“The distress of adivasis can be used by people who believe that they can bring about change through violence. The distress of the adivasis needs to be addressed so that people who believe in violence cannot move in. You can isolate them (Maoists) only by solving the problems of advisasis and by protecting their life and the culture,” says land activist PV Rajagopal.
A week after the deadly attack by Maoists in Chhattisgarh that killed the state’s top Congress leaders, including Salwa Judum founder Mahendra Karma and state chief Nand Kumar Patel, the clamour for a ‘tough’ response is only growing. Already, the region is seeing an escalation in military operations.
Rajagopal, who led the Jan Satyagraha movement for land rights last year which resulted in the setting up of a task force to draft a national land reform policy, says fighting the “symptoms” will not solve the crisis.
Firstpost spoke to Rajagopal, who is a member of the government task force on land reform, on what the government’s strategy should be in tackling left-wing extremism, why it has failed all these years and what the heart of the conflict is.
Excerpts from the interview:
After last week’s attack by Maoists on political leaders in Chhattisgarh, the government has talked about changing its strategy in dealing with left-wing extremism.
I have always been asking the government to change its strategy. I have been telling them that this is not a problem that the Army and the police can solve. Civil society as a whole should be involved in finding a solution to the problem.
Secondly, the government is only looking at the symptom. They don’t want to discuss the root cause. As long as they only continue to fight the symptom, the root cause is not going to change.
Violence is the symptom emerging out of mis-governance, lack of resources in the hands of the poor and the adivasis, exploitation of resources by large number of companies.
I expect the government to change its strategy but not in terms of sending more military or police but by including civil society organisations, Gandhian organisations, to understand the problem and deal with it.
I think young people need to be trained to begin with, to understand that all problems can be solved non-violently and that non-violence is also an effective tool.
If government officials are not sensitised to respond to the problems of the people, this problem will continue to remain like this. So I think a radical shift in the attitude is something that is very welcome. But which way the shift will happen is the question.
Are laws to protect tribals being effectively implemented?
I think there are many Acts that the government should look into when they are working in tribal areas. The Wildlife Protection Act and the Mines and Minerals Act, put together have displaced a large number of people. So these Acts need to be reviewed. They are affecting the tribal people negatively.
The government needs to effectively implement the Forest Rights Act (FRA), Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act (PESA), Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. These three Acts protect the adivasis.
Effective implementation of the FRA, PESA and SC& ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act and review of the Mines and Minerals Act, the Wildlife Protection Act from a pro-poor, pro-adivasi perspective will help in a big way.
What is at the heart of the conflict?
The conflict is between tribal life, their culture, their resources and the need to extract all their resources to make money. The profit-making process, the indiscriminate grabbing of resources from the adivasi area and disrespecting their culture and life has resulted in this problem in a big way.
And on the other hand, some young people, who believe that through violence they can bring about change, are taking advantage of this situation. The distress of adivasis can be used by people who believe that they can bring about change through violence. So distress of the adivasis needs to be addressed so that people who believe in violence cannot move in. You can isolate them (Maoists) only by solving the problem of advisasis, protecting their life and culture.
What is your appeal to the government?
My first appeal is that the Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh, taking moral responsibility for what has happened, should step down. That will send a good a message.
From the central government, I expect that they will stop this talk of more military and more police, but concentrate on how to solve this problem by involving other parties as well. The military and police have tried their hand for many years now. There is nothing new in this. It is being done for the last 20 years. We need civil society members to come in and help us. That is what I expect from the Central government.
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Updated Date: May 31, 2013 10:36:08 IST