KUMAR RANA, KafilaL, 18 June 2009
Where there is no police – what a wonderful state that would be. It’s a place that many have dreamt of, at least at some point of time if not all through the life. What a wonderful land that would be where one can eat or fast, sleep or remain awake, work or rest, move in or move out completely freely, where her wishes would not be monitored by the police. So the episodes in Khejuri in East Medinipur and Lalgarh, in West Bengal, had apparently made some of the citizens happy: what a relief, there is no police.
But, alas, it was only a dream. Because there was the state and a state without police is as alive as a dead animal, the khaki was quickly replaced by lungi or jeans, and the gun by perhaps more lethal AK47 and its sort.
There were however some essential differences between Khejuri and Lalgarh. At Khejuri the police was made inactive and was replaced only temporarily (with fullest possible cooperation from the police; it too with several cadres with a dubious and oppressive past apparently hastening to shift loyalty – from the CPM to the emerging Trinamool Congress). Police has not been denied existence. It was only for some time that the Trinamool Congress supporters occupied the stage to police the society by ‘unpolicing’ the areas temporarily. As soon as the party-worker-police ensured the ‘unprotection’ of the now-reduced-to-a-vulnerable-opposition CPIM they were reportedly restrained by their leadership. They had to, as the strongest aspirant of the Chief Ministership of West Bengal their leader need not risk her potential by doing something rebelliously unconstitutional. And, more so the area has already been brought under complete subjugation of the TMC – now instead of aggravating this more in Khejuri it is profitable to spread the Khejuri type “peoples anger” elsewhere, albeit keeping the “movement” within certain limit so as to avoid any constitutional complication.
But, the case at Lalgarh is different: the absence of police has been filled up by the Maoist activists with guns on their shoulders. In other words, the government-police has been replaced by the Maoist-police – the self styled liberators of the people. So far the Lalgarh movement was running under the banner of a peoples committee. Although the presence of the Maoists was not unknown and many believed about their hands working behind the peoples committee, it was not until June 14 that they appeared in public, when its leader Bikash held a unique media conference – his back facing the camera! Notwithstanding failing to capture his biological face the camera snapped well the face of hegemonic power – a sophisticated gun on the back.
Indeed, the mute weapon was so eloquent that the words delivered by Bikash appeared unnecessary. Also the solitary gun captured by the camera far outnumbered the gathering masses, announcing the change in their subjugation – from the subjects of the state to the subjects of the Maoists.
The Maoist leaders have been claiming that the liberated Lalgarh belonged to the people now. Had it been so what was the necessity of the gun on Bikash’s shoulder? Why this symbol of oppressive power was urgently needed to be shown? Was it a casual gesture? Not at all. It had a purpose: to give the people the message that now onward their existence was subject to the confirmation of loyalty towards the Maoists. Be absolutely loyal to us, we will save you, or you would meet a fate a la Salku Soren, whose corpse has been lying under the sun for five days. In fact, it too was a message: in a time before the Christian Era, at least Antigone was there to remove her deceased brother Polynecices’s body defying Crayon’s ordinance, but in an era of flourishing humanity, progress and modernity, none could dare to come out to remove the body of poor Salku, an agricultural labourer, announced by the Maoists as class enemy.
There are arguments in the air that it was the CPM against whom the people have been expressing their accumulated outrage. For the moment we need not entangle ourselves in the debate on the construction and guiding of popular anger. But, was it this popular anger that kept Salku’s body lying to decompose in front of the CPM office? Or it was a diktat? Clearly the latter, the diktat of the Maoists who have been maintaining a record of demolishing human dignity (including punishing tribal woman, who happened to be the wife of a CPM supporter, by garlanding with shoes) and perpetuating cruelties of various denominations on people perceived by them to be their enemy; and, the method of identifying the enemy is somewhat similar to that of George Bush – anyone who talks differently is a foe and needs to be removed from physical existence. It is not only the ruthlessness involved in the Maoists’ methods of usurping power that looks obnoxious but more nauseating is the romanticization of the Maoists’ move by sections of intelligentsia, ignoring completely the fact that the move of the Maoists are no less hegemonic than that of the CPM or the emerging TMC.
For all of them the people are mere subjects who are to be ruled through one or other kind of policing and would be prevented at any cost from building their own agency. And, police and gun are almost synonymous : the police is a police by dint of gun. In other words gun enables a person to be a police. And, this has proved to be the biggest barrier for building up peoples’ own agency. Hegemony knows this, and whenever there emerges a potential peoples’ movement there appear the hegemonic forces with their guns. We have seen in Nandigram how had the gun intervened in reducing a potentially strong peoples movement into a mere vote bank of a particular hegemony – the TMC.
The Maoists who have declared to be out to wither the state away have thus basically become the part of a bigger hegemonic state, where one section of the people are dominated by the others and along with gun the dominants use many other weapons: alphabets, language, technology, kinship, lineage, culture and history and so on.
There is no surprise that the self styled warriors against the state are party to the same, but, what is tormenting is the anticipated consequence of their action: the state has already signaled to switch the machine on. The state understands symbols more than the real actions. As long as the Maoists were working under the cover of the peoples committee the state did not feel challenged. But, as soon as the media address with gun on shoulder was delivered the state received an “alarm call”. We are hearing that the Maoists have signaled their counterparts to keep the red corridor (to Orissa and Jharkhand) open so that the warriors can leave safely. But what would happen to the people? The ruthlessness of the state is much wider and intense in nature. And the people of Lalgarh who had been fighting a heroic battle, not with guns, but with their solidarity and commitment, are at the receiving end of state onslaught. They will be alone: no intelligentsia, no Maoist, no media – they have to fight the battle absolutely alone. They have been facing the atrocities and violence of the state and the so called civilized society for centuries: they are denied of their rights to land, forest, food, education, health and life. They have been forced to live a sub-human life, mimicking the much heralded guarantee of human dignity of the modern state and society. And while the state and larger society have been continuing these onslaughts to keep their hegemony unharmed, the Maoists, in the name of opposing these onslaughts, are actually converting the injustices to arms to establish their hegemony. The police has apparently gone. But the police is still there. So, the essential fight of ‘unpolicing’ the society is an urgency. The question is how to. Here lies the relevance of an agency of the police independent of this party or that – CPM, Trinamool, Maoist. And as long as the threat of police – of one kind or other – is there the urgency and possibility of a peoples’ agency to free the land from police remains alive.