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Home > National Interest vs People’s Interest : A space for social movements > India: The Path to a Conflict-Free Chhattisgarh

India: The Path to a Conflict-Free Chhattisgarh

by Nandini Sundar, 5 February 2012

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Forbes India Magazine, Jan 26, 2012

Contrary to the dominant narrative that areas where Naxalites are strong are where the state has been absent, for the last 100-150 years, there has been a gradual expansion of the state in tribal areas regardless of whether the people want it or not. However, the state has been expanding in the wrong areas. You have an extension of the forest department, the bureaucracy, the patwari and the forest guard. But at the same time there is no state presence in the form of school teachers, healthcare workers and other services.

The problem here is that the state only wants to take a military approach towards ending Naxalism. This will not work as it has been proven in the case of Kashmir and the North East. It may have ‘worked’ in Punjab, but that was because the people were already alienated from the militants. The criterion of success is also debatable because of the grave violations of human rights. In terms of a constitutional approach to conflict resolution, I wouldn’t say that was an approach that worked.

This attitude [of the government] is reflected in the CRPF [Central Reserve Police Force] programme of winning the hearts and minds of the people, as part of which the paramilitary gifts people lungis and saris. Ironically, the CRPF personnel beat up people if they don’t accept the gifts and people laugh as they recount this.

In Chhattisgarh, in the areas where Maoists are strong, there is no voting in the villages, and many of the sarpanches have joined the Salwa Judum. So, when development work is routed through the sarpanches, it has no relationship to anything on the ground. The sarpanches don’t even live in the villages, and invent paper schemes in collusion with the block officer. It’s a fantasy of development where the paperwork looks good, but no one’s heart or mind is being won. Much of this is also being shown for roadside villages which were never Judum-affected or Maoist-influenced in the first place, so that the figures look good. But the real areas that are affected remain unaddressed.

The only way to proceed towards establishing peace in Chhattisgarh is to start on the plank of justice. [. . .]