Welcoming the Supreme Court's recent judgment declaring the deployment of tribal youths as special police officers (SPOs) unconstitutional and illegal, activist Binayak Sen said it was important to consider the “new possibilities and options brought about by this judgment” while discussing the prospect of peace.
He was speaking at a discussion “to welcome the Supreme Court judgment and discuss peace talks” here on Tuesday. Representatives of People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), People's Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR) and several civil society activists and intellectuals who were part of the discussion, unanimously hailed the judgment as “historic” and emphasised engaging the Government in dialogue with the tribals.
Referring to the Government's attitude towards Maoists as one of “deception” and “betrayal”, Communist Party of India secretary D. Raja said “the Government in a democracy cannot have such an attitude. It must find a way for open dialogue”.
Describing the Government atrocities in Chhattisgarh, social activist Swami Agnivesh said the Maoists had in the past agreed to the dialogue process, but had been betrayed by the “duplicity” of the Government. “All of us will have to raise voice to know if this Government honestly wants to engage in dialogue [with the Maoists],” he said.
Former Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Ajit Jogi spoke about the atrocities faced by tribal people on a day-to-day basis, adding that peace would not be possible without bringing “Maoists into the mainstream of democracy”. He said there was an attempt to “saffronise the tribals” in Chhattisgarh. Questioned about the way forward by Dr. Sen, Mr. Jogi said the focus areas for restoring peace should be “the socio-economic front, political initiative, containing violence in tribal areas and throwing the communal saffron out of power”.
Sociology professor and one of the petitioners in the case against the State of Chhattisgarh, Professor Nandini Sundar said the issue of violence in Chhattisgarh should be taken up by the Opposition for an effective solution. Agreeing with Mr. Jogi on the need for political initiative, she added that “an all-party representative” group should visit the State like the all-party delegation that visited Kashmir last year.
Dr. Sen said the judgment should “make us look at new options in concrete, material terms… [not only for] Chhattisgarh, but a dozen other States”.
Activist G. Haragopal pointed out that “civil society's concern was missing” with regard to tribals. “Civil society is the only hope. Dialogue is possible with this judgment in the backdrop…Delhi-based people have great responsibility, because what you say makes a difference. We need to ask the tribals what they want. Their rights need to be protected,” he said.
Several others spoke about the judgment, responsibility of the Central and State governments and dialogue as the “vital weapon” for the peace process to begin.