People’s Democracy vs. Parliamentary Democracy in India
Posted by Ka Frank on January 30, 2010
This article appeared in People’s March, September 2007
A Look into the Work of the People’s Governments in Dandakaranya Special Zone
Parliamentary democracy in India is much hailed. India is said to be the biggest democracy in the world. This democracy is known to be ‘ for the people, by the people and of the people’. The past more than half a century proved this democracy to be sham. People of India and all over the world are vexed with the ineffectiveness and misappropriation of the ‘democratic institutions’ like the court, police, jail and the administrative machinery. Essential services like water and electricity are a point of agitation in many parts of the country almost every day.
And it is inaccessible to the adivasi population who constitute one important section of the population of the country. The presence of the parliamentary democratic institutions and minimum medical services are not seen in most of the adivasi areas of the country. It is true that the people in these areas were at a loss, away from the ‘modern’ world.
But for the past few years, things took a different turn in some parts of the adivasi areas. While the North Eastern states and some other areas are fighting for the liberation of their nationalities from the domination of the Indian state, the adivasis of the central part of the country and a few other eastern states sought a different alternative. They started forming a people’s government of their own.
‘People’s democracy’ found birth in the most ‘backward’, ‘uncivilized’ areas of the country. It continued to develop in divergent ways and levels. The achievements of this people’s democracy prove that this is a real kind of democracy, a democracy of the people, by the people and for the people in its actual sense. The main principles of this democracy are collective functioning and democratic centralism, the Maoist principles.
The people’s democracy named ‘janathana sarkar’ (people’s government) in the Dandakaranyam Special Zone of the state of Chathisgarh under the leadership of the Communist Party of India (Maoist) is the ’embryonic stage’ of people’s power to be achieved countrywide in future, as put by the party. The activities in production, cultural, educational and military sectors of the present janathana sarkars, give an outline of the future socialist state. It also reveals that despite the severe repression campaign of the parliamentary state, the janathana sarkars are going to succeed. The party has succeeded in consolidating the people’s government to a certain stage and is heading towards forming higher levels of the same.
The following information tries to give a glimpse of the janathana sarkar of one area in the Maad division of the DK Special Zone. In terms of the parliamentary democratic administration this area falls under Dantewada district in Chhathisgarh.
Revolutionary Cooperative Agriculture
The Cooperative sector is discussed a lot not only in the administrative circles but also in the academic circles. Occasionally articles are written with empirical data about the achievements of the government in the cooperative sector. But it is a known fact that the cooperative department of the government is the most corrupt. Whatever the facts and figures shown on paper may be, the reality is something else. Perhaps none would differ with this fact.
Here is an experience of a cooperative sector in production without corruption and in a real collective sense. Cooperative societies are being formed under the janathana sarkar formed in the adivasi areas of Dandakaranyam Special Zone under the leadership of the CPI(Maoist) in the state of Chathisgarh.
A few words about the area of discussion. The area is on the bank of a river. The mode of production is relatively backward. There are rich, middle and poor peasants in the area. Tilling is done with bukkocks and ploughs but all do not have implements. The crops are paddy, dal and a few kinds of millets.
In this area (the name of which is not being mentioned due to technical reasons) the collective work in agricultural production started with tilling collectively with ploughs. Gradually it spread to other works.
Initially work teams were established. The work teams prepared plots, lay ponds, did fish culture, sowed seeds, tilled land and prepared small wells. The work of these teams appealed to the people and educated the masses and collective work gained momentum. They started establishing wells, ponds. They sold a little crop and a little fish after keeping some for themselves. They got good revenue.
Once the people attained a certain level of consciousness the Maoist party started forming the janathana sarkars. Thus the collective work became more systematic. Production increased. There was a great change in the mode of production. The collectiveness in agricultural activity created the opportunity to increase the usage of cattle and other agricultural implements.
These are some of the data regarding the agricultural and developmental activity in this area. The janathana sarkar bought 260 cattle and distributed them to the poor peasants. They also distributed 540 quintals of seeds ranging from paddy, gingelly, dal, maize and millets. They built 70 houses and repaired another 350.
When the area was affected with famine they distributed Rs. 25,000 to the people as relief.
In this particular area on the whole 1436 acres of land was seized from the people’s enemies, those who fled from the village and the landlords and rich peasants. Forest land too was seized. 1057 acres of this land was distributed to 482 families. 310 was put in the control of the janathana sarkar and 65 acres was given to the militia.
