“The Maoist movement is losing its Tribal support base and if the highhandedness of the Maoists continues, the Tribal support to them could dry out in near future,” observed a group of academicians, professors, research scholars, journalists and social activists, who travelled through some interior villages in Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra “to take stock of development and to understand mentality of people living there.”

The group had named its initiative as the “Shodhyatra” (search mission) and visited 65 villages in Korchi, Dhanora, Etapalli, Bhamragad and Aheri tehsils of the tribal district in its eleven-day endeavour.

“People are fed up with the Maoist violence but they help them only out of fear of violence. The local body representatives in these areas work for the Maoists only out of fear” said the organizers in a press release.

Speaking to The Hindu, the chief organizer of the Shodhyatra, Professor Arvind Sovani said, “People in Naxal-affected areas want basic amenities but the administration is conspicuous by its absence. The government has poured in immense amount of money and resources to develop these areas but the development is not visible. There is anger among the people and they want development at any cost”.

The Yatra travelled to some villages known for their support to the Naxals, but participants did not face any resistance from the ultras despite the statement issued by CPI (M) Maharashtra spokesperson Sahyadri doubting the intentions of the organisers.

“People in tribal-dominated villages were reluctant to speak out, but villages with a mixed population openly demanded development and at times even spoke against the Maoist violence” claimed Professor Datta Shirke, a participant in the Yatra.

According to Professor Rashmi Sovani, who actively took part in the Shodhyatra, most of the developmental works visible in these areas, were done under the Integrated Action Plan, the Backward Region Grant Fund and the Integrated Tribal Development Program.

Professor Sovani demanded that the programmes like the Prime Minister Rural Development Fellows should be run at the block level rather than at the district level, and the Community Forest Rights should be promoted in these areas to give the tribals a sense of justice.

The participants will be sending a detailed report of their trip to the Government, and they also wished to speak to the Maoists to understand their side of story.