Prison Breaks pp 115-142 | Cite as

Chapter 4 Mocking the State: Heroism, Humanity and Humiliation in the Context of Naxal Jailbreaks in India

  • Atreyee Sen
Chapter
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Prisons and Penology book series (PSIPP)

Abstract

This chapter will analyse the position, potentialities and politics of mass prison escapes in the context of violent, anti-state political movements in India. Indian security services identify contemporary anti-national insurgents as the most prominent danger to local government machineries. One such alleged menace is the banned Naxalite movement, composed of Communist Party of India (CPI) Maoist guerrilla groups that emerged as rebel factions within the history of Indian communism. Prominent state actors are involved in brutal counter-insurgency operations in Naxal-dominated areas, and the army, police and paramilitary commandos have played a significant role in the capture, torture and illegal deaths of Naxalites, their supporters, sympathizers and affiliates. This chapter offers a sociographic overview of recent and past jailbreaks by members of the Naxal movement and illustrates how the language of autonomy, human dignity and self-determination remains deeply embedded in the plotting, execution and aftermath of mass prison escapes. I show how the staging of organized, daring and well-planned prison attacks, revolts and escapes mocks and exposes the prison system as administrative and organizational disasters. I eventually argue that escaping the grip of the state through jailbreaks led by anti-state, pro-poor political prisoners becomes a subaltern moral triumph, which may not institute deep-seated social change, but allows both the postcolonial state and the citizens to reflect on the discriminatory misuse of state-sanctioned power on the ground.

