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BackYou are here: NewsIndia Activists press for unconditional dialogue

India

Activists press for unconditional dialogue

Sreelatha Menon

The Dantewada bloodbath of CRPF jawans has shocked civil society. Most feel a dialogue between the government and NGOs could have reaped better results than the violent route the government has pursued against the Naxalites.

Kavita Srivastava of the People's Union for Civil Liberties and Citizen’s Initiative for Peace — an outfit formed to enable dialogue with the government on tackling the Naxalite movement — says there is no alternative to unconditional talks with Naxals.

“The government had talked to the Nagas and members of other groups. But, it refused to talk to the Naxals. It has also not been listening to the civil society that has been seeking dialogue, and offering to mediate between the government and the Naxals. Instead, Home Minister Chidambaram is playing to the galleries in Lalgarh and saying that he would eliminate Naxalism in two years. How many would have to die on both sides before this happens?” she asks.

Rajesh Tandon, founder, PRIA (Society for Participatory Research in Asia) feels civil society has failed in its efforts to convince the government to hold dialogues instead of an armed struggle with Naxalites. “But then where is the space for NGos?”

Tandon says the voluntary sector policy approved by the previous Congress government is yet to be implemented. “Had that been implemented then at all levels, there would have been a civil society government forum with institutionalised inter-government civil society dialogue and probably prevented this kind of ill-advised strategy the government is now pursuing.”

Medha Patkar does not believe the government’s armed battle with the Naxals reflected the failure of the civil society. She says, “It just shows that the government has resisted a dialogue with civil society. The armed strategy means negation of dialogue and interventions from the civil society.

Adding: “Government is legitimising violence. When you pay all attention to a violent struggle, then the space for people’s movement gets shut.”

“The government’s treatment of civil society is symbolised by the year-long detention of human rights activist Binayak Sen in Raipur. So, this is what the government chooses to do. Send people to jail. How can you talk to them?” ask Patkar and Tandon. Tandon’s NGO has a network of field workers spread across the country, including the Naxalite-infested areas.

“It is true there was no civil society movement to counter the armed operation by the government,” says Tandon. “At different levels, civil society has been able to take their views to the government right from the planning commission to the home ministry. But, the government chose to ignore the advice.”

Activists of National Alliance of People’s Movements — an umbrella body of several people's movements anchored by Patkar — is organising an independent people’s tribunal on the Naxal movement and the armed campaign of the government. The other groups actively pursuing the matter in Delhi are Forum against War on People and Citizen's Initiative for Peace.

Tandon was critical of the government for not being able to “deliver anything efficiently except military solutions”. “Unless they deliver development with the same efficiency as they send troops, the situation will get worse,” he says.

ACTIVISTS SAY:

# The government has not been listening to the civil society that has been seeking dialogue, and offering to mediate between the government and the Naxals

# The voluntary sector policy approved by the previous Congress government is yet to be implemented

# The government’s armed battle with the Naxals reflected the failure of the civil society

# Unless the government delivers development with the same efficiency as they send troops, the situation will get worse

# The government's treatment of civil society is symbolised by the year-long detention of human rights activist Binayak Sen in Raipur. This is what the government chooses to do. Send people to jail

# The government is legitimising violence

(Business Standard, 6th April)