To go into the details of the breakup of these activities – One of the lower level sarkar in this area sowed 5 kgs of paddy and maize. Gingelly too was sown. Vegetables were planted but they were not successful in raising them. The cooperative committee distributed 2 quintals and 25 kilos of seeds worth 1200 rupees in the villages of its concern. They built one new house and repaired the rest.
The cooperative activity and the increasing revolutionary consciousness broke certain taboos regarding the participation of women in production. In the old society women were not allowed to do certain things in agricultural work like sowing seeds, going near the paddy crop after the harvest and later to the paddy store. So the Kranthikari Adivasi Mahila Sanghatan (KAMS) took up the task of breaking these taboos. The organization started with dealing with the women’s problems much earlier to the launching of the collective and cooperative activities and the janathana sarkars. Now after the age old superstitions were removed, the women’s organization is mainly taking up the task of mobilizing women into the activities of the janathana sarkar.
The janathana sarkar helped the people in one more way. That is regarding the fixing of rates for the forest produce being sold in the weekly markets. It is also helping the victims of salva judum and state violence through the revenue and crop raised from the collective activity. Residential schools are also being financed by the revenue out of this activity.
The salva judum campaign of the Chathisgarh state government brought a lot of changes in the life of the villages. The repression unleashed in the campaign taught a lot in defense for the masses. The militia that was already set up in the villages became more active. Militia platoons were formed and most of the youth, both women and men became full time activists in the militia. They have become another big family in the village.
Initially the janathana sarkar looked after them. But within no time the militias did not only become self sufficient but began helping the janathana sarkar too in terms of production of crops and revenue. The militias could gain a revenue of 10,000 rupees out of the gingelly crop. It produced 1500 quintals of paddy.
The cooperative activity in the area also developed a team of carpenters this year. This team went around the villages before the onset of the agricultural season and fulfilled the necessities of the agricultural implements of the masses. The janathana sarkar bought furnaces and the necessary metal for the purpose.
Regarding cattle, the janathana sarkar in this area took it up in a creative manner. It distributes cattle and takes 20 kilos of paddy per year in reciprocation. It buys cattle with this money. The farmer could keep the new born with them. With a long-term view the government bought cattle that could give birth to calves.
In addition to cattle the janathana sarkar also distributed goats and hens mainly to those who lost them in the salva judum. It distributed 100 packets of fish to develop pisciculture. It is also looking after the martyr’s families. It is planning to look after the victims of salva judum in the nearby areas.
The development committee of the janathana sarkar is procuring the forest produce like mahua and brooms from the people and selling it. This would facilitate the people’s market necessities.
The forest protection committee, one of the sub-committees of the janathana sarkar takes care that the forest is well protected. It initially took up a campaign not to cut trees indiscriminately. When the people were nomadic, the forest was cut on a very wide scale. Now since the villages are settled, protection of forest has come up in a serious manner. One has to take permission from the forest protection committee to cut forests. The committee would make a study and see which area could be cut in case of necessities for building houses, certain agricultural impediments, beds and other such things. Those who cut the trees without permission would be punished. The punishments are mainly in the form of paying money.
The janathana sarkar is also planning to set up a certain amount for defense purposes, to make weapons for the militia.
The experience of the janathana sarkar shows that scientifically run cooperative activity could achieve tremendous benefits for the people. It also exposes the fake cooperative spirit of the ruling governments with all their money and modern amenities.
The success of the cooperative activity going on in these ‘backward’ forest areas of Dandakaranyam is a trend setter for other areas.
Changes in Culture
In the ‘modern’ world there are a lot of cultural changes. It is a clear fact that these changes are mostly influenced by imperialism, capitalism and feudal values (including hindu fundamentalism). The changes in ‘people’s democracy’ are influenced by Marxism-Leninism-Maoism and the practice of social change in the light of this theory. The concepts of MLM and the Maoist discipline are interpreted and implemented in the specific social context and the problems and contradictions dealt with in a scientific manner, thus building a ‘modern’ society in terms of progressive social change.
The adivasis had a lot of unscientific, blind beliefs regarding production, health and human relations in their social life. Though the basic reason is their lack of scientific and articulated knowledge, these customs mainly benefited the hierarchies in terms of help in agriculture and gaining money. The hierarchy in this adivasi area was mainly constituted with the village head and the village priest. It was mostly hereditary. These families enjoyed all power over the village. Inter and intra family problems and contradictions were brought to the village head for a solution. With the given knowledge about the medicinal herbs and treatment of diseases the village priest was the native doctor and he too had a say in these matters. These heads intervened in matters of marriage, house construction and other such social and essential matters.
