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Govt officials drove tribals to side with Maoists: Home Secretary

india Updated: Apr 13, 2010 17:22 IST

"Overenthusiastic" officials tried to shift tribals out of their homes in the forests and drove them into the arms of Maoists, who exploited their vulnerability to win them over to their side, said Home Secretary G K Pillai in an interview.

"Overenthusiastic collectors and other officers who tried to shift them (tribes) out of forests created the problem and into that vacuum came Maoists," Pillai said.

"There were good intentions, but implementation (of some government plans) was bad. Like in some forest villages, nature conservationists said these are wildlife sanctuaries and 'sab ko bhagao'(chase them away).

"This fellow, this tribal, thought the government was only interested in animals and not about me. And what about me? This is where Maoists took advantage and told them that the government is more interested in the tiger than you...come to us," Pillai said.

Pillai said that the government was amending forest laws to win the hearts and minds of tribals and to make them stakeholders in the development of the region.

"Now what we are trying to tell them is be part of the government schemes," he said.

"Under the old forest act, all forest produce belonged to the government. So if the guy went to pluck something from the forests, which he has been doing for 100 years, the range officer would book a case against him," the official said.

He said thousands of such cases have been withdrawn and a new forest law has been implemented. "The new act allows the tribals to own up to four hectares of forest land and the government will give them 'pattas' (legal transfer documents) for it," Pillai siad.

Pillai said the government's "simple aim is restoring civil administration in the area, which you can call lawless, free for all".

Maoists hold sway in the region, running a virtual parallel government. The guerrillas, known locally as Naxalites, are fighting against the government.

"The security forces have gone to restore civil administration there. They will stay there for three years to set up police stations, ration shops, schools, health centres...Restore full civil administration, get the facilities there and come back."

Pillai stressed that the government in the last six months has "reclaimed about 5,000 sq km from the 40,000 sq km area under Maoist control. And we are in the process of micro-management. Now the administration is moving in some areas."

In the deadliest attack in their four decades of violent campaign against the state, at least 76 securitymen were killed by Maoists in the April 6 ambush deep inside the forests of Dantewada in Chhattisgarh.

In Chhattisgarh, the rebels are active in 12 of 18 districts. Other affected states are Orissa, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand and parts of Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra.