Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Spread of Naxalism and Maoism (by Anant Trivedi, NNFI Delhi)

New Delhi,

Tragedy consumed the lives of so many CRPF Jawans recently in Dantewala in an ambush by Naxals. Media is busy with writings and debates and seminars are being held by concerned citizens - we love to debate issues. There is so much being speculated about how the perpetrators of the massacre should be dealt with, who should be held accountable for the loss of so many lives, the failure intelligence, who should take the blame for lack of training and inadequate preparedness of those sent in to enforce the rule of law. Politicians as always, are busy trading charges at each other with the Home Minister coming under a lot of flak with calls for his resignation. No politician from the state of Chattisgarh has accepted responsibility – the problem belongs some where else. Nor even politicians from the ‘red corridor’ of Manipur, Assam, Tripura, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa , West Bengal have shed their silence. The day after the massacre the CM and another politician could be clearly seen in a jovial mood on this sombre occasion, caught off guard no doubt by the cameras. It seems this was another item in their busy schedule – promise compensation to the bereaved and life moves on.

Dantewala is no the first tragic event in recent times and sadly perhaps it won’t be the last. The country is suffering as a result of a chaotic state of governance, which has been getting worse over years. Those elected to govern do not see the need for planning for the future and well being of those they are elected to govern. The need to ensure proper civil administration, communication, adequate well equipped and trained and accountable law enforcement and judicial delivery – for all particularly beyond the urban sprawls, seems alien to the elected leadership. The elected, the supporting civil administration and the law enforcement machinery are today totally engrossed in filling their coffers, in fact a race to surpass the other in quantum of loot. It is na├»ve to believe that those elected are there for reasons other than to acquire enormous illegitimate wealth, and retain their hold on power. The nation is in the grip of a mafia which gets elected by hook or by crook. Political mafia whose strategy is to get cosy with groups who espouse violence and insurgency as a strategy for winning political power continues. With this background, it is important to sit back and analyse the situation to determine what needs to be done by the State and how should civil society intervene to arrest the slow but sure decline into a state of lawlessness and anarchy. Can concerned citizen afford to sit back and allow the nation to be further destroyed by a minority that has proved repeatedly that they cannot be trusted to govern. At grass roots there is very good nexus in between the bureaucrats, politicians, policeman and the leaders of Maoist movement. Without political patronage and protection it is not possible for such movements to sustain.

How did we get into this situation?
The troubled areas are typically those where there has been virtually no developmental activity over the 60 plus years of independence. These are areas where locals have been systematically repressed, their resources looted and fundamental rights violated. Police atrocities and feudal caste based hierarchy has taken matters from bad to worse. These are not confined to the forest belts like Dantewala. Pockets of neglect exist all round the country and these are typically the breeding grounds of miscreant activity and are also places where disruptive philosophy of Maoism flourishes.

The particular belt where tragedy struck is an where people live off the land, and have been hunting for food and been tilling the soil for subsistence for generations. This land is there home. There are no roads, schools, hospitals and no presence of civil administration or the law enforcement agencies. These are areas where subsistence is at a few rupees a day, if you don’t hunt successfully or are not able to convert some vegetation into food you simply go hungry, if you fall ill you die unless the local voodoo doctor is able to cure you. There are still vast tracks of the country where millions exist in such primitive ways, abandoned by the State.

Law enforcement has entered the scene only recently to help protect the mining mafia and contractors who moved into the area to extract valuable minerals but without any plan for compensating those whose land is being usurped by providing them either money or enriching their lives with ‘value’ such as employment, health schooling etc. These are clearly encroachers who have moved in, in connivance with the elected and the powerful of the area. The helpless local is forced to move away and make way.

Why would the miner or contractor need protection if they had reached out to the local tribals and provided a package of employment, education, and compensation at a fair price?
Where there is neglect by the state, there will be poverty and social injustice. Where there is no redressal mechanism for disputes, there will inevitably be an environment in which miscreants and anti State philosophies gather sympathy. Where the state has failed to govern, people will succumb to persuasion from the anti-state elements to take alternatives to safeguard their interest and some will no doubt out of desperation and foolishness take up arms. No doubt Maoists have moved into the area (often supported by equally criminal political partners) and in many instances preached the philosophy of extortion as a remedy against the miners thus in turn making the erstwhile peaceful tribals into a lawless mob. When they know no better, it is foolish to blame them alone. Tribals have no experience of the benefit of a civilised administration and now do not trust a system which has exploited them and now offers the course of law to resolve disputes. These locals are fighting for survival. They see their lives threatened by aliens who have moved into their home and destroying them. They have to resist this invasion with every means available.

