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BackYou are here: AnalysisOpinion What Has Driven the Tribals of Central India to Political Extremism?

Opinion

What Has Driven the Tribals of Central India to Political Extremism?

B K Roy Burman

According to the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, 125 districts spread over nine States in Central India and adjoining areas have come under the influence of Left radical groups, loosely called Naxalites. On June 22, 2009, the Government of India has declared the most important among the Naxalite groups, the Communist Party of India (Maoist), as a terrorist organisation and banned it.

 

The precursors of the present phase of Naxal activities first surfaced in Naxalbari of North Bengal; Gopiballabhpur and Nayagram Police Station areas close to the meeting points of West Bengal and Jharkhand; Srikakulam in Andhra Pradesh; Malkangiri in Orissa; the adjoining areas of Bastar in Chhattisgarh and Gadchiroli in Maharashtra mainly among the tribal people. Currently though many areas and people in North India outside the predominantly tribal region have come under Naxal influence, it seems from the report of the Expert Group constituted by the Planning Commission to examine the development challenges in extremist affected areas that the epicentre of the upsurge “is the region in Central India with concentration of tribal population, hilly topography and undulating terrain”. This may not be fortuitous.

On August 18, 2009, addressing a meeting of the Chief Ministers the Home Minister of the Government of India, P. Chidambaram, stated that the Maoist challenge would be met by development activities and police action. This was an utterly unrealistic approach; he was silent about the most important issue, namely, the systematic dispossession of the tribal people from land resources, which they have been holding for generations.

Here it would be noted that the dispossession I am referring to is very much different from development related displacement. Conceptually at least, project related displacement is not dispossession. Displacement is the unwanted outcome of particular type of development, and the government accepts the right of the displaced persons to be compensated. It is a different matter that compensation may not be adequate, or only notional.

October 17, 2009