Saturday, July 07, 2007

Rebels are robin hoods - Public has more faith in Naxalites than rotten police force

They arrest motorcycle thieves, treat patients, investigate rapes and murders, punish students cheating in examinations, pressure traders to give farmers better prices and help build roads. These are anti-India militants, not government officials.

Even as they fight gunbattles with the security forces, send grenades and bullets in the mail to threaten people and extort hundreds of crores of rupees, militants in many parts of India are doing what officials should have done.

Officials acknowledge that the trend is a reflection of the deep-rooted failure of the civil administration, police and justice system in these areas, where insurgent groups are taking advantage of the vacuum to spread their influence.

"People are going to the Underground to resolve disputes — in most parts of the state," said Yumnam Joykumar, Manipur’s director general of police. "Underground elements can give you instant justice, whether correct or not," Joykumar told the Hindustan Times. "We have to change the judicial system to make it more effective so that people have more trust in it."

Hundreds of kilometres to the west in Jharkhand’s East Singhbhum district, Sal forests dominate the lush green expanse and villagers collect and sell its leaves, which are used to make pattals (leaf plate).

But traders were fleecing villagers for years, giving them only Rs 23 per 1,000 leaves. The government had not revised the rates, apparently due to powerful traders’ lobbies.

This year, Naxalites put up posters that traders would henceforth pay Rs 75 per 1,000 leaves. Compliance was immediate.

"So now, no contractor is paying less than the new prices. People are thrilled. Earlier, if they got Rs. 100 a day, they now get 300 a day," said a government official, declining to be named.

Hindustan Times

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