Last week I read Arundhati Roy's lengthy article about her experience of living with naxals in the dense forests of Dandakaranya in Central India. It was rather a well written one with emphasis on justifying the naxal movement and the reasons for the same. AR, a known rebel can't be expected to write anything different! When I read that article I really developed a soft corner for the naxals as these write-ups completely portrays their side of the story- lack of development, displacement of tribals citing development and large scale corruption in the government. We need to have the other side to take a balanced view onthe issue. Having said that what caught my attention was the lifestyle of the people who live in this forests. They lead a simple life with no material comforts. If your part of the naxal movement then these people lead a nomadic life walking tens of kilometres almost daily. Inspite of the governments operation green hunt, AR claims that life remains as normal as possible within the naxal controlled areas and they even celebrate tribal festivalsin a big way with the forces no where in picture. This point opens up an impoprtant aspect of government controlled territories and naxal controlled territories.
With the jungle topopgraphy in their fingertips and grass root level support it is going to be very difficult for the government forces to successfully overcome them. The other thing to note from the article is that the naxal movement is led by people who are not tribals but who are more of hardcore communists from Andhra region. With naxal movement highly restricted in the last few years in Andhra these leaders have moved to central India with a dream to create an egalitarian society in the tribal heartland. This movement is going to be difficult for the government to contain with the raising income disparities in our country.
Knowing our country and the people there is no doubt there would have been large-scale exploitation but that should not justify this armed struggle.
There should be a peaceful agitation or campaigning but resorting to killing of police and para military forces is not going to help.
The whole country is interested in the region because it has abundance of mineral resources and India needs it desperately to grow its steel and other businesses.
There are bigger names involved in this region like Posco and Arcelor Mittal who have planned a combined investment of USD80 billion.
This is too big an anount to let go but at the same time we should not treat our own people as second class citizens in order to please mnc steel behemoths.
There should be an all party convened to discuss this issue in the national interest.
What we should do?
People like Arundathi Roy who campaigns vehemently against violence should lead this campaign from the front. She can take up the cause of tribals and bring in like minded intellectuals like Shabina Azmi, javed Akthar and others to spread the message of non violence.
Government should be flexible to accept few of the demands of the tribals immediately to kick start the dialogue.
On a permanent basis the land should be identified for mining and industralisation and sufficient amount of land should be given to tribals to continue with their lives.
One of the police officer mentions to AR that it is the absence of greed which is causing all the problems to the government. Government should install tv sets in every tribal house to get them taste the consumerist life style and in another 5 years time they would all be suypporters of industralisation of the area!!!