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22 June, 2009

Neglect will convert India into a police state, warns AHRC



The following is a statement issued by the Asian Human Rights Commission, Hong Kong:

The Indian state of West Bengal is once again in the news for condemnable reasons. In a short span, the conflict in Lalgarh of West Midnapore district has increased in intensity, costing life and property. Today, the Maoists have called for a 48-hour-long strike paralysing life in almost the entire state.

Violence propagated by the Maoist and Naxalite ideologies, for whatever reason, cannot be justified. Yet, the spread of Maoist activities in the state resulting in the state administration losing control over several villages is nothing but an indicator of the callousness and the criminal neglect the state administration entertains against the poorest of the poorest -- the tribal communities in the state.

The spread of Maoist and Naxalite activities in India has been gradual and concentrated in the most neglected regions of the country. Regions that have succumbed to the spread of Maoist and Naxalite violence are governed by corrupt state administrations to a relatively higher degree, notorious for their feudal practices, and for entertaining total disregard to the life of the rural populace, particularly of the members of the tribal communities. The fact that the Maoists could claim control of several villages in West Bengal, a state administered for more than three decades by the champions of the working-class, draws parallels between the corrupt administrations in the rest of India and West Bengal government.

Indiscriminate isolation and alienation of the rural communities and the capitalisation of their natural habitat with complete disregard to the life and the fundamental rights of the people who depend on these resources is the fertile soil for a Maoist or a Naxalite. While the growth of Maoists and Naxalite cadres indicates the absence of the writ of the state in parts of the country, in the Indian context, it is also the indicator of extreme poverty and violence used against innocent citizens by the state and those who are sponsored by the state. In this context, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) cadres and the Salwa Judum are parallel forces operating with common intentions -- the exploitation of the poor. While the CPI (M) cadres receive unparalleled support from the party secretariat, the Salwa Judum receives similar encouragement from the upper caste and the rich.

The West Bengal state government's response to the Maoist uprising is equally condemnable like the response of the state governments in Chhattisgarh, Uttaranchal, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh to the Naxalite problem in these states. The only difference is the West Bengal State Police is so alienated from the people that the state administration had to call for central reserve police units to take charge of the situation.

The West Bengal state administration did nothing to prevent a situation that has now forced thousands to flee from the state, or at the minimum, to ensure the safety of those fleeing from the war zone. Instead, the state administration and its leaders are engaged in discussions in New Delhi and Kolkata to figure out how the CPI (M) lost pathetically in the national elections, once again demonstrating their neglect to the constitutional mandate and the requirement of the people.

The Naxalite and Maoist problem is complex. In minimalist terms, Naxalism and Maoism in India are the response of a highly oppressed community, forced to remain silent for decades, against the forces it sees as its oppressors. The response by the government so far has been based on the philosophy of the use of violence to curb violence. To prove that this will not work, India has several examples, of which the situation in Manipur, Assam and Jammu and Kashmir stands out, in terms of the period of conflict, the life and property lost and in terms of the lack of 'success' in achieving any progress.

A peaceful solution to the Maoist and Naxalite problem is not beyond the reach of the government. There will not be a solution to prevent Maoist or Naxlaite violence in the country, unless the fundamental guarantees, particularly of the rural poor concerning their right to food, health and life are protected, promoted and fulfilled. Unfortunately however, the state as well as central administration in the country is neglectful to this fact. Instead, the administrations seem to be looking forward to convert India into a police state.

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About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984

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