After reading Ramchandra Guha’s article, A history of abuse (May 27, 2008), on the Salwa Judum in Chhattisgarh, it is clear that when historians become social activists, facts can get distorted.
The unfortunate aspect of the Salwa Judum debate is that the voice of the victims of Naxal violence is rarely heard. Guha writes “there are nearly 10,000 armed men in Dantewada and they are paid by the state to maintain law and order”. The truth is that there are only 3,400 Special Police Officers (SPOs) in Dantewada and Bijapur, comprising inmates of the 23 relief camps and Naxalites who have surrendered. They have been recruited legally and are under the command of the state police and not the Central Reserve Police Force or Naga battalions.
Nearly 12,000 sq km of the 21,000 sq km of Dantewada and Bijapur are controlled by the Naxals. Policemen hesitate to enter this area as there are not enough personnel. Taking advantage of this, the ultras have attacked villages and murdered tribals after quick trials in jan adalats, the Naxal kangaroo courts. The killing of Salwa Judum activists started in 2005, just after its inception. The Maoists initially believed that they would be successful in crushing the movement without the help of their elite supporters. In the meantime, no one wants to find out why 60,000 people left their villages to stay in relief camps.
I am also surprised by what Guha wrote about Chhattisgarh’s Director-General of Police (DGP). The DGP is a capable officer and has been successful in the fight against Naxalites. Let us acknowledge another truth. Even if all the grievances of the people were satisfied by the government today, Naxalites will still continue with their violent methods. All attempts at engaging with the Naxalites have proved to be counter-productive because of their declared goal. Would activists of the civil liberty movements ever speak about the people who have been killed or maimed by these terrorists and extremist groups?
Ravi Shankar Prasad is BJP National Spokesperson and party in-charge of Chhattisgarh.