The Hostage Tangle: Orissa Offers A Case Study

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

“The existence of an armed struggle is indicative that the people are determined to put their faith only in violent methods. The very same people who had it constantly drummed into them that the only language they understand was that of force, now decide to express themselves with force. In fact the colonist has always shown them the path they should follow to liberation. The argument chosen by the colonized was conveyed to them by the colonist, and by an iron twist of fate it is now the colonized who state that it is the colonizer who only understands the language of force”.

Thus has said Frantz Fanon in ‘The Wretched of the Earth’ in its chapter: ON VIOLENCE.

On this matrix, Orissa, known before the 1980s as the most peaceful province of India, offers scopes for a case study.In the 80s, J. B. Pattanaik used his position as Chief Minister to initiate official priority on industries that has acquired a monstrous shape in the regime of Naveen Patnaik and has given birth to an era of hostage, which, earlier was beyond imagination.

Marginal farmers, agricultural workers, self-employed social forces, socially exploited people condemned as untouchables, forest dwelling tribes as simple-natured as flowers but as fearless as lions were the children of Orissa that had made their supreme sacrifices for the freedom of the country and, had given almost the entire integer of martyrs from the soil of Orissa, including the nation’s youngest martyr Baji Raut, to India in equipping the motherland with all the strength she was in dire need of to succeed in obtaining her independence.

But their dreams of independence are shattered by the rulers of the State after independence.

Industries and corporate companies have taken over the land and emerged as new colonizers.

The very same segment of people that brought us our freedom are being displaced for handing over their lands and living environment to foreign firm POSCO and its likes in Orissa by a chief minister who has no sacrifice for the State.

The very same segment of people from which proud patriots in so many numbers had jumped into martyrdom to make our struggle for freedom succeed – the tribals – are being brutally killed by the State government to help industries spread their empires, as witnessed in Kalinga Nagar for the benefit of Tata.

Tribes in Niyamagiri, tribes in Deomali, tribals everywhere in Orissa who depend on their living environment, everywhere the Oriyas who depend on their lands for living as self-employed people, are now threatened by industries, by land grabbers, by water grabbers, by mines mongers, by education traders, by builders, by illegal wealth accumulators, by the neo-rich, by the new colonizers.

Whosoever amongst the tribals, amongst the poor people, amongst the marginal farmers, amongst the self-employed social forces is not willing to be colonized, is being subjected to state-terror, to illegal arrests, to cooked up cases, to sedition charges, to fake encounters,to abductions by the State.

This, as Frantz Fanon in his quoted canonical words has said, has forced the innocent and tortured people to become violent. Their violence is a counter violence to violence by the State.

Branding their violence as Maoist terrorism is as misleading as contrary to reality. In reality, the tribals and illiterate people that are prosecuted under charges of being Maoists do not know abc of Maoism.

They are being tortured by the state, because they oppose in their own way the loot of funds meant for their welfare by persons in power, transfer of their land / living environment to industry owners and transnational traders and reduction of their independent status to colonized condition.

Rise of violence at par with corporate influence upon administration, with rise of state support to private industries, with rise of incarceration of small / marginal farmers, workers, tribals, self-employed social forces and economically weak but politically conscious persons in the State strongly suggests that the people have started violently replying the violence being perpetrated on them by the State. They have started violently reacting against being colonized. They are violent, because the State is addressing them in violent way.

The instant hostage tangle has its roots in this phenomenon. Mili Panda, wife of Naxal leader Sabyasachi Panda whom police is not yet able to arrest, was arrested and prosecuted and the climate of official highhandedness is so maddening that a court had taken cognizance of the case in blatant disrespect to prohibition laid down in law against that type of cases. The Orissa High Court ruled that it was wrong on part of the lower court to have taken cognizance of the case and ordered for her release. She was yet under detention despite the High Court order; because the State having no hesitation in misusing its power, had kept her behind the bars under guise of a case at Gunupur. Even in the court at Gunupur, the Gudari-Kutinguda firing in encounter case lodged against her has collapsed as unproved. In other words, the State government had made her a hostage. Similarly many poor people, despite failure of prosecution in courts and despite finding that the cases against them were false and baseless, are perishing in jails in order to keep people intimidated. Keeping any one in illegal detention after court’s release order is nothing but keeping him hostage. They are, thus, hostages that the State government has made them. And, it transpires from the you-release-we-release materials of negotiation revealed to public by the State that keeping an Italian and a ruling party MLA as hostages is linked directly with the hostages the government has made of people opposed to colonization.

