Naxal victims must be rehabilitated on priority basis
by R Kashyap on 18 Dec 2011 2 Comments

Naxalism is a stifling political ideology. It rejects, in fact challenges, the nation’s socio-economic system and refuses to engage with the polity. It ravages the life of common people in Naxal-affected areas. The Naxal movement has long since lost any moral paradigm it may once have had as there is no legitimacy in the rage it expresses against the system, which has over the decades become responsive to the aspirations of hitherto marginal groups. In such an open polity, there is no case for violence and brutality, either against the poor local populations the Naxals claim to represent and lead, or against the State and its representatives.

Today, Naxals are focusing on gaining control over swathes of territory rich in minerals and natural resources. In the process, these so-called revolutionaries against the Indian State are literally crushing the hapless and innocent tribal populations in the regions where they operate. So far, the plight of these innocent victims has not become the primary concern of either the State or Central governments, a situation that urgently cries for rectification.

New Delhi has now launched an integrated action plan for the 60 most seriously affected Naxal-infested districts in 10 states over the next five years. Under this, each district will receive Rs. 25 crore/year for the next five years for investment in water, power, and roads. The programmes will be directly supervised, controlled, and executed by the district collector, in order to ensure that the benefits reach the grassroots.

This is all very well, but what the Government really needs to do is to evolve a multi-pronged approach where security is the primary concern. The area-dominance method of the paramilitary forces must be replaced with an integrated approach to security by bringing the paramilitary forces and State police together.

Society must play an important role in this security paradigm, as it is simply not possible to defeat an insurgency without the active participation of the local population. The locals are the backbone and cornerstone of any anti insurgency operation. They are the key source of information, hence mutual confidence between the forces and the population may lead to a flow of intelligence. Such a relationship can be built up only if the police force is regarded by locals as efficient and professional and honest. Here, the government and people’s representatives and local opinion leaders will have to take the initiative.

Infrastructure is the key to development. In Naxal-infested areas, the requisite infrastructure will have to be created through integrated planning. This means an institutional setup with better police stations, well connected roads, electricity, schools, and agricultural/commercial infrastructure. Various government social welfare schemes must focus on creating infrastructure which helps in improving the quality of life of the people and helps sustain growth.

This infrastructure must be enduring, if it is to have an impact. Village roads being built through MNREGA/NREGA, for instance, should not disappear in a single monsoon as is the experience in a number of places. Naxal areas need investment in a graded manner, with safer areas being developed incrementally by building infrastructure which will help in increasing the income of people. This will help the government to create opportunities for employment and growth and discourage the youth from joining the Naxals.

An urgent imperative is the rehabilitation of affected people in Naxal-ravaged areas, which has been largely neglected so far. The victims deserve a life of dignity and it is the duty of the State to restore their shattered lives. Thus, besides financial compensation, the State must look into the issues related to the proper rehabilitation of the people.

This may require the creation of new townships; if so, this must be done. The sufferings of the people cannot be neglected on the plea that the State of tackling the Naxal menace; both tasks are equally urgent, and must be addressed in equal measure. No one knows how long the battle with Naxals will last; we cannot leave generations hanging until they are wiped out or defeated. Naxals anyway exploit the people to fuel their wars against the State; they are weakened in proportion to the State winning over the people and denying them shelter, protection, or fresh recruits. Thus, each rehabilitated person is one potential Naxal less. Rehabilitation is anyway the right of the people and the duty of the State.

Naxalism cripples normal life in its hinterland, pushing the region into the shadow of violence, fear, and lack of growth opportunities. The lack of opportunity is then cited to fuel anger against the State and its local representatives, who become the targets of rage. Hence the Centre should not lose any time in rehabilitating those who have lost their homes and hearth and been forced to migrate due to the violence.

The national media needs to perceive the victims of Naxalist violence at par with the victims of any violent political movement or communal incident. They deserve empathy and support, especially because long years of persecution while living in conflict-ridden zones have also affected their psychological health and ability to rehabilitate themselves. Development of Naxal-dominated areas therefore, needs to be done on a preferential basis to instill confidence in the people.

Tomorrow, victims of Naxalism from Orissa, Bihar, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh are coming to Jantar Mantar, New Delhi, in the hope of drawing the nation’s attention to their plight. One hopes the government will not turn a deaf ear to their grief.

The author is a keen observer of anti-Naxal operations in various theatres; the views expressed are personal 

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