Tuesday, April 29, 2008

VIEW: Government should talk to Naxalites

The findings of the Centre-sponsored panel on Naxal violence indicates a nuanced understanding of a complex issue, described by the prime minister as the biggest threat to the internal security of the country.

The panel has identified Naxalism as a political problem and has called for talks between the government and the Naxalites. This is the way to go about it.

The threat from the Naxalite movement is exaggerated. Naxalism is spread over a contiguous region of central India that is economically backward and with a large presence of tribals
India that is economically backward and with a large presence of tribals.

It gained roots in this region largely because of the government's failure to build democratic institutions.

Naxalites have exploited this political vacuum to preach their ideology of class war.

Dialogue to resolve conflict is an accepted practice in a democracy. The Indian government has selectively exercised this option with other outfits and leaders who have refused to accept the Indian Constitution.

It has at various times held talks with extremist outfits in Nagaland and Jammu and Kashmir and some of these, as in the case of Mizo National Front, have yielded peace.

So, why not ask Naxalites to come to the negotiating table? Who knows, the success of Nepal Maoists who have accepted multiparty democracy and elections could influence Naxalites to rethink their political strategy.

The panel has also suggested that talks should be backed by other policy decisions like debt relief for people in distress.

Debt relief may be bad economics but it is a practice followed by the government for political reasons. The aim, however, should be to build a formal banking system in backward regions.

This is necessary to curtail the influence of moneylenders and build a modern credit-based economy. The panel has exposed the unconstitutional nature of Salwa Judum and the civil war it has triggered off in Chhattisgarh.

State-sponsored militias are not substitutes for a professional police force. Political problems call for political solutions. Talks are the first step towards that.

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