GOVERNMENT NEEDS TO TAKE A PROACTIVE ROLE IN HANDLING NAXALITES AMIDST THE PANDEMIC
Updated: Feb 2
On the 4th of April, 22 security personnel were killed and 32 were wounded in a deadly confrontation between Naxals and armed forces. Post this incident, the name Madvi Hidma, a Naxalite, was all over the headlines. According to reports, Jawans were lured into a trap set by him in the Bijapur jungles on the basis of false intelligence. Around 400 insurgents surrounded the Jawans from three sides, resulting in the worst Naxal assault in four years.
The issue of Naxalism and Maoism has long posed a threat to the country's internal security. Ministry of Home Affairs stated in response to the recent assault that the government is "determined to bring the ongoing conflict to a logical conclusion."
Hidma, the mastermind behind the attack, is from the Muriya tribe of the Bastar region, as are many other members of this insurgency group. It is because of the tribal people's deep frustration with the state that they have sided with the Naxalites. Even after a decade of confrontation between the Naxalites and the state, no agreement has been reached to end the bloodshed.
The root cause of the problem is that the government introduces programs and development projects without making the tribal people part of it. Tribal people are supportive of the government policies and programs as long as they do not hurt their sentiments and exploit them. It has been witnessed that the politics of development in Bastar excludes the “felt need” of the tribal people which consequently lead to detrimental developments (Narayan, 2015).
Even if leaders like Hidma are killed or captured, someone else will take their places and therefore, ‘a bullet for a bullet’ should not be the policy here. The need of the hour is to dissuade native tribal from joining the Naxals. Once this feat is achieved, they will eventually surrender.
Tana Bhagat, a tribal community from Jharkhand has similar land issues as shared by the tribesman of Chhattisgarh. However, they do not succumb to the Naxal recruitment pressure since they have committed themselves to the Gandhian philosophy. Several incidents suggests, Naxals engagement with them has not been pleasant. In fact, because of their calm and composed nature some of the Naxalites or Maoist have adopted their lifestyle. A large number of Naxalites and Maoists live as Tana Bhagats in the Tandwa of Jharkhand's Chatra district (Narayan, 2015).
While Maoism and Naxalism are issues of law and order, they are primarily a failure of policy and development initiatives that have failed to produce results. Therefore, the first and foremost thing which should be prioritised is employing anthropologists and sociologists for evaluating tribal development programs and to serve as a liaison between policy makers and tribal people. Secondly, the aspirations and fear of tribal people in region of Chhattisgarh must be taken into the consideration before formulating any development strategies in the area.
Thirdly, the administration should pay attention to the Tana Bhagat community's welfare and growth in Jharkhand. Tana Bhagat's holistic approach to life and their practise of ahmisa, satya, and aparigrah are the key to preventing the tribals from joining the Naxals and putting an end to the abuse (Narayan, 2015). Their assistance may be useful in reducing Naxalism in India.
Fourthly, the government must also realise that unless there is an atmosphere of peace, no development and welfare of the tribal people will take place. The atrocities committed by the Salva Judum must be acknowledged and compensation should be given to the affected families. In addition, an independent committee should be established to investigate the widespread corruption and abuse of administrative power in the Chhattisgarh region.
Lastly, considering the current pandemic, state authorities should come forward and offer help to Naxalites with inoculation. Although, there have been instances where the state has come forward to offer help. For instance, Warangal Police Commissioner Tharun Joshi has exclaimed that they are ready to offer treatment if the Maoists approach them.
Because as per the information available, Cadres and top leaders Maoist leaders are infected and are looking for treatment. They are currently using a local courier service to hunt for chances to avail medical supplies. Some Maoists, however, are dissatisfied with the senior authorities' refusal to allow them to obtain drugs and treatment for Covid.
Since Maoists are attempting to find ways to obtain Covid-19 treatment and vaccines, the government should step up and provide them with a secure option to surrender and be vaccinated. Then, this step would effectively establish trust amongst tribal people by denoting that the government is not bloodthirsty and that they are in a position to give the Naxalites a second chance to settle the long-running struggle. Henceforth, these actions will reassure tribal members that the government serves to protect their interests and will help change the situation in the long run.
Narayan, S., 2015. Naxalism and Maoism in India. Gyan Publishing House.
About the author: Pradyumn Mephawat is currently pursuing BBA LLB from Jindal Global Law School. He has a keen interest in history and international relations.
Cover image: Source