Sunday, April 29, 2012

Democratic deficit in Naxal affected areas..

Is Maoism a law and order problem

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat

The abduction of Sukma’s District Magistrate Alex Paul Menon by the Maoists has raised serious issues of crisis of governance in India. According to the Maoists, he was ‘arrested’ on April 21 when holding a public meeting at a village. The Maoists have demanded that about 8 of their colleagues be released immediately and operation green hut be stopped.

It is a well known fact that a very large part of India is now under the Maoist or Naxal control but somewhere we miss an important fact of India’s ‘growth’ story which we have been speaking since 1990 in the post liberlisation era. Before India opened its horizons for the international brands and companies, the value of the areas where tribal were living was nothing for the big companies and government authorities as they were considered backward regions and none was interested to go there. We allowed them to languish in ignorance, miseries and humiliation. Our government never ever bothered to reach those zones which needed state to protect them, provide health care, housing and better schooling. Today, if you travel to these zones they look stark contrast to what you see in Delhi which we all claim is becoming one of the ‘finest’ capitals of the world, though with little ‘heart’. The problems of the tribal were aggravated by the greedy government officials who would never venture to those zones and forest department which is given the task of maintaining the forests actually exploit the tribal.

Indian state failed to work for the betterment of tribal. Rather than acknowledging the fact that it has not taken care of about 10% of its population which we call as Aadivasis, we made tribal like animals in the cage. The urban middle class go there on ‘Safaris’ to watch them naked and then comment on their life style. There were no attempt by the state as why people are dying of Malaria and other diseases in those regions. Now, in the post globalization era, these poorest regions of India have become virtually the most sought after areas. With enormous natural wealth in the form of mines, minerals and ores, the big industrial corporations are eyeing the region for their own benefits. The Indian state became a real estate agent and a facilitator to dislocate its own people and victimize them if they opposed acquisition of their land. India’s growth model became the death sentence for millions of Aadivasis and they rose up against it. Those who ignore these facts of tribal life must make a visit to Chhatishgarh, Jharkhand, Odhisa and agency areas of Andhra Pradesh and find out why the tribal resisting the state despite the power of Indian state.

The ‘Indian’ ‘ Nationalists’ want the government to give the military a free hand to ‘demolish’ these zones. Well, the military is already there in the form of operation green hunt. These are the soldiers who are well paid and trained to fight the guerilla war in the forest terrain. And they have played havoc in those regions as they go without any sympathy. For them, it is a war against ‘enemy’. How can a person protecting his or her land become ‘enemy’ in his own region? No army can win a war if the people have no faith in it. Indian army knows it well and therefore most of the generals were against war on its own people.
Often, we are reminded the example of Punjab and our security hawks want that story to be replicated everywhere. It is not possible. Much work was done to assuage the feelings of Sikh in Punjab. In fact, the congress party apologized too for the same. Before that, Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi invited Harcharan Singh Longowal for negotiations which culminated in the famous peace accord which brought peace in Punjab. Punjab was never won over by army but by confidence building measures which brought Sikh back to Indian mainstream. Similarly, in Kashmir, it is the governance that would win us the day and not the army.
The problem with the ruling establishment in India is that it is playing a big mind game. It is not coming into picture but want to fight the battle by defaming a whole movement. Maoists or Naxalism is not going to end with so called ‘law and order’ game. They are political battles and without active politicization you cannot win a war like this. Where are our political leaders who can go to Baster and talk to Naxals or Maoists? When the government can speak to different terror outfits why is Chidambaram not asking them to come on negotiating table. But for that the government has to show its real inclination. Home Minister Chidambaram and his colleagues do not want to call this battle off because they have to push these greedy corporations inside the forests.

Has Indian state ever apologized to tribal for its failure to protect their interest and identities? Australia and, Canada could do so with special session of their parliament when they acknowledge the indigenous people as ‘first nation’. Have we ever thought of showing our gratitude towards tribal for preserving our nature, our environment and habitat?
The Indian state has gone beyond all their reach to get its big people released from the Maoists heartland. The negotiators have refused to condemn the abductions as they say the state agencies have indulged in heavy violence against the tribal. That is a brute reality. The solution to the Naxalism lies in speaking with the people in the region and sincerely talking of peace. When Nepal could do so with Maoists why not India? More importantly, when Indian government could speak to various Naga nationalist groups or Mozo-Bodo groups demanding autonomy in the North east, what is wrong in inviting to Maoists to negotiations? At least the government must make political effort. We need a political home minister and not a bureaucrat. Unfortunately, most of the South block today is being handled not by the political class but the so called civil servants and right wing security hawks who have failed to understand India and its vast diversity. We need a political solution to these issues otherwise today it is Alex Paul tomorrow it could be some else and the Indian state would always be on its toes finding little time to do work for people. Let the government take initiative for peace talk and come with sincere proposal for the tribal zone. It is certain that Aadivasis too want to live in peace and develop their regions but they would definitely like their stake in whatever is planned for their regions. Any imposition of leadership and ideas from New Delhi would only be counterproductive and will never bring peace.

* already published in

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