THE MOVING FINGER WRITES
The conflict between the Government and the Maoists in the tribal areas didn’t start with the abduction of Sukma Collector Alex Paul Menon and it will not end with his release, according to BD Sharma, the mediator who secured Menon’s release after two weeks of being kept in criminal captivity. It would seem that the Marxists or Maoists can get away with anything with total impunity. According to Sharma “at the core of the clash between the governments and the Maoists lies the question of ownership of Jal, Jangal, and Zameen (water, forest and land) of the tribals.
This, of course, is not the whole truth. Behind the desperate terrorism is the aim of one wing of Indian communism to capture power through armed struggle, using tribals and the alleged injustice done to them as a useful excuse. These gangster ideologues are living a hundred years behind times. They still think Maoism can succeed and that large-scale and mindless killing can bring a well-established government in India to its knees. They don’t realise that Mao ‘succeeded’ at a time when China was divided and lay in utter chaos and confusion.
Mao turned out to be a ruthless murderer as were both Lenin and Stalin – and more especially Stalin – considered fathers of communist revolution. Their contemptible record as killers of millions is there for all the see. A “revolution” such as envisaged by the Maoists is not only passé but has turned to be a cruel joke. They need to be exposed. In the first place communism is an alien ideology, besides being totally outdated. In the second place, unlike in the first quarter of the twentieth century, people in India have learnt the lessons from history and can respond positively to unresolved social problems, especially concerning tribals. These problems deal with tribal rights over forest and forest produce, peoples’ rights over land and resources, trader-contractor-politician nexus, the violation of the Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act (PESA) etc. The tragedy is that, as in the United States when the white man in the 18th century onward started invading native land, presuming that no law exists that gives American Indians the right to claim property ownership, so in India, too, it has been the undeclared practice to literally take over forest land on the presumption that the land belongs to the nation and not an individual tribe, thereby causing irreparable harm to tribal life.
Does the Government – any government – have the right to displace tribals from their ancestral homes? Or force a new life on them? When Jawaharlal Nehru had some fancy ideas of ‘improving’ the lot of tribals he was advised by a white missionary, Verrier Elvin, to let well alone. The difficulty arises when tribals have to be displaced from their centuries’ old surroundings for purely economic reasons such as building a dam or resorting to mining when the inimitable clash between what are considered national interests confront tribal interests. Which should get preference in the larger interests of the nation? Sometimes certain elements in Indian society resort to illegal mining raising questions of legal rights and propriety. Patwaris and darogas work hand-in-hand in such instances causing confusion worse confounded. Legality is given the go-by.
One way to resolve such issues is to bring the intruders to book with a firm hand; another is to give tribals a financial stake in the mining business such as was recommended by the Bhuria Committee in 1996 which suggested community ownership of industry giving the tribals not only financial gains but economic stability and a vision of development they had never dreamt before. We have to behave like a civilized society and not like those barbaric European immigrants who couldn’t care less if the native Red Indian was dispossessed of his land and livelihood. Meanwhile attention should be given to the Communist impregnators into tribal territory with their fake ideology and outdated ideas of taking over urban areas and cities through violence with the larger purpose of establishing, in due course, a Maoist regime in Delhi. The Centre can claim that it has initiated an Integrated Action Plan (IAP) that has been in operation since the last three years to bridge the so-called “Trust Deficit” and that around 90 per cent of the projects under the IAP in 78 Naxal-affected districts across the country have been completed.
Mihir Shah, a member of the Planning Commission however is reported to feel that the Rs 3,500 crore plan has only alientated the intended beneficiaries considering that they have no say in decision-making. He is quoted as saying that “without involvement of local beneficiaries and civil society as a third party monitor, the plan cannot work.” As of now 8 districts in Andhra Pradesh, nine in Bihar, ten in Chhattisgarh, 17 in Jharkhand, eight in Madhya Pradesh, two in Maharashtra, 18 in Odisha, three in Uttar Pradesh and three in West Bengal have been provided with high quality roads, anganwadi centres, schools, health centres and drinking water, with some 64,00 projects serving 378,058 habitations. But some critics feel this is hype considering that many medical posts have not been filled, that a majority of health centres are vacant and schools only have ad hoc and untrained teachers.
The point that Shah has made is that instead of “stretching the funds across a district, it is better to focus on the poorest and most deprived blocks in the Naxal-affected districts”. But what about the Maoists who have so far killed 2,604 people, including 775 security forces and 1,879 civilians? We can’t—and shouldn’t—take Maoists lightly. They have to be repaid in the same coin and told in the bluntest terms possible that violence will be met adequately and with no holds barred. What presently we seem to have at the Centre is a soft government that is afraid to take on the Maoists in the context of Human Rights. Maoists don’t respect Human Rights. They are not Indians if their icon is Mao. To call them Indians is to blaspheme India. The Bhuria Committee report deals extensively with developmental activities but seems to be silent on what the real aims of Maoists are. These have to be dealt with in all seriousness. They are aiming at Civil War, no less. It is not enough for the government to ban the CPI (Maoist). It has to be destroyed root and branch as the British under William Hanry Sleeman did to the thugs. It is a shame that in some Naxal-hit districts the state has virtually withdrawn. Is that how the UPA government wants to be remembered?