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Open letter to Maoists and Government of India for initiation of Peace Dialogue in Bastar

Posted by Indian Vanguard on April 14, 2007


You can leave your feedback and views about this project at
http://bastarpeacedialogue.blogspot.com/


Peace dialogue initiative by social scientists and independent citizens in Bastar area of Chhattisgarh.

To

The General Secretary,
CPI (Maoist)

Sir,

We, the members of Peace Initiative Team of Social Scientists and Independent Citizens, visited Bastar area and moved around 1100 sq. kms, talked and interacted with tribals, Salva Judum supporters and CPI(Maoist) supporters in villages and haats to find out the reasons, dimensions and levels of violence in the area as well as to find out the possibility of peace for a creative and imaginative socio-cultural and economic development of the tribals. We came to the conclusion that unless there is a prolonged period of peace, the hapless tribals of Bastar would not only continue to suffer but no development of the tribals or the area is possible. We, however, fail to understand why the CPI (Maoist) are not able to understand this and are continuing with their romantic belief and vision of capturing state power through a prolonged and protracted violent armed struggle.

We are also not able to understand why the Maoists are not able to understand the basic scientific underpinning of Marx which made him question everything in a scientific manner and come to rational conclusions. Marx, more than anyone else, realized that history never remains frozen in time and that the dialectics of cause and effect may unleash forces, which make the dialectics extremely complex, and seeing it as a simple binary conflict between thesis and anti-thesis would lead to romantic simplicity. If this would not have been so, Leninism and Maoism would not have come into existence as both were trying to respond to the unique complex dialectics which existed in Russia of 1917 and China of 1940s. In fact, Mao even after 1949 kept on evolving new strategies which were some time successful land some time unsuccessful to response to the complex dialectic processes which undergoes sometimes complex sometimes subtle changes. Sometimes the dialectic challenges may even go unnoticed.

Further the responses to these dialectic challenges have to find roots in the civilizational, cultural and ethical ecology of the area where they exist. India has certain unique civilizational, cultural and ethical psychological make-up, which abhors violence on a large scale. Any strategy whether political or social which does not accept this fact would, on long run, create problems for itself. We, as anthropologists and social scientists fail to understand how CPI (Maoist) leaders are not able to see this. Gandhi succeeded in his movement because he could understand this unique Indian psyche.

Another fact which came to our notice during our interaction with people of Bastar area is the doubt which is now gradually growing in their minds because of contradiction between what the CPI (Maoist) leaders say and what they actually do. We would also like your response on doubts expressed by them (which are also some of our major doubts):

1. You claim to espouse the cause of the tribals and blame the state for exploiting the tribals but for the last 26 years of your stay in Dandakaranya area of Bastar, you have done very little for the development of tribals.

2. You blame the state for exploiting the tribals but you dissuade them from plucking Tendu leaf till the government agrees to a particular rate dictated by you but, at the same time, you allow plucking once the corrupt contractors or their agents pay you your share. Where does that leave the helpless tribals? Don’t you see that it is because of this contradiction in your behaviour that the tribals revolted against you and the phenomena is now being called Salva Judum. Don’t you see that if you give such an opportunity, any adversary would support such a movement? You thought that you would suppress the movement through brutal and violent methods but even after one and half years and death of 300-400 innocent tribals, the movement still against you still continues. You have lived in Dandakaranya area for a long time to realize that the tribals of Bastar cannot be forced into a sponsored movement unless they have been greatly offended by you.

3. You claim that it is your avowed intention to clean the corrupt bureaucracy (which you term as class enemies) but you have no hesitation from collecting ‘levies’ and taxes from the very same corrupt officials. The tribals are also not very clear what you do with that money because he knows that very little of it is spent on his development.

4. You claim you do not harbour any anger towards ordinary and lowly paid constables, head constables and sub-inspectors as well as ordinary civilians but nobody is able to understand how you can then indulge in indiscriminate acts of killing of innocent civilians as well as lowly paid policemen.

5. You conduct your own Jan Adalats claiming that you do not have faith in the corrupt judiciary system of the country. It is then very difficult to understand why you take recourse to the same legal-judicial systems and its laws to get your cadres released on bail or make efforts that your leaders in jails are treated as political criminals. Is it not better to have the honesty of a Gandhi or a Tilak or a Bhagat Singh and tell the court that you do not accept it or its laws? Your behaviour in criticizing the judicial system but using it to gain benefits of freedom is interpreted as hypocrisy by even simple tribals.

