No, freedom fighters from a century ago and Maoists aren’t the same

There is this conscious effort from a section of the educated masses to paint Maoists as dissenters and in some extreme cases, they are also being put in parallel with freedom fighters and leaders from the Indian independence movement.

Their argument rests on the flimsy grounds of a presupposition that Naxals and Maoists are fighting against the government which according to them, is regressive and maintaining their authority by use of military and other enforcement apparatus which is eerily similar to the modus operandi of the Colonial government of India. Some comedians, after the crackdown on Urban Maoists recently, took to Twitter to claim that Bhagat Singh and MK Gandhi were ‘urban Naxals’ from a century ago.

Many would find this logic to be fundamentally flawed due to the basic differences in the nature and structure of the government and rights granted to every citizen of the Union of India compared to that of the colonial set up.

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Their goal, apart from making heroes out of alleged Maoists arrested recently, was to normalize violence in the name of ‘democratic rights’. The Maoists sympathizer, knowingly or unknowingly, seeks to establish the notion of equivalence between Maoist Guerrillas with freedom fighters. They also create a façade of legitimacy about their ‘armed struggle’. In achieving that particular goal, the sympathizer uses whatever somewhat coherent and unsubstantiated argument he or she can.

Going back to the previously mentioned point of the presumption that the Indian government is using force and state apparatus to deny these people their rights and that is why these people have revolted against the government and took up arms, is not only incorrect but also reeks of malicious intent.

To put this in context, the British government did not hold Indians as equals. There are numerous instances where segregation has been mentioned and racism was the general norm. So much so, this is what Churchill, who is falsely held in high regard by many as a vanguard of free speech and progressive values stated –

“I hate Indians. They are a beastly people with a beastly religion . . . Let the Viceroy sit on the back of a giant elephant and trample Gandhi into the dirt.”

Indeed, The Queen’s proclamation in 1858 was false and in stark contrast with the atrocities carried out by the English in India. The Queen stated –

“In their prosperity will be our strength, in their contentment our security and in their gratitude our best reward”.

As late as 1930’s only 4% of Imperial civil service was filled by Indians. Nehru called it “Neither Indian, nor civil, nor a service”. This exploitative mentality was apparent in all the colonial endeavours in India. The British deliberately smashed thumbs of the master craftsman so that the native muslin industry could be crushed and Britain could sell their ready-made produce in India.

Several famines were caused by the British. It is estimated that around thirty-five (35) million people lost their lives due to starvation. Four million people died in the Bengal Famine alone in 1943, which nobody talks about. By 1890, around 6,000 British ruled over 650 million Indians. Indians had no say in budgetary issue or any stately issues that matter. There was next to none representation of Indian in the colonial structure. A comment made by William Joynson-Hicks, home secretary in the 1928 Conservative government of Stanley Baldwin reveals the nature and the intent of the colonial government:

“We conquered India by the sword and by the sword we shall hold it. I am not such a hypocrite to say we hold India for the Indians.”

To compare, the above mentioned atrocious and exploitative regime to the one which is representative of this diverse and plural nation and is democratically elected is something that Maoist have always done.

The Communist Parrty of India (Maoist) aims to ‘overthrow’ the democratically elected Government of India through ‘people’s war’. The dichotomy lies within this fundamental proclamation by the party. The concept of ‘people’s war’ against the government which is elected by democratic and fair elections is misleading at best and subversive at worst.

the Maoist believe that India is run by run by a “collaboration of imperialists, the comprador bourgeoisie, and feudal lords.” It is particularly interesting that in a country where most all states have taken one of the other forms of land reforms and measures to bring about equity and opportunity in the country these terrorists continue to hide behind superfluous words to perpetuate violence. This not the only difference between the colonial empire and the democratically elected Government of India.

The most fundamental difference between the incumbent government structure and that of colonial government is of native representation. In colonial governments, for the most part, Indian representation was kept out and the entire power of the state and more importantly the budget allocating authority rested with the Crown’s representative. Since, Government of India Act, 1858 gave way to absolute control of the British crown, this particular document is very revealing of the mindset of the British imperialist.

The document made the administration of the country unitary and rigidly centralized. Territories were divided into provinces. All three main facets of administration were under the control of Secretary of State who ruled India through the Governor-General. The Secretary of the State was assisted by the council of India, which comprised of fifteen members exclusively from England quite ironically.  It was only in 1919 they substantially introduced an Indian element in the system that too with limitations which severely compromised the ability of Indian representation to be effective.

On the other hand, if we look at the Indian constitution and our electoral setup then despite its many shortcomings, India is the world’s largest democracy. People select their representation through exercising their votes and it is a constitutional right of the masses to do so. It is worth remembering that the idea of Universal Suffrage was not as widespread at the time of Indian independence but it is to the credit of the statesmen and policymakers of that time that we had universal suffrage from the very beginning. In summary, the implementation of the Indian constitution ensures that government is representative of the people and the will of the people dictates the way of the country, not a colonial entity.

The crux of the issue here is equating a democratic and federal union of India with the tyrannical and oppressive colonial regime which ruled India with the objective of enriching the homeland rather than the people. The Maoists are not fighting a foreign entity, they are not fighting for the rights of the poor, if they were then they would not be avail the multiple avenues that democratic India had and continues to offer to them through electoral representation or other.

The Freedom fighters had no choice but to fight the British because there was no electoral and socio-economical alternate available to these great men. The British had a monopoly. To argue that the state of affairs is the same for today’s Maoists is an abomination and outright manipulation of the constitutional truth. This is not the first time these section people have tried to whitewash Indian history

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