Dialogue July-September, 2010, Volume 12 No.1
Astha Bharati News
Astha Bharati organised two workshops during July-September 2010 quarter. The first was one day workshop held in IIC, New Delhi on July 3, 2010 on “Naxalism: The Way Out”. The second, a two-day workshop, was organised on September 3 & 4, 2010 at Guwahati on “The Role of Civil Society in Governance and Social Reconstruction” with the North-East as focus.
Workshop on “Naxalism: the Way out”
The one day workshop at the IIC, New Delhi was attended by 20 participants, including some prominent experts on Naxalism and academics, like, Shri Prakash Singh, IPS (Retd.), K. Srinivas Reddy, Dy. Editor Hindu, Hyderabad, W. Chandrakanth, Editor Sakshi, New Delhi, Shri Rameshwar Mishra Pankaj, Director, Dharmapal Shrijan Peeth, Bhopal, D.M. Mitra IPS Addl. DG Police M.P., Dr. P.V. Ramana IDSA, New Delhi, Devdutt, Brig Rahul Bhosle, eminent Gandhian Natwar Thakkar, Shri S.P. Talukdar IPS (Retd.), former member of National Security Advisory Board (NSAB) and Shankar Sharan.
Prakash Singh (extreme left) expressing his views on Naxalism
The main emphasis of the workshop was on finding solutions and making practical recommendations to deal with the threat which has acquired serous proportions during the last decade. The highlights of the deliberations were as follows:
(1) It was felt that Naxalism has grown at rapid pace since the Ninth Congress of the people’s war group (PWG) in 2001 and militarisation and offensive characterise its growth. (187 districtss in 17 states). Armed actions across the board in states like Chhatisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa, West Bengal and Bihar are on the increase. It has succeeded in creating base area and liberated zone in Chhattisgarh. The way out is now clear. The Maoists must be fought and defeated in their area of control, before other options like dialogue and development can become feasible.
(2) It was agreed that cease-fire and dialogue are mere tactical moves for the Maoists to strengthen themselves and gain legitimacy. Late Azad, their spokesman, in an interview (Hindu, April 14, 2010) confirmed this asserting that they would not compromise on their objective of capturing power through New Democratic Revolution. However, a view point was that govt. should not shun dialogue as it offers some tactical advantages of access to Maoist held areas.
(3) There is need for political and strategic cohesion at the level of centre and states which was absent at the moment to forcefully meet the Naxalite challenge.
(4) There should be balanced and area specific approach in respect of security and development options. Inflicting urban or top-down solutions on rural problems need to be avoided. Developmental strategy should be targeted at attending the specific local demands and recharging local economies.
(5) High handed actions should be avoided lest it alienates people.
(6) Simultaneously, steps need to be taken to secure vulnerable and unaffected areas and have effective Rehabilitation policy for affected areas.
(7) All efforts at finding solutions should be people centric and not Naxal centric giving undue space to the Naxalites.
(8) Strategically and tactically security operations should first secure the periphery and then move in rather than go for the heartland of Naxals as in Chhattisgarh.
(9) Maoism in India refuses to adapt to changes, hence can self-destruct, if handled with finesse.
(10) Naxal funding should be tackled which is mostly through contractors for buying weapons and organisation.
(11) Delivery system of the government was suspect and not in tune with the needs of the people in affected areas and needed an over haul.
(12) Myths, lies and propaganda by Naxal supporters among the academia, media and elsewhere create confusion –as for example by “root cause” hypothesis – in the civil society as if Naxals are fighting for the just cause. These should be effectively countered.
K. Shrinivas Reddy presenting his paper
D.M. Mitra sharing his experience on Naxalism
It was felt that while security actions are a must in strongly held Naxal areas, and the Naxal violence must be countered by appropriate and firm action, it should not be highhanded and development and human touch should be strategically used to contain Naxalism within its present boundaries. People centric policies and firmness, should be the fundamentals of the approach.
Workshop on “The Role of Civil Society in Governance and Social Reconstruction” (Sept 3&4, 2010 at Guwahati)
The workshop was an outcome of a feeling that the Civil Society (CS) in NE should play a more constructive role in improving governance, supporting NGO’s/Civil service entities involved in grass-root livelihood promotion activities and enhancing inter-community relationship. The workshop theme was divided in three parts, viz. (1) Issue of corruption in governance; (2) CS’s role in livelihood promotion; and (3) inter-community Relationship – conflict Resolution. There were 27 participants on the first day and 21 on the second day. The workshop was chaired by Dr. Jayanta Madhab, President, Astha Bharati for the opening and closing sessions. Other sessions were chaired by Shri H.N. Das, IAS (Retd.), Shri Kamleshwar Bora ex-Vice-chancellor, Shri Natwar Thakkar.
Workshop at Guwahati in progress
Participants from all the NE states, except Sikkim, represented a cross section of intellectuals/academics, economists, former govt. servants, eminent journalists and experienced social activists at the grass-root levels. Discussions were followed by suggestions and recommendations to carry forward the exercise as a continuing process. Corruption was considered a serious issue corroding the moral, social and political fibre of the society. It was felt that it now pervades all walks of life and the electoral process was one of the root causes. Political protection to corruption makes the citizen’s feel helpless on the one hand and deprives the needy and poor the benefits of development on the other. Some of the recommendations to combat it were:
(1) More vigorous use of RTI despite threats and intimidations.
(2) CS entities should educate people at cutting edge level about their rights and more proactive role as watchdog of the delivery system.
(3) Change laws pertaining to corruption so that positive irrefutable inference becomes an adequate proof instead of “fool-proof” evidence.
(4) Social boycott of corrupt politicians and media supporting them.
(5) Stop MP/MLA LAD fund,
(6) To prevent electoral corruption govt. funding of elections and smaller constituencies to foster accountability.
(7) An awareness campaign among students, youth and syllabuses on the deleterious fall out of corruption,
(8) Deterrent and swift punishment and seizure of assets earned by corruption.
CS’s role in livelihood promotion at grass-roots level attracted high level of discussions with prominent grass-root level, activists like Shri Toki Blah IAS (Retd.) Dr. Amiya Sharma, Director, Gramin Vikas Nidhi; Dr. Sunil Kaul (ANT), Ms Linda Chhakchhuak, and Mumai Pheiga related their experiences. They narrated various problems facing their efforts – difficulties in funding, institutional back-up for their efforts, lack of awareness and corruption were the hurdles they faced in their endeavours. Some fiscal policies of govt. like foreign funding only for education and health and failure to enforce minimum wages were considered dampeners. However overall there was optimism and it was felt that the scope of MGNREGA could be further widened; to include weaving, bamboo cutting etc. The need for a regional entity to support, help and coordinate the activities in this field was also suggested.
D.N. Bezboruah (to the right) making his point
Prakash Singh (to left) addressing the workshop
There was expectedly divided view on the role of CSO’s in the field of conflict resolution in the NE. Some felt that despite popular belief there was hardly any shared history or identity among various states and even with in the communities in one state. It was also asserted that at times differences and disputes among communities and the states were being accentuated and inflamed by some interested politicians and sections of media. It was felt that while differences existed between the states, but was not so necessarily among and between the people – an aspect where the civil society can play a role. To improve the inter-community relations it was suggested that a think tank exclusively for NE to work on this aspect should be set-up.