Whenever there is talk of peace, peaceful ways to conflict resolution, Gandhi is reminiscenced. This time, the government has banked on Gandhian ways to resolve home-grown conflict. The government is trying to involve Gandhians to build channels of communication with naxalites to resolve the decades-long Maoist violence in the country.
A group of Gandhians and the union minister for rural development, Jairam Ramesh, met at Mahatma Gandhi’s Sevagram Ashram in Wardha and deliberated the issue for over seven hours on Sunday. The meeting decided to initiate peace process with the Left-wing extremists.
The meeting expressed concern over the poor living conditions of tribals in naxal-affected areas, tribal rights, poor healthcare, unemployment among tribal youths, ways to reform naxalites and other issues.
According to Ramesh, the country’s has 82 such naxal-affected districts, of which two are in Gadchiroli and Gondia (Maharashtra). "The government has adopted certain measures in order to root out the naxalite menace from these areas. These include tribal-oriented development, security concerns, initiate a conducive political atmosphere, transparency in government works and speedy justice."
The Gandhians urged Ramesh to set up first track court in all naxalite-hit districts in the country to dispose of cases against the alleged Maoists. "Sometimes innocent tribals are being charged as naxalites and cases drag on for years. Such courts will help resolve the cases quickly, so that innocent tribals get justice," one of the Gandhians pointed out.
Ramesh was also asked to ensure quality healthcare facilities, education and better employment opportunities in tribal areas, in an effort to prevent Maoists to wean away tribal youths and pit them against the government.
To a question, the minister asserted that the government would not use army against naxalites. "We strongly feel that the naxalite should come forward for a dialogue," he said and urged them to join mainstream politics.
Prominent Gandhians from Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Orissa, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal (all naxal-hit states) and other states were present during the day-long brain-storming session.
Ramesh believed that Gandhians can reach out to naxalites and convince them to give up arms and join mainstream. Such experiment was also done by the veteran Gandhian Jay Prakash Narayan in Bihar in the 1970s.
The then union home minister, P Chidambaram had appealed to naxalites to come forward for dialogue and join mainstream, without leaving their ideology and disbanding arms. However, naxalite supremo, Muppalla Lakshmana Rao alias Ganapathy rejected the move and instead, demanded lifting of ban on CPI (Maoist) and release of all naxalite prisoners.
"We hope naxalites would come forward with the call of Gandhians for fresh dialogues and work jointly for the development of tribals of India," Ramesh said.