Interview with E N Rammohan on the CRPF and the CPI (Maoist)
Distinguished IPS officer E N Rammohan, a former BSF director general who was especially called by the Centre to look into the massacre of 75 CRPF personnel in Dantewada on April 6 this year, is a deeply perturbed man. To him, the unfolding labyrinth of Maoist insurgency is being tackled in an utterly unprofessional manner by the Indian State.
And, if this course is not corrected quickly, he says it could develop into an inferno, engulfing vast tracts of the country, including urban centres which the government now consider as safe zones.
Despite being a thoroughbred police officer from the Assam cadre who dealt with insurgencies in the troubled states of the Northeast and Jammu and Kashmir,
Rammohan’s prescription to tackle the Maoists insurgency relies far less on security perspective and more on the socioeconomic aspects. “Give land to the tiller and forests back to the tribals. Implement these two things with the help of strong willed and honest administration,” he says. “Plus, bring down the vast gap between the rich and the poor and you would start witnessing that Maoists are on the wane.”
In a freewheeling three hour chat in Delhi where he lives, Rammohan lets out his anger against a social system without any remorse. “You are wrong if you think that doling out money through funds and schemes can help solve the problem. The money will be routed back here, to Delhi, in to the deep pockets of corrupt politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen. The answer, as I said, is absolute implementation of the Land Ceiling Act and giving forests and its resources, including the lucrative mineral wealth, back to the tribals,” he retorts.
“Why cannot we, a welfare state based on socialist tenets, do the same with our tribal people that America and Australia did for their past mistakes against Red Indians and Aborigines by seeking their forgiveness and giving back reserved lands to them?” he says. Despite the fact that his family lost vast tracts of land during the “Land to the Tiller” movement in his native Kerala, Rammohan is an ardent supporter of late Communist chief minister EMS Namboodaripad. “I have no regrets, no illusions. EMS did the right thing. It is because of his policies that the Maoist insurgency could not take root there. If other states followed the same exa mple you would see that more than half of the problem is gone.”
“You know it is caste and the unbridled exploitation carried through it that is the root cause of the problem. For how long can you hide that the majority of the people have been reeling under this exploitation for ages? Can their aspirations for a just society be quelled by quickfix solutions like deploying security forces or the Army? No, it is a gross misnomer and the sooner our leaders understand this, the better for the country.”
“If you bring the Army in, the situation will improve temporarily as they will quell the rebellion. But the quiet will remain only for some time. It is like putting a lid on a boiling pot only to let it explode later. Without the permanent removal of social injustice the insurgency will come back again, perhaps more viciously,” he adds.
Rammohan’s take on the Maoists is radically different from most of his colleagues. “I do not believe in the propaganda that they are extortionists and exploiters. Their leadership comes from a determined lot of people who lost faith in our system because of its failure to remove injustices, and took to a violent ideology to form an equal society. Their intention is not bad, the method is.
“Ownership of the land has always been with three upper castes – the Kshatriyas, Brahmins and the Vaishyas. Among these, the Vaishyas or the Baniyas – the Marwaris, Chettiyars, Reddys and the Kammas – have been the most vicious. Besides land, they also exploit the lower castes and the tribals while doing business with them. The police – the supposed protectors – also help the baniya, the exploiter and not the poor tribal, the exploited. Naturally, he goes to the Maoist fold that has given him justice by distributing land and punishing the baniya,” he laments.
“It is beyond my comprehension why our State develops cold feet when it comes to removing injustices. Why cannot India, the so called welfare that has socialism as one of its tenets, make the society more equal?” he questions and then proposes his own remedy.
“The upper castes should be prevented from entering the forests altogether. The baniyas, including their modern avatar, the corporate, should be barred from having business and only the tribals should be allowed to carry out their trade, including mining, through cooperatives owned by them.”
The genesis of the Maoist insurgency, according to Rammohan, goes back to the Tebhaga Movement of 1946 when the undivided CPI started working with the exploited peasants in the Rangpur and Dinajpur regions of Bengal and forcibly took away land from the exploiter landlords. It then spread to the Telangana region during 1946 to 1951. And then came the Naxalbari insurrection of 1967 after the split of the CPI.
“It spread among Girijans (tribals) of Srikakulam in 1968 and during the same time to Midnapore and Birbhum districts of West Bengal and then among peasants of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. Its spread widened to Andhra, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra and Bihar again in 1980s. Wherever you see, the spread took place because our so called welfare democracy could not get the poor their due,” says Rammohan, getting back to his sober self.
The former DG, who still has a gait that can rival officers half his age, differs hugely with the present government policy of dealing with the Maoists with the help of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF).
“Instead of hunting down Maoist guerrillas, the paramilitary forces should be used to enforce the right of the tribals on forests and its wealth. And in place of the CRPF, the Centre should use more disciplined and resolute force like BSF and ITBP. The state police should be put under strict supervision so that it works only in the interest of the tribals,” he says.