MA­MATA, MAOISTS AND POVERTY

THE WOMAN WHO FREED A PEO­PLE FROM ONE OF THE WORLD’S LONG­EST SERV­ING MARX­IST REGIMES IS TO­DAY THE EPIT­OME OF THE WORST MARX­IST TRAIT: PARA­NOIA. MER­CI­FULLY, UN­LIKE MAOISTS, DIDI HAS ONLY DE­CLARED WAR ON LAUGH­TER.

India Today - - SIGNATURE - S. PRASAN­NARA­JAN

The para­dox is too much of a cliché to re­peat. Still, as the pol­i­tics of poverty, armed with coun­try-made guns and guided by the re­dun­dant Book of lib­er­a­tion, chal­lenges the state, stoic and soft, we can’t es­cape even clichés. In­dia is one of the poor­est coun­tries, and In­dia is an in­evitable su­per­power of to­mor­row. In­dia, along with Africa, con­tin­ues to pro­vide the picture-per­fect grotes­queries of poverty: The de­formed child in black and white on glossy pages, pub­lished by aid agen­cies and the UN to break the frozen con­science of the western reader. The only con­so­la­tion—or shall we say dis­crim­i­na­tion?—is that Bono doesn’t sing for the fam­ished lands of the East, as he does for the Dark Con­ti­nent. We are con­demned to be con­tent with the ital­i­cised angst of an Arund­hati Roy. Be­yond the realm of the cause junkies, though, the pol­i­tics of poverty is not a ro­mance. In In­dia, it’s a sub-ru­ral hor­ror show. Or it’s a per­verted vari­a­tion of the pol­i­tics of so­cial jus­tice.

Both are on dis­play in In­dia of the mo­ment. When the so-called Maoists kid­nap a civil ser­vant or kill se­cu­rity per­son­nel, we are not par­tic­u­larly shocked. The sheer fre­quency of their “rev­o­lu­tion­ary” method has given them a kind of po­lit­i­cal le­git­i­macy in In­dia. We ne­go­ti­ate with them with the same kind of busi­ness-like ap­proach as we do on a water dis­pute or any other con­tentious is­sue be­tween two demo­cratic en­ti­ties within the Con­sti­tu­tion. We refuse to recog­nise what re­ally these guys whom we call Maoists are. Mao did not re­ally care for the lives of the bad eggs of rev­o­lu­tion; they were mere sta­tis­tics— jar­ring but nec­es­sary sta­tis­tics—in the larger nar­ra­tive of lib­er­a­tion. The Helmsman was not a kid­nap­per ei­ther. And the man’s last refuge in China to­day is the sou­venir shop. In the ru­ral re­mote­ness of In­dia, even the or­phaned ghost of Mao will look in­com­pat­i­ble with the blood­lust of armed thugs. They have de­clared war on In­dia but In­dia is reluc­tant to treat its own cit­i­zens as en­e­mies of the state. It is the poverty, and the in­evitable anger from an un­equal so­ci­ety, ar­gue one sec­tion which sym­pa­thises with the thugs. So the ar­gu­ment goes: En­gage, but don’t erad­i­cate. To­tal an­ni­hi­la­tion is a log­i­cal ex­ten­sion of per­ma­nent rev­o­lu­tion, and hence it has to be the pre­serve of the killer. The vac­il­lat­ing state is caught be­tween de­vel­op­ment, di­a­logue and re­sis­tance, even as it bleeds. De­vel­op­ment can’t bring an end to the war on In­dia. Poverty is an es­sen­tial con­di­tion for this war. Still, In­dia re­fuses to use the only op­tion avail­able.

It is poverty that pow­ers the pol­i­tics of so­cial jus­tice too. With Maoists, poverty is the am­mu­ni­tion that sus­tains the war. With Ma­mata Ban­er­jee, it is a joke. A bad joke. A char­ac­ter in Mi­lan Kun­dera’s The Un­bear­able Light­ness of

Be­ing says, “My en­emy is not com­mu­nism, but kitsch”. Kitsch, says the novelist, is the aes­thetic ideal of to­tal­i­tar­i­an­ism. Kitsch de­fines the pol­i­tics of so­cial jus­tice, and Ma­mata is its most ef­fec­tive apos­tle in In­dia to­day, maybe more ef­fec­tive than the vin­tage Lalu Prasad or even the card­board iconog­ra­phy of a Jay­alalithaa. For the shirt­less of ru­ral Ben­gal, she is not a bad car­toon; she is Our Lady of Lib­er­a­tion. The woman who freed a peo­ple from one of the world’s long­est serv­ing Marx­ist regimes is to­day the epit­ome of the worst Marx­ist trait: Para­noia. Mer­ci­fully, un­like Maoists, Didi has only de­clared war on laugh­ter.

SAU­RABH Singh/www.in­di­a­to­day­im­ages.com

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