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Dealing with rebels

Posted by Indian Vanguard on April 24, 2007

Dealing with rebels
PRIZE CATCH: Hard-core rebels ( they include the two girls on left) arrested by Giridih police last week after an ‘encounter’ in which they killed a rebel commander. They appear destined to spend the next three to five years in jail, if not longer. What will they do when they come out ?

Confusing signals emanating from the government cannot cloud the fact any longer that the state is at war. Naxalites have stepped up their activities and appear to be inching closer to the urban centres, to the great discomfiture of the government and the police.

The state government appears convinced that Naxalites can be driven back if only it can emulate the Andhra Pradesh police. It has been dithering over a “surrender policy”, hinting however that it would be so attractive that rebels would be tempted to lay down their arms. But notwithstanding the chief minister’s announcement that he is ready to talk with the rebels, it is by no means certain that the rebels want to either surrender or even talk to the chief minister. It is against this backdrop that the following suggestions are being made. These measures, emphasise members of the group, will go a long way to build confidence and involve larger sections of the people.

Hold panchayat elections

Without holding the panchayat elections and funnelling funds to the grassroots, there can be no political solution. While the Supreme Court is expected to take up the matter towards the end of May, it is not understood why the state and the Union government together cannot file a petition even earlier seeking the apex court’s permission to go ahead with the polls under the existing rules of Pesa (Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act. After all, this is the Act under which panchayat elections have been held in all the scheduled areas of the country spread across eight or nine states.

If the Supreme Court finally strikes down some parts of the Act, it will have to be implemented uniformly across the country and by all states. So, from the next election Jharkhand, too, will have to modify the Act. But till the apex court takes a final decision, the state should be allowed to go ahead with the poll. There is, after all, a complete vacuum of political activity in the villages. With mainstream political parties having retreated and their activity confined to the houses of their respective leaders, it is time to breathe life into panchayats and revive people’s participation in development and policy-making.

Modernise police

By modernising police, officials generally have meant equipping the police with more sophisticated fire-power, equipment, security, manpower and funds.

But, in the context of Jharkhand, the police modernisation should begin by studying the composition of the police force — the representation in terms of districts, tribes, subdivisions and up to the villages. One suspects that a large number of policemen in Jharkhand are drawn from Bihar and Gorkhas from Nepal and some even from UP and elsewhere.

With this kind of composition and lack of local connect, the police will never be able to combat the Naxalites. Recruitment should be carefully monitored to ensure that districts and villages are adequately represented. The police must be a representative force and have stakes in local conditions. The “outsiders” in the police should be distributed evenly across the state.

Modernisation will also entail pushing the bar higher, recruiting more women, making educational qualifications and training tougher and attaching NGOs to every police station so that citizens feel more confident in approaching the police.

Inject excitement

Easier said than done, perhaps. But with the National Games approaching, there is a golden opportunity to promote various sports activities in the villages, spotting talented sportsmen and women, giving away scholarships and picking some of them for training outside the state. With careful planning, job opportunities in the “sports quota” can be developed and tournaments with attractive prize-money can be promoted.

Mobile vans with video screens and suitable films, music, books and even medicine and doctors can be sent to the villages for education, entertainment and medical attention.

Police-people connect

When policemen are entrusted the responsibility to distribute medicines or condoms — or when they are forced to play “friendly” football and volleyball matches and promote clubs — the exercises are so unrealistic that they have failed more often than not. Policemen are feared and hated in villages and these activities do little to dispel the distrust.

Instead, policemen can be used more effectively in conducting surveys — about ration cards, about voters’ identity cards, about status of litigation involving villagers and property disputes.

The information will be useful to civil authorities and gradually people might start looking at policemen differently. The cops can also be utilised to report on the functioning of health centres and schools. It will be an unusual role for them but it will be more useful than policemen enacting plays to ridicule Naxalites.

Media and PUCL

It is in the state’s own interest to allow the media and civil liberties organisations, both within the state and outside, permission to interact with the rebels in jail.

This will help the judiciary and the police, too, to identify the innocent from the indoctrinated. Thousands of “innocent” people can then be released and rehabilitated, trials can be expedited and the state can inspire confidence by announcing compensation for cases involving violation of human rights.

The Telegraph


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