Amid divergent views within the Congress on tackling Maoists, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee today said that Naxals are political elements out to capture power and the issue of development was “more imaginary than actual”.
“Development is needed. Lack of development may swell their (Naxals’) cadre. But they do not run charitable institutions ...They are political elements and want to capture the power of the state,” Mr. Mukherjee said.
He was addressing a seminar on ‘Development in Red Corridor’ organised by Hindi daily ‘Nai Dunia’ here.
Recent months have witnessed Congress leaders like Digvijay Singh and Keshav Rao differing with the approach of Home Minister P. Chidambaram on tackling the Naxal issue with Mr. Singh emphasising that it should not be merely treated as a law and order problem.
The Finance Minister, however, clarified that his opinion was neither of the government nor of the Congress party but “stray thoughts”.
He said the Maoists do not believe in democratic system which would ultimately prevail and for development plans in Naxal-hit areas, a conducive environment is required.
“They don’t believe in democratic system. They think power comes out from the barrel of the gun but ultimately the democratic system would prevail,” he said.
The minister, however, said that there is need to correct the system.
Rejecting the proposition of existence of a red corridor from Pashupatinath in Nepal to Tirupati, he said, “The proposition is difficult to accept” and termed it as largely ephemeral. “There is an element of romanticism in using these phrases and these are erroneous conclusions,” he said.
Recalling the Naxal movement in Kolkata and West Bengal in the early 1970s, Mr. Mukherjee said that he thought that it would never end.
“It did not last long and cannot last long,” he remarked, adding that the issue is simplified when it is said that the Maoist violence was due to lack of development and lack of opportunities and basic amenities in these areas. This is not the sole reason, the minister said.
“This is more imaginary than actual,” he added.
Mr. Mukherjee admitted that in certain pockets, the writ of the government does not run, pointing out that the Maoists consider them equal to the government and want to replace the government with the help of guns.
“They have never given up the theory of power through the barrel of the gun,” he said, adding that they do not believe in democratic system and multi-party democracy.
“The role of the state is clear here. State cannot allow it...Democratic system cannot be allowed to be overthrown by a handful of gun-yielding persons,” mR. Mukherjee said.
The Finance Minister said that some NGOs and others could take the initiative and enter into a dialogue with them saying that they (Maoists) are mistaken and should come to the democratic mainstream.
Speaking in the seminar, Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley lashed out at the violence perpetrated by the Maoists saying a political campaign should be launched against violence in Naxal-hit areas.
“Without removing landmines and weapons, it will not be possible to bring in development. Only development is not the answer as the Maoists would not allow it...Political campaign should also be launched against violence in these areas.”
The BJP leader said that the Central government had been taking the lead in such areas from the point of view of development and security but lamented that a “strange debate” has been started even within the government whether development was important or security.
“Indian sovereignty is not merely a law and order problem. The Centre has to lead and use the instrumentality of the state in fighting it,” he said, adding, “it was the prime responsibility of all of us“.
He admitted that the areas affected by Maoists have remained backward saying there are 200 districts affected by it and in 90 of them, the problem is acute.
MR. Jaitley said that there was consensus that these areas were ignored and the issue has been “squarely flagged in Indian politics“.
The BJP leader, however, maintained that the violence perpetrated by the Maoists will not allow development of these areas. “They (Maoists are not running a poverty eradication programme. They want to end the parliamentary democracy of the country,” he said adding that if they get state power parliamentary democracy would end, there would be no freedom of speech and no fundamental rights.
“They want to establish dictatorship,” he said, adding that if the administration wants to spend the money earmarked for development, this cannot be done as officials cannot enter the area.
Chhatisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh said the tribals were making maximum sacrifice in this battle and were fed up with the Maoists.
He rejected it as Maoist propaganda that multi-national companies were exploiting the mineral wealth of Chhatisgarh, saying none of the MNCs have mined even a ton of iron ore from Bastar in the last 60 years.