It is what a communication theorist would call cognitive dissonance. In simple English, for the purpose of my writing, let’s just call it a dilemma. And that’s where I am stuck – in a cognitive dissonance as it were – in my understanding of this Calcutta High court ruling ordering that Maoist prisoners be treated as political prisoners.
So where is the dissonance you ask? It’s between political hegemony and political ideologies; between systemic marginalization and peoples’ rebellion; between state suppression of the disenfranchised and killing of innocents as a form of protest; between state propaganda and media stereotyping.
For those of us who have heard of Maoists only from the media, the word rarely conjures up the image of poverty-stricken, disenfranchised tribal communities who perhaps are nothing more than a statistic in the purview of the government. Rather, what it sparks are images of violence, of beheaded cops, blown up schools and railway tracks. Ironically, the people in both images are faceless.
How does one reconcile with a righteous war of a marginalized people fighting for their rightful place in mainstream society when the victims of that war are part of that same marginalized society? How does one sympathize with a political ideology (of people against the state) that has with time become as blurred as that of any regular political party? How does one back a movement whose leadership is as questionable as that of any other political party?
When Maoists kill cops, are we supposed to see their larger political goal or are we to see cold blooded execution style murders?
When the security forces hunt down Maoists in their jungle hideouts and kill them, do we see suppression of a peoples’ fight for justice or do we see action against terrorist acts?
Digging deeper, you do wonder how or why all oil explorations or mineral finds happen on tribal land – is it because these people are easy to displace. Well, nobody ever hears of discovery of mineral deposits in the heart of a city where it is almost impossible to displace even a slum dweller.
And then you wonder too how the state is supposed to mete out justice to the innocent victims of a war, however justified that war might be.
If the state is to blame for having failed to bring the tribal and poor villagers into the ambit of development, the Maoist leaders are equally to blame for perpetuating the status quos.
So who are the real victims here? The poor tribals (the front for a misguided ideology) and the cops (the front for callous state), both of who are mere pawns in the machinations of political leaders, be it those in power in the government or those wielding arms in the jungles.
Politics is politics, it can only be bad, if at all, but never good.