Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Naxalism and Development - Changing Prespectives.

To me Naxalism was evil – out and out evil. As a school going kid, my head was filled with stories of the then Naxalite violence in North Kerala, culminating in the attack of police stations and the horrible images of the bloody palm imprints left behind as a warning and a statement on the walls by the violent outfit.

I think I am right when I say that these are the images most middle class Keralites of my generation have lived with for a long long time. Naxalism was a bad word for them. Like me, perhaps, they too half condoned Rajan’s murder in police custody during the Emergency. Conditionally, of course - if indeed he was a Naxalite, a terrorist who, if let loose, would challenge the right to existence of many a citizen in the name of ideology.

But, while I still condemn the modus operandi of the Naxalites, a qualitative change has been coming over my approach to the larger picture. And I think this is true of many Kerlaites like me, who, in the course of their lives, have been shaken out of their smug existence by some factor or the other.

Strangely enough, it happened rather late in the day for me. Misgivings began to adulterate my unqualified condemnation of Naxalism after I read Draupadi by Mahaswetha Devi in the late nineties. I remember being both ashamed and horrified that I and my likes were totally ignorant of a reality about India both tragic and scary, the two epithets suggesting themselves for different reasons – ‘tragic’ ‘cos most of us are basically socialists and humanitarians, and ‘scary’ ‘cos of our strong self preservation instinct.

I see netizens going hammer and tongs after Arundathi Roy on account of her views expressed on the Naxalites/Maoists issue on Karan Tharpar’s Devil’s Advocate programme. But is everything she said wholly untrue? I do not see her position as a justification of violence, if read in context. I don’t find anything objectionable in her observation that Maoism is something that should not have happened in the frst place, but since it did, it should be dealt with, without turning a blind eye to the soil that gave birth to this terrible movement. Social analysts cum activists like her are corrective agencies in an order that is struggling to come to terms with the ‘other India’, which had been neglected till now. She is raising her voice against the behaviour therapy approach of the government, which leaves the basic, imbedded problem untouched.

I cannot, however, agree with this particular observation of Ms Roy:

Roy, in a debate on CNN-IBN last week, had alleged that the government was a planning a war on Maoists to take away their resources on behalf of the multi-national companies.
“The real fact is--and I believe this--that it is the Government that wants a war to clear out the forest areas because there is a huge backlog of MoUs in Jharkhand as well as Chhattisgarh that are not being activated,” she had said.

I don't believe it. I do not want to believe it. I refuse to be so cynical. I believe that the government is thinking of a military solution, as it has no choice except to take up arms against those who have taken up arms against the citizens of India.

Having said that, I’d like to note down my anxiety that the root cause of unrest continues to go unaddressed. The New Indian Express carried this story on Oct 26.
The woes of evictees are usually dismissed as the birth pangs of development, except during election time. The people who were evicted for the Vallarpadam International container Trasnshipment Terminal project have been homeless for about 2 years now
It is in this dismissive attitude couched in the rhetoric of development in which the victims of progress are explained away as necessary evil (birthpangs), that the government takes refuge from its own conscience. The duplicity of the powers that be (as evidenced in referring to the issue during election time only) betrays a deliberate lack of political will to address the ramifications of development and the fate of those thrown out of their homes in its name.The very menclature ‘development’ then obviously becomes a misnomer.

The newspaper story continues to highlight how, though the govt had issued pattayams for the lands long back, no infrastructure development has been done so far.
The government has not so far given approval for roads, water supply and electricity connection to the proposed site.

The Vallarpadam acquisition is hailed as the model acquisition where the relocation of displaced population was not retarded! But the truth of the matter is, with the issuing of pattayams, the government very cleverly got the obstacle to progress called the ‘locals’ out of the way and then callously left them to fend for themselves - for two years now in unlivable conditions. These are people who were eking out a decent livelihood for themselves till they were thrown to the streets in the name of development.

The collateral damages of development! This is the soil where Naxalism strikes root.

This is one such case only. India Incorporated is snatching away the ‘other India’s’ food, shelter and livelihood. And the government appears to be generous with the MNCs but helpless in fending for these victims who pay the price for development and who, therefore, are getting angrier, hungrier and frustrated by the day.

The government must get its act together. It should shake itself out of the denial mode. A major policy change is required to deal with this frightening situation. The corporates for whom the people are evicted must compulsorily be made to resettle the dislocated people. It should be binding on them to build up infrastructure in the new sites chosen for relocating the dislocated; livelihood must be offered to at least one person in the uprooted family in the form of employment. All these conditions must be satisfied before they are allowed to lay the foundation stone for their project.

Also, when the government draws up the budget for a mega development project, it must factor in the cost of rehabilitation of those affected by the project (I do not know if it is done that way), and simultaneous with the execution of the project, the process of rehabilitation too must be carried out.

Why should one section of the Indian population pay for the comfort of another section?

Are not all Indians, be it the tribals or the BPL population, equal in terms of their inalienable rights?

A nation built on the backs of the poor cannot sustain itself. The tears of the deprived will prove to be a dangerous curse to India.

1 comment:

  1. When every corporate entity is trying to increase the value for its shareholders, growth beyond a point becomes cancer (which I heard in recent times and I find applicable to a whole lot of situations). And there is no cure for the same. There is only one way of treating them. Naxalism
    may be that way.

    I don't condone the violence of any form. But when they lose their livelihood, when everyone turns their back denying even the basic amenities, when everyone snatches away their "lives", should they try Satyagraha? Even if Gandhiji could not have worked it out now.

    I appreciate your concerns and really appreciate the post. But I didn't love the post. Pls don't ask me why. :)


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