Proposed Air Attacks in Bastar against Naxals!
A news came through the Indian Express yesterday, that Government is finalising its plans to use the Indian Air Force in Bastar and other regions affected by naxal violence. I had heard this kind of solution to wiping out naxalism mooted by hawkish elements in the security administration under UPA also, but the then Government did not allow it. Under a clearly right wing Government now, these buried plans have been dusted and being made ready to use. There has been a gradual domination of police generated solutions to left wing insurgency/ extremism. The very organisations that have led to naxals getting strong local support are now dictating strategy and policy against naxal terror.
(For anyone who has been to these regions, the seriousness of the naxal terror is clearly evident and from some elements of an ideological war, naxal terror has deteriorated into one run by hooligans and extremists with no ideology. It is equally evident that the terrain is difficult and non distinguished, and the settlements and habitations of common people and naxal stations, or homes are inter mixed, with no clear naxal military stations or zones that you can target in air attacks. The attacks, if they take place shall happen over assumed naxal territory and the victims would be anyone, mostly civilians. If Government really knew about naxal stations or quarters these can then even be targeted through helicopters and ground troops. Using air strikes will be like US use of napam during the Vietnam war, or the kind of bombings taking place in Syria today).
The injustice and daily violation of human rights and human dignity, terror by the Police and local Forest administration, illegal exploitation of forest wealth in cahoots with forest officials, while forest dwellers are excluded from their natural livelihoods, nexus between NTFP traders and officials and politicians etc. – these are some reasons why local people either join naxals or support them, and not some fancy notion of lack of development only. Of course fear of naxals is also an important reason, but that came later. It suits police and forest officers and local revenue administration and trading communities that everything is treated as purely a law and order problem, and its genesis lies in “lack of development”. They then remain safe and their crimes hidden.
Our Government have been taken in by the Doval kind of outlook to all such issues. This doctrine believes in collateral damage, especially when those damaged are poor and the marginalised and voiceless, and it suits them since it would only murder tribals, and perhaps even free up some space for industrial investments. No one can support what naxals are doing, and they are as dangerous as any insurgent/ militant/ extremist. But you have to equally identify and eliminate the mass exploitation of tribal communities and their way of life, their dignity and their livelihoods, on a daily basis. No policeman or Home Ministry officer or intelligence officer will tell the Government that.
And now this! Using our Air Force against our own citizens! Many years ago this was done in 1966 or so, during days of the Mizo problem, but since then, use of Air Force has been thankfully completely shut.
The exploiters in uniform and economic insurgents now want to use the other still respected uniformed force to establish their un-interrupted hegemony to exploit. No one in Government, will call for elimination of injustice by states representatives, knowing fully well that if that happens then support for naxals would automatically wane. Local armed battalions would be enough then. What’s even more tragic, is that if you speak like this, you are labelled as “naxal sympathiser”, and if you support the state sponsored terror and loot, then you are a “nationalist”. How convenient.
This taking away of what belongs to the tribals (and we must remember that there is as much diversity in this group as in any other community) is not just economic. Their way of life has been systematically erased. Just as police, forest administration, and local traders and political forces have exploited them (and they include tribals themselves), the attack on their culture, beliefs and religion has been equally serious. Be it the work of missionaries, starting years ago, backed by the then British Government, and which still goes on, or work of Hindu organisations, teachings of gayatri mantra and so on. The work done by the missionaries in tribal belts, where they systematically infused a sense of shame on the current religious or cultural beliefs and practices of the tribal people, and then lured them to the benevolent bosom of their religion in a heady mix of dignity, way out of their shame and economic benefits, and is as insidious as the work of the Hindu outfits today. Both religious missions work through a common call of a supposedly greater God, insulting the life and beliefs of the very tribals they work with.
There is so much protest and voice raised in matters of what we eat, what we wear, what we drink, what we can see, and society, by and large is protesting against this imposition on their choices and way of life. But no voices are raised when there is sacrilege in speech and propaganda against tribal deities, when their dress is considered uncultured and they are forced to wear clothes of a kind that our middle class morality approves of, when their languages are systematically sidelined and allowed to die, when their social and marital customs are denigrated and labelled as promiscuous, when we start imposing our notions of gender inequality upon them destroying and so on.
The use of the Indian Air Force cannot be allowed against our own citizens. It will not eliminate naxals, but it will install in that region the final supremacy of the uniformed, the most savage and exploiting unit of the Indian state.