Tuesday, November 03, 2009

The "Greatest Threat to India's Internal Security" !!??

The Prime Minister of India, Dr Manmohan Singh had recently - and even earlier - described the Naxalites/Maoists as the "the greatest internal security threat to our country”.

This 95-page document says something just the opposite. Some excerpts:

  • "India is today proudly proclaiming an above 9 per cent growth rate and striving to achieve double digit growth. But it is a matter of common observation that the inequalities between classes, between town and country, and between the upper castes and the underprivileged communities are increasing. That this has potential for tremendous unrest is recognized by all. But somehow policy prescriptions presume otherwise. As the responsibility of the State for providing equal social rights recedes in the sphere of policymaking, we have two worlds of education, two worlds of health, two worlds of transport and two worlds of housing, with a gaping divide in between. With globalisation of information, awareness of opportunities and possible life styles are spreading but the entitlements are receding. The Constitutional mandate (Article 39) to prevent concentration of wealth in a few hands is ignored in policy making. The directional shift in Government policies towards modernisation and mechanisation, export orientation, diversification to produce for the market, withdrawal of various subsidy regimes and exposure to global trade has been an important factor in hurting the poor in several ways....(p. 8)"

  • "Much of the unrest in society, especially that which has given rise to militant movements such as the Naxalite movement, is linked to lack of access to basic resources to sustain livelihood... (p. 18)"

  • "The development paradigm pursued since independence has aggravated the prevailing discontent among marginalised sections of society. This is because the development paradigm as conceived by the policy makers has always been imposed on these communities, and therefore it has remained insensitive to their needs and concerns, causing irreparable damage to these sections. The benefits of this paradigm of development have been disproportionately cornered by the dominant sections at the expense of the poor, who have borne most of the costs. Development which is insensitive to the needs of these communities has invariably caused displacement and reduced them to a sub-human existence. (p. 36)."

  • "There are also large areas of labour not governed by the Minimum Wages Act. This includes categories where there is no discernible employer, which is for this reason included in the category of self-employment. Since the Naxalites are in any case not bothered whether or not there is a law governing the right they are espousing, they have intervened and determined fair wage rates in their perception in all labour processes in their areas of influence. This includes wages for washing clothes, making pots, tending cattle, repairing implements, etc. Naxalites have secured increases in the rate of payment for the picking of tendu leaf which is used for rolling beedies, in the forest areas of Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Maharashtra, and Jharkhand. This was a very major source of exploitation of adivasi labour, and while the Government knowingly ignored it, the Naxalites put an effective end to it. (p.57)."

  • "However, the Naxalite movement has to be recognised as a political movement with a strong base among the landless and poor peasantry and adivasis. Its emergence and growth need to be contextualised in the social conditions and experience of people who form a part of it. The huge gap between state policy and performance is a feature of these conditions. Though its professed long term ideology is capturing state power by force, in its day to day manifestation it is to be looked upon as basically a fight for social justice, equality, protection and local development. The two have to be seen together without overplaying the former. Its geographical spread is rooted in failure to remove the conditions which give rise to it (p 66-67)."

  • "The public policy perspective on the naxalite movement is overwhelmingly preoccupied with the incidents of violence that take place in these areas and its ideological underpinnings. Though it does concede that the area suffers from deficient development and people have unaddressed grievances, it views the movement as the greatest internal security threat to the country. Accordingly, the attention of the Government is concentrated on curbing violence and maintaining public order to achieve normalcy. While area development is also being speeded up, the security-centric view of the movement accords primacy to security operations. The contextualization of this violence is missing from this perspective. The scale, intensity and approach of security operations cause considerable collateral damage leading to greater alienation of common people. The strategy of security forces to curb violence has also encouraged formation of tribal squads to fight naxalites, with a view to reducing the security force’s own task and risk. This has promoted a fratricidal war in which tribals face the brunt of mortality and injury.(p. 83)"

  • "The government’s Status Paper on the Naxal problem appropriately mentions a holistic approach and lays emphasis on accelerated socio-economic development of the backward areas. However, clause 4 (v) of the Status Paper states that “there will be no peace dialogue by the affected states with the Naxal groups unless the latter agree to give up violence and arms”. This is incomprehensible and is inconsistent with the government’s stand vis-à-vis other militant groups in the country.... The government has been conducting peace talks with the Naga rebels of the NSCN (IM) faction for the last nearly ten years, even though the rebels have not only not surrendered their weapons but continue to build up their arsenal. What is worse, the NSCN (IM) have taken advantage of the peaceful conditions to consolidate their hold and establish what could be called almost a parallel government. In relation to ULFA also, the government is prepared to have a dialogue without insisting on the insurgents surrendering their weapons. In J & K, the government has more than once conveyed its willingness to hold talks with any group which is prepared to come to the negotiating table. Why a different approach to the Naxals? The doors of negotiations should be kept open. (p 67-68)"

    ...and before one concludes that this must be some propaganda material, or writings of some "bleeding-heart liberal/intellectual", I must also share that these exerpts are from a Planning Commission Expert Groups Report, entitled "Development Challenges in Extremist Areas, which was submitted to GOI in 2008. The document can be downloaded from:

    This document was either not read by the Home Minister, or was just shoved aside for a trade-off, since as the Prime Minister told the parliament on June 9th, '09: "...if Left Wing extremism continues to flourish in important parts of our country which have tremendous natural resources of minerals and other precious things, that will certainly affect the climate for investment.'

    ... In the meanwhile, from 51 maoist-naxal affected districts in 2001, India has now 231 districts in the category (out of 640 or so)...

    Related Posts:
  • My "Encounters" with Maoists/ Naxals
  • A Rich Nation of Poor People
  • East is East, and West and West...