So, the Orissa hostage tangle is not a matter of mere crime to silently watch, but a matter of political economy to seriously study.

STOP PROSECUTING LENIN ROY: IMPOSE CEILING ON PROPERTY

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Bhubaneswar Police has arrested the editor of progressive journal, Nishan, Mr. Lenin Kumar Roy along with two of his colleagues, Dhanjaya Lenka and Rabi Jena, under suspicion that they were the authors of alleged Naxal tracts that the rightwing media had claimed to have stumbled upon in the capital city last week. They are remanded to judicial custody.

It seems, squeals of right-wing media over suspected Naxal presence in Bhubaneswar has made the police pounce on the editor of the progressive journal. Poets and authors of the State have put on records their protests against the police highhandedness.

What is Lenin’s offense that the police is harping on? Firstly, his comment carried by Nishan on the flare up that communalism had ignited in Kandhamal and secondly, presence of CDs that allegedly carry data of human tragedies, stored also in the hard disk of his computer, which, according to police interpretations, are pro-Naxal.

When the matter is subjudice, one hopes, the judiciary will unveil the truth.

But as the instant reaction of thinkers and writers of Orissa suggests, one finds that progressive intelligentsia is not taking police version as free of prejudice. As such, the right thinking Oriya intellectuals, poets and authors and fighters for freedom in expression – all apolitical patriots – have started defending Lenin and his team very openly and unambiguously.

But without any prejudice, one may say that it is quite difficult to understand as to how possession of certain data of human tragedies constitutes an offense. This is a part of intellectual pursuit that an editor of a progressive journal is supposed to have as it helps him interpret contemporary issues so germane to his profession.

On the other hand, fundamental duties that the Constitution of India has assigned to every Indian include individual and collective endeavor to interpret scriptures and religious occurrences in such manners that a socio-scientific tenor should be evolved out of such interpretations to pave the path for a future society free of religious infestations.

Progressive authors, specifically the journalists, have to bear the burden of this responsibility.

In doing this, they may make comments on religious practices that may look like disparaging to dogmatism. And, any religious fanatic may raise a cry that thereby his or her religious belief has been outraged. Notwithstanding presence of Sections 153A and 295A of IPC, police should desist from invoking these draconian provisions against such progressive journalists and authors as the same may kill the spirit of fundamental duties enshrined in the Constitution and defeat the fundamental rights that the citizens are given in the matter of free expression. Police in Nishan case has preferred not to think about this.

Beyond this, if intellectuals of the State refuse to stand with police action against Lenin and his team, it is because the police personnel in various occasions have been marked for having falsely implicated innocent people in criminal cases.

This time, it seems as if the police is executing a conspiracy of rightwing media against the intellectually accepted progressive journal, Nishan.

A rightwing TV channel that feeds its viewers mostly with superstitions and other recipes of theism in apparent support to religious revivalism was the first to raise a tempest over pasting of typed sheets of papers allegedly containing the Naxal warnings at dingy joints in the city when election propaganda for Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation was at its peak and went on noising that the police is too smug to nail Naxal menace even though the Capital of the State is threatened by its presence. And, rightwing print media went on repeating the same.

Assembly session added the fuel. Police pounced on the team of the only journal that is considered by even the apolitical intelligentsia as progressive.

Cases may be cooked up. Courts may be hoodwinked. Patriots may be punished. But can conscience be extinguished? No.

