June 18, 2018
Recuperating from a kidney transplant, Arun Jaitley is currently minister without portfolio. But ever since he returned home from hospital two weeks ago, the temporarily relieved finance minister has been blogging quite a bit.
He has blogged more than once against the Congress president, Rahul Gandhi, and his inadequacies. These diatribes have garnered a fair amount of publicity in the media, as Jaitley’s articulations invariably do. But it is Jaitley’s analysis of “increased Maoist activities” in the country that is by far more interesting – and a little ominous too.
In his blog dated June 8, Jaitley spoke of the spread of Maoist activities “in areas other than usual extremism affected areas” but did not elaborate this with any specific example. Instead, he recalled his speech in the Rajya Sabha when the United Progressive Alliance was in power wherein he had described “four kinds” of Maoists in India.
But today, as a leading member of the ruling party which has completed four years in office, his words carry far more weight and reflect a more sinister intent. The Modi government’s favourite epithet to those opposing its policies or resisting the sangh parivar‘s Hindutva offensive has been “anti-national”. That seems to be getting passé, and “half Maoist” could become the new label to tarnish, target, and incarcerate all manner of activists.
That is already happening. On June 6, two days before Jaitley wrote his blog on Maoists, five leading Dalit and human rights activists were arrested in different parts of the country. They included Shoma Sen, associate professor in the English department in Nagpur University; Surendra Gadling, general secretary of Indian Association of People’s Lawyers; Sudhir Dhawale, editor of the Marathi magazine Vidrohi and founder of Republican Panthers; Rona Wilson, human rights activist and public relations secretary of the Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners; and Mahesh Raut, a former Prime Minister’s Rural Development Fellow who has been working among tribals in Maharashtra’s Gadchiroli district.
They have been charged, among other things, of inciting violence in Pune on December 31 by organizing the Elgaar Parishad on the eve of the bicentenary of the battle between the Peshwas and the British near the village of Koregaon on the Bhima river. On January 1, 1818, the British regiment consisting of people belonging to the untouchable Mahar community defeated the Peshwas – and Babasaheb Ambedkar was the first to commemorate that day as a victory of the oppressed against Brahminical forces.