It follows that the miners to protect themselves call for help from the administration whose babus and politicians were no doubt in collusion and receiving bribes from the miners to be allowed to extract minerals, coal etc. reaction of the state machinery is to violently put down any insurgency. But is the consequential collateral damage from such strategy clearly understood?

What we are witnessing at increasing frequency today are symptoms of a gradually failing nation. Our political class is at a loss on how to deal with the situation sensibly. The nation is threatened not so much by Maoism or even the spreading of Naxalism, but by the increasing apathy for the well being of the citizen and total disregard for the rule of law by those whom we elect to govern and then fail to hold them accountable.

How should this situation be reversed?
The law enforcement agencies will only see this as a law and order situation. The Home Minister who is charged with maintaining the rule of law has no choice but to restore the respect for law. But should the rule of law only be enforced amongst these villagers and tribals who are the true aggrieved in the first instance from years of neglect? Should we not also punish those who caused this situation – who allowed neglect and encouraged repression to carry on for so long, who looted the land, allowed mining mafias to move in and displace the poor, who violated human rights for so long? These villagers and tribals have never seen the benefits of progress (food, livelihood, health, education, roads, resolution of disputes….) they have instead seen their place of abode of centuries being occupied by strangers and they being made to uproot and go some where else! They have only experienced social injustice.

To address this problem requires a package of measures and it is questionable whether our elected leadership is up to the task of delivering the required change, without a big nudge from the citizen who put them there.

A few objectives of a package of reform for change should be:

  1. You have to isolate and put behind bars, the leadership of the anti state elements – the Maoists leadership which is fuelling the insurgency. They have declared war on the nation so let us not pussyfoot about democratic processes until after problem is resolved. But his will require political equations to be disturbed.
  2. You have to cut off the supply of arms to these areas and any elected leader or rogue element form the enforcement agencies caught conniving should be summarily dealt with as an anti state element.
  3. You need to reach out to the locals through trusted intermediaries and provide your plan to reverse their plight and hope for a period of truce in which you can prove your intent and ability to deliver. Truce in the past has allowed miscreants to regroup this needs to be recognised and monitored carefully. Do not trust politicians for this task, rather well meaning society elders and social workers who are more likely to be trusted by locals.
  4. You need an urgent plan of action to build infrastructure, employment, food, health, education and delivery of justice. This needs to be ‘sold’ to those who are aggrieved and neglected.
  5. You need a sincere plan for proper compensation and relocation of those uprooted by the mining projects and all further such projects should be put on hold until a comprehensive plan is drawn up and agreed with the local leadership. The mining mafia needs to be reigned in urgently.
  6. Our judicial delivery system is in need of a total overhaul. Law enforcement has to be accountable to the people and not be manipulated by the elected. Law has to punish all alike for wrong doing.
  7. The law enforcement agencies have to be properly trained, equipped and made accountable and continuously monitored to ensure delivery of service. Law enforcement has to work as an integral part of a national security program where agencies work with each other and share intelligence with each other in national interest, without political interference.
  8. Intelligence services have to be built up. For far too long our intelligence has focussed on external elements. It needs to encompass the internal situation and needs to build up a comprehensive view from the beat constable upwards and involve the citizen as the eyes and ears. Local police has to gain trust of citizens and be severely punished if found to be extorting or avoiding logging of and following up on complaints.
  9. None of this possible until we recognise the urgent need to focus on removing the criminal element from our parliament and legislators and forcing them to give back the loot to the nation. These are people who have always exploited the poor and vulnerable. They have no ethical values.
  10. Our civil administration is in need of a total overhaul. It has to be accountable – the citizen is the master not the babus. The administration should not be in a position of manipulation or blackmail by the elected leader an their appointment, promotion and transfer should be handled by an independent body made up of senior citizens and civil service peers – not the elected leader who can only ask for an agreed policy to be implemented. Transparency, accountability, proper on going training, and correct manning levels are essential keywords.

These are only a few of the enormous challenges to be addressed for change. We the citizens have to decide if we are serious about turning this country around and do we have the will to take up the challenge of making this happen on a war footing. It can no longer be left to the politicians and bureaucrats alone.

In this objective there is an urgent need for civil society to come together with a definitive plan to save our democracy.

Article by:
Anant Trivedi
NNFI, Delhi

No comments:

Post a Comment

Ground Report India publishes articles as they are given. Ground Report India is not responsible for views of writers, critics and reporters. For any contradiction, please contact to the author.

Please give your Name, Email, Postal Address and Introduction with comment.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.