RaGa and Bastar region

Nitya Chakraborty

Now that the Congress has won convincingly in the state assembly elections in Chhattisgarh and formed the Government after fifteen years of rule by the BJP headed by Dr. Raman Singh, the time has come for the Congress leadership at both state and central level to take up real dialogue with the Naxalites and make sincere efforts to go into the root of the problem of violence in the affected districts.
The course is not easy and it needs patience and earnestness to deal wit this delicate issue which has been bleeding the state since its formation. Rahul Gandhi has got an opportunity to project himself as a real defender of the rights of the poor and the tribals if he focuses on this issue at his party level and instructs the new Congress government to take initial steps to create a congenial environment for dialogue. The process should start right now and already there is the example of West Bengal where the Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee successfully neutralized the naxalite movement in Jangalmahal area consisting of five naxal affected districts by intelligently isolating the extremist leaders from the general supporting masses by introducing various schemes for bringing the youth and women to mainstream.
For the time being, in Chhattisgarh, like Bengal it can be the dual responsibility of both the centre looking after the security aspects in the sensitive districts and of equally of the new Congress government which will start the process of negotiations at the peoples level and also make efforts to contact the leadership of the naxalites. Some of the extremist leaders may not respond, but if the supporting base of the naxalites feels tat the new Congress government is following pro people policies and has delinked itself from the earlier programmes of the BJP led government favouring the contractors and the salwa judum, there may be rethinking. Once the new schemes for the tribals of these areas start getting implemented to their real benefit, the results will start coming. It may take time but the process of alienation of the common supporting naxalites from their extremist leaders who are not for dialogue, will intensify. The entire process will take time and require right tackling but it is possible.
One encouraging sign of the recent assembly elections in Chhattisgarh is that the naxalites supporters looked with some hope at the Congress manifesto this time. The Congress has won 11 out of 12 seats in Bastar region and  it was evident that the Congress workers got more advantage in their campaign in this area from the local tribals as against the BJP candidates. There were definite signs that the tribals were looking to Rahul Gandhi with some expectations. The tribals in this region have been cheated many times by the political masters, nobody kept promises, but still hopes do not die and they are hoping again that something good might emerge.
Congress President Rahul Gandhi has to ensure that his state government does not once again dash the hopes of the Bastar people who voted in large numbers the Congress candidates to defeat the BJP. The Congress manifesto mentions of initiating dialogue with the Maoists. The dialogue should be earnest for achieving results and not for just show. The Congress has to get rid of the influence of some leaders who were part of the salwa judum gang. The state Congress party must project a radical programme which can really give relief to the tribals in the naxalite affected region. The Congress manifesto has talked of giving each naxal affected panchayat Rs. 1 crore. This has to be done in consultations with the panchayats which are already functioning there. The naxalites control major areas in this region where they have established pro people facilities also. Those can be protected and they can be involved in formulating bigger schemes for the people of the affected districts. More jobs for the youth, free quality education and improved health care are the minimum that have to be ensured for bringing the tribals to the mainstream.
The Congress government has to withdraw immediately the pending cases in the courts against the human rights, activists, lawyers and trade unionists who were implicated by the erstwhile BJP government on different charges for defending the interests of the poor tribals. Rahul Gandhi has to ensure that his government gives a fresh signal that the Congress government will allow the NGOs and the human rights oranisations to work among the tribals without fear contrary to the situation in the last fifteen years.
In its manifesto, the Congress has promised to hike the prices of forest produce, to implement the Forest Rights Act, 2006 and Land Acquisition and Rehabilitation Act (LARR) 2013.These are sure to bring benefits to the tribals in the Bastar region and it should have a positive impact in dealing with the Naxalite activities. These should be taken up immediately and the impact must be visible before the Lok Sabha elections. The Congress has to show a new face of its leaders in the Bastar region. The Party must sideline the leaders who have connections with the contractors and Salwa Judum. The tribals and the present naxalites must have the feeling that the party of Rahul Gandhi is not a party of contractors and forest mafia, this is a party looking after the interests of the poor. If they get this feeling, the extremists among the Maoists who do not favour dialogue, will be isolated. And that should be the ideal strategy for the success of the programme on mainstreamisation of the naxalites.
The Congress President should take up this challenge. He can even think of a two week padayatra in Bastar region along wih the Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Bhagel. The Congress can reinvent itself not only in Chhattisgarh but in the entire country if the Party leadership succeeds in starting the process of reconciliation with the naxalites in the Bastar region. (IPA)

Friday, 28 December, 2018