5 mins read

An appeal to India’s conscience

An appeal to India’s conscience

V.R. Krishna Iyer

The killing of Maoist leader Azad strangled the prospect of peaceful negotiations with the extremists.

The Hindu

SETBACK:Swami Agnivesh was trying to initiate a dialogue

The sovereign Republic of India stands for socialism, egalitarianism, trans-religious secularism and national unity based on the principles of fraternity. Our independence was meant to “wipe every tear from every eye” — as Jawaharlal Nehru declared in his tryst-with-destiny address. There was a pledge in the Preamble to the Constitution that justice, social, economic and political, would be ensured for every Indian.

But three score and three years later, we as a nation have much to answer for and account to generations of the past and the future. The expectations at Independence darkened into deprivation, and depravation into dread, hunger, homelessness, have-not status and finally despair. This gradual, slow-process economic destitution and social estrangement led to the people losing their faith in the instrumentalities of the Constitution, namely, the executive, the legislature and the judiciary.

Inevitably, when the state failed the confidence of the people they took to the streets, to the jungle and to lawlessness. Terrorism was the next step, ubiquitously shaking up peace and the sense of safety and development. This is the genesis of Naxalism, Maoism and other forms of extremism. The government, instead of creating conditions to win back the confidence of the people, has resorted to guns and police weaponry.

Long ago, U.S. President Eisenhower warned: “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies — in the final sense — a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its labourers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.”

The consequence was inevitable: more people became desperate. The masses got alienated and bullets did not and could not generate a milieu or haven of tranquillity when government policy aggravated militancy and spread demoralisation. Many parts of India ceased to be safe or peaceful. Today the situation has deteriorated to such an extent that the Maoists are able to fire upon the military. The state has virtually abandoned the peace process and resorted to short-cuts to law and order, hoping that soldiers are a more reliable force than processes of peace and justice, or civilian forces. Some move here and there to talk peace through dialogue and tranquillity, although some sensitive statesman have tried to transform social conditions.

Swami Agnivesh, a great Indian patriot who stands for a casteless society, religious amity and non-violent conditions of life, responded to the challenge of Indian tumult and confrontation, hoping to initiate a fruitful process of dialogue as a measure of Gandhian non-violence, as distinct from Godse’s gun-politics. He struck a note that was the beginning of social justice, trying to initiate a dialogue with Azad alias Cherukuri Raj Kumar, a leader of the Maoists. Azad’s response was positive and radiated a ray of hope.

But Azad was shot dead in Adilabad district of Andhra Pradesh on July 1: it was the act of a government without a vision. It strangled the prospect of peaceful negotiations. What a gaffe and an egregious error, what a monstrous mistake! Agnivesh is bitter. So am I, and so are the thinking millions of Indians who do not want extremism but seek smiling moderation. We are all disappointed that the government’s negative and noxious policy of handling such situations through military methods amounts to jettisoning the Buddha-Gandhi heritage. Is the Home Minister’s dialogue strategy a travesty?

May I appeal to the President and the Prime Minister, the wise Sonia Gandhi, and leaders of all political parties with sense and sensibility, to express their exasperation over the killing of Azad? May I also appeal to the extremists to unconditionally come forward for talks? Do not lose your head. Maoists and others of their ilk should be convinced that the state means peaceful streets and homes, not bullets or the AK-47. India is yours as well. Build it sans violence. Let the masses and the classes rise for peace and human rights. Let us stand for the right to life in dignity and for egalite and economic justice, and not allow a mafia element in government where the rich, the rigid obscurantist and the obdurate become policy-makers, and the indigent underdogs are crushed.

Hope, not despair, should be the fundamental policy of great government. The grand green negotiated policy will win. It harvests contentment and contains extremism. The alternative is functional chaos, administrative anarchy and farewell to public welfare. The killers are culpable. A judicial enquiry is the nation’s desideratum. I make this appeal not out of pusillanimity but out of patriotism.