Raktima Bose

“Dialogue is the need of the hour rather than intensifying security operations”

Kolkata: Condemning the massacre of 76 security personnel by Maoists at Dantewada in Chhattisgarh on April 6, eminent human rights activist Binayak Sen said on Saturday that holding a dialogue between the rebels and the government was the need of the hour rather than intensifying security operations.

Dr. Sen was in prison in Raipur for two years for alleged Maoist links but freed on bail in May last year, following widespread protests both in India and abroad.

Speaking to The Hindu over telephone from Vellore, where he is undergoing medical treatment, Dr. Sen said he supported neither the government's nor the Maoists' violence against each other since both led to large-scale displacement of people, social inequity and injustice.

In a statement, he said: “We condemn and deplore the processes of violence and militarisation that have resulted in the tragic death of 76 police personnel in Dantewada on April 6, as well as the deaths of so many people on both sides of the ongoing conflict between the Maoists and the state forces. We also deplore the attendant tragic deaths of so many ordinary citizens whose deaths have gone unrecorded and largely unmourned. We cannot and do not valorise recourse to planned military strategy as a way to bring about social and political change either by the state or by those opposing it. At the same time we do mark the reality of structural violence and its role in perpetuating the criminally high levels of inequity we see all around us. We join ours to the many voices appealing for the cessation of violence and the initiation of political dialogue to bring about peace with justice and equity.”

Dr. Sen, a physician, said the very fact that 3.5 lakh people have been displaced from 700 villages of Dantewada district alone was indicative of the situation across Chhattisgarh.

Pointing to the malnutrition figures provided by the National Nutrition Monitoring Bureau, which says 33 per cent of the population, including 50 per cent of scheduled tribes and 60 per cent of scheduled castes, suffer from chronic under-nutrition, Dr. Sen wondered what prevented the administration from addressing this situation in regions not affected by Maoist presence.

Referring to a long-term study undertaken by a small non-governmental organisation, Jan Swarth Sahyog, which functions from the Ganiyari village in Chhattisgarh's Bilaspur district, he said the people in the region suffer from chronic malnutrition and malnutrition-related diseases like malaria and pulmonary tuberculosis during the period of August to November each year.

“There is no Maoist in this area. So the government argument that Maoist violence is responsible for the terrible level of under-development, poverty and inequity does not hold here…if body mass index is monitored on a monthly basis, there is a dip of BMI when rice harvest from the previous year runs out…The starvation leads to low immunity of the body and so malaria sets in. Also 95 per cent of the pulmonary tuberculosis cases have been found with BMI less than 18.5,” Dr. Sen said.

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