Negotiation, Not Force by Dr. Mohammad Manzoor Alam (MAY 02, 2012)

Dr Mohammad Manzoor Alam on the right policy to address insurgency, including the Naxal variety.

Violent politics: Terrorism and Guerilla War is a significant book to read for people who want to understand Naxalism and have some idea of how to address the issue. Military action is certainly not an option for coping with militancy. That is one lesson that can be learnt from this nice book.

Over the last few days we have seen some dramatic moves on the Naxal chessboard, one of them being the capture and kidnapping of Alex Paul Menon, district collector of Sukma. This may not be a wise step on the part of the Naxal leaders because Menon has been known to be sympathetic to local people who have been caught up between the military and the militants.

Violent resistance to state order and large-scale movement for revolutionary change is resorted to by powerless groups that feel the legal and constitutional order is built to create and sustain the privilege and dominance of powerful classes only. Hence, they try to dislodge the system of power through whatever little violence they can inflict on the people they think are responsible for their disempowerment and suffering.

Far larger number of innocent people are killed by such insurgents. Most victims are not oppressors, but persons of their own classes and subjected to similar suffering. They are killed because the killers think they are collaborators of the system, which is not generally the case. Innocent people die in Naxal violence in larger numbers than security personnel.

However, when they kill a police officer, bureaucrat or some other influential person, disproportionate and indiscriminate retaliation follows. Often innocent tribals are arrested, tortured and killed in such operations than militants. Thus it is the people who suffer, not militants.

Our forest tribals are some of the most poor, deprived, dispossessed and disempowered groups in the country. An easy prey to money lenders, forest contractors, local police and forest officials, these people are living the lives of hunted animals. The high ideals of Gandhi and Nehru and the guarantees provided by the Constitution are meaningless to them.

The government’s tactic of creating bandit gangs like Salwa Judum to resist naxals is barely legal and certainly unconstitutional. Its SPOs (special police officers) are not policemen or paramilitary personnel. They are yet another semi-legitimate band of rowdies. Between them the SPOs and Salwa Judum have caused greater death and destruction than the police or paramilitary forces. The sufferers are common tribals. It is good that the Supreme Court has objected to the idea of SPOs, which has led the government to change their designation and increase their salaries. SPOs have been there even during Punjab insurgency, but somehow their legitimacy has come under question only now. Meanwhile, they have caused great harm.

Menon’s kidnappers should know that he is a friend of the people, a sympathetic interpreter of their troubles before the highest authorities and a man always ready to help. He must be released immediately in the larger interests of the tribals and their wellbeing. Also, the government must hold the fire. Such deep-rooted problems do not have a military solution.

 

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