Hearts, Minds and Maoists

October 18, 2009


Discussion continues in op-ed pages of the Maoist insurgent groups and how best to interpret their politics and respond to their tactics.


In recent weeks, India’s Home Minister has taken a tough line against Maoists, stating that far from fighting for better living standards, their hostilities hinder development efforts. This polemical response has been welcomed by the Indian Express in an editorial that affirms:
“This intellectual challenge to the extremists’ ideology is not a softening on Maoists, but an invitation to civil society to form its ideas and opinions on the basis of facts and not the other way round.”

See also:
Barkha Dutt, Deeper and darker, Hindustan Times, October 16, 2009.

The use of violence over a prolonged period diminishes the validity of a cause as well as the legitimacy of a state’s response. South Asia is no stranger to this quandary.

For South Asia’s liberals, these are really tough times because they require us not just to take a stand, but to take one in a shifting, turbulent sea of grey waves. That is, we are called upon to sift from situations that are all nuance and contingency, thresholds and limits that we will set upon ourselves and others.Yes, governance and development failures are at the root of many violent struggles and the responsibility for them does rest with the state and its ruling classes. However, can this critique constitute unconditional acceptance that a popular response must be violent rather than constructive as so many other South Asian traditions would promote?

A free and honest discussion about these matters is what creates a secure socio-political climate in a society. If the state must be monitored against its tendency to silence dissent in the face of security crises, then civil society is also responsible for seeing that there are no other silences that it imposes upon those who disagree or question the dominant view of its most vocal members. Democracy fosters security, and the ongoing discussion about South Asia’s Maoist challengers and its development failures is a great illustration.

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