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Immunity and Punishment

David Selbourne

By Kalyan Mukherjee  and Rajendra Singh Yadav
Radhakrishna Prakashan, New Delhi, 1980, pp. 70, Rs. 25.00

VOLUME V NUMBER 5 March/April 1981

Neither Bhojpur nor 'Naxalism' stand at the heart of the issues which this book raises. The places, the dates, the individuals—and the '-ism' attributed to them-pale into relative insignificance besides the deeper causes, and the long-­running continuities, of the struggle for land rights and human dignities which is the real substance of this work. The fact that Mukherjee and Yadav offer hardly any analysis of the phenomena which they chronicle, is not very impor­tant either. The reader can and must make his own. That the story is 'fragmented', as they themselves concede, and that they have not helped themselves by failing to sustain a pro­perly chronological narrative of events, also does not matter very much. For Bhojpur, 1971-1980, is merely a local stage in India's continuous and growing civil war for land; its heroes, Jagdish Mahto and Rameshwar Ahir, are merely two more combatants who have fallen in this battle on behalf of the landless. Nor can it all be confined within, or be explained by, the term 'Naxalite movement’. There is no such thing as 'Naxalism', if by that is signi­fied a distinct socio-economic pro­gramme and strategy, nor a 'movement' if by that is meant the coherent expres­sion and sustained organization of the interests of the rural poor. And it is not party-building, but punishment, with which we are dealing in this book. Nor is this elementary and elemental fight for justice, and the wreaking of revenge on the local oppressor, 'armed struggle' in the Chinese sense, merely because arms are used, and because there is a struggle. For 'armed struggle' also suggests wrongly in this context, a revolutionary theory and practice directed at the conquest of state power; a stage, even an advanced stage, of India's revolution. It is nothing of the sort—and the state knows this as well as any—but it is not diminished by being something different. Moreover, the political signi­ficance of what Mukherjee and Yadav are describing is in general grossly misperceived. Indeed, it is as much 'misperceived by those in the CPl-ML. who gained the support of the CPC until 1971 for the politics of 'annihilation of class enemies', as it is by the Left­ parliamentarians who can only see 'extremism' in the violent rebellions of the down-trodden. Moreover, it is no excuse for the latter to blame divisions in the ranks of the left-which ...

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