Published on Countercurrents, by Radha D’Souza, 17 December, 2009.
I was piqued by the phrase ‘sandwich theory’ when I first heard it from Delhi students. They were referring to the views of a section of articulate, influential, middle India in the wake of the controversies over Sadwa Judum in Chattisgarh and now Operation Green Hunt. The ‘theory’, if we may call it that, holds that the Adivasis and rural poor are caught in the crossfire between armed Maoist ‘terrorists’ on the one side and a militarised Indian state on the other (see Report of the Independent Citizen’s Initiative on Chattisgarh for example). It is the duty of middle India, according to the ‘sandwich theory’, to ‘rescue’ the hapless Adivasis and rural poor from the armed combatants. Both combatants have ulterior motives: the Maoists wish to take political power through the barrel of their guns, and the India state wishes to grab Adivasi lands and natural resources and hand them over to corporations, foreign and domestic … //
… Middle India And The Freedom Struggle:
The Boer Wars, the Scramble for Africa, and other colonial conflagrations culminated in the World Wars between imperialist nations with Britain at the helm. The freedom struggle was directed against British imperialism, at a time when Britain was militarily strong but a declining economic power. A wide cross section of classes, communities, nationalities, castes in Indian society between the Adivasis and the State, joined the freedom struggle, each with their own demands and their own aspirations. Industrial expansion occurred during that interim period of the World Wars. An emergent industrial class that profited from the World Wars also aspired for political power, and joined the freedom struggle. The debates about violence and non-violence, extremism and liberal democracy, social justice and rule of law, and other such questions were part of a wider process of forging a social contract between the multifarious classes, communities, castes, tribes, nationalities, religions, linguistic groups. The social contract was later embodied in the Constitution when India became a republic.
The social contract was based on a vision of the Indian nation. It was a vision that included all and opened with the words ‘we the people’. It promised to all ‘justice: social, economic and political’; it promised the Adivasis protection of their water, forests and lands, land reforms to the rural poor, offered special status to different nationalities, Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Kashmir, jobs and collective bargaining rights to urban workers, linguistic reorganisation of states, rule of law and constitutional democracy, and most importantly adopted as its motto: ‘satyam eva jayate’ (truth alone prevails). That vision of a nation is at the heart of the dilemma that confronts middle India today.
Independence of India was inaugurated with partition at two ends of the nation and the Telangana uprising in its belly. The Telangana uprising, like other Adivasi and peasant struggles, was put down by the Indian army, and many were tortured, imprisoned and executed. Middle India was confident that with a new Constitution in place, the causes of tribal rebellions and peasant uprisings would be consigned to history. The imprint of the Communist Party of India, the largest opposition party in India’s Constituent Assembly that drafted India’s Constitution, was writ large in the social contract. Middle India believed in their vision of the nation. Given the time, India would be a nation founded on social justice, equality and non-discrimination … //
…India’s Foundations On A Fault-line?
The social contract forged during the freedom struggle was premised on a false assumption. It was based on the assumption that it was possible to build a modern liberal democratic, capitalist nation without colonisation. There has never been, and can never be, capitalism without colonies, though its forms can change, and has changed since that fateful day when Columbus set sail looking for the ‘riches of the Indies’. ‘Globalisation’ is forcing middle India to colonise her own people. This is nothing new. It happened under British Rule too. Since the days of Siraj-ud-daula, the various Nawabs and Rajas, a section of the Indian elite has steadfastly stood by imperialists, helped them run Empires, and made a buck for themselves. J.S Mill observed that India was the great experimental laboratory for the Empire. When the fortunes of Empires fluctuate, it forces middle India to take a stand. It is happening today. The nation-state structure and constitutionalism makes it difficult for middle India to rationalise colonisation of her own people. What should middle India do? Launch a new freedom struggle? Forge a new social contract? These are difficult questions by any measure. How much easier to flog the Maoists using imperialist labels like ‘war on terror’ to mask their own inability to re-envision the nation? How much easier to ride the ‘globalisation’ wave on the moral high tides of non-violence? Middle India is wistful. If only the volcanic fault-line on which modern India is founded will go away; if only the Adivasis will put on hold their insistence on jal, jangal, jameen. (full long text).
(P.S: It is to the credit of Indian people that all the bombardments: physical, moral and intellectual, notwithstanding, large sections of middle India remain deeply sceptical about ‘sandwich theories’).