Turn in the tale

CPI (Maoist)'s acknowledgement of the weakening within touches off intriguing possibilities.

Nine years ago, the People's War Group and the Maoist Communist Centre merged to form the CPI (Maoist) and in the years since then, its cadres have kept up a sustained offensive in east-central India. Just this summer, they left their calling card with a deadly ambush on a convoy of Congress leaders in Chhattisgarh. What, then, may be made of an 11-page resolution by the CPI (Maoist) Coordination Committee, the organisation's all-powerful fulcrum, admitting to significant erosion in their strength, in terms of manpower, munitions, and popular reach? The resolution was drafted earlier this year, and as reported in this paper, this first ever admission of the group of its depleted strength is buttressed by a resolve to recover ideological clarity and intensify its guerilla war.

The acknowledgement by the Maoists of their diminishing outreach is especially intriguing. The resolution specifically refers to a drop in appeal among the middle classes and intellectuals. It cites the abduction of the Sukma and Malkangiri collectors as setbacks, as well as damage suffered by its arms manufacture and supply chain. There is, even more importantly perhaps, reference to ideological division within. There is a bell curve evident in all insurgencies in our democracy, and the key point for past ones has been when they figured that theirs was a fight they could no longer credibly sustain to the finish, and the Indian state, in turn, reached out to accommodate them in the political process as electoral or administrative stakeholders. That point, going by the message in the Maoists' resolution, may not be at hand yet. But it is visible.

Whether this will turn out to be a chimera cannot, of course, be assessed purely on the basis of these 11 pages. Nonetheless, this must serve as a warning against muddled thinking within some political parties especially the Congress that has formed the background noise to the security forces' fight against the Maoists. The Maoists will bid for peace and come overground only when they deem themselves to be truly down and out. Then alone, once the state's writ is firmly re-established on the ground, will the call to address "root causes" become a shared political agenda. Till then, it's a guerilla war.

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