Calling for talks between Maoists and the government, writer Arundhati Roy on Saturday demanded an immediate ceasefire on both sides, formal halting of the combing operations and Operation Green Hunt, and resettling people who were rendered homeless in Chhattisgarh's Dantewada district.
Ms. Roy also demanded that details of memoranda of undertaking signed between the government and mining industries, involving tribal regions, be made public.
She was speaking at a public meeting here on ‘Indian state's War on People and the Assault on Democratic Voices'.
It was organised by the Forum Against War on People, a forum of civil society organisations, parties, individuals and social activists.
While the death of CRPF personnel at the hands of the Maoists was saddening, one could not dismiss the alleged atrocities committed by the security personnel against tribals, Ms. Roy said.
Ms. Roy alleged that the government was not interested in talks as it claimed.
Randhir Singh, head of the Political Science department in Delhi University, said: “The political parties in India seem to have decided that neo-liberal capitalism is the way to proceed. The kind of development the government is practising in tribal areas can be labelled ‘developmental terrorism'.”
The challenge for the Maoists was to provide a viable alternative mode of development as opposed to the modes proposed by the ruling classes, he said.
Giving an account of the situation in West Bengal's Lalgarh, activists claimed that owing to the presence of the joint security forces, people could not venture out to earn their livelihoods. They were routinely tortured on suspicion of being Maoists, and their women were harassed.
‘Great deal of trouble'
“Operation Green Hunt is causing a great deal of trouble. People are arrested without warrants, peaceful rallies are fired upon, women are insulted and basic health facilities are not available. The government does not allow anyone to enter this zone as it does not want its wrongdoings exposed,” said activist Badshah Mandi, who also claimed that developmental facilities built by the People's Committee against Police Atrocities were routinely destroyed.
B.D. Sharma, former Commissioner of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Commission, said the basic conflict could be rooted in ownership of resources. “While the government behaves as if it owns the land, the tribals have traditional rights to the land.” According to the Supreme Court, the government did not have the right to hand over tribal land to others, he said.
Poet Varavara Rao said talks should take place between the government and the Maoists, in the same way the exercise was made possible between the Maoists and the Andhra Pradesh government with media and civil society efforts. However, “it is not possible for anyone to condone Maoist violence.”
Speakers alleged that the media had not been accurate in reporting and presenting an analysis of the events related to the Maoists. Stress was laid on simultaneously calling a halt to “state atrocities on people” as well as Maoist violence.