Each side claims that history is on their side, and while the government may have more reasons to back its claim, the Maoists can also point to the fact that guerilla struggles can last for a long time as in Colombia or Kashmir. (Source: Reuters)
more have been killed since. Vij notes that in 2005 the Maoists had only one military company; by 2010 they had 10. Where did all the recruits for these companies come from, if not from people whose homes had been burnt and relatives killed or raped? This is a fact that both the Intelligence Bureau and the Maoists themselves have acknowledged in the past. And yet, Vij coyly refers to the Judum as a revolt by the population of western Bastar against the Maoists.
The Chhattisgarh government had a golden opportunity to address the conflict through non-military means by simply following the Supreme Court’s orders on disbanding the SPOs, prosecuting those responsible for heinous crimes and giving compensation to all those affected by the Salwa Judum. But they chose not to do any of this. Instead, they regularised the SPOs, brought in more CRPF camps, and continued to beat up, torture and arrest villagers. They have converted the whole area into a garrison state. The outgoing CRPF director, Dilip Trivedi, was absolutely right when he said that Naxal-affected states have a vested interest in letting the war continue because of the massive funds they get from the Centre.
Each side claims that history is on their side, and while the government may have more reasons to back its claim, the Maoists can also point to the fact that guerilla struggles can last for a long time as in Colombia or Kashmir. While the government has more or less succeeded in hemming the Maoists into Chhattisgarh, a struggle whose basic causes are not addressed is never finished. If the Modi government succeeds in its decimation of environmental regulation and its mining cum industrialisation policy, Bastar as we know it will be finished. But there will also be a mass of displaced villagers angry at the acquisition of their land. And who knows where their anger will turn?
The government is unwilling to talk peace, because it feels it is winning overall. In the past, the police have refused talks on the grounds that it would give the Maoists time to regroup. The Maoists may be more ready for talks now, but to lay down their weapons unconditionally will be seen as unthinkable surrender. A sensible government would chose this moment to offer a ceasefire, since it is clearly the stronger partner. While the police may claim the Maoists’ ultimate aim is to claim Delhi, they know, and the Maoists know, this will never happen. The real issues are Adivasi rights, and they both know it. And it is these that must form the basis of dialogue.
In the absence of talks, this senseless civil war will continue indefinitely. After all, it will soon be 50 years since Naxalbari began. As Bob Dylan sang: How many deaths will it take till [we know] that too many people have died?
The writer is professor of sociology at Delhi