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ARC – Capacity Building For Conflict Resolution – Part 3 (Left Wing Extremism/Naxalism)
The left extremist outburst, later known as the Naxalite movement, started in March 1967 in the three police station areas (Naxalbari, Khoribari and Phansidewa) of Darjeeling district in West Bengal .The major features of left wing extemism (LWE) are : –
- It has emerged as the greatest challenge to internal security
- It has gained people’s confidence, grown in strength particularly in forest and tribal areas, by mobilizing dispossessed and marginalized sections.
- It creates conditions for non-functioning of the government and actively seeks disruption of development activities as a means to achieve its objective of ‘wresting control’.
- It spreads fear among the law-abiding citizens.
Cause of Spread of LWE :-
While the goal of the left extremists was to actualize their own vision of the State through ‘revolution’, they chose to usher that revolution by enlisting the support of the deprived and exploited sections of society particularly in areas where such sections constituted a significant part of the population.It is, therefore, necessary to identify the reasons for such deprivation and consequent discontent.The cases are:-
- Land related factors:-
- Encroachment and occupation of Government and Community lands (even the water-bodies) by powerful sections of society.
- Lack of title to public land cultivated by the landless poor.
- Poor implementation of laws prohibiting transfer of tribal land to non-tribals in the Fifth Schedule areas.
- Non-regularization of traditional land rights.
- Displacement and Forced Eviction :-
- Eviction from lands traditionally used by tribals.
- Displacements caused by irrigation and power projects without adequate arrangements for rehabilitation.
- Large scale land acquisition for ‘public purposes’ without appropriate compensation or rehabilitation.
- Livelihood related Casues:-
- Lack of food security – corruption in the Public Distribution System .
- Disruption of traditional occupations and lack of alternative work opportunities.
- Deprivation of traditional rights in common property resources.
- Depressed wages and Inadequate employment
- Social Exclusion:-
- Denial of dignity.
- Continued practice, in some areas, of untouchability in various forms.
- Poor implementation of special laws on prevention of atrocities, protection of civil rights and abolition of bonded labour etc.
- Governance related factors:-
- Corruption and poor provision/non-provision of essential public services including primary health care and education.
- Incompetent, ill trained and poorly motivated public personnel who are mostly absent from their place of posting.
- Misuse of powers by the police and violations of the norms of law.
- Perversion of electoral politics and unsatisfactory working of local government institutions.
- Legislative Factors:-
- Disruption of the age old tribal- forest relationship.Historically,tribal life was well integrated with the forest, but legislation and governance in the last century considerably altered this symbiosis.
- The Forest Act, 1927 and the Forest Conservation Act, 1980 along with stringent Supreme Court orders have turned forests into prohibited areas for the tribals, creating serious imbalances in their lives and livelihoods.
- This has turned the tribals against government’s methods of forest management, and gradually against government itself.This discontent has provided fertile ground for the spread of left extremism among tribals living in forest areas.
Solutions, Measure and Analysis :-
- LWE feeds on persistent and serious shortcomings in the domain of general and development administration, resulting in the failure of the government to address the needs of the poor in areas pertaining to land, food, water and personal security, equity, ethnic/cultural identity etc. If this diagnosis is accepted, then the ‘containment’ of the problem may inter alia require consideration of the following:-
- Most of the ‘participants’ in violence perpetrated under the banner of left extremist organizations are alienated sections of society rather than perpetrators of ‘high treason’– they have to be treated as such.
- A fortiori police action over a long period is counter-productive; it is likely to affect the innocent more than the extremists.
- Negotiations have a definite ameliorative role under the circumstances, this is the experience the world over.
- Faithful, fair and just implementation of laws and programmes for social justice will go a long way to remove the basic causes of resentment among aggrieved sections of society.
- Sustained, professionally sound and sincere development initiatives suitable to local conditions along with democratic methods of conflict resolution have a higher chance of success.
- Capacity building of security forces:-
- Overt, recurrent violence, extremism cannot be tackled by negotiations alone.A satisfactory state of law and order is also a necessary precondition for development.
- Providing protection to personnel responsible for implementation of development programmes, public institutions such as school ,transport , stations etc.
- Training and reorientation including sensitizing police and paramilitary personnel to the root causes of the disturbances to tackle in with sensitivity.
- Formation of specially trained special task forces on the pattern of the Greyhounds in Andhra Pradesh.
- Local police forces have a huge advantage in intelligence gathering capacity because of their constant interaction with local populations. In terms of costs also, strengthening the local police station is far more cost effective and more viable in the long run than inducting central forces.
- Capacity building of administrative institutions : –
- The Scheduled Tribes and other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 is a welcome measure which seeks to enhance institutional capacity to deal with a major causative factor for support of left extremism in tribal areas.
- It vests land rights to the extent of four hectares per Forest Dwelling Scheduled Tribe (FDST) nuclear familyprovided they have been the ‘user’ of forest land for four generations or 75 years from the ‘cut off’ date i.e. December 13, 2005. This right is heritable but not alienable and transferable.
- Considering the nexus between food insecurity and disaffection with the State, it is necessary that the non-functioning public distribution system is revived by strengthening organisations like LAMP (Large Area Multipurpose Cooperative Societies) to replace privately owned fair price shops and to implement decentralized schemes for procurement and distribution of food-grains etc.
- Flexibility in administrative and judicial dispute settlement and grievance redressal at the earliest.
- Capacity building of Government Personnel :-
- Personnel management has been a neglected aspect of administration in tribal areas. Posting and deployment in such areas is usually looked upon as a punishment by officers who either work half-heartedly or remain absent for long periods from their place of duty. This underscores the need to identify those officers from the State, including from technical services, who view postings in these areas as a challenging and satisfying experience and have empathy and sensitivity to appreciate the problems of its people and the commitment to play a role in resolving them.
- Incentive and reward to performing officers, better emoluments , recognition of their service and retention of residential accommodation and education of their children in the State headquarters, if so desired.
- Better training on empathy and conflict resolution programs with tribal facets and tribal culture study as its primary .
- Capacity building of Local Bodies:-
- Enactment of the provisions of the Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996 commonly known as PESA, is thus a welcome initiative for ensuring grass-roots management of community affairs.
- PESA is an ‘indicative legislation’; it lays down certain guidelines whose implementation depends on the States carrying out specific amendments (or enacting exclusive legislations) in their Panchayati Raj and other Acts. While many States have taken preliminary action on the lines suggested in PESA, there is a general impression that its implementation is, by and large, unsatisfactory.This has to be addressed on mission mode .
- Capacity building of Civil society:-
- Opinions vary about the role of civil society organisations in bringing about peace in conflict situations particularly in cases of left extremism because many such organizations are alleged to have a leftist ideological orientation (without necessarily sharing the violent objectives of the extremists) and, in some cases, the ‘NGO’ may even be a ‘front’ for the extremists themselves.
- While there may be some ‘black sheep’ among these organisations, there is little doubt that they have the potential to act as a bridge between the extremists and the government and in educating the people about the futility of violence and preventing aggravation of the situation by ventilating public grievances within the legal-democratic framework
- Cutting the source of finance of naxalites:-
- Naxalite raise their fund through extortion, illegal mining operation etc and there exist a vast nexus of contractor-transporter-extremist .This has to be curtailed
- One way to ensure that development funds do not reach the extremists is by entrusting these works temporarily to organisations like the Border Roads Organisation and other governmental agencies which can execute these works directly. This is recommended as a purely temporary measure and not to stifle local private entrepreneurship.
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