Coming to the other side of the story, in another superb essay, Shoma Chaudhary has done a root cause study on what is wrong with the way we are tackling the maoist menace. No, its not of the 'Indian democracy is fake' kind of hollow statements that someone like Arundathi Roy makes. Shoma has given out a clear cut strategy for the future, one that may be slow but sure to yield results. The state has been on a witch hunt as far as fighting maoists are concerned. There's no intiative to study the forest using information from satellites or from the maoists who are captured alive. According to reports, the jawans are asked to just go out and shoot. Their strategy is best exemplified in the popular malayalam saying-"kattavane kittiyillengil, kittiyavane thattuka"(If you don't get the one who stole, kill the one you managed to catch). And as a result young boys were dragged out from their houses and charged with crimes like waging war against the state. At the heights of this operation, a bunch of 70-80 year old women who protested against the illegal arrests were also arrested under such charges. The special police officers(SPOs) known as the Salwa Judum in chattisgarh burnt down villages, raped women and killed the men. In Bengal, villagers were forced to leave their cattle and fields and go to relief camps. Those who refused were gunned down. Not surprising considering the leader of the state's words to these happless villagers- "you are either with us or with them".
The origins of discontent among tribals are in the underdevelopment and neglection on the part of the govt. And what government does in the name of development in these areas are further alienating them. The major problems that the tribals are facing now is from the land mafia, mining mafia and the number of SEZs that have sprung up. The govt and some politicians, in its greed for easy money sign MOUs with big corporations to lease out these tribal lands for the multi crore projects. In order to make these projects a reality, the tribals are driven out from their land. The mineral rich tribal forests are sucked of its resources. The tribals who are original owners of the land are not even given employment. They are given a paltry sum as compensation and dumped in some wasteland. This leads to discontent and its this discontent that the maoists carefully take advantage of. Some tribals fall in this trap and join the maoists and fight the Indian state. To prevent such occurences, Mani Shankar Aiyar advises the Govt to go back to the Indian constitution, specifically to the PESA — (Provisions of the Panchayat [Extension to Scheduled Areas] 1996). Two of the most important points in this provision are as follows-
1-"the Gram Sabha or the Panchayats at the appropriate level shall be consulted before making the acquisition of land in the Scheduled Areas for development projects and before re-setling or rehabilitating persons affected by such projects in the Scheduled Areas; the actual planning and implementation of the projects in the Scheduled Areas shall be coordinated at the State level"
2-"the recommendations of the Gram Sabha or the Panchayats at the appropriate level shall be made mandatory prior to grant of prospecting licence or mining lease for minor minerals in the Scheduled Areas"
With the help of this provision, no MOU can be signed without the approval of the village panchayat. Thus the ownership of the land goes back to the tribal. But, as of now this provision remains mostly in letters as MOUs are signed without ever consulting the villagers. They come to know of it only when they are driven out of their land. This has to change. The PESA has to be implemented strictly on a war footing. And, at the same time the local governments must make sure that the village panchayats are not like the infamous khap panchayats of Haryana which mete out jungle justice. The time is running out for us. Before we send in armies to kill the real enemy, we need to have our own people on our side. We shouldn't allow the terrible tragedy of our army's bullets killing our own people. Its time for simple non-violent steps. Hope voices like this are heard amidst the 'kill them, blast them' rhetoric. And lets not call this voices of reason with the same brand name as we rightfully call such traitors like Arundathi Roy. These deserves to be heard. Because, the idea of India is under question!
image courtesy-thehindu.com, textually.org
your crusader Praveen