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Congress General secretary Digvijay Singh against Maoist drive

Posted by Admin on October 25, 2009

Digvijay against Maoist drive

New Delhi, Oct. 24: As the Centre gears for its anti-Maoist offensive, debate and scepticism continue in the Congress.

General secretary Digvijay Singh is the latest to publicly express fears that Operation Green Hunt may end up as a war against “our own people” if not backed up with socio-economic and legislative measures to improve tribals’ plight.

He has emphasised the disconnect between the administration and the people living in Maoist zones, and pointed to the exploitation that drove the tribals into the rebels’ arms.

Digvijay’s views, expressed through a newspaper article, reflect the deep disquiet in the party at the home ministry’s muscle-flexing. Sources revealed that Ajit Jogi, former chief minister of Maoist heartland Chhattisgarh, too had written to the Prime Minister and Sonia Gandhi expressing similar doubts.

Jogi has been a vocal critic of the Salwa Judum (anti-Maoist vigilantes) experiment in Chhattisgarh and believes the rebels cannot be defeated without first winning over the villagers sympathetic to them. Digvijay too has written about his experiences in Bastar, detailing how the government has vacated the space for the armed mercenaries.

Many Congress leaders privately express surprise why the subject was not debated at an appropriate party forum when senior leaders were expressing their doubts through letters and newspaper articles.

That the debate is continuing in the party despite the Prime Minister’s assertion that the problem cannot be solved through bullets and a nuanced approach is being worked out demonstrates widespread misgivings about P. Chidambaram’s articulation of the government’s intentions.

Many Congress leaders argue the Centre too is alive to the need for a comprehensive, multi-pronged approach but add that a correct message has somehow not been sent across.

Digvijay, who was Madhya Pradesh chief minister for two terms when Chhattisgarh was part of that state, mentions how he was told that “Naxalites were being totally supported by the villagers”. Tribals in south Bastar told him that officials harassed them by day and the Maoists did so by night.

“Now it appears that (the) Naxalites have either won over the confidence of the tribals over the years or the government has totally moved out of the affected area,” he writes.

He argues that the Salwa Judum could not succeed because the Chhattisgarh government treated Maoism as only a law-and-order problem. He cited the example of Andhra Pradesh, where Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy launched an offensive along with land distribution, land reforms and other pro-poor steps.

“The Andhra government could instil a sense of confidence and a sense of belonging among the forest dwellers and tribals who were earlier at the mercy of the Naxalites. We see the results now. There is comparatively more peace in AP than… in Chhattisgarh, Orissa and Jharkhand,” he writes.

The need, he says, is to build confidence among the tribals by giving them land rights through changes to forest, mining and land acquisition laws and by implementing panchayat extension in tribal areas.

He, however, agrees that the Maoists must lay down arms and that no elected government can allow them to carry weapons illegally. TT


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