6. We also came to know in our interaction with tribals of Bastar that while you do not believe in the democratic system, hoist black flags on Republic and Independence Days and call the mainstream politicians including those belonging to Left parties as corrupt and class enemies, you do have back channel contacts with the same politicians to further your personal agendas.

The aforementioned contradictions in your behaviour is not only confusing to us but has also been noticed by the tribals who claim to be your supporters and is fast leading to a sense of disenchantment.
We would make an appeal to you for deep introspections. We are sure if you do so (and we are also convinced that your Party has senior leaders who can understand history, politics, theory and applications in a dispassionate manner) you would come to the conclusion that prolonged and protracted violent armed struggle would only leave destruction, debris and pain and that you can succeed in achieving your goals through a Constitutional and democratic mechanism. The peace will have to be given a chance. We think that the CPI (Maoist) leaders would have to take the initiative:

7. First and foremost it is for you to make an offer for a period of prolonged peace and also offer an agenda for serious negotiations with the government. You will not be taken seriously if you again demand as you did during your talks with Andhra Government that you would continue to hold on to your weapons, run your own parallel courts, etc. but the government should release all the imprisoned cadres. No government anywhere in the world would accept such conditions. The agenda has to incorporate a rationally and logically conceived pragmatic proposals.

8. You will have to make the first offer of peace, which should include a six-month moratorium on violence perpetuated by you on so-called class enemies, Salva Judum activists and government servants and police. You should also make your intentions clear that in a phased manner you would surrender your weapons and join the political mainstream. You should realize that while the ‘barrel of the gun’ strategy succeeded in 1917 and 1949, the world has undergone major changes in its political and socio-economic belief systems and developmental paradigms and that it is now no more possible to defeat a state through violent insurgent means.

9. You could also start holding parallel negotiations with Left parties to form a United Left Front and can enter combative and a competitive politics in the open political space supplied by a democratic polity. You must realise that mass base cannot be created in an atmosphere of fear and compulsion. By coming in the open political arena you would actually get a real understanding of your existing mass base and may even expand it.

Thanking you, with regards, love and hope,

Yours sincerely,

1.Prof. S. Narayan(Anthropologist and Sociologist, Patna, Bihar)
2.Dr. Raji Ahmad (Gandhian Social Activist, writer and leader, Patna, Bihar)
3.Dr. Ajay Kumar Singh (Patna, Bihar)
4.Mr. Dhirendra Singh (Patna, Bihar)
5.Prof. Mitashree Mitra (Raipur, Chhattisgarh)
6.Prof. O.P. Verma (Raipur, Chhattisgarh)
7.Prof. Dinesh Kumar Verma (Jagdalpur, Bastar, Chhattisgarh)
8.Dr. Rajendra Singh (Jagdalpur, Bastar, Chhattisgarh)
9.Mrs. Shoba Narayan (Patna, Bihar)
10.Mr. Farjand Ahmad (Media person, Lucknow, UP)
11.Mr. Ajay Sharma (ANI/Media, Jagdalpur, Bastar, Chhattisgarh)
12.Mr . Mithelesh (Media person, Pat



An Appeal to the Indian Government

To

1.The President of India, New Delhi.
2.The Prime Minister of India, New Delhi.
3.The Union Minister of Tribal Welfare, New Delhi
4.The Governor of Chhattisgarh, Raipur
5.The Chief Minister, Chhattisgarh, Raipur.

Sirs,
We, the members of the Peace Initiative Team of Social Scientists and Independent Citizens visited Bastar area and moved around 1100 sq. kms talking and interacting with tribals, Salva Judum supporters and CPI (Maoist) supporters in villages and haats to find the reasons, dimension and levels of violence in the area as well as to find out the possibility of peace for a creative and imaginative socio-cultural and economic development of the tribals and the area. We have come to the conclusion that a prolonged period of peace, it is absolutely necessary for the development of the tribals of Bastar as well as the entire area affected by violence.

As social scientists we are aware that no government, especially one which adheres to a constitutional democratic polity will accept surrendering to an alternative ideology which shows open hostilities and repugnance towards a constitutional-democratic polity and structures even though it may allow to adhere to such beliefs free debating space. We are, therefore, making an appeal to CPI (Maoist) leaders to give peace a chance.

