The Maoist guerrilla army is made up of, almost entirely, desperately poor tribals living in conditions of chronic hunger that verges on famine of the kind we associate with sub-Saharan Africa.
Home Minister P. Chidambaram, who has more knowledge of Indian stock exchanges than hunger of tribals in the forests, and a Prime Minister who knows more about GDP figures than the misery of millions, are not the answer. They just do not know. And they do not care to know, either about tribals who have been exploited for centuries and even more during 60 years of Independence.
Some glimmer of dignity is provided to tribals by Maoists who live amongst them. They do not believe that the roads that are being built in Dantewada are meant for them or their children. Their mortal enemy is the National Mineral Development Corporation. Who can blame them?
This war against tribals must stop. It can be stopped, but not by Manmohan Singh and Chidambaram. The common aadmi must speak up. Police arms and uninhibited murder are not substitutes for hospitals, schools and clean water. It is possible the vox populi will be drowned out by media barons in the pay of corrupt politicians. But people must not allow mining companies to exterminate the army of passive resisters.
P.B. Sawant, a distinguished ex-justice of the Supreme Court, now wholly committed to social service, says that the Maoists must be thanked for making known the injustice done to the people of the region. Talk to heroes like Binayak Sen or my dear friend Shoma Chaudhary of Tehelka, and you will know the horrifying truth. It is not a matter without significance that Home Minister Chidambaram was a non executive director of Vedanta, drawing an annual salary of US $75,000. Of course, he resigned when he became minister. But it is difficult to get rid of past friendships and loyalties even for a minister.
An independent People's Tribunal consisting of distinguished judges and social workers has found that there has been persistent and gross violation of the rights of the poor and the Fifth Schedule rights of the tribals.
The Government remedy of Salwa Judum (Peoples' March) is wholly counterproductive. It will only lead to slaughter of the innocent. It has already proved a colossal failure.
The only sensible solution is to address the injustices that are the primary dynamo of Maoist power.
It is true that the Maoists adopted a part of the Communist vocabulary when Muppala Lakshmana Rao formed the Communist Party of India (Maoist) in 2004. But the Maoists have realised that the Indian state is not likely to wither away. It is the biggest folly to treat them like terrorists whom we have encountered in Kashmir, Delhi and Mumbai. A wise and humane Government can deal with the Maoist movement by unconditional talks to evolve a programme of redressing the festering grievances of the tribals and rapid economic growth. Instead it sells tribal land to corporate giants who are rightly seen as predators and agents of an insensitive Government.