Sunday, January 13, 2008

`If Naxals let you off, then you are a suspect`

Q&A: Himanshu Kumar

BS Reporter / New Delhi January 08, 2008

Himanshu Kumar, director, Vanvasi Chetana Ashram, says that the govts belief is that anyone who is not with it is against it

How many NGOs are running mitanin programme in Naxal-hit areas?

Vanvasi Chetna Ashram is the only one in Dantewada and Bijapur.There are others in Bhilai and Raipur.

How many "mitanins" are working under you?

Six hundred and fifty mitanins in the two blocks of Bhairamgarh and Bijapur.

Why do the police suspect you?

Of the 1,354 villages in the two districts, except for 644 villages,the rest are under Naxal influence. So salwa judum also cant go there.When a government teacher or a doctor or an NGO worker operates in anyof these villages and comes back unharmed, the police becomesuspicious. It thinks they are friendly with Naxals. The same appliesto our workers.

Do teachers and doctors work in these 644 villages?

These are abandoned villages though the government says they are the villages outside naxal influence. The figure is mainly meant to divert money meant for these villages to maintaining salwa judum camps. No services are provided in these villages.

How much Central funds go for these 644 villages?

No one knows.

Have you approached the government regarding harassment of "mitanins"?

The chief secretary told me at a workshop that every place was accessible. Tell me where you want to go, he said.

How many times have your mitanins been stopped?

They were stopped many times last year during a survey being done for UNICEF. The coordinator has been questioned many times. Last week it happened again. The reason is that we oppose Salwa Judum. And anyone against Salwa Judum is considered pro-Naxal.

Do you think that police rather than Naxals are stopping health and education services?

Yes. Send an anganwadi worker into a Naxal village. No naxal will kill a helpless woman. Why do you want to send police first. My father who worked with Vinoba Bhave has talked and even slept with dacoits, but that did not make him a dacoit. The governments belief is that anyone who is not with it is against it.


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