Weapons and wounds: The discourse of violence
Violence remains a consistent theme in the history and memory of the Naxalbari movement. Naxalites’ commitment to revolutionary violence and the brutality of state repression in response have been graphically portrayed in Naxalite pamphlets, CPI (ML) party reports, contemporary newspapers and literary pieces on the movement.1 As Naxalites declared ‘political power grows out of the barrel of a gun’ and were determined to turn the slogan into a reality, they displayed firm faith in revolutionary violence from the very early stages of the movement. Severe armed clashes with the police and the military, and the resulting state repression, was a logical aftermath of the clarion call for armed revolution. Conceptualising violence beyond this dichotomous category – Naxalite violence versus state violence – is at the same time difficult and necessary. It is difficult since the scars of that violent period have not yet healed. Many Naxalite victims of police torture have not received justice. Even though several cases of police torture were lodged in the 1970s by victims or by their relatives, except for the Archana Guha case, none of the others led to successful conviction of the torturers owing to intimidation, bureaucracy, institutional negligence and lack of funds to continue with the expensive legal process.2 There have been many cases of suspected Naxalites having been killed, sometimes on a mass scale, which have not been properly investigated.3 Killing of Naxalite prisoners inside prisons, and many deaths in police custody, have also remained unaccounted for.4 But the necessity to rethink the Naxalite idea and practice of violence emerges from the importance of perceiving what violence meant in the Naxalite discourse, and finally to relate meaning(s) of violence vis-à-vis issues of gender.