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Ad war against Maoists: Ads will not stop village violence

Posted by Admin on September 22, 2009

PIC FROM VIZAG--- Two posters, part of the publicity campaign launched  by the district police against the CPI (Maoist) and to wean away Girijans from naxalites.

PIC FROM VIZAG--- Two posters, part of the publicity campaign launched by the district police against the CPI (Maoist) and to wean away Girijans from naxalites.

Hong Kong, China — “Naxals are nothing but cold-blooded murderers” said an advertisement published in the Indian media on Sunday. The advertisement was issued by the government of India as part of its advanced campaign against the “Naxal menace” in the country.

To add authenticity, the advertisement carried seven pictures of women, children and men killed by the Naxalites, along with the identities and other details of the victims.

The Naxal movement in India is rooted in the government’s failure to guarantee the basic norms of a democratic state to a large section of the country’s population, particularly in rural areas and remote villages. This explains why the Naxalite movement is mainly spread across the remotest villages.

Many such villages are home to various tribal groups. These communities depend upon forest and agricultural produce for their survival. Owing to negligent government policies and the drastic exploitation of natural and forest resources, with complete disregard for the population that depended upon these products for hundreds of generations, large sections of the rural population have lost both their habitat and their means of survival.

Voices of protest, and even requests by the native population for consultations with the government, have faced not just rejection but stiff oppression. State government-sponsored development programs implemented in Chhattisgarh state for the past six years are one example. Natural resources like river water and forest lands were sold to private corporations, which immediately wanted the original inhabitants of the land to vacate it so they could commence mining. Thousands of hectors of forest land have been destroyed irreparably.

Government policy on mining is spelled out in the National Mining Policy released in April, 2008. But the policy aims at boosting national development through mining and disregards completely the concerns and welfare of the original inhabitants of the land.

Multinational players like De Beers of South Africa and the Anglo-Australian mining company Rio Tinto, which have invested heavily in mining operations in India, have shady human rights records and shoddy environmental practices. Accepting tenders from corporations with deplorable records and supporting their activities using state resources stands proof to the government’s lack of commitment to the people.

Left with no means to survive and their original habitats rapidly being depleted, the rural populations in the country have increasingly become vulnerable to exploitation by landlords and corrupt politicians. Exploitation often takes the shape of bonded labor, a practice criminalized in laws that are hardly enforced.

Police and other state agencies, like the forest department, are easily bought over by landlords owing to the widespread corruption in the system. In frustration, the oppressed populations fall prey to extremist ideologies like those promoted and professed by the Naxalites, finding in them a means of fighting back.

Such fights, of varying intensity, have spread to an alarmingly large area of the country. Unfortunately, the government response has been equally violent, resulting in murders and widespread loss of property.

Lopsided and religiously colored defense tactics – like the formation of the “Salwa Judum” and other village defence forces – have resulted either in standoffs between government-backed forces like the Judum and the Naxalites or in combat, in which lives are lost on both sides.

In these fights atrocities have been committed by both sides, as would be the case in any unregulated war where might and connivance make right. Hundreds of policemen have lost their lives or been seriously injured in these wars; a similar number of Naxalites have also been killed or injured. This is in addition to the large number of innocent persons killed by both sides because of mere accusations and suspicion.

Worst of all is the number of innocent persons killed in fake “encounter killings” organized by government agencies. Men and women are killed almost daily by state agencies in the name of fighting Naxalism. Such murders are in no way different from those highlighted by the government in its advertisement. They are equally coldblooded and criminal. However, so far not a single such case has been investigated or the perpetrators punished.

Violence is rarely one-sided. Like the Naxalites, the government too has no moral or legal ground in resorting to violence. In fact, the government has a higher responsibility to prevent violence against innocent persons, in particular by state agencies and entities like the Judum that receive direct and indirect government support.

Combating violence has to begin within government agencies. Strict action must be taken against state agents, in particular officers of the police force and the forest department, who commit crimes against innocent civilians. But so far no such action has been taken.

In addition there must be a credible and transparent mechanism to listen to the grievances of people caught in the crossfire, and a policy of welcoming armed civilian combatants, including the Naxalites, to surrender and be reintegrated into society.

Through its advertisement the government has made its position clear – it will not tolerate Naxalite violence. The question is, will it take the same position toward violence committed by its own agencies? If not, the advertisement could only be viewed as a facade for extrajudicial executions in an attempt to hoodwink the population.UPIASIA


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