Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Are Naxals active in the Dangs?

Satish JhaTuesday, April 14, 2009 11:15 IST Email

Dangs/Ahmedabad: The suspicion of Naxal activity in the Dangs has once again come to the fore after the recent blaze in the tribal area of South Gujarat. Though there have been disruptive activities attributed to the Naxals in the Dangs for more than four decades, no direct link has ever been proved.

The district has witnessed struggle for rights for the last many decades. Poverty and unemployment are widespread and half the population in the district still has to migrate every year in search of food to the bordering Nasik district in Maharashtra.

Noted social worker Ganesh Devy, who works for the uplift of tribals, denies any link between the tribals and Naxals. "If forest officers are claiming that there are anti-social elements or Naxals who set ablaze the forest, then it's a joke. Forest fires are not new in Gujarat. It's a natural accident. I have been working for tribals for the last 30 years and never heard any link between Naxals and tribals," he says.

He says that in Gujarat, tribal areas are totally different from other Naxal-hit parts of the country. "In other states where the Naxal movement has taken roots, the class differences are very sharp, but Dangs and other tribal-dominated areas in Gujarat have not been touched by market forces," he reasons.

The reason for allegations of Naxals' link with tribals is the tribals' continuous struggle for land. "Whenever there is a struggle for their rights by the tribals, the state government officials link it with anti-social elements or Naxals to suppress their demands."

One reason for the possible influence of Naxals in Dangs is the proximity of
Gadhchiroli district of Maharashtra, a hotbed of Naxal activity. Even the tribal-dominated district of Nandurbar, which has seen many Naxal movements in the past, borders Dangs.

"The fear of Naxals in Dangs is exaggerated. There are people who are working for the uplift of marginalised tribals. These tribals don't have even basic amenities of life, and when you raise voice for such a community, people with vested interests oppose. It could be the only reason why they (officials) are speaking of Naxal movement in Dangs," said Bharat Powar, secretary of Dangi Majdoor Union, an outfit of the Communist Party of India (CPI).

On Monday, divisional forest officer (north) CK Sonwane said there were suspicions that three persons in Dangs, in the guise of helping the tribals, might have encouraged them to burn the forest.

When asked if these three people are Naxals, Sonwane said, "They encourage tribals to damage government property and blaze forest so that they can acquire land. Even if they are not Naxals they are anti-social elements. These three persons, namely Avinash Kulkarni, Gulabjeev Pawar and Mangalia Chamariya, instigate the tribals against the government."

However, Avinash Kulkarni, who originally belongs to Belgaum, denied the allegation and said that he was a member of Dangi Majdoor Union and helping the tribals to get land through the Forest Act 2006.

"We are just helping the tribals to avail the benefit of Forest Right Act 2006. We don't have any connection with any Naxals or their movement," he said.

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