Happy birthday Gandhi! If he were alive today, what would he make of this new, self-confident India – capitalist with socialist heart? And perhaps this is a good day to ask: what would he make of Operation Green Hunt, next month’s planned military offensive against the nation’s own people, albeit Naxals?
The propaganda war has already begun for November’s massive armed operation, which will involve 75,000 troops, some of which will be brought from Kashmir, squadrons of police and bomb trucks. The violent Maoist terrorist group, the Naxals, will be finally be brought down in what the Indian government is describing as a last-chance act to save the country’s democracy.
But who are the Naxals and what do they represent? Roughly one-third of districts are now Naxal supportive, predominantly the poorest parts of the country, including, but not exclusively, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Bihar. The leaders of the Naxal movement, are (of course) middle-class, well-educated people, but their support comes from the poorest, most marginalized people in the world: tribals, Dalits (untouchables), the landless Indians who lack basic healthcare, education, sanitation, drinking water, even food. More than three-quarters of Indians live on less than 20 rupees ($1) per day – that’s 60 pence.
These are the desperate, who have seen none of the success of Bombay or Delhi, Bangalore or Hyderabad. But despite countless government-commissioned reports on what to do about the Naxal question, all of which have concluded that a development-centric, social intervention, rather than a security-centric approach would be best, the government is launching Operation Green Hunt. It can only end badly. Look at Kashmir.
What would Gandhi say?