Sunday, March 30, 2008

"Salva Judum Won't Do" says Central Minister of India

Veerappa Moily speaks to DARSHAN DESAI after the Administrative Reforms Commission he headed, recommended disbanding of the controversial outfit, Salva Judum in the Naxal-afflicted areas.

The seventh report of the Administrative Reforms Commission you chaired, calls for disbanding of the Salva Judum in Chhattisgarh. During three years of its existence, it spread from 2 tribal development blocks of South Bastar to 12. Isn't it ironical given the fact that the leader of the movement is also the Congress leader of opposition in the Assembly?
On close examination of the issue we found this was no way to tackle Naxalism, irrespective of who heads the movement. The Naxalbari movement of the late 60's could give us insights to handling left extremism. The issue then was not treated just as a law and order point problem but also as a socio-economic one.

Why has this realisation come only now?
You can't use the word ‘realisation’ here. As a commission, which looked into a wide range of solutions to administrative reforms including conflict resolution, we found that Naxalism cannot be countered by allowing extra-constitutional groups to put up resistance.

But, isn’t this logical reasoning in a democratic State? You don’t need a commission to ponder and come up with this solution. This point of view has been shared in the public for a while now
It is not this simple. In spite of the Salva Judum being publicised as a spontaneous awakening of the masses against extremists, the outfit’s camps---providing a safe haven to thousands of tribals---have been attacked by the left extremists. In the process, the poor tribals have been caught between the legitimate State and the illegitimate, coercive extremists known for delivering instant justice through peoples' courts and other means.

Doesn't it appear too much of a coincidence that your commission has suggested disbanding of Salva Judum ahead of the elections in Chhattisgarh in the wake of reports that Mahendra Karma (Judum leader and leader of Opposition) has been hobnobbing with the ruling BJP?
This has nothing to do with narrow partisan politics. We are dealing with a major challenge posed by Naxalism. And we realised that it is the State which has to look at the issue holistically, rather than encourage a violent group to fight another set of violent groups.

This is what the Commission's report says. Will the government implement your recommendations?
We have submitted our report. Now the government will have the final say.

According your findings, what is the right solution?
It is clear that a judicious mix of development and welfare initiatives coupled with land reforms and well-planned counter-insurgency operations is required to restore peace and and the people’s confidence in the administration in the Naxal-affected areas. We believe our report will be implemented.


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