Chhattisgarh’s experiment of anti-Naxalite movement Salwa Judum has not yielded desired results and in the past five years, it has only ended up strengthening the Maoists as never before, a new book says.
In Let’s Call him Vasu: With Maoists in Chattisgarh, journalist Shubhranshu Choudhary takes a critical look into the Maoist issue and says the problem stems from a breach in communication between mainstream India and its hundred million-strong tribal population.
‘Through the stories I heard, I have tried to piece together the history of the Naxal movement in the central tribal region through the 1980s up to the present. I do not aim to provide a 360-degree panoramic view of everything related to Left wing extremism. For me, this book is just a step forward in the larger effort that is required to understand the ‘why’ of the ‘Naxal problem’,’he says.
‘The state-driven, strategic ‘hamleting’ experiment of the Salwa Judum, cleared at the highest levels of the government, has proven to be a disaster on all fronts. In fact, in the last five years, the Salwa Judum has ended up strengthening the Maoists as never before,’ the book, published by Penguin India, says.
‘Still, the Maoists have no illusions about being anything but a spare wheel, valued only in an emergency.’
The author, who has created the world’s first community radio on the mobile phone called CGnet Swara, claims Jan Jagran or Salwa Judum was a plan prepared by the central government, drawn up when L K Advani of the BJP was the union home minister.
‘Much later, when I had enough data and appropriate questions, the head of the Naxal cell in the home ministry would confirm to me, off the record, that there was truth in the story that the Salwa Judum had been planned in Delhi,’ he writes.
There is a systematic story of how Chief Minister Raman Singh requested the then leader of the opposition, Mahendra Karma (Congress), to start Salwa Judum and how the officials in the forest department directed the contractors in selected areas to not bid for tendu leaf contracts, where Salwa Judum was to be expanded the following year. In the same areas, the following year, after Salwa Judum had taken off, the tendu trade normalised.
Choudhary also quotes some Maoist leaders as having said that Binayak Sen was a courier of the Naxals and Rs 50,000 was sent to him for providing legal support to senior Naxal leader Narayan Sanyal. The book mention the then chief of the Naxals in Odisha accepting having sent the money to Sen. It also mentions that Sen’s criticism of violence after he was released from the jail surprised some of the Naxals.
The author further writes about the framework of the Naxal movement and the economical and military organisation in detail.
Quoting senior Naxal leader Kosa, he says that in 2002, the budget of CPI (Maoist) exceeded a crore and by 2010-11, it rose to Rs 10-12 crore. ‘Tendu patta yields Rs 5-7 crore for us. We spend Rs 2-3 crore in Dandakaranya.’
One leader Rajanna is quoted to have said that the Naxals in Dandakaranaya acquired their first AK-47 in 1987. At that time it cost a lakh and a half.
‘Explosives come to us from the police through middle men. Deals are struck at every police station. Many policemen, from top to bottom, are involved. Anyway, no one makes bullets for AK-47 in India. Only government can import them. We only purchase a quarter of our needs. The rest are looted from the police,’ the book quotes Rajanna as saying.
According to him, a majority of Adivasis are turning to the Maoists because no one else is able to communicate with them.
‘Much needs to be done to solve this problem. We need to bring justice to the table. But first, communication, which is my area of expertise, needs to be democratised. We must create platforms where people can be heard,’ he suggests.