As long as exploitation continues, protest against exploitation shall go on. Responding to call of conscience peoples will sure rise to protest against exploitation. So prosecuting a progressive editor would not stop spread of protests.

But if protests become violent, our motherland shall bleed. And, no creative person, poet, author, artist, journalist, none of the lovers of human society, can support any action that may make the motherland bleed.

Therefore, the Naxals are not yet getting popular support. Nonetheless, they are spreading.

We must cogitate.

Everybody knows that economic inequality is the basic reason behind spreading of Naxalism. It has grown out of failure of Communists to steer the nation into political economy of socialism. So it is an economic phenomenon; not a matter only of law and order as the rightist say.

Police cannot curb it. Military cannot.

Only a politico-economic formula can curb Naxalism.

This formula must urgently be evolved to remove the inequality.

If we are serious, we must seriously think of our beloved Bapuji. We have forgotten him. He had wanted the country to run in a manner where upliftment of the poorest of the poor must form the core of planning. But our planning is addressed to devise ways to gift stimulus packages to the rich to help consolidation of imperialism.

If the country belongs to every Indian, the deprived Indians must revolt against deprivation. Who can stop?

In his reply to debates on the third reading of the Constitution in the Constituent Assembly of India, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar had given vent to his fears that the hard-earned freedom of India may not last for long if the Parliament to be constituted under the Constitution fails to remove the economic inequality, which, overwhelmed by the propertied class representing the Indian National Congress in majority in the Assembly, the makers of the Constitution had failed to undo. Showing the shortcomings of the Constitution he had said,

“On 26th January 1950, we are going to enter into a life of contradiction. In politics, we will have equality and in social and economic rights we will have inequality. In politics we will be recognizing the principle of one man and one vote, one value. In our social and economic rights we shall by reason of our social and economic structure, continue to deny one man one value…We must remove this contradiction at the earliest possible moment or else those who suffer from inequality will blow up the structure of political democracy which this Assembly has so laboriously built up.”(Constituent Assembly Debates, Vol.XI, p.979)

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Instead of curbing inequality, the Governments, hand-in-glove with the rich, have spread inequality. Unless they stop it, peoples shall stop it by force. In words of what Ambedkar has warned, “they will blow up the structure of political democracy”. Police can’t stop that.

So, stop prosecuting the Nishan team if at all they are opponents of inequality and try to remove social and economic inequality as soon as possible in right earnest if you love the motherland. By prosecuting Lenin Roy, Dhanjaya Lenka and Rabi Jena, police can’t stop victims of inequality from “blowing up the structure of political democracy”.

But let us stop it collectively without creating any cause of confrontation.

To do this, let us go back to beloved Gandhiji, whom the Congress, represented by the propertied class, had ignored in making of the Constitution.

He had the foresight to know what would happen to India if economic inequality widens the gap between the poor and the rich. He had devised a unique method called “Theory of Trusteeship”. The rich must stop exploiting the poor and treat himself as the trustee of the property of the poor. This is perhaps the only way of stopping class war in the most non-violent way. This is time; we must address our entire political consciousness to bring Bapuji’s Theory of Trusteeship to practice in India, if we are really serious about stopping blood bath on politico-economic ground. If the rich does not voluntarily accept the theory, it must be made to accept.

To do this, two steps are essential. Firstly, the government must retrieve democracy from the labyrinth of plutocracy. It must stop economic gifts in any guise to the rich to make them richer. And, secondly, it must put a ceiling on accumulation of property. When Indian farmers are distress selling their paddies, women are distress selling their bodies, mothers are distress selling their babies, workers are distress selling their abilities, why should a single Indian Ambani, son of a man of obscure beginning, be allowed to have a home that would, when finished, be the costliest building under the sky to live in? Why should India be two Indias like this? To stop this, we must stop concentration of unlimited wealth in individual hands. And for this, ceiling on property must be an unavoidable must.

The state must be told to stop prosecuting Lenin, as the remedy to Naxalism does not lie therein, but lies in removal of social and economic inequalities.