"Terrorism And Naxalism : Threat To Democracy Need For Joint Effort In The Region"
I extend a warm welcome to all of you who hold aloft the ideals of democracy in Asia to Chhattisgarh
Chhattisgarh the state was born exactly a decade ago, yet our shared rich vedic culture and tribal heritage have always been a focal point of our identity. On this land, many religions, communities, languages and life-styles have coexisted for centuries. A healthy competition devoid of petty jealousies, spirit of accommodation and belief in our abundant natural resources have unified us in our unique Chhattisgarhia identity. We, the 2.10 crore people of Chhattisgarh feel immense pleasure to find you among us.
Since the beginning of 20th century, the world polity has witnessed two major trends of governance; Democracy and Socialism. The latter split the Union of Soviet Socialist Republic with the contradictions of its own unfulfilled expectations. This prompted China to make drastic adjustments to its socio-economic agenda. Democracy therefore has received better acceptance than ever before; socialist countries too have preferred that path over the iron curtains.
Democracy has resulted in a world economy which is free, arguably fair and widely accepted. The prevalent free economy has raised hopes but has left some areas unaddressed. For the past half a century the world has become acquainted with and slowly subjected to a new phenomenon of Terrorism. Today Asia is facing the biggest challenges from this. Whether here in India, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Middle-east or down south in the Korean peninsula.
India, due to its convenient geographical location, is easily subjected to intrusion of terrorists from all sides, even from sea ! Continuous vigil of thousands and thousands of kms of coast-line and land borders on all sides with Pakistan, China, Bangladesh and Nepal is a supremely difficult task. Despite our best efforts terrorists are able to enter from neighbouring countries and create havoc in our country off and on. This is the problem, not only of India, but also of all those Asian countries that are a part of this historic organization.
Terrorism has exacted a heavy price. On one hand valuable resources are being harnessed to curb terrorism, on the other hand as a result of such harness, these resources are not available for positive developmental works. Fight against poverty, illiteracy, mal-nutrition has also not found the acceleration it actually requires.
We in Chhattisgarh have our troubles with what is another form of terrorism: Naxalism. On November 4, 2004, our Prime Minister had expressed his views in a seminar of Police personnel that tribal areas of Andhra Pradesh in south, to Uttar Pradesh in North, and West Bengal in East are prone to Left inspired terrorism. Naxalism is considered by our Prime Minister to be the single biggest problem, posing threat to our internal security.
You may be aware that Naxalism was born out of an armed rebellion of farmers in naxalbari in 1967 in Northern part of West Bengal. Subsequently many of the armed rebels from Telangana region of our bordering state, took shelter in Bastar after unsuccessful revolt there. The vast forest range spread over an area of forty thousand sq kms where innocent tribal reside proved to be a safe haven. From here, the links of Left fundamentalists with the people of South Bastar were established.
What started as a minor movement in the sixties slowly gripped a large area of Abujhmarh because of years of
neglect by the then government in the ‘80s and ‘90s.
Ironically Naxalites who purportedly fought for the poor and the ignorant Bastariya tribals slowly became agents for exploitation of forest and mining resources. The Left inspired think tank at first did not allow developmental works to be carried out in the name of preservation of tribal heritage. Later their cousins Naxalites took over and would not allow construction of schools, laying roads or joining the national mainstream.
This led to underdevelopment of the region as well. Inspite of being larger in area than the state of Kerala with more than two-third tribal population, no train tracks or proper roads could be laid. On the parameters of infrastructure, Bastar remained very low as compared to national average. From development point of view, this was a big loophole. The state which is covered with more than 50% of forests and where rich medicinal herbs and small forest produce are available, has been neglected alarmingly. A whole generation of tribals had to remain devoid of their land-rights due to discrepancies in Forest Laws and subsequent legal procedures that went on for ages. Thus it has become the fate of such innocent tribals to follow the naxalite dictates. Due to the wide gap with police administration, and administration of law, services could not reach them in real terms.
It is not that tribals have submitted themselves completely to naxals' atrocities. In 1990-91, the public awareness campaign began. Some parts of Kanker and Bastar witnessed revolt against the naxals in the year 1999 and 2005 respectively.
