Nobody Cares About The Tribals or Our Jawans

April 07, 2010
Deepti Lamba

The war between the Naxals and the government of India looks like an 80s film script where the browbeaten common man picks up the rifle against the corrupt cop, zamindar or the politician. The only difference is that the bloodshed is real and while the nation understands the cry for basic human rights the means of protest is unacceptable.

The death of 75 jawans by the Naxals reflects the grim reality that the government has no grassroots intelligence in the area and their militiary tactics are ill thought. The use of air power in a Bush-style shock and awe campaign in the sultry forests would probably be as sucessful as the US air raids in Afghanistan where despite assurances, the collateral damage is far more than the successful routing out of Taliban.

In the past, the notorious thugs of Chambal like Gabbar Singh, Amritlal and Sripalal etc were routed out not only because of the bravery of the constables and their officers but due to the courage of the common man who had faith in the local government machinery and thus gave timely information about the whereabouts of the dacoits.

Back in the fifties and sixties, the dacoits hold over the villagers in the Ghats was terror based and currently the Naxals hold over the tribals is ideology based which is mainly grounded in the alienation of the tribals by the apathetic corrupt local bureaucracy and police force.

On the heels of our esteemed home minister's visit to the Naxal stronghold came a tragedy of horrific proportions where 75 jawans of the CRPF were slaughtered in Dantewada, showing that hard words and guns cannot be the entire solution.

Apart from fighting the Naxals, the tribal grievances should be addressed, fair trials should be held against those charged with exploitation and basic human rights such as clean water, electricity, housing and schools should be provided to them.
Instead of fighting over where the buck stops the center and state governments need to chalk out comprehensive plans to deal with the malaise and provide better support to our jawans. As B Raman notes in his sage analysis, this is not just about more aggressive or effective counter-insurgency,

This is not the first incident of butchery of the security forces in the history of our counter-insurgency operations. This will not be the last unless and until we realize that counter-insurgency is not only about putting down violence against the State and Society, but also about making resort to violence unnecessary by addressing the problems and grievances of the tribals.

It would be very easy to dismiss the Maoist insurgency as the political manipulation of illiterate or semi-literate tribals by Maoist ideologues from cities to achieve political power through the barrel of the gun. Yes, there is an element of cynical political manipulation of the tribals by many city-bred Maoist ideologues.

But the claim of political manipulation alone cannot explain how hundreds and hundreds of tribals are flocking to the banners of the Maoists. Intense anger over the failures of successive Governments to recognize and address their problems are driving them to heed the calls of the ideologues to massacre their perceived class enemies. Unless and until we have a two-pronged approach to the problem---better counter-insurgency to put down violence and better governance and administration to remove the exploitation of the tribals by the non-tribals and improve their quality of life, blood will continue to flow in the jungles and roads of the tribal homelands in Central India.

The British suppressed thuggery with a firm hand and also benevolent resident adminstrators in the far-flung areas as pointed out by K F Rustamji in The British, The Bandits and The Bordermen. Nehru, for his part, established the Indian Frontier Adminstration Service to provide direct interaction with Andaman and North East tribals. Perhaps we need a new committed force constituted of able and committed bureaucrats, fair security administrators and educated tribal representatives for a multi-modal mission of restoration. Let us move to Reconstruction and circumvent the Civil War.

dee.jpgDeepti Lamba is an author, besides editing at Desicritics
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