Appeal to Political Parties, Visit Bastar, Initiate a Dialogue, Restore Fundamental Rights

Published on: July 11, 2016
that all crimes committed by the state and Maoists should be prosecuted and that the victims of conflict should be compensated. Rather than following the Supreme Court’s directions, the Chhattisgarh government merely renamed the SPOs, and called them Armed Auxiliary Forces. It has recently recruited more surrendered Maoists and other civilians under the name of District Reserve Group. No-one has been prosecuted or compensated for crimes committed by the Salwa Judum vigilantes, SPOs and security forces. Above all, the government has intensified its military offensive, with Police, BSF and CRPF camps opened up in the most interior parts of Bastar Division, along with the liberal distribution of money to bribe villagers into becoming informants, along with coerced surrenders. This in turn has led to a kind of Maoist implosion. The Maoists have started targeting the local population, accusing them of collaborating with the police. This has escalated the conflict and placed the villagers in a position where they face repression from both sides.

In this situation a group comprising of Sanjay Parate, Secretary State CPI-M, Vineet Tiwari, Joshi-Adhikari Institute of Social Studies and CPI, New Delhi, Archana Prasad, Jawaharlal Nehru University and member AIDWA, and Nandini Sundar, Delhi University visited Bastar Division from 12 to 16 May 2016. The visit covered Bijapur, Sukma, Bastar and Kanker districts.  The focus of the visit was on the situation of ordinary villagers who are living through the conflict between the state and Maoists. In all four districts, we visited villages chosen randomly, but with a focus on the most interior villages. In both Bijapur and Bastar for instance, we visited villages located in or at the boundaries of National Parks to try and assess the role of the revenue and forest departments. Our conclusions on incomes etc. are based on rough estimates, and proper surveys need to be carried out. In all we visited eleven villages.

The level of Maoist presence and scale of state repression varies somewhat across the districts. The worst affected at the moment appear to be Sukma district, portions of Bijapur district and the Darbha and Tongpal areas of Bastar and Sukma district, but fake encounters, rapes and arrests by police and security forces, beatings(by both police and Maoists), IED blasts and killing of informers (by Maoists) are a serious problem everywhere.
The findings of the study team should be seen in this context.

The Material Context and Outcome of the Conflict
The historical underdevelopment and exploitation of Bastar has laid the foundation of the growing conflict. During its visit the study team tried to ascertain whether the villagers were receiving the benefits of the schemes run by the state in the normal course of governance, leave alone those created under the Integrated Action Plan for Left Wing Extremist (LWE) affected areas. We collected information about the main livelihood strategies, namely agriculture, collection of tendupatta, Public Distribution System and the work generated through the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA), as well as by the forest department.  Almost all the blocks visited revealed one common feature: the villages near the camps of the security forces or where these camps were located had better facilities than the ones which were in the remote areas. This is largely because the government is using development as an instrument to get villagers to cooperate with security agencies.

This is a drought year and there is mass migration to Andhra Pradesh and even further afield for work. The only way people are surviving is through this migration. For instance, if they go to AP for 2 or 3 months they get Rs. 8-9,000, which is often their only source of cash income apart from tendupatta work which lasts about 10-15 days a year.

However, there is no sign that the administration has responded by providing rural employment as required under MNREGA. For example in Somanpalli village (the panchayat headquarters near the road) all villagers have ration cards, get about 45 days of MNREGS work (at Rs. 160 per day) and 15 days tendupatta work. While the official rate is Rs. 150 per saikda or 100 bundles of 50 leaves each, the traders give Rs. 50 extra, such that