ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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A Moral Prohibition

The Maoists must never deliberately attack or threaten to attack those who are not morally legitimate targets.

The recent abduction by Maoists of two Italian nationals (one of them released later) and a Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) in two separate incidents in Orissa, have, predictably, evoked strong condemnation by the commercial media. But such castigation is not only inconsistent, it also smacks of hypocrisy. Besides the intensely emotional, partisan and hysterical nature of the response, it is, indeed, sheer hypocrisy to apply one sort of morality to state terrorism and another altogether different set of ethical criteria to the use of “revolutionary” terror by the Maoists. If one peruses the list of the 13 demands of the Maoists, they are protesting against torture, other cruel and inhuman treatment, arbitrary arrests and imprisonment, “encounter” killings, denial of the right of access to drinking water, healthcare and education, repression of mass movements against displacement, denial of civil and political liberties, indeed, the whole subculture of state terror. Paradoxically, it is sections of the media and mainstream national and regional political leaders who rationalise all such political repression unleashed on the Maoists in the name of safeguarding Indian democracy. Nevertheless, we might ask, does state terror justify revolutionary terror?

We have referred to the acts of political abduction by the Maoists to force the state to renounce acts of terror against them as part and parcel of the repertoire of terrorist deeds. That surely demands an explanation. We are reminded of the 1949 play written by Albert Camus, entitled Les Justes (translated as The Just Ones). It is based on an episode in Russia in 1905 in which a group of “Socialist Revolutionaries” (SRs) decided to assassinate the Czarist Grand Duke Sergei Alexanderovich who was directly involved in brutally suppressing revolutionary activity. The man who was deputed to do the job was carrying a bomb which he hid under his coat, but as he approached the carriage carrying the Grand Duke, he noticed that the man had two children on his lap, and this led him to abandon the attempt. In this he had the support of some of his comrades, one of whom puts it well: “Even in destruction, there’s a right way and a wrong way – and there are limits”. The point we are making is that revolutionaries usually have little trouble identifying or distinguishing between combatants and non-combatants.

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