However, after stating the above, we must point out that the alternative ideologies of CPI (Maoist) could grow, capture the imagination of many as well as got entrenched due to government’s own inept handling of various development problems in tribal areas. Some of the steps, which the government will have to take once the peace if realised, are suggested as under:

a)The government must realize that it cannot step up the pace of development in tribal areas, especially areas that are inhabited by primitive tribals. It must realise that if the politics of development in tribal area is undertaken without understanding the ‘felt’ needs of the tribals, more often than not, the development becomes ‘Derivative Development’, ‘Discriminatory Development’, or ‘Differential Development’. Only ‘felt need’ development model can lead to an acceptable and sustainable development in tribal areas.

b)In this context it would be important to emphasise the need of recruiting anthropologists and sociologists for not only evaluating the development programmes but also to act as an interface between the tribals and the policy makers.

c)Before planning any development interventions, it is important that the suspicions of the tribals are allayed. The tribal has a litany of real or presumed grievances against the more advanced cultures, which it has been carrying for ages. He has to be convinced that the members belonging to the advanced cultures and their institutions have concern and respect for them their culture, their ethos and their institutions. Attempts should be made to encourage their plays, games and sports, etc. can be organized on all India level. Similarly, as the tribal education has generally been non-formal in its dimensions, this will have to be synergised with the formal brand of education in a graded and gradual manner.

d)Development would have to be prioritised. For the tribal need of nutritious food is more important than road and electricity. Because of small land holdings, irrigation facilities become more important than credit facilities. The need of modern medical facilities including that of nutrition supplements cannot be underestimated in tribal areas. Similarly, the importance of good and clean potable water cannot be underestimated. Most of the diseases, which afflict the tribals of Bastar, can be traced to their drinking contaminated water.

e)The policy makers should also understand that there is really no contradiction between economic growth of the nation with the growth and development of a geographical area inhabiting primitive tribals. If India as a nation needs iron-ores and coal for its steel plants for its economic and industrial growth and most of the iron-ores and coal mines are situated in tribal areas, one has to find ways and means to exploit these minerals without reducing the tribal to a state of penury by dispossessing him of his land and offering him compensations which are inadequate in the long run. The way out should be creating a permanent stake of the tribal in the mining and industrial projects. One of the suggested ways is to make the tribal a shareholder in the mining or industrial projects apart from the one-time compensation for his land. Alternatively, a programme will have to be formulated for general growth of the area.

f)It is also important that a consultative body of traditional tribal chiefs, anthropologists and policy makers is constituted at the district levels in the erstwhile district of Bastar (which has now been divided in 2-3 revenue districts) for deciding on the felt-needs of tribals as also as a body to educate, persuade and convince the tribals of a policy the introduction of which is felt necessary but is being resisted by the tribals.

The government must also realize that development cannot take place unless there is an atmosphere of peace. It must seriously consider a genuine proposal for peace offered by the naxalites in a compassionate manner.

Thanking you and hoping that the government would initiate steps leading to an atmosphere of peace in Bastar area so that all-round development of the area without unnecessary stimulating the fears and concerns of tribals living in that area is made possible. Thanking you again with a hope that you would give serious thought to our study and suggestion.

Yours sincerely,

1.Prof. S. Narayan(Anthropologist and Sociologist, Patna, Bihar)
2.Dr. Raji Ahmad (Gandhian Social Activist, writer and leader, Patna, Bihar)
3.Dr. Ajay Kumar Singh (Patna, Bihar)
4.Mr. Dheerendra Singh (Patna, Bihar)
5.Prof. Mitashree Mitra (Raipur, Chhattisgarh)
6.Prof. O.P. Verma (Raipur, Chhattisgarh)
7.Prof. Dinesh Kumar Verma (Jagdalpur, Bastar, Chhattisgarh)
8.Dr. Rajendra Singh (Jagdalpur, Bastar, Chhattisgarh)
9.Mrs. Shoba Narayan (Patna, Bihar)
10.Mr. Farjand Ahmad (Media person, Lucknow, UP)
11.Mr. Ajay Sharma (ANI/Media, Jagdalpur, Bastar, Chhattisgarh)
12.Mr. Mithelesh (Media person, Patna, Bihar)

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