hands of the Proletariat". Now they may not actually say that, but I have generally felt that they do not want an end to violence. They only seem to be wanting that the oppressed should be the one holding the power of violence. But that'd be a contradiction as well. Well I admit there is Castro who has proven to be wrong those who say that an armed revolution can never lead to true peace. But do the maoists have the people like Castro or Guevara among them or a Bhagat Singh whose faith in non-violence, in retrospect, can not be termed to be any lower than that of Gandhi himself? From what one see around us, it does not seem like that.
The government has two options. Either to act in a manner that the tribals develop trust in the government, or to get rid of the tribals. Else the maoists will continue to enjoy local support that will make it very difficult for the government to defeat them. What choice is the government making? Dantewara is the example of what option the government is taking. Its killing the tribals bit by bit, many physically but most through destroying their way of life. Does a tribal call living in a concentration camp in Dantewara, living like a tribal? Less dramatically, does a tribal call living in a company colony, with no access to any livelihood other than selling their labour, living like a tribal. The government of India is not ready to listen to those who want to help it gain the confidence of the tribals. Himanshuji made a small beginning in Dantewara. He was hounded out. Those who speak out against displacement are branded as maoists. Those who speak out against sale out of mines and minerals are branded as maoists. Those who speak out against atrocities by the police are branded as maoists. It reminds one of the story of the King who passed an order to kill all the old people in his kingdom and ended up killing most of the wise people. It seems the government has decided to brand as maoists all those who are raising the voice of sanity, the voices that want India to continue as a sovereign country free from imperial incursions, the voices that get lost in the clamour of 24 hour news channels demanding yet more fighting, demanding to call out the Army, the Air Force.
The government has chosen. It is highly unlikely that it will change its tactics. What else can one expect from a government that supports the US in Afghanistan and Iraq. Is it a mere coincidence that the government's approach is so eerily similar to the US approach in the tribal areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Every now and then one hears talks about the Air Force and the Drones. But the US is killing citizens of some other country. That is bad enough. We are killing our own people. But is is the average elite Indian really thinking that the tribals are their own people, or do they think them to be mere hindrances, sitting on the land that must be cleared to make way for the highway of double digit growth. And it puts a knife through one's heart when one sees young people whose heart should not have given up on ideals (no I am not saying ideologies) clamouring for getting the Air Force and the Drones in to the Act. The pain is doubly greater when one hears such voices from the JNU. May be JNU is doomed to inherit the other legacy of Jawaharlal Nehru. Perhaps it can not learn Nehru's secularism or anti-imperialism without getting a bit rubbed off from the despicable acts against the tribals he ended up praising and presiding over.