Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The ‘Maoist’ PCPA – A Self Fulfilling Prophecy


Intellectualization is a way of reducing pain and this is no exception!


In Management there is a term called "self fulfilling prophecy" which is also referred as "Pygmalion effect". This is a phenomenon which occurs when "a false definition of the situation evokes a new behavior which makes the original false conception come true" (Merton, 1957). In other words, "you are what you are because of what others think you are."

This is exactly what is happening to the Peoples Committee against Police Atrocities (PCPA). The organization which was originally raised to protest against police excesses has been often accused of acting as the front end of Maoists. But PCPA's turn for the worst occurred when its popular leader Chatradhar Mahato was deceitfully arrested by the West Bengal police officials posing as press reporters. This was followed by even more arrests and harassment of impoverished people which included women, some of them in their sixties. Ever increasing accusations by the government agencies and the media initiated the Pygmalion effect of turning a democratic movement to an increasingly extremist organization.

The Rajdhani Express hostage drama of 28th October, 2009, enacted by the members of the PCPA marks the completion of the Pygmalion effect. But, what has got them this far? Who are these people whom we refer in the media as tribals?

A quick review of the Indian history will give an idea about these people. It is now a generally accepted theory that the original inhabitants of India were the dark skinned Indians who are also categorized to be belonging to the Dravidian stock (perhaps because of similarities in the phonetics of these tribal languages with the South Indian Dravidian languages). The fair skinned Aryans entered India much latter. The intermingling of these two sets of ancient people brought about the Classical Indian Culture. But some groups of people belonging to the Dravidian stock remained untouched by the changes in the Indian civilization because of their isolated inhabitations in the jungles.

These dark skinned adivasis (original inhabitants) are the oldest inhabitants of India. They have existed in the confines of their jungle and lived in harmony for thousands of years. But things started to change when the Britishers moved into India. The encroachment of these jungles began with the objective of exploiting the abundant natural resources in these regions. This was the first time that the adivasis were being exposed to modern education and medicine.

During the British rule, education and health care of the adivasis in the Jharkhand region was solely the domain of Christian missionaries. After independence, this role is largely the domain of the state governments. But the government initiatives have failed miserably in improving the quality of life of these people. The result is that today, the adivasis have the consciousness that comes with little education, but not the economic well being. They feel cheated; they have lost ground to the outsiders, but have not gained sufficiently from this influx. Indeed, they are relatively less well off now than when they had all their land to themselves. They have become a minority in their own land! Contrast this with the tribes of the North Eastern states who are blessed with the system of ‘inner-line permits’ which ensures that people from rest of India go there as temporary guests and nothing more.

The adivasis of the adjoining forested areas of Jharkhand (formerly Bihar), Orissa, and Bengal are now able to see through the obnoxious design that rendered their people divided between several states. Adivasi tribes of these regions are essentially one ethnic bloc. Though there may be subtle differences in their culture, they share a common dialect called ‘shadri’.

Coming back to the Rajdhani Express hostage drama; the extensive media coverage of the incident undoubtedly gave the PCPA visibility, albeit, negatively. Some in the television media screamed that the train was ‘looted’ by Maoists. What did they loot? Food. Such a luxury for the modern man? Well, not quite, yet the media needed to report that important ‘loot’ by the Maoists. This also makes me wonder about the economic disparities our great nation has created. I tend to ask myself wouldn’t these PCPA people who are now being branded as Maoists be better off if entire villages resorted to ‘jail bharo’ abhiyans. At least that will ensure them two square meals and save them from being reported in the national media for looting food.

I have also wondered what is it about the developed nations and many of these newly industrialized nations that makes them prosperous and equitable. One law in particular that comes to my mind is the Estate tax which is imposed when wealth is passed on to the offspring via a will. (The law mostly applies to the super rich). The crux of the law is that people who have amassed huge amounts of wealth in their life time can bequeath only a reasonable portion of their wealth to their children while the excess wealth becomes part of the state exchequer if not already given away in charity. This tough law has resulted in numerous charitable foundations and universities in the US. It’s amazing, even the communists in India haven’t lobbied for this law. It is countries like India; with wide spread disparities in income levels that need this law.

Lastly, I also wonder: Is it fair that the oldest inhabitants of India should also be the most backward?

Can anybody help? The government certainly couldn’t in so many years of its existence since independence.

Manoj Tirkey