References

  1. Amnesty International. (1974, September 21). Detention Conditions in West Bengal. Economic and Political Weekly, 9(38), 1611–1618.Google Scholar
  2. Anderson, C. (2007). The Indian Uprising of 1857–58: Prisons, Prisoners and Rebellion. London: Anthem Press.Google Scholar
  3. Aretxaga, B. (1995, June). Dirty Protest: Symbolic Overdetermination and Gender in Northern Ireland Ethnic Violence. Ethos, 23(2), 123–148.Google Scholar
  4. Arnold, D. (1994). The Colonial Prison: Power, Knowledge and Penology in Nineteenth-Century India. In D. Arnold & D. Hardiman (Eds.), Subaltern Studies VIII (pp. 148–187). New Delhi: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Arreguín-Toft, I. (2012). Contemporary Asymmetric Conflict Theory in Historical Perspective. Terrorism and Political Violence, 24(4), 635–665.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Balagopal, K. (2006, July). Maoist Movement in Andhra Pradesh. Economic and Political Weekly, 41(29), 3183–3187.Google Scholar
  7. Banerjee, S. (2009). In the Wake of Naxalbari – Four Decades of a Simmering Revolution. Kolkata: Sahitya Samsad.Google Scholar
  8. Basu, P. (2000). Towards Naxalbari (1953–1967): An Account of Inner-Party Ideological Struggle. Kolkata: Progressive Publishers.Google Scholar
  9. Bhatia, B. (2005a). Jailbreak and the Maoist Movement. Economic and Political Weekly, 40(51), 5369–5371.Google Scholar
  10. Bhatia, B. (2005b). The Naxalite Movement in Central Bihar. Economic and Political Weekly, 40(15), 1536–1549.Google Scholar
  11. Feldman, A. (1991). Formations of Violence: The Narrative of the Body and Political Terror in Northern Ireland. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Goldstein, D. M. (2003). Laughter Out of Place: Race, Class, Violence, and Sexuality in a Rio Shantytown. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  13. Gupta, C. (2001). The Icon of Mother in Late Colonial North India: ‘Bharat Mata’, ‘Matri Bhasha’ and ‘Gau Mata’. Economic and Political Weekly, 36(45), 4291–4299.Google Scholar
  14. Hart, M. ‘T. (2007). Humour and Social Protest: An Introduction. IRSH, 52, 1–20.Google Scholar
  15. Kennedy, J. (2014). Gangsters or Gandhians? The Political Sociology of the Maoist Insurgency in India. India Review, 13(3), 212–234.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Kishwar, M. (1988, December 24–31). Nature of Women’s Mobilisation in Rural India: An Exploratory Essay. Economic and Political Weekly, 23(52/53), 2754–2763.Google Scholar
  17. Kumar, A. (2008). Community Warriors: State, Peasants and Caste Armies in Bihar. New Delhi: Anthem Press.Google Scholar
  18. Kunnath, G. (2006, August). Becoming a Naxalite in Rural Bihar: Class Struggle and Its Contradictions. Journal of Peasant Studies, 33(1), 89–123.Google Scholar
  19. Mbembe, A. (1992). Provisional Notes on the Postcolony. Africa: Journal of the International African Institute, 62(1), 3–37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Mbembe, A. (2003). Necropolitics. Public Culture, 15(1), 11–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Mbembe, A., & Roitman, J. (1995). Figures of the Subject in Times of Crisis. Public Culture, 7(2), 323–352.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Mukhopadhyay, A. (2006). The Naxalites Through the Eyes of the Police: Select Notifications from the Calcutta Police Gazette (1967–1975). Kolkata: Dey’s Publishing.Google Scholar
  23. Naimiśarāya, M. (2010). Dalit Freedom Fighters. New Delhi: Gyan Publishing House.Google Scholar
  24. Navlakha, G. (2010, April). Days and Nights in the Maoist Heartland. Economic and Political Weekly, 45(16), 38–47.Google Scholar
  25. Obadare, E. (2009). The Uses of Ridicule: Humour, Infrapolitics and Civil Society in Nigeria. African Affairs, 108(431), 241–261.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Obadare, E. (2010). State of Travesty: Jokes and the Logic of Sociocultural Improvisation in Africa. Critical African Studies, 2(4), 92–112.Google Scholar
  27. Oetken, J. (2009). Counterinsurgency Against Naxalites in India. In S. Ganguly & D. P. Fidler (Eds.), India and Counterinsurgency: Lessons Learned. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  28. Ramana, P. V. (2011). India’s Maoist Insurgency: Evolution, Current Trends, and Responses. In M. Kugelman (Ed.), India’s Contemporary Security Challenges. Washington, DC: Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.Google Scholar
  29. Scott, J. C. (1987). Weapons of the Weak: Everyday Forms of Peasant Resistance. New Haven/London: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  30. Scott, J. C. (1990). Domination and the Arts of Resistance: Hidden Transcripts. New Haven/London: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  31. Scott, J. C. (2012). Infrapolitics and Mobilizations: A Response by James C. Scott. Revue française d’études américaines, 1(131), 112–117.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Sen, S. (2002). The Female Jails of Colonial India. The Indian Economic and Social History Review, 39(4), 417–438.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Sen, A. (2015). Slaps, Adda, Beatings and Laughter: The Performance of Joy and Political Aesthetics in a Women’s Correctional Facility in Urban India. In R. Kaur & P. D. Mukherjee (Eds.), Arts and Aesthetics in a Globalising World (pp. 119–134). Oxford: Berg Publications.Google Scholar
  34. Shah, A. (2006). Markets of Protection: The ‘Terrorist’ Maoist Movement and the State in Jharkhand, India. Critique of Anthropology, 26(3), 297–314.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Shah, A. (2013). The Intimacy of Insurgency: Beyond Coercion, Greed or Grievance in Maoist India. Economy and Society, 42(3), 480–506.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Sundar, N. (2006, July). Bastar, Maoism and Salwa Judum. Economic and Political Weekly, 41(29), 3187–3192.Google Scholar
  37. Sundar, N. (2013). Insurgency, Counter-Insurgency, and Democracy in Central India. In R. Jeffrey, R. Sen, & P. Sen (Eds.), More Than Maoism: Politics and Policies of Insurgency in South Asia (pp. 149–168). Manohar: New Delhi.Google Scholar
  38. Useem, B., & Kimball, P. (1991). States of Siege: US Prison Riots 1971–1986. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  39. Vinson, T., & Rea, P. (1982). Wilful Obstruction: The Frustration of Prison Reform. North Ryde: Methuen Australia.Google Scholar
  40. Wilf, S. (2010). Law’s Imagined Republic: Popular Politics and Criminal Justices in Revolutionary America. Cambridge/New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Wolfers, A. (2016). Born Like Krishna in the Prison-House: Revolutionary Asceticism in the Political Ashram of Aurobindo Ghose. South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies, 39(3), 525–545.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Atreyee Sen
    • 1
  1. 1.University of CopenhagenCopenhagenDenmark

Personalised recommendations