There is an urgent need to re-examine the current strategies of the government towards the Maoist challenge. This was noted during a roundtable discussion on “Meeting the Maoist Challenge: A Re-look at Current Strategy” on Friday, 14 May, 2010 organized by ORF. Focusing the discussion on how to tackle the Maoist challenge, it was noted that bad governance, misplaced development models, incorrect security measures, and perceptions of justice have all played a significant role in the growth of Maoism in India’s heartland.
Two issues came out prominently during the discussion. First, the current discourse on the Maoist challenge has been dominated by one view – the “paranoid view.” A consequence of this has been the complete absence of alternative views in the current strategies of the government. Second, contrary to the popular understanding and strategies, the discussion noted that the issue was not development but the sense of being denied justice and/or access to justice. Again, in contrast to the popular notion that the Maoist-Naxal problem was a law and order problem, it was noted that the issue is rather a problem of the obliteration of the politico-social structures of the tribal people.
Assessing the current strategies adopted by the Centre and various affected State Governments to counter the spread of the left wing extremist in more than 200 districts of India, a participant pointed out that the Salva Judum strategy of the government has been one of the main causes of the growth of Naxalism. It was pointed out that no rehabilitation and compensation has been made by the government of Chattisgarh to the people who had lost everything.
A participant pointed out that there is a general contempt among people towards the tribals which also was one of the reasons for the current state of affairs in the tribal areas. Another participant noted that there is a difference between cause and phenomenon. Commenting on the role of media, a participant noted that both print and electronic media have become indifferent to the Maoist issue. Further, the media has been fed by only one side – the police view – and reports often lacked balance.
The discussion questioned the “elitist development model” in tribal areas. It was noted that the current development model measured only by GDP growth and encourages corporate interests has destroyed the livelihood of the tribal people as most of their land were taken away for mining and other industrial projects. Both government and corporate had gone and uproot the tribals in their own land without showing any respect for the tribal people, their culture, their traditional knowledge, their civilisational strengths and their land.
The discussion suggested a multi-pronged strategy for the government. An admixture social, judicial, economic, political and security approaches have been suggested. Though the discussion also got trapped in the debate on what come first – security or development, it brought in other elements that go beyond the mere debate on security vs development.
It was noted that there was a need to broaden the medium of discussion on the Maoist challenge. It was felt that to develop a proper approach to tackle the issue, alternative voices need to be included while formulating strategies and policies. It was also noted that IB or police view alone is not enough but also one sided and that there was a need to include rights-based perspectives in government’s policies. It was noted that the issue was not pure economics but one of delivering rights.
On the political front, it was suggested that there was a need to re-look at the current governmental structures at the district and block levels. A participant suggested that the first priority of the government has to be to restore civil administration in the affected states and districts. A participant noted that change in government structures at the block level could be an effective way to ensure better representation of local people who are better placed to understand local issues and problems. Also, such as gesture could also give a sense of justice to the people. It was also suggested some autonomous areas could be created for the tribal people through that a sense of local control over its own people and resources could be ensured.
It was noted that there an urgent need for the government agencies to address the basic needs of the people. Education has been stressed in the tribal areas. It was suggested that the “elitist development model” in tribal areas need to be re-assessed. This mode of development has not created wealth but transferred wealth an there was a need for an alternative model of development where the local benefit.
The discussion has urged the government to deliver rights to the people. A participant has suggested that a judicial commission needs to be set up to address the issue of injustice that has been meted out on the people.
A participant noted that there was a need to re-look at the Salva Judum policy. Another participant pointed out that the traditional police force cannot deal with the Maoist challenge and there was a need for special training. A participant felt that there was a need for appropriate security force to deal with the Maoist problem to minimize collateral damage. Most of the participants felt the army should not be used also against the Maoists.
The discussion, presided by former Special Secretary Ministry of Home Affairs Mahendra Kumawat, ended with the note that development and security approaches need to include right-based approach in dealing with the Maoist challenge.
Participants included Mr. D.M. Mitra, Mr. Mohan Guruswamy, Dr. Nandini Sundar, Mr. Dilip Kumar, Mr. Arvind Kaul, Mr. Ashol Rastogi, Mr. K Subramaniam, Mr. Rajiv Sharma, Mr Saibal Dutta, Dr. Satish Misra, Mr. Samir Saran, Dr. Niranjan Sahoo and others.