Give It Back

The Red Corridor

The Red Corridor

The Red Corridor

Deep in the jungles of Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Bihar to Bengal, across India, from South West India to the North-East, a swath of red terror is making life difficult for the Indian state.

There is no Pakistan involved in this – and no ISI. Police, for a change are detaining ‘Hindu’ terrorists like Dr.Binayak Sen, (General secretary of the Chhattisgarh People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), Vernon Gonsalves and Shridhar Srinivasan, Arun Ferreira are some of the detainees.

Naxalites, like dacoits, are an Indian creation. The word naxalites, comes from an incident in Naxalbari district in West Bengal where some landlords were massacred in March 1967. Naxalites, like dacoits are not all bad – or good either. They have pockets of support – based on the grievances that the State is not able to redress.

Traditional Community Property Rights

The main recruits of the naxalite movement are the tribals – from the forests. At the root of the problem is the forest rights. Against individual property rights, the tribals have different community property rights – which the Indian State has been blithely ignoring. These tribals have a long history of migratory lifestyle which is marked by extreme frugality. They live of the forest – and if India still has the Big 5, it is because of the tribal conservation efforts.

The dispossessed forest-dwelling STs are a major source of support for the Naxal Movement. Forest dwellers were dispossessed by the state’s declaration of “reserve forests”, without recognising rights of pre-existing communities. The main culprit in this regard was the Forest Conservation Act 1980; prior to1980, the dispossessed were usually regularised; but this process was stopped post-1980 – and in the discontent that set in as a result, the Naxal movement stepped in. (Causes of discontent – Extract from Planning Commission Document)

The interaction of these tribals with the urban populations is limited to the extent of limited trade of produce needed by the urban dwellers – and urban products needed by these forest dwellers. Early Indian records like the Ramayana recognized these rights – when Ramachandra on his way to exile was welcomed into the forest by Guha, the forest king, hunter king of the Nishada tribe – the ruler of the forests. Such centuries of tradition are being trampled by the Indian State – wich continues with some colonial practices.

tataH niSaada adhipatim dR^iSTvaa duuraat avasthitam |
saha saumitriNaa raamaH samaagacchad guhena saH || 2-50-35

35. dR^ishhTvaa= seeing; duuraat= from the distance; nishhaadaadhipatim= the king of Nishada; upasthitam= coming; saH raamaH= that Rama; soumitriNaa saha= along with Lakshmana; tataH= thereupon; samaagachchhat= went forth to meet; guhena= Guha.

Seeing from a distance the king of Nishada coming, Rama along with Lakshmana thereupon went forth to meet Guha.

Everyone Does Not Want To Be ‘Saved’

Obviously, these tribals see the urban dwellers as invaders – and the message of the ‘communist naxals’, who are anti-property, resonates with these tribals. The shared outrage by the ‘land grabbing capitalists’ makes for this significant naxalite movement problem.

Much like Europe has tried to ‘civilize’ and ‘tame’ the Roma Gypsies, for the last 500 years, the Indian State is also interested in ‘uplifting’ these tribals. They, my dear Manubhai, are not interested. They are happy with their migratory lifestyle, their frugality does not require complex urban organization and they have a culture which goes back many centuries. Modern ‘showcase’ projects, like hydro-electric dams, large steel plants, etc. uproot these tribals. After that these tribals are left homeless, rudderless, without skills – with some measly compensation, which they cannot manage. Money they don’t want – and don’t need, in abundance.

The other set of people who want to save these tribals are the foreign Christian missionaries – who want to save the souls of these heathens and pagans.

TERROR: IN FACTS AND FIGURES (Table – Business Standard)
State 2003 2005 2007
Incidents Casualties Incidents Casualties Incidents Casualties
Andhra Pradesh 577 140 535 208 138 45
Bihar 250 128 186 96 135 67
Chhattisgarh 256 74 385 168 582 369
Jharkhand 342 117 312 119 482 157
Madhya Pradesh 13 1 20 3 9 2
Maharashtra 75 31 94 53 94 25
Orissa 49 15 42 14 67 17
Uttar Pradesh 13 8 10 1 9 3
West Bengal 6 1 14 7 32 6
Kerala 12 8
Karnataka 4 8 8 7 5
Haryana 2 1
Tamil Nadu 1
Total 1597 515 1608 677 1565 696
Source: Annual Report 2007-08, Ministry of Home Affairs.

A Beginning

A system for implementation of the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 was passed – and a step in the right direction. Encouragingly, the Indian State is seized of this problem – and have their eyes on the ball.

5 Responses

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  1. Galeo Rhinus said, on October 1, 2008 at 4:00 pm

    I was a reading a book published by an English author from the 1800s, who was attempting to convert the Bhil people of the Rajasthan/Gujarat area… especially the ones living in the Banswara area.

    The author’s goal was to obviously convert them – his observations on their customs were revealing.

    Some of the customs, for example a widow remarrying, were striking similar to the vedic rites, that encourage a widow to overcome her grief and encourage finding a suitable husband… something that many parts of India lost – were maintained by these “backward” people.

    It is a shame that a “modern” India is refusing to view the forest dwelling people as a window to India’s polity.

    Good post.

  2. […] nearly 40 years, India’s Naxalite problem is known, recognized – and unresolved. This extract above by Latha Jishnu in Business […]

  3. […] need to give back the lands that were grabbed from the poor Indian peasant and the poor Indian […]

  4. Sandra R said, on September 9, 2009 at 5:06 pm

    Hi! I was surfing and found your blog post… nice! I love your blog. 🙂 Cheers! Sandra. R.

  5. Naras said, on November 27, 2009 at 5:29 pm

    An insightful post, as usual. Thanks! Good t know that GOI is not retaliating blindly, but trying to understand…

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