Aiding the menace
There is a disturbing pattern in how governance seems to work in our country these days. Substantive problems — widespread and persistent illiteracy, collapse of state authority in Naxal-infested states, trafficking of women, widespread corruption — are ignored. Instead, the instruments of the State take recourse to periodic grandstanding to divert the attention from the real problem on hand. So dance bars are banned in Mumbai but the not the brothels, caste quotas are instituted in place of providing universal primary education. The Chattisgarh government’s Salva Judum anti-Naxalite campaign falls in this wool-over-your-eyes category, but in some ways it is actually worse since it actually aggravates an already serious problem.
If the State has one defining attribute, it is that of inflicting legal organised violence. But Chattisgarh has, with the active encouragement of the Union Home Ministry, allowed a motely crew of private individuals to unleash war on the Maoists in the state. According to estimates, this has led to a sharp escalation of violence in which the hapless tribals have been ground between the stones of Maoists and the state-sponsored militia. Tens of thousands of people displaced now live in some 27 state-run camps. By creating conditions in which non-combatants are being pushed into harm’s way, the state is abdicating its own role in fighting the Maoists. Regrouping villages is a tactic tried out in Malaysia and Vietnam. It is more brutal than ineffective and in the case of Chattisgarh, is being applied with characteristic incompetence, leaving the villagers with no livelihood and hence prey to Maoist recruitment. The reason why the British won in Malaya in the Fifties was not because of the forced relocation of villages, but because they successfully turned the majority Malay community against the minority Chinese, who formed the core of the communist guerilla movement.
The issue of Maoist violence and its spread in several Indian states is a serious matter. There is no doubt that it has to be tackled urgently. It requires good governance, employment opportunities and an effective law and order machinery. Needless to say, all this is easier said than done. But one thing is certain, responsibility for the task rests firmly with the government — at the state level and the Centre — not the hapless villagers.