The Still Growing Menace of Naxalism
Following a recent Naxal attack on the Security Forces in Bastar, Chhatisgarh that left 15 of them killed, Leftist terrorism for a brief moment made the headlines but, as usual, the event has been forgotten because the election tamasha has been absorbing the media. This is standard practice. There is a Naxal attack; the next day editorials condemn it in strong measure. And that is the end.
Between 1989 and 2001 as many as 1,600 civilians, 432 Security Forces and 1,007 insurgents got killed totaling 3,049 dead. With the beginning of the 21st century, the killings have been steady, with the highest number killed being 1,169 in 2010. According to knowledgeable sources, since the Naxal insurgency in 1980, more than 12,180 people have been killed.The Government has been following a two-pronged programme to lessen if not eliminate Naxalism altogether. One, was to fight terrorism by Government-sponsored bodies like the Salwa Judum. This body has been frequently charged with misusing its power. Another is to sanction economic assistance to relevant groups. Additionally, Central Para-militry Forces are available to the states to fight Naxalism in the most affected districts of which there are 66 in Odisha, 14 in Jharkhand, 7 in Bihar, 10 each in Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh and 8 in Madhya Pradesh. But it is Chhattisgarh that is the epicentre of Naxalism, though, according to available information, in 2009 Naxalites were active in approximately 180 districts in ten states.
Accoring to these very sources, Naxalites, well-armed men and women numbering around 20,000 are active in 40 per cent of India’s land area, specifically in Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. Apart from active fighters, Naxals apparently have between 10,000 to 40,000 regular members and between 50,000 to 100,000 militia members. That is scary. Bharat is too vast a country with too high a population, especially of tribals (Scheduled Tribes) who have for generations lived in forests which are their source of living. And because they have lived in forests they have suffered because of various reasons such as inundation as a result of dams being built on rivers which deprived them of their ancestral homes. They become easy converts to Naxal violence for sheer lack of the right kind of non-violent leadership. The tragedy is that hardly any so-called Gandhian has ever gone to live in the forests to proved a non-violent leadership to the tribals.
Those who have given up the comforts of their own middle class homes to help the Adivasis are not ordinary people but sometimes well-educated youngsters from the middle classes.
There are several laws or regulations dealing with tribal problems. But they seem to have made little impact. In fact, according to information available “these laws have, in many ways caused a lot of problems to the tribals and Scheduled Castes by negating the spirit of the various safeguards available under the Constitution. But then what should be done?
To my mind the first thing to do is for well-organised groups like the Ramakrishna Mission or the RSS to form a core group of volunteers who will be willing to live in the jungles and help the adivasis to fight non-violent ‘battles’ against established land lords. Some positive suggestions are already on record, such as: (a) The Government should include laws in the Forest Act that only forest dwelling tribes and scheduled castes should be allowed to use the produce of the forest (b) The Central Government should form a sparate Ministry which well undertake the development of the areas affected by Naxal activities (c) ensure the safety of civilians by stopping the Salwa Judam campaign and ensure that no counter insurgeney measures are taken by risking the lives of civilians (d) Register the crimes perpetrated by the Security Forces, Salwa Judum and the Maoists and bring them to justice (e) Ban the Bal Mandal (the child division of Naxalites) with immediate effect and (f) ensure safety of those who have surrendered from among Naxals. There is much that the State can still do. But it must not be left to the Government alone. This calls for a new class of urban leadership which, alas, presently is non-existent.
-(The writer is a senior journalist and former Editor of Illustrated Weekly)
Himalayan Misadventure: IV
An Australian journalist, Neville Maxwell, created turbulence by targeting Nehru’s China policy and its impact on the India-China war in 1962. But most of the shocking revelations reported by the Henderson Brooks-Bhagat Report are already in the book Foundations of Misery in the chapter “Himalayan blunder” published months back. We are giving stunning facts about the war given by the author in his book as a series:
India should not have allowed Tibet, which was a buffer with China, to disappear as an independent nation. The seeds of the conflict were sown when China annexed the de-facto independent Tibet, and India meekly acquiesced. Step-1: Both India and China should have taken stock of the fact of unsettled borders, and let the public in both the countries know of the same; Step-2: Those areas that the expert-team failed to resolve could be left for further discussions at a higher level, where they could have been resolved in a spirit of give and take. Contrary to expectations, one is shocked to learn that while China was agreeable for these sensible steps, India was not.
Historically, China had not agreed to any border with India and signed any boundary agreement, except for the borders with Sikkim. On Ladakh border, despite initiatives from British India, China had refused to respond, being weak and wary of the British designs. They had not signed the Simla Convention of 1914 and had thus not agreed to the McMahon Line. Even as late as 1947, China, under the Nationalists, had conveyed to the then Indian government they didn’t recognise the McMahon Line.
Soon after Indian independence and before China invaded Tibet, Tibet had asked India for return of the territories on its boundary acquired by the British, including Ladakh, Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling and so on! Further, Tibet had claimed it had agreed to the McMahon Line as a quid pro quo for the promised Britain-China-Tibet agreement on Outer Tibet in the Simla Convention of 1914; but as the latter had not come through, they were not agreeable with the McMahon Line.
The stand of the Peoples Republic of China from 1949 onwards was that they wanted to remove the blot of the British/imperialist humiliation China had suffered with regard to the borders and on other matters, and rather than accepting the unjust and illegal British-drawn borders, they desired discussions, negotiations and a joint ground survey to settle the borders in a just and mutually acceptable manner in the spirit of give and take, and not with a view to grab area they were not entitled to. They also wanted to dispense with the British-given names, and give the boundaries new Indian/Chinese names.
That this was so was proved by the agreement they finalised with Myanmar/Burma in 1960—the new Burma-China border is roughly along the McMahon Line, with certain adjustments acceptable to both the sides. Subsequently, China signed boundary agreements with Nepal and Pakistan too. That is, China settled its boundaries with all the three countries—Burma, Nepal and Pakistan—amicably through negotiations; and India remained the only exception.
It has also been stated in several books and articles that Chinese communists, having just ascended the power in 1949, desired a settled border, especially because they already had several severe headaches—internal troubles, Korea, Taiwan, Tibet and a belligerent US—and didn’t want to add to them.
China did try on several occasions to settle India-China borders through negotiations and took initiatives in that direction, but what should have happened—peaceful, negotiated settlement through talks—did not happen, for India and Nehru had their own ideas that we would see.
There is one point worth noting. Till the Panchsheel was signed in 1954, China was circumspect in not spoiling what they were getting through it by raising the thorny issue of border. Their major concern then was acceptance of Tibet as their territory. This they achieved through Panchsheel—India gave away all its rights in Tibet and recognised Tibet as a part of China, without getting anything in return. Girija Shankar Bajpai, who had earlier served in the External Affairs Ministry, had advised settlement of borders prior to the signing of the Panchsheel pointing out that China had never acknowledged the McMahon Line. But he was overruled by Nehru. However, within three months of signing of the Panchsheel, China objected to the presence of Indian troops in certain disputed areas. Chinese were diplomatic, prudent and practical. Tackle issues one by one. First, get the major Tibetan issue out of the way through the Panchsheel, then only take up the remaining issues.
Nothing prevented India also from being as diplomatic, prudent and practical. India was not forced to sign Panchsheel. No country with a mature and prudent foreign policy wedded to its self-interest would engage in a massive give-away without getting anything in return.
– Rajnikant Puranik
(The writer is author of Foundations of Misery, Part 1, 1947-64)