I'm afraid the "two immense leaps of logic" that he ascribes to me, as well as the "blanket justification of naxalism", exist more in his own imagination than in anything that I said. Despite what I thought was a clear and unequivocal rejection of both the aims and methods of the maoists, I see that he continues to airbrush the details of my argument, and tar me with support for naxalism. No doubt he will leave it to his readers to conclude - with similar leaps of logic - that my brother, and the rest of my family for good measure, must also be maoist.
Let me start with where we seem to be in agreement.
1. All violence should be abjured in politics, whoever may be the aggrieved party. Although he says that people like me are freeloaders or hypocrites for saying so, he presumably includes himself, since he too "condemn[s] the use of violence, wherever, whenever, and by anyone." Does Sudeep Chakravarti also count as one of the freeriders or hypocrites he refers to in his post? Or is he only a clueless and unwitting advocate of naxal violence?
2. We both wish the Naxals WOULD adopt peaceful and democratic methods of addressing grievances through participating in the legal democratic process. Or even more, that naxals would not be necessary.
3. I think we both wish that the alternatives to non-state violence - i.e., legal methods of redressal of grievances - were in fact more effective, quicker and fairer, and that the state would not resort to violence quite as readily, disproportionately and with as much impunity as it routinely does.
So when I wonder "what one is supposed to do when the institutional or legal alternatives to violence are so weak, scarce and ineffective", this is my rhetorical way of saying: I wish that these alternatives existed for them to the extent necessary required to guarantee their rights under the constitution.
I also ask why the laws that provide for these alternatives are not implemented as effectively as they should be. Contrast the speed with which the laws creating SEZ's have been implemented with the decades of neglect of land reform laws. Another example: Why is the D K Basu protocol, which my brother insisted on as part of his work as a human rights activist, routinely ignored by the police? Yet another: Why is it that only an estimated 1% of undertrials in Chhattisgarh actually have any association with the crimes that they have been arrested for? Undertrials are routinely forgotten, as Nandini Sundar has described, and this represents a colossal failure of the justice system in our country.
So I am at a loss to understand how citing these FAILURES of governance translates into an advocacy of armed struggle. THAT is truly a breathtaking leap of logic! I am not saying: to the extent that these alternatives do not exist, the maoists or anyone else are JUSTIFIED in resorting to violence. I am saying that the absence of alternatives EXPLAINS the resort to violence. I had hoped I wouldn't need to belabour the difference between explanation and moral justification or approval on THIS blog.
Possibly the most powerful psychological promoter of maoist violence is the failure of governance in our country towards those who are victims of oppression, corruption and injustice. And when this failure extends to the passing of draconian laws which criminalize even the most ordinary forms of dissent, then the situation becomes truly dangerous. Even CJI K G Balakrishnan has recognized the dangers of such "security" regulations that essentially reflect the insecurity of the state.
Pai cites Mayawati and Naicker as examples of what an alternative to naxalism could be. As examples of non-violent struggles against caste oppression, Mayawati and Naicker illustrate how SLOW these processes of building good governance have been. Caste oppression continues in 21st century India, despite constitutional prohibitions and laws specifically criminalizing caste discrimination. How effective have been the non-violent protests of the NBA against development-related displacements in securing livable conditions for those who have been displaced?
As an alternative to Naxalism, Pai recommends "conventional politics" - addressing grievances in non-violent ways through legal and political channels, by means of peaceful protest and passing laws. But surely he has noticed how utterly corrupt conventional politics has become as an instrument of building a fairer and more equitable and peaceful society. People like Mayawati may represent forms of dalit assertion, but her corruption itself proves my point. When people outside conventional politics try political action - e.g., Medha Patkar - they are treated as criminals. Despite his huge and utterly noble sacrifices and much recognition both at home and abroad, how much was Baba Amte able to change the politics by which dalits and adivasis are victimised in the name of development all over the country? How are instances of state violations of human rights dealt with through conventional politics? Very slowly, or not at all - despite the existence of mechanisms like National and State Human Rights Commissions, PIL, and other means of redressal.
Pai is right in claiming that no armed struggle has actually succeeded so far in our country. But this is a dangerously complacent view. Tragically, what might just ensure their success this time is the absence or the painful slowness and relative ineffectiveness of non-violent modes of redressal of injustices, coupled with the practically unaccountable violence that is routinely exercised by the state, despite the occasional and well publicized instances of punishment for state terrorism. What could hand the maoists their ideological victory? It is not the media, or others like me, who point out the injustice of my brother's incarceration, that are unwitting promoters of naxal violence. It is the strong message from the government of Chhattisgarh that people like Dr. Sen are criminals or terrorists for insisting on the operation of laws, for pointing out failures of governance, and for organizing non-violent campaigns for public health and education.
Having begun with our points of agreement, let me end with clarifying where we differ. I think we have to just agree to disagree in our assessments of how the systems of laws and justice in our country work for the "ordinary citizen". To Pai, the systems generally work. Allowing for exceptions where things go wrong, he thinks that the deprivation, brutality and humiliations of life at the bottom of the social hierarchy in India are entirely removable through "conventional politics". To me, the rejuvenation of the naxalite menace is a wake-up call reminding us that the systems generally have NOT worked: for most people in this country, especially outside the urban middle classes, agencies of the state are - with a few exceptions - a source of trouble, not removers of grievances. Urgent attention needs to be paid to redress these grievances quickly and without violence. If there is one warning that Red Sun carries, it is surely this.
Pai and I may argue back and forth on our blogs about the "sacred" legitimacy of state violence. The whole question is entirely useless to someone who has been brutalized by state or naxalite violence. But Pai seems unable to see this issue from the perspective of such victims, tragically increasing in number rapidly enough to feed a growing insurgency. Pai's answer to naxalism is more of the same "business-as-usual" politics that led to it in the first place. My answer is a set of rapid and radical reforms in governance aimed at ameliorating the injustices that plague 80% of people in this country - reforms that are already promised in our constitution and many of our laws. So far, the only measures the governments tackling naxalism have conceived are more money on security forces and weapons, and more of the "development" policies that are causing the problem. Result: the money that governments are spending are "trickling down" to fuel the maoist violence. The only alternative to conventional politics is not armed insurrection, but another non-violent movement of a size and scope similar to the one that removed the British. This time, a second independence movement is needed to create a democracy that is participative, accountable, responsive and transparent to ALL Indians, not just some of them. We need a movement to demand the delivery of the promises in the constitution.
Despite these differences, my answer to my brother's imprisonment is not the advocacy of violence. It is a waning and tenuous hope that perhaps the system does work, as Pai thinks it does. Perhaps my brother will be able to defend himself in court successfully against the manifest lies that the state has concocted against him to ensnare him in a judicial trap. The far more important and urgent question though is: will the poor and powerless see justice, not in some pie-in-the-sky trickle-down future, but now - soon enough for them to lead dignified and productive lives?
We have been a free country for six decades. When are we going to share that freedom with all of our citizens?