HOW long do we have to wait for the traitorous Naxalite rebellion to be quelled? The UPA government is looking like a standing joke. If we are to believe Home Minister P Chidambaram, the government will get rid of the Naxals before the term of the UPA II ends. Does he know how the former West Bengal Chief Minister Siddartha Shankar Ray did his job?
After what happened at Dantewada, one of the poorest districts in India with 66 per cent of the 7.2 lakh population of tribal origin, the UPA government should have stepped down and fresh elections should have been held. That the Naxalites should have succeeded in killing 74 members of the Alpha Company of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) in an ambush at Chintalnar indicates the sheer impudence of the Naxalites.
Apparently, throughout the tribal belt extending to an estimated 200 districts, Naxal cadres number more than 10,000. What is more shocking and shameful is that these forces have the tacit support of so-called intellectuals like Arundhati Roy, who needs to be questioned. The exact number of Maoists is open to guesswork, but again, according to another count, they number “several thousand” and are well-equipped with Insas Rifles, AK-47s, grenades and rocket launchers, additionally capable of making Improvised Explosive Devises (IEDs). Furthermore, they are also supported by an excellent intelligence service.
From where did the Naxalites get their weapons? Who stitched their uniforms? It is claimed by Minhaz Merchant, chairman of a media group, “that powerful vested interests benefit from the Maoist insurgency” and that “the financial nexus between politicians, businessmen and Maoists thrives in a manufactured environment of lawlessness”. Are our intelligence agencies aware of who these “politicians and businessmen” are? Shouldn’t they be interrogated? Importantly, shouldn’t the Congress Party which has been in power for the last six years and more have given serious thought to what has been going on under its very nose?
The usual charges are that the tribals have been deprived of their forest lands, that they have been denied access to jobs and other sources of living and that they have been denied access to education and, by and large, have been largely ignored. Surely, all these charges can be effectively met without having to take resort to violence?
If the late Nanasaheb Deshmukh could work wonders in his own chosen tribal field in Maharashtra, surely others, equally deeply committed, can replicate his success? Is violence the only way to draw the attention of the powers-that-be for the betterment of tribal life?
Several intellectual supporters of Naxalism have expressed their views like Varavara Rao, activist Himanshu Kumar and another one of the kind known as “Kishenji”. To being with, why does not the Government of India ask them to submit detailed plans to help tribals? Surely that is not too much to ask? Instead of attacking the Government for establishing Salwa Judum– in the face of sustained violence, did the Government have any other option? – can’t our intellectuals change their mindset and provide the government with a well-thought out plan to bring tribals into the mainstream of Indian life? Has anyone prevented them from developing a positive outlook towards tribal enrichment?
One gets the clear impression that some of our mentally-sick intellectuals prefer to romanticise the concept of “revolutionary terrorism”, rather than to take over the earthy task of working out concrete proposals to enrich tribal life. It sounds terribly romantic to wage war againsts the country in the name of tribal needs and the blame lies entirely on the UPA government for its soft-kneed approach towards every issue hurting the motherland.
This columnist has in the past suggested the setting up of a separate Indian Tribal Service, parallel to the Indian Administrative Service to serve exclusively in tribal areas, so that tribal needs and requirements are identified – and fully met. Roads can be laid down. Schools can be extablished. Medical attention can be provided. Jobs within the tribal juridiction can be created and a rich and meaningful life can be guaranteed to the tribal population. That is obviously not what our revolutionaries want. They want glamour, publicity.
Our screwball intellectuals want to go back to the twenties and thirties and plan revolution. They want to raise funds through intimidation and blackmail, make secret arms purchases, transport them under the very nose of the Police and bring death and destruction. The very concept of an “armed revolution” is stupid in this day and age. It invites administrative reaction during which many innocents would inevitably get killed.
One activist, Himanshu Kumar is quoted as asking why, granting Naxalism is a problem, that poor people are “attracted to politics that will end in death”. The answer is obvious. The poor are told that violence alone will solve their problem when violence does nothing of that kind. It will only add to their prevailing misery. But how is one to convince Naxalites that the prescription they offer is out of fashion and today one has to turn to out-of-box solutions for known problems?
One thing is obvious: the government of the day must undertake massive public works and welfare schemes. Andhra Pradesh’s State Economic Adviser Shri Somayajulu has been quoted as saying that economic development and welfare schemes have transformed the Maoist scene in his State to the point that Maoism has lost its attraction for once unemployed youth. Maoist incidents in Andhra Pradesh fell from 576 in 2005 to 62 in 2009, Maoist killings from 211 to 17 and Police deaths from 25 to zero. What was done in Andhra Pradesh can be duplicated in Chattisgarh and Jharkhand.
But there, surely, are other ways to help tribal people earn a decent livelihood like production of pappads to making of dolls which can be marketed, not just in India but worldwide. And, at the administrative level, there has to be a proliferation of government offices equipped with the latest communication technology. But one thing is absolutely a MUST. And that is to treat Maoists not as fellow citizens, but as traitors and murderers. No mercy should be shown to them. Their headquarters have to be bombed.
An organisation responsible for the killing of upwards of 6,000 innocent people from 1996 to 2009 has to be wiped out of the surface of the earth. The UPA Government has come to be seen as ‘soft’ and one which can easily be taken for a ride. Should there be another Dantewada, then the country should demand the immediate resignation of the UPA government.
Importantly the Maoists should get the message that there is a strong government in Delhi which will not accept armed rebellion anywhere and those who indulge in will have to pay a heavy price.