Oh Shirt!

How absolutely ridiculous to even imagine that George W. Bush wiped his hands on Bill Clinton’s shirt after shaking hands with a Haitian during their aid tour.

Is this how political leaders wipe hands? And how clean would he expect Clinton’s shirt to be?

I read somewhere it could either be an insult to the people of Haiti or to Clinton. The Haitians have been insulted enough already by history; as for Bill, a light pat of the back would not even register. He is accustomed to a lot more.

There is a tendency to read myriad meanings in such gestures and while it is fun we want them to show us the money.

- - -


“I would like a short, simple statement from the CPI (Maoist) saying we will abjure violence and we are prepared for talks. I would like no ifs, no buts and no conditions. I would like the statement to be faxed to 011-23093155. Once I receive the statement, I shall consult the Prime Minister and other colleagues and respond promptly.”
- P Chidambaram

So, our home minister thinks he will get a fax message by a group that has been fighting for years, that has a political ethos, that is disaffected in many ways to let him know that they are ready to give up violence so they can have chai-biscuit with him and get “prepared for talks”?

If the Centre has to take action, then they must do it. This business of faxing and no ifs and buts sounds like some tired old macho stuff in an echo chamber.


  1. FV, I suspect the HM's statement is so that there cannot be retroactive claims that the Government did not try to engage the maoists peacefully --- the maoists have many friends in the international media who would be glad to make the Indian govt. the prime evil. Just an opinion.

  2. Also, the response of the maoists to the HM's statement was "No, I won't call you. You call me (Kishenji) -- here is my phone number"! Which seems strange, but this has a propaganda motivation for the maoists -- they want the Govt. to contact them first, so that they can then claim to have made the govt. bend to its demands.

  3. Farzana,
    This is a multi-part response on the "Maoists thing" (Note my rhetorical pun in quotes).
    Several issues here with "Naxal things" here. (Notice my deliberately stereotypical quotes here).
    As a starting point - in the whole public discourse we are missing the tribal narrative here. One may or may not like it but the political overtones aligned with the tribal persepective have distinctly been either aligned with extreme left or running non antagonistically parallel to the extreme left (such as the ones advocated by the Gandhian activist Himanshu Kumar, Arundhati Roy et al). My own perception is - the central government has been raising the bogey of Naxal terrorism for quite some time now without addressing the core issues of tribal rights to their land and resources. Incidentally, the first movement with large scale public acceptance has been Narmada Bachao Andolan by Medha Patkar.
    Tribals suffered then - they are suffering now. Nothing new here except for the more militant politics.

  4. [Part-2 of my comment]
    Much of what we see happening between PC (Home Minister) and the Maoists is just about buying time. PC cannot launch a full-fledged war against Maoists without extensive "Collateral Damage" on both sides(Remember, a large part of Maoist cadre are local tribals and even for the military it is really difficult to fight over such a large spread of area), Maoists are not strong enough to tackle the "state" head-on and establish their own new egalitarian state. So, we sort of have a stalemate here with both parties resorting to tactical measures.
    A much bigger problem awaits Maoists though (elaborated somewhat in my next post).

  5. More than anything else - the Maoists have been unable to articulate their political philosophy to the masses. As an example - look at BJP/VHP/Bajrang Dal , or for that matter LET and other jihadist brigades - masses pretty much know what they stand for. What have Maoists done to orchestrate their political philosophy ? Outside their own cadre - does anybody really know (let alone, understand) what their vision of new egalitarian state is and how they plan to achieve it ? PC - as a well marinated establishment creature - understands this weakness very well and is hoping and buying time that the Maoist movement degenerate into splinter groups advocating terror. Once at this stage - it pretty much becomes a law and order problem and over time becomes automatically solvable as the political base for Maoists dwindles.
    A more subtle tragedy is un-folding here, given the demographics overall in the whole country Progressives are a dwindling lot. Be it injustice to tribals or un-bridled Modis the stubbornness of progressive forces is on wane. PC should be sleeping fine, over the period things will be resolved. Given their current situation Maoists may not really have time to think about political succession. It is the tribals - bastards among "aam aadami" that will be judged by history as losers. Actually, Big time at that.
    For a change ....
    Nothing To Cheer here,

  6. Al:

    I think Mahesh has put across some cogent arguments, which you may not agree with but are valid.

    If Maoists have friends in the international media – and it is pretty common for dissent groups to cultivate such organizations that may propagate their cause –

    I don’t think the Indian government’s being ‘evil’ is really the issue. I also do not believe that the HM is concerned that there were no attempts by the GOI for a peaceful settlement. It is too late in the day for that.

    they want the Govt. to contact them first, so that they can then claim to have made the govt. bend to its demands.

    I really don’t think it is that petulant. Besides, it is the government that will decide; the Establishment is not known to bend to demands on the basis of ‘your place or mine’.

  7. Mahesh:

    Thank you for a reasoned discussion. I had merely responded to PC’s quote and therefore left out many of the points you brought up, esp re. tribals.

    1.It has become an issue of stereotypes and people do not understand that the Naxal Movement has been alive for decades. The govt-level politicisation does not take the ‘core issues’ as you rightly point out, but the ‘cult’.

    The Maoist hierarchy is a subject that needs to be examined beyond the Leftist ideology.

    (Incidentally, not many takers in the media for such tangential thinking even among the liberals.)

    2. Agreed it is about buying time, but besides the geographical spread the Maoist demands differ at different levels. In lieu of a full-fledged war, there are skirmishes which denude the very nature of the demands.

    3. What have Maoists done to orchestrate their political philosophy ? Outside their own cadre - does anybody really know (let alone, understand) what their vision of new egalitarian state is and how they plan to achieve it ?

    The splinter groups have almost always existed because the nature of the egalitarian state has altered over time. You are quite right that other groups have a set agenda, but the reason for their existence is itself different. Note that the govt employs similar tactics for both.

    And, yes, while the leadership at the centre and among the Maoists tries to continue a fight, the tribals are left with nothing.


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.