Here’s a recent speech from Himanshu Kumar (I’ve mentioned him before here and here), who needs to be at the centre of the current Maoist debate as someone who has lived and worked with the tribal people of Chhattisgarh for 18 years, right in the part of India that is now the focus of the insurgency.
He talks about some of the police atrocities that have taken place and how this drives villagers into the arms of the Naxalites. He downplays the violence that Naxalites use to ensure cooperation from local villagers, but in Chhattisgarh particularly violent police actions have been a major motivator of increased popular support for the Naxals, and the failure to adequately address complaints has compounded the problem.
Even if Himanshu is exaggerating the scale of these crimes (and how are we to know for sure), his reports still demonstrate a serious failure in counter-insurgency strategy – because the state has failed to establish its legitimacy among local people and ensure it can offer the feeling of protection that will keep them onside.
Seven hundred villages were burnt, about three- four lakh population. 50,000 were taken to the camp, 50000 fled to AP and Orissa or Maharashtra, 3 lakhs fled to the forest where they are still under attack. Our representative, Nandini Sundar went to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court ordered the government to rebuild all the villages. Not a single village was rehabilitated by the government. The Supreme Court ordered the government to give compensation to the adivasis, not a single adivasi has received any compensation.
Finally the SC asked NHRC to send a team to Dantewada. This team had a hundred policemen. There is a village called Nendra which had been burned four times. The adivasis from there went to give affidavits to the NHRC, there were four girls missing from that village and ten people had been killed. When these adivasis were trying to go back, they were held up in a Salwa Judum camp for a whole day. They were beaten all day and forced to place their thumbprints on papers stating that they had been forced to give the affidavits, and that they had nothing to say against Salwa judum. The village was burnt yet again four days later.
He also makes an interesting point about different types of poor in India and the threat that will arise if all of them start to recognise the structural exploitation that is happening to them.
…there are three types of poor. Some of them, who are making a living because of the rich, like your maid or the person that irons your clothes. They are happy that some people are rich so they can also make a living. The second type are those, that think it is their fault that they are poor. They may think it is either their fate or their low caste or their illiteracy or because they live in a village, that makes them poor. They don’t blame the rich for their lot. The third are the type that you affected because you wanted to be rich. They didn’t want anything from you and had been living happily in the forests, until you decided to take their peace and their livelihood away from them without any heed of their welfare. Now, they want revenge. The real problem, for the rich, will arise if all these poor come together and take on the minority of rich people.