Peace and stability are prerequisites for development and it is the same development which paves the way for the prosperity of a country. The condition of war torn countries involved in years of civil war which are also least developed in nature (for ex – Sudan, Somalia, Congo) project the relation between lack of development and conflict. However it is not only under development but also the process of development which leads to discontent and unrest which often produces violent results.
Extremism is one such form of internal conflict in which years of injustice, exploitation and humiliation force the people to voice their demands often through violent means influenced by the Maoist ideology (Mao Zedong of China) which justifies the use of violence in order to capture state power and end the structures of social and economic exploitation. In India, the rise of Extremism (also called Left wing Extremism) has become one of the most dangerous internal security threats. The surge in extremism has been linked to the process of development on which India embarked upon after her independence.
Reasons for the emergence of Extremism in India
1. Land Reforms
Recognizing the importance of land and its relation with livelihood, the first task which was taken by the Government was land reforms but it has remained an unfinished agenda unfortunately. Zamindari system was abolished but the State governments did not take sincere efforts to implement ceiling laws which meant that there would be no genuine redistribution of land to the landless. The agrarian structure based on land holdings and access to land determined social relations with an added dimension of caste. Since Dalits constitute the largest percentage of landless people, those were the ones who were exploited the most.
In the famous report of the Commissioner of SC/ST in 1988 (28th report), the Commissioner attributed the violence related to both Dalits and STs to three causative factors:
- Unresolved land disputes related to the allotment of government lands or distribution of ceiling surplus lands to SC/ST persons.
- Tension and bitterness on account of non-payment or underpayment of prescribed minimum wages.
- Resentment of upper castes over the manifestation of awareness among the SCs and STs about their rights and privileges as enshrined in the Constitution and various other laws relating to their welfare.
The incident of Naxalbari (1967) which marked the rise of extremism was a response to the failure of land reforms. More than 65% of the population in that area belonged to Schedule Caste and many of them were Adivasis. The clash between sharecroppers and jotedars soon became a flash point and the movement spread like wildfire which was supported and led by intellectuals and college students in West Bengal.
But this incident and many others that followed it were considered as issues of law and order rather than social and economic issues. According to an enquiry on Naxalism conducted by CPI (M), “Behind the peasant unrest in Naxalbari lies a deep social malady – mala fide transfers, evictions and other anti-people actions of tea gardeners and jotedars. But the Government in West Bengal came up with the legislation ‘Prevention of Unlawful Activities Act’ to deal with the problem of “Lawlessness” and this approach was followed by other states too where Naxalism was spreading its wings. The government failed to understand that social and political movements do not arise out of vacuum but are the results of deep rooted frustration against the exploitative social, political and economic systems.
2. Development Process and the Spread of Extremism
Our Constitution has stated that the government would work to reduce inequalities (social and economic) and safeguard the entitlements of the poor and marginalized. But so far the development process has only increased inequalities, alienation and even deprived the poor of the resources to which they had access.
Appropriation of common property resources in the name of development such as forests, water sources and land without taking due consideration of the impact it would have on the lives of thousands of people of which majority are poor, downtrodden and belong to the marginalized section further deepened the divide between the state and its people. The reason that Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Orissa are now the hotbed of Naxalism is that while these states are among the richest states in terms of natural resources but at the same time, the tribals and Dalits who are the inhabitants of these region are still living in abject poverty and deprivation.
In 1986, the National Commission on SC and ST provided a detailed analysis on how the development process had created an adverse impact on the lives of Dalits and Adivasis often resulting in the conviction that relief can be achieved only outside the system by breaking the current order asunder. According to an Expert report by the Planning Commission in 2008 (Development Challenges in Extremist Affected Areas), Naxalite movements are part of an overall scenario of poverty, deprivation, oppression, and neglect in large parts of the country.
3. Development Deficit and the rise of Extremism
Lack of development is also another major factor for the spread of Left Wing extremism. In the absence of any state machinery mostly in remote areas with difficult terrains (North Eastern states), people come under the influence of local leaders who entice them to violence.
The Constitution provides a separate schedule (Fifth Schedule) for the administration of scheduled areas while the administration of the tribal areas in the State of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram has been provided under the Sixth Schedule.
The Fifth Schedule stipulates that Governors of the states would administer the tribal areas in their respective states by appointing Tribal Advisory Councils. But it has never been applied. In its 1997 Samatha decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the Fifth Schedule enjoined Governors to bar purchase of tribal land for mining activity by any entity that was not state-owned. But after an appeal filed by the Andhra Pradesh government that it would adversely impact the mining sector, as well as other non-agricultural activities and therefore will hamper overall economic development of the country, Governors were given unfettered authority in the transfer of the lands of the ST community land to the government and allotment to non-tribals, altering the balance of power and undermining the stated goal of tribal autonomy.
In 1996, the Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act was enacted. The Act extended the provisions of Panchayats to the tribal areas of nine states that have areas under the Fifth Schedule. But the lack of political will and genuine devolution of power to the local government keeps the dream of development away from them.
Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Rights Act of December 2006ostensibly recognises the right of communities to protect and manage their forests (as does PESA), but only if the state decides whether a certain region is denoted as Village Forest or Reserved Forest. In this process, many communities are evicted without a proper channel of rehabilitation. Though regions enjoy certain degree of autonomy under the Sixth Schedule, the absence of regular elections and local politics further leads to exclusion rather than empowerment.
Taking advantage of the feeling of neglect and under development, leaders with Maoist ideology try to glorify violence in order to get justice. Emergence of groups like – People’s War Group (PWG), CPI (Maoist) have spread their cadre based among youth who indulge in violence in pursuit of state power.
Violence cannot be justified for any reason but in order to deal with the menace of extremism, we must first understand the underlying reason. Deprivation leads to anger and frustration and when people finally take up arms to get their due, it should be seen as a failure of the state to meet the aspirations of its people. Well intentioned and well implemented policies such as OPERATION BARGA launched by the West Bengal government in I978 under which sharecroppers were registered and given permanent and inheritable rights on cultivation of their plots covering a total area of 11 lakh acres not only helped in uplifting the economic condition of the landless poor but also helped in weakening the Naxal movement which had its origin in West Bengal. Extremism/Naxalism is more dangerous than external threat because it is a war within our own people and it cannot be and must not be dealt with counter violence. Supreme Court therefore very aptly delegitimized organisations like Salwa Judum. Recently XAXA Committeein its report advocated the importance of giving more power to Gram Sabhas and preventing land alienation. Empowerment of Gram Sabhas leads to historic decisions such as Niyamgiri Movement, where the tribals denied the permission for bauxite mining. By making the development process more inclusive and participatory, extremism can be eliminated. Moreover, a single model of development in a diverse country like India with linguistic, ethnic, cultural diversity is problematic and hence, there can be numerous versions of development and imposing one single model envisaged at the centre without catering to the voices from the bottom is ought to invite conflict.
Originally Published in Unacademey
This Article was Published At Unacademey
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