Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Editorial: In the red on real solutions

Hindustan Times
July 14, 2009
First Published: 22:08 IST(14/7/2009)
Last Updated: 22:12 IST(14/7/2009)

In 2007, Hindustan Times’ ‘India Besieged’ series reported that out of 600 districts in the country, 152 were hit by the Naxal insurgency. A year down the line, the figure has gone up to 180. There has also been a rise in the number of Naxal attacks: according to the Home Ministry, there were 1,509 Naxal-related incidents in 2006, 1,565 in 2007, 1,591 in 2008 and till the end of June 2009, the figure has already touched 1,128. Along with an increase in their firepower, the national ambitions of the Naxalites have also grown by leaps and bounds despite last month’s ban on the Communist Party of India (Maoist) and some plainspeak by the Prime Minister and Home Minister. The Sunday attack in Rajnandgaon district of Chhattisgarh (30 police personnel and Superintendent of Police were killed) and news reports that the Reds are eyeing a corridor from Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh to Dantewada in Chhattisgarh via Koraput and Malkangiri in south Orissa prove that hardtalk by the Indian State has failed to downsize their ambitions.

It’s not very difficult to assess why the problem started in the first place, how it proliferated and why it is continuing. The Naxals exploited the vacuum that the State created by relinquishing its basic duties. Today, despite deploying large number of forces and funds for development, the State is finding it difficult to regain lost ground. At the same time, as the buzz goes, it is trying to clear the resource-rich lands of its original residents for industrial houses. Is the government working at cross-purposes? It would seem so. Moreover, in Chhattisgarh it has compounded the problem by its disastrous policy of Salwa Judum and instead of calling it off, a similar experiment is being started in Manipur. In India’s federal structure, law and order is on the state list, yet it is quite clear that the solution has to be carried out together by the Central and the state governments. Moreover, unlike the Dalits, adivasis don’t have a political voice, and when the State has its earplugs on, where do you think they would go?

There could be a security solution or a development solution or both. We could take the Andhra Pradesh model and replicate it. There could be dozen of more solutions but nothing will fall into place and wean the tribals away from the Naxals if we don’t have the political will. The crores in development funds that go into these areas have given birth to a cozy, corrupt nexus between the politicians, bureaucracy and industrial houses. The Naxals too are not above suspicion. Yet blaming them and their support base, the tribals, would be a self-defeating exercise.

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