When the village head solved a problem, the concerned families were to give him a hen. When the village doctor performed a puja as a part of treatment of disease, he too were to be given a hen. During festivals they were given a large share of the meat distributed among the villagers. In agricultural work, the villagers were expected to work in the fields of these two heads without payment.
When the Maoist party entered the villages and formed mass organizations, the authority of these heads came to an end. As the organizations gained strength, they gained command over village matters. The authority was a collective one and no single person enjoyed it. The matters were discussed in a meeting and all the villagers had a say in any matter. A decision was reached with a consensus. Both the Dandakaranya Adivasi Kisan Mazdoor Sanghatan (DAKMS) and the Kranthikari Adivasi Mahila Sanghatan (KAMS) took up a lot of problems and solved them. This was a part of educating the masses politically and scientifically. Nothing was possible without education as a campaign. This education was in the form of meetings and the cultural organization of the party, Chethana Natya Manch (CNM) had a main role in it. It prepared many songs, dances and playlets on superstitions and age old evil practices and propagated the unscientific nature of the same. This appealed to the people and made them think.
Now after the janathana sarkars were formed, these matters are being taken up by the cultural committee, education committee and the judicial committee.
The cultural committee looks after the cultural life of the people. The festivals are normally related to agricultural activity. The ‘Vijja pandum’ (seed festival) is performed before sowing seeds. It performs the native dance, ‘dhaka’ occasionally. It conducts marriages and also sees that there is no force and that there is agreement by both the girl and the boy. The cultural committee took up education against the practice of killing persons on the suspicion that they were doing witchery.
One normal practice is bigamy. The women’s organization had been fighting against this practice. The activists say it has relatively come down. But there are still incidents where the wife is left and another wife is brought. Earlier the abandoned wife did not have any say in the property, though she had children. She had to look after herself or the parental family supported her. Now the janathana sarkar is solving it in a different manner. In one case where the man brought a second wife, the judicial committee ordered him to give a share of property to the abandoned wife. It specified the amount of land, the cattle and other such things.
Due to the repressive salva judum campaign, the people are forced to go to a weekly market very distant from where they used to go until then. Keeping in view the problem of distance the cultural committee arranged small markets near the villages. It discussed and took money from the janathana sarkar and brought articles from the market and sold them.
When they fought back the initial phase of salva judum the committee, on behalf of the janathana sarkar conducted a ‘Bhoomkal Kharsad’, meaning festival of all. It helped the CNM write songs on salva judum.
In a big move the cultural committee brought a change in the participation of women in festivals and especially hunting. Women were not allowed to participate in the festivals. The women’s organization broke the tradition to a large extent and now the janathana sarkar is advancing it to other such issues. Recently it succeeded in making women part of hunting animals. This was the first time in the history of this area. Tradition did not allow women even to eat meat until recently.
As a part of increasing the production activity, the cultural committee also takes up propaganda about production and the introduction of scientific methods of production.
There are some practices in this area regarding death. The family of the deceased must give meat to the villagers and the relatives in another village. Some of the elders take promise from their sons and daughters to kill a cow in their name and put the tail of it near their grave. This practice is called ‘thoka thohathana’. This practice was discussed a lot in the meetings. The youth were ready to stop this practice, because they understand the importance of cows in agriculture. They felt they could not go on killing cows for each and every death that would only amount to more financial burden. But the elders were not ready. A discussion is going on in this issue. The party is educating them to give up this practice and other such things, but decided to let the people take their own time to change it.
The education committee looks after the establishment of schools and hostels. It arranges teachers. Their salaries are either in the form of payment in kind or contribution to their agricultural production from the villagers. During the salva judum campaign the education committee did a lot when the parliamentary government closed the schools. It held meetings with the teachers and students and promised them to start schools later. And it did.
Makers of Their Own Change
The above facts clearly bring forth the fact that the adivasis have succeeded in laying down a path to change their lives. This change does not benefit merely a single person. It is concerned with the change in the lives of each and everyone and the society as a whole. Thus the people have taken the steering of their lives into their own hands. They are making great leaps forward in the economic and the superstructure spheres, putting parliamentary democracy to shame and throwing a challenge to the so called modern and developing world.