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Maoists Problem:DON’T STIFLE BASIC RIGHTS, by Dhurjati Mukherjee,3 July 2009 Print E-mail

Open Forum

New Delhi, 3 July 2009

Maoists Problem


By Dhurjati Mukherjee

The Centre’s recent ban on the Maoists has raised a moot question: will it solve the deeper issues behind their confrontation with the State? Undeniably, there is need for a political and administrative solution. Improving the ground situation may go a long way in getting them to give up the path of violence. Let the State not take an easy way out and go deeper into the problem.

The political and economic rights of the people, specially of the poorer section, are being curtailed. Anyone who dares to speak against the policies of the State in regions such as Jharkhand, Orissa, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal or Andhra Pradesh are termed Maoists or Naxalites and arrested and tortured. People fighting against displacement or for their livelihood are branded as ultra left or anti-socials and arrested and these include adivasis and tribals. Not only Naxalites and Maoists but Muslims, dalits and tribals and those fighting for the right to self-determination like Kashmiris, Nagas, Assamese, the Bodos and the Kamtapuris have become particular targets by the respective State governments. Are we heading in the right direction?

This year has been designated by the United Nations as the International Year of Human Rights “to broaden and deepen human rights learning on the basis of the principles of universality, individuality, interdependence, impartiality, objectivity and non-selectivity, constructive dialogue and cooperation, with a view to enhancing the promotion and protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms”. The Centre has all along been clamouring for human rights in official meetings and conferences. But does it show sincerity? It is necessary to critically examine the record of the country in the sphere of socio-economic and political rights that our citizens enjoy.

As is well known, the policies of globalization and liberalization pursued for the last few years have boosted the GDP growth and raised the average incomes of the rich and the upper middle income sections of society, who contribute merely 15 to 18 per cent of the population. But around 70 per cent of the population, which constitutes the economically weaker sections and below the poverty line groups has been suffering from hunger, malnutrition, displacement and various other problems.

As Jeremy Seabrook, renowned journalist and author, in a recent article pointed out: “it (globalization) turns sacred forests and groves, rivers and springs into timber and water resources. It evicts people from subsistence for the sake of cash crops, introduces a global market in places where people had survived immemorially within the limits of the local resource base”. On the one side, we have increasing leisure and amusement while, on the other, the survival of the poor is at stake. Thus there have been no perceptible development in their standards of living and they continue to languish in poverty and squalor.    

It is thus argued by a section of economists and development experts that wealth is being concentrated in a few hands and the vast section of the masses have been left impoverished, deprived and discriminated. People have been fighting for their land, for the rights of self-determination for the empowerment of women against social injustice and displacement. In the face of people’s resistance, which are quite natural and just, the State acts as an oppressor in a violent manner by curbing mass movements, conducted in a democratic manner.

In different regions of the country’s jails, political prisoners, who are at the forefront of highlighting political demands, have been languishing in pitiable conditions. Most of these prisoners are considered a “threat to security”. In spite of tall talks of human rights, the prisons where these prisoners are kept cannot be considered a place worthy of living of human beings. Moreover, there are many cases where prisoners have been languishing without trial, thereby affecting human mind and body.  

The inhuman torture, specially of Maoists and Muslims, in the name of security has raised a demand for proper treatment of political prisoners and release of those against whom there are no specific charges. In fact, a Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners (CRPP) was formed, last year to coordinate the work at the all-India level, involving activists from all parts of the country including Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Delhi, the North East (including Assam and Nagaland) and West Bengal.

Following brainstorming sessions, the Committee put forth a list of demands which need to be considered. These include: doing away with illegal detention of political prisoners and giving them special status and rights of political prisoners; as more than 230 countries of the world have put an end to capital punishment, this barbaric punitive instrument should be repealed as it does not address any social or political malady; putting an end to the worst form of atrocities ( as is the case with gangs like the Salwa Judum in Chattisgarh, the Sulpha in Assam, the death squads of Punjab, the Ipwan-ul-Muslim in Jammu & Kashmir, the Green Tigers and Narsa Cobras in A.P., the Nagarik Suraksha Dal in Jharkhand and Harmad in West Bengal) in the name of national security and scrapping all anti-people laws that have given blanket power to the State.

In addition, the Committee made a note that as prisoners from the Muslim community, the Kamtapuris, the people of Manipur, Nagaland and Assam, the Maoists have been facing the worst form of humiliation and torture in the prisons. Thus, there is a need to improve conditions in these places and judiciously follow the jail manual. It even sought the lifting of the ban on SIMI (Students Islamic Movement of India) and the seven mass organizations including Damana Pratirodh Manch of Orissa and stopping of torture through unscientific tests like Narco analysis, polygraph and similar third degree methods; treating prisoners of war as human beings and in accordance with Geneva Convention to which India is a signatory; and lifting the ban on all parties, organizations in the schedule of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

Many activists are of the opinion that whether it is the tribals, women, minority communities, the displaced or the Maoists, the State has let loose a reign of terror. It has been trying to project the Maoists and the Muslims as demons or witches who could be hunted and killed in cold blood, which reminds us of the days of witch hunting in medieval Europe.        

Clearly, the protests time and again for political and economic rights of the poor and downtrodden people has become manifest in the country and people from all sections of society, which include intellectuals, advocates and students are coming forward to raise the banner of revolt. This has become even more pronounced since the report of Debabrata Bandyopadhyay, Retd. IAS, submitted to the Planning Commission on increase in the popularity of the Naxalites. The report sadly points out that there has been wrong treatment of the Maoist problem. This is not at all a law and order problem but basically a socio-economic problem. Indeed, isn’t it time that the powers-that-be give a serious thought to what ails the society and consider providing the underprivileged the basic necessities of life? --INFA

(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)

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