We in Chhattisgarh, have observed closely the adverse propaganda aired by naxals and tried to bring forth their reality before the people. Their refrain of an ongoing class struggle, exploitation and atrocities has been punctured. The truth is, where they have concentrated all their strength in South Bastar there are neither landlord nor landless farmers. Rich and poor tribals live together alike. Their livelihood is based on forest and their own committees purchase the minor forest produce. They share the profit thus earned . Major part of the area being covered with forests, no-one can ever imagine big farmers living there. You can well imagine that where there is no industrialization the bitterness between employers-labourers can hardly arise? False rumours of atrocities by police force is spread whereas the availability of police stations as well as the force is very low as compared with national average. By bringing the reference of SEZ, they want to capture the land of poor tribal farmers. We have consciously made no SEZs in Bastar. Thus there is no question of land acquisition because it is not possible to do either farming or run an industry simultaneously in this verdant area covered by Forest laws which prohibit tree felling .
As a goodwill gesture we have withdrawn thousands of pending cases filed against the tribals for violation of Forest Rights, related to water, forest and land. The residents of forest regions have been handed over 2 lakh 14 thousand authority letters. Free salt, rice on low price and kerosene oil have been provided in the weekly bazaars. The public distribution system has been revamped and modernised and put forth as a model before the country. I will elaborately discuss this matter in tomorrow's session. Ashram shalas for tribal children, mid-day meals in schools, distribution of free study material, nutritious food for pregnant women, mobile clinics, potable water, solar bulbs, distribution of shoes to forest produce collectors; the list of such efforts is long. In brief, the state and central governments have started several schemes and programmes for the welfare of scheduled tribes. Still the adverse propaganda of exploitation with a capital E does not seem to abate !
It reached a point where tribals themselves have strongly countered the adverse propaganda in their own way. Despite getting threats of boycott from naxals during panchayat elections, there was polling to the extent of 80% in some areas. This is our true strength and shows the commitment of forest people of Chhattisgarh towards
democracy ! Inspite of the fact that the naxals are averse to Panchayati Raj institutions and their representatives and do not even hesitate to kill them – the tribal belief in democracy has not been damaged. An ordinary tribal believes in resolving matters through mutual discussions because it is his custom as well as his faith. The naxals are afraid of this positive trend. During the last few occasions, whenever they have come together for restoring communal harmony, the naxal activities have increased. Naxalites
consider democracy as anathema as they would like to
transform the citizens into unquestioning followers.
The Naxalite aim is to establish the supremacy of Left ideals. It is evident from their so called public gatherings that they don't have any respect for law and order. Also it is clear that they want to destroy the creative arts and right to freedom of speech from the grass-root level. For a people who consider religion to be opium of the masses and social institutions as organizations of hatred - what good can be expected. The naxalites who don't miss even a single opportunity to destroy school buildings or kick out school teachers - how can they talk of scientific progress, research or development ? It is their attempt to turn the clock back to dark ages and that we are committed to oppose.
We are sitting today in this august house—the state’s supreme panchayat – Vidhansabha which is completely and unequivocally united against naxal terrorism. We had discussed this matter in a confidential meeting here. Simultaneously, the results of debate are implemented from time to time. In this fight, the morale of citizens and security forces is high. We continuously try to awaken the conscience of those people who have treaded a misguided path.
Intellectuals and NGOs can play an effective role in tackling naxalism. People who prefer to remain away from active politics can also make that area as their workplace through religious or social engagement. The youth should be encouraged to come forward in village panchayats and councils. They should be prompted to associate with social issues in particular. The youth need to be engaged positively or they would fall prey to active naxalite
Tackling naxalism may not be entirely possible without active cooperation between our countries. While exchange of Intelligence and extradition treaties have their own importance, efforts should be made to strengthen the faith of people in democracy and its institutions. The democratic principles established for safeguarding human values and good governance for all, have to be preserved. All should get timely justice without any discrimination, no one should remain hungry, distressed or exploited and everyone should be encouraged to ensure their participation in democratic activities. The borders of countries should be completely sealed for criminals, masterminds and anti-democratic people while remaining open free movement of commerce and ideas. In our Vedas, it has rightly been mentioned,^vk uk Hknzk% d`.koUrks ;Urq fo'or%*] which means that good people, good thoughts and good deeds should have access to every nook and corner of the globe.