Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Can Red Paint Camouflage a Blood Bath? (and the Media's cry for blood)

The signs in the media are ominous. There appears to be a “calibrated” approach to building consent for definitive and armed action against “naxals”. Operation Green Hunt is what this campaign is going to be called.

There are several “news stories” coming together to make a military option look deceivingly inevitable. The government may end up biting of more than it can chew (for the wrong reasons) and worse, create an even bigger problem.  The Naxal problem is being painted red in the hope that it will camouflage a bloodbath by both the government and the Naxals.

The first coat of Red Paint is the “Chinese Threat”. The media is hyperventilating about Chinese incursions. The perception in the mainstream English media is that China is showing signs of threatening India’s sovereignty. The screams (which sound like birthing pains when they come from Arnab Goswami) are proving to be baseless and nothing more than a disguised sales pitch for increased defence expenditure for our borders with China. The media’s response and the muted denial of the Indian government is the first coat of “Red” paint that we are looking at. Fox-news would have been proud of some our Journos and analysts.

The second coat of red-paint is a beautiful bluff. Arcelor Mittal has threathened the government of Orissa that it would pull out of a 20 billion dollar project in Orissa unless Land Acquisition was hastened. The reason why land acquisition is progressing at such a slow place for the project is that there is resistance at the grass-roots. The people do not want to hand over their land and the Government cannot categorically show that the plant in question is a “public-purpose”. In such a backdrop, there is a fair reason for the delay under Indian law. Arcelor Mittal seems to think land for their company is an enshrined fundamental right in the Indian constitution. Rather than call the bluff, and request the company to take a hike, the Government is taking a rather subservient stance. It has said it will catalyse the land transfer. The second coat of Red Paint is now in place and the “markets” are beginning to see a beautiful shade of “Red” in driving away investment.

All we need now is some red polish to finish the job. This is done by changing the goal posts. You change the goals posts by changing the focus of the debate from the cruel and lopsided nature of development policies over the last 50 years. Instead you bring into sharp focus Naxal violence and display it once you have been able to gloss-over the context. It is easier to whip up anger over the beheading of a cop than it is to get the urban Indians angry about the horrific infant mortality rates in rural India. The dysfunctional analysis lumps a violent INDIAN grassroots resistance with the Lashkar-e-Toiba and Al Qaeda. Once you force urban India to link Naxal Violence with Mumbai Terror attacks….building consent for military action will become easier. All you need now is some hot air for the paint to dry. Indian media houses have an abundant supply of hot air. This is best seen in the way any intelligent debate is shot down with language such as “Romanticizing Naxalism” and “Intellectual Sympathisers”. By blocking of reasonable debate, you are left with hot air statements like “Naxalism is an attack on Indian sovereignty”.

Once dried, we will have a backdrop of red-paint and any blood-bath led by 70,000 para-military forces can be easily camouflaged, rationalized and sponsored with ad-spots on the 10PM news shows.

A key dramatic element that unfolded before the war on Iraq was Collin Powell and his infamous vial of Anthrax at the UN (and we thought Gadaffi was a raving lunatic). I will not be surprised if we see a similar dramatic plea in the “Indian war on terror”. Get ready to see little red books of Chairman Mao (or some such stupid equivalent) translated into Hindi as being clinching evidence of Chinese financial aid to the Maoists.

If the government decides to use the might of the Indian army, we will be inviting a civil a war. The red-paint may temporarily camouflage the blood-bath but it will not take long before the violence starts to affect the urban cities that seem to be disconnected from the rest of the country. Every name in the body count has been and will be an Indian citizen.

On a side-note this paragraph from a book I am currently reading sums up what the media is doing with Naxal debate very well.
"For "terrorists", read "guerillas" or – as President Ronald Reagan would call them in the years to come – "freedom fighters". Terrorists, terrorists, terrorists. In the Middle East, in the entire Muslim world, this word would become a plague, a meaningless punctuation mark in all our lives, a full stop erected to finish all discussion of injustice, constructed as a wall by Russian, Americans, Israelis, British, Pakistanis, Saudis, Turks, to shut us up. Who would ever say a word in favour of terrorists? What cause could justify terror? So our enemies are always "terrorists." In the seventeenth century, governments used "heretic" in much the same way, to end all dialogue, to prescribe obedience. Karmal’s policy was simple: you are either with us or against us. For decades, I have listened to this dangerous equation, uttered by capitalist and communist, presidents and prime ministers, generals and intelligence officers and, of course, newspaper editors."
-- Robert Fisk, Page 74, The Great War For Civilisation – The Conquest of the Middle East"


  1. Very well argued article. You are one of the sane voices in the madness that has gripped our media/educated urban classes.