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Ritwika Sharma:

Three years, 2600 lives lost… yet another day, yet another carnage, yet another war of words… the outcome, ZILCH!! In contemporary India, everybody seems to have an opinion about Naxalism. A section of people talk about the atrocities committed by and on the Naxalites, the other seems to argue over the plight of the CRPF jawans while there is yet another, albeit a miniscule segment of people who do care about the kith and kin of those who perish away in the violence that the Naxalites have been unleashing of late. The group discussions have now moved beyond the dinner table to talk shows on national television and social networking sites. The fact of the matter remains that the problem cannot be resolved with the flash of a magic wand as the issue at hand involves the rights and interests of a multitude of people with each cluster of interests being as diverse from the other as these can be.

When Mr. P. Chidambaram, our Hon’ble Minister for Home Affairs makes a proposal to the Naxalites to hold talks if they abjure violence for 72 hours after the insurgents blew up a bus in Dantewada, Chattisgarh, a number of people viewed it as a show of poor will and lack of a stronghold on consequential matters by the veteran politician. While resorting to military alternatives to confront the problem may bring an interim relief, it can in no manner be an enduring solution to a crisis that is largely socio economic. Thus, exterminating the Naxal insurgents by deploying military force will lead to resentment being borne in the already rebellious red army. It should not be forgotten that the problem arose because of a class divide in our society that is factual and cannot be dealt with by forceful measures. Which is another reason for believing that civil rights activists who advocate for the rights and interests of the insurgents are not wronged while talking about the root cause of the problem. When the Naxal upsurge began in the 1960s and 70s it was in response to the atrocities committed by the local landlords on the tribals who wished to claim the land that was their own. The leftist movement sought to propagate an extreme form of anarchism that intended to reclaim the rights of those tribals who had been wrongfully deprived of the same.

The aforementioned argument justifies the movement, rather the ideology of the Naxals only to the extent of its end and not with regard to the means to its ends. A right can be either absolute or qualified. It cannot be an alternative. Sacrificing an individual’s right at the altar of providing protection to the other’s cannot justify any act of aggression. Warring nations stand as an exception, bringing an armed rebellion to the verge of a civil war cannot be justified by the argument of protecting the claims of tribals. The aim of the CPI (ML) propagated by radicals like Kanu Sanyal and Charu Majumdar to bring about a violent uprising to help the landless farmers seems to have overstretched its own limits so as to infringe into the territories of those who have had no say whatsoever in the state-of-affairs. Statistically speaking, nearly 455 civilians have perished in Naxal attacks in the period between July 2008 to June 2009, accounting for nearly sixty percent of the total deaths in the country during that period.

Like any other form of terrorism, Naxalism is gradually moving towards the policy of making the government bend on its knees by targeting civilians and those very people whose interests the movement sought to protect. The brunt of the recent spurts of violence are testimony to the fact that Naxal violence, if not stopped soon, will unfetter a reign of terror that would bring the nation on the brink of a virtual civil war.

Yet another story that is inherently intertwined in the Naxalites versus the state rigmarole is that of the CRPF jawans who have been positioned in the “Red Corridor”. One of the most brutal attacks by the Naxalites in recent times engulfed the lives of 76 CRPF men in the Naxal-infested region of Chintalnar, Chattisgarh. The Chintalnar ambush is a microcosmic part of a larger, more deplorable picture. The number of CRPF men lost is another story, the appalling conditions in which the jawans reside evokes not only pity but also a realization of the fact that these men are largely ignored in the tug-of-war between the tribals and the government. Deprived of the basic amenities to survive, armed with only guns but not medicines to heal the wounds sustained, these men are the ones who are at the worst receiving end. For people far away from the Red corridor, the easiest job is to cry hoarse over the inability of the government and the CRPF men to raise a battle cry against the Naxals. The ground reality remains that the CRPF men are ill equipped when it comes to food, drinking water and medical facilities. For soldiers who are willing to render their services to the nation, provision of the most basic necessities of life is the least that can be done. Also, for an issue that can be resolved without blowing up the defense expenditure and by a better show of governance, the lives of the CRPF men should not be endangered.

Last but certainly not the least, sparing a thought for those who have lost their lives and also the people whom they have left behind, largely ignored languishes the plight of those who have no say in the agenda of the government, in the strategies formulated by the CRPF, in the tactics adopted by the Naxalites, in the formulation of the Salwa Judum or maybe even in how to live a life which they now detest to call their own. Civilians who have lately become a target of the Naxalites probably are those who submit to the propaganda of the Naxals because of sheer ignorance or due to lack of means to withstand the show of force by the red combatants. If not for anyone else, the government should refrain from resorting to paramilitary forces to tackle the insurgents to prohibit losing a large number of common men who would inevitably perish away in the war, if it ever takes place. Though it is much easier said than done, considering the gravity that the situation has now assumed, adequate land reforms to restore the land to those who have been wronged is the need of the hour. The retributive theory of punishment would unleash a chain reaction of “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth”. Force may be used to bring about a minimum level of compliance and to stop the violent means adopted by the red combatants. Long-term solution of the problem would be in reducing corruption from the system to reinstate land to the landless and also a fair share of the forest produce.

Exploitation, when bred through a long period of time, becomes a way of life. It was this exploitation that the Naxals aimed to undo. In the bargain, they embarked upon an exploitation of another kind, where they have held as hostages the government, the tribals and the CRPF men. An effectual course needs to be adopted to do the needful before Naxalism becomes a way of life!!

The writer is a correspondent of Youth Ki Awaaz.

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Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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