Prof Yash Pal and Swami Agnivesh
A mob of about 100 slogan-shouting supporters of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party barged into the public meeting of eminent citizens, including space scientist Yash Pal, veteran Gandhian Narayan Desai and former University Grants Commission chairman Ramji Singh, a day before they embarked upon a peace march from Raipur to Dantewada in Chhattisgarh.
A group of over 50 leading citizens had converged in Raipur on Wednesday (May 5) to take out what they call 'March for dialogue on peace and justice', calling for end to a civil-war-like situation in the predominantly tribal state of Chhattisgarh. These citizens comprising academics, scientists, social activists and Gandhian workers, want a 'ceasefire' between the state forces and Maoists to begin a nation-wide discussion on the model of development that the country should follow to ensure a sustainable, just and people-oriented economy and polity.
At a press conference, held before the public meeting, Prof Yash Pal said he was greatly pained at the plight of the tribals, farmers and the indigenous people in the last 60 years of Independence for which the powers that be and the middle-class in general were responsible. "Do we want to annihilate the entire race of aboriginal people, like America had done in the name of development?" he asked.
Interestingly, the Press Club of Raipur allowed the press conference of the leading citizens as an exception to its earlier resolution not to allow any press conference of human rights activists. The press conference lasted for more than an hour during which journalists asked leading questions like 'How can you advocate ceasefire when Naxalites are out to wage a war against the constitutionally-formed government?"
Swami Agnivesh, Prof Yash Pal and Narayan Desai explained the limited scope of the peace march saying the foremost thing was to stop violence from both the sides -- from the state and the Left extremists -- to facilitate a nation-wide dialogue on ways and means to have a sustainable and just development of the country in which people were at the centre.
Later, while the marchers held a public meeting at the town hall, near the district collector's office, a mob of over 100 people, stormed into the hall shouting slogans, "Naxal sympathizers go back", "Naxal sympathizers, shame, shame." The trouble-makers disrupted the meeting several times during which the speakers stopped addressing the gathering.
State director general of police Vishwa Ranjan said the trouble-makers belonged to the BJP and the Congress party. "Tempers are running high in Chhattisgarh over the wanton killings of tribals by the Maoists. Anyone advocating dialogue with them is perceived as the sympathizer of the Maoists," he added.
The top cop directed police offers of Jagdalpur and Dantewada to provide adequate security to the peace marchers.