By Shams Tamanna, Raipur, June 7 The recent attack by the Naxals in south Chhattisgarh, where the top ranking political leaders of Chhattisgarh were killed has been one of the gruesome attacks against Indian politicians in the recent past.
Eyewitness accounts indicate that State Congress Chief Nand Kumar Patel and Mahendra Karma, under whose guidance and leadership the controversial ‘Salwa Judum’ took shape, were the primary targets.
While the brutal episode raises serious questions about the efficiency of the state’s security operations, the likely aftermath raises even more serious concerns: will the tribal youth, trapped in a conflict not of their making, have to brave the brunt yet again?
Though Mahendra Karma was leader of the Opposition, he had, for many years, enjoyed huge support from the state’s BJP-led government, and the ‘Salwa Judum’ movement saw youth being armed with weapons issued by the state, ostensibly for self -defence.
It has been alleged that in the name of Salwa Judum innocent tribals were killed, on personal grudges and scores were settled under the garb of creating a grassroots movement against the Naxals. This highly controversial ‘movement’ was brought to an end by the Supreme Court stepped in. Thereafter, Mahendra Karma was a marked man.
With Assembly elections due at the end of this year, and the state Congress campaigning against a well-established Chief Minister Raman Singh, the Parivartan Yatra is being organized throughout the state to showcase the failure of the present government.
Interestingly, ex-Chief Minister Ajit Jogi and Vidyacharan Shukla buried their differences and were undertaking joint campaigns: a good beginning for the Congress government keen to return to power in the state. The death of the senior leaders in the recent attack has been a big blow to these plans.
In the conflict between the security forces and Naxals that has already stretched over many decades, the worst affected have been the young people of local communities, notably the tribals, who are trapped at both ends.
Recent casualties among senior Naxal commanders in Bastar, believed to have been kept away from the media glare, are said to have dealt a serious blow to the Naxals, and the Jeeram Ghat attack are seen as a retaliatory move. The Naxals were openly opposed to political rallies by both, the Congress and the BJP, and had issued threats of dire consequences. But, in the heat of the upcoming elections, both parties ignored these warning signs.
Which party will benefit by this attack is difficult to say yet. A larger, and more predictable, fallout is the expected wrath that the hapless youth are likely to face. In any conflict, ‘encounters’ have the unavoidable possibility of targeting innocent trials. Last November, for instance, the killing of alleged Naxals in Bijapur, Chhattisgarh, turned out to be a mistake; those killed were local tribals. The public outcry had reached Delhi, then. But will injustice be spoken up against, each time?
The increase in such incidents has forced the local youth to migrate from their homes in search for safer lives. Those who stay behind are being targeted by the Naxals on the one hand for being ‘police informers’, or picked up for being ‘Naxal sympathisers’ by the state police or security forces.
The original ideology of Charu Mazumdar and Kanu Sanyal has long been forgotten, with the armed movement funded through extortion and killings rather than working for the benefits of the people. It is true that local tribals, who in one way or another were affected by corruption prevailing in the political and administrative system, have been Naxal supporters.
Decades of corruption and harassment make it easy for vested interests to take advantage of the situation and brainwash them into joining an armed movement.
The Charkha Development Communication network feels that though the number of local tribals taking up arms is very small, the entire tribal community of Bastar may have to bear the brunt when, one more time, the Commandos and security forces go out to look for Naxals in the forests of BastarANI