Killing Maoists is no solution, says ex-minister

March 23rd, 2008 - 12:26 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh
By Rajeev Ranjan Roy
New Delhi, March 23 (IANS) Killing Maoist guerrillas will not help end their insurgency unless the benefits of economic development reach the poorest of the poor, says former Madhya Pradesh home minister Mahendra Boddh. Boddh, who witnessed the slow but steady growth of the Maoists in what today is Chhattisgarh, is very clear how the guerrillas need to be tackled.

“Killing of Naxalites (Maoists) is not the solution to the problem. Such an attitude would only worsen the situation. The solution does not emanate from the barrel of the gun,” Boddh told IANS in an interview.

“Massive development and job opportunities offer a lasting solution to the problem arising out Naxalism (Maoism) not only in Chhattisgarh but across the country. Naxalism is more a social than law and order problem,” added Boddh, currently a member of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes.

A long time minister in Madhya Pradesh, Congress leader Boddh was home minister in the state under chief minister Digvijay Singh. The Congress lost the 2003 elections in the state.

Boddh is aware that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh declared in December 2007 that all efforts needed to be made to crush Maoists, who are known as Naxalites on account of the West Bengal village where their insurgency erupted four decades ago: Naxalbari.

“Let’s give them jobs, and ensure that the benefits of development percolate to the people on the margins. We tried our best, and there is a need to intensify efforts in that direction. If we do not give them employment, they would fall in the trap of our enemies,” Boddh added.

He explained how the Congress tackled the Maoists when the Congress ruled Madhya Pradesh, which until 2000 was India’s biggest state in land area.

“Our government took a serious note of the problem. Development measures were initiated, with a specific focus on the present-day Chhattisgarh area with a huge tribal population,” he said. “It is the educated and literate tribes youth who are spearheading Naxalism.”

According to official figures, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand accounted for 68.16 percent of violent incidents involving Maoists and 76.42 percent of casualties till November 2007.

Over 50 percent of all civilians killed in Maoist violence countrywide were from Chhattisgarh, which was part of Madhya Pradesh until 2000.

“As Madhya Pradesh home minister, I initiated talks with the Naxalites. They were young, educated tribals. It used to be a shocking encounter, given the fact that we educated them, but could not get jobs.

“Today the Naxalites possess sophisticated weapons. They manage to break jails. They have funds to carry out nefarious activities. We must have answer to these serious questions too,” he said.

The central government has set up a panel of ministers under the chairmanship of Home Minister Shivraj Patil to monitor the Maoist situation and evolve strategies to tackle the problem.

The chief ministers of Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa, Maharashtra and West Bengal - states worst hit by Maoist activity - are special invitees to the panel.

“It was due to our commitment to bring the tribals into the country’s mainstream that Chhattisgarh was created.

“More aggressive efforts are required to bring the tribals into the socio-political and economic mainstream. Let us ensure the funds meant for tribal development are effectively utilised. This is not happening,” Boddh said.

(Rajeev Ranjan Roy can be contacted at Rajeev.r@ians)

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