Excerpt from The burning Forest by Nandini Sundar

“In Max Weber’s classic formulation of what it means to be a ‘state’ or government, the state is defined as having a ‘monopoly over legitimate violence’. The reason why the state’s violence is ‘legitimate’ is because it is employed to protect citizens. Internationally, human rights activism focuses on violations by the state, because anyone else who takes law into their own hands is already acting illegitimately and is liable to be punished by the state. The government, however, seems not to want to accept this grown up and superior role, insisting truculently that human rights activists act as umpires and scold both sides equally.

However, the civil liberties movement also needs to understand the reasons for the widespread perception of its being sympathetic to the Maoists. In the post emergency phase, many groups sought to differentiate between revolutionary violence and other kinds of violence- caste, communal- terming the former legitimate and the latter illegitimate. Revolutionary violence, they argued should be treated differently even in a liberal framework because ultimately, it was aimed at implementing the democracy promised by the constitution. Even today many groups are ambivalent about disowning the Maoists, fearful that by criticizing them, they are forsaking the ‘people’ who evidently support them in large numbers.

Ultimately, all sides have contributed to the simplification of an intricate issue. The state refuses to recognize critical voices within its own ranks and reduces all opposition to the Judum and operation green hunt to the work of Maoist sympathizers. Maoist sympathizers adopt an equally stringent ‘with us or against us’ attitude. Sections of the professional human rights community choose to focus on celebrity cases at the expense of the larger conflict.”

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