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Why Naxalism Will Remain In India As Long As We See It As A Law & Order Problem (It’s Not)

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By Sanjay K Bissoyi:

naxal womenStarting from ‘Garibi Hatao’ (Poverty Alleviation) to ‘Poverty is a state of mind’, Antyodaya (‘serving the last man in the queue’) to ‘Sabka saath, sabka Vikaas’ (Collective efforts, inclusive growth), they all look like poll platitudes. Since Independence, many governments and political leaders have come and gone but nothing has changed in India’s infamous ‘Red Corridor’. In the metros, people run miles in the morning to burn fat while nature’s own people, the ‘Tribals’, also run miles in the morning, but in search of a meal. And this is the difference between India’s poorest countryside and it’s affluent cities.

The over 40-year-old Maoist rebellion started due to mass poverty and conditions seem to have worsened with New Delhi’s adoption of corporate neoliberalism. Industrial revolutions, whether European, Russian or Chinese, had led to in one way or another the expropriation of land, forest, river and other natural resources at the cost of poor peasants, and tribal communities that depend on these natural resources definitely suffered.

This is clearly visible today in the Indian economy’s neo-liberal phase which started in the 1990s. For nearly two centuries, the British ruled over and exploited India. During that particular period, the Indian elite was somehow able to maximise its wealth. After Independence, the capitalist class of India carried forward the rapacious legacy of British colonialism against this 8.6 percent of its population (Census 2011). Successive governments including multinational companies have been grabbing mineral rich lands of the 104 million people. This process has impoverished, dispossessed and exiled tribals in their own land and has also driven them to join the Maoist movement, which claims to stand for their well-being and for addressing their grievances.

The exploitation of tribals by the government officials and police is rampant. There is large-scale corruption at the grassroots in the states like Jharkhand, Odisha and Chhattisgarh. And the poor tribals are the worst victims of corruption. This gives strength to the Maoist insurgency. Whatever is said about the public distribution system for food security, or the much talked about developmental works, their performance has not been satisfactory in the Bastar region of Chhattisgarh, for example. There are schools, but there is nobody to teach. This one sentence sums up the education system.

According to a report in the Times of India titled ‘Diseases, not Maoists, kill most CRPF men in Red zone’, “More CRPF men have died due to malaria and heart attack than have fallen to Maoist attacks in the 106 Naxal-affected districts in the country.”

This shows that the government is not providing good health care even to security personnel in Naxal-affected areas, forget about the common man. Sometimes, the media reports police brutalities. But rape, loot etc. happens all the time under the nose of these very security forces. Recently, there was a report of the gang-rape of 13 innocent women in Basaguda block of Chhattisgarh by police.

Maoists and their brutal attacks are not justifiable at all. Violence in any form is condemnable. However, the State should also start engaging with the people. Economic disparity and growing distance between the poor and the rich needs to be reduced to weaken Naxalism and to eventually annihilate it. The downtrodden still face discrimination from upper caste people. The government needs to make sure that tribals enjoy equal participation in the electoral process, especially for contesting in the polls. They must pledge to stop environmental degradation. A clean and safe environment is everyone’s right. Rehabilitation and resettlement of lands is a very big issue and there is a need to mitigate grievances regarding this with effective measures. Schemes like MGNREGA should not be sidelined as they generate employment and increase wages for the deprived sections of our society.

The government should initiate a practice through which rebels and the state can work out a solution. Once the socio-economic conditions of the tribals improve Maoism in India will vanish. For this, India needs good governance in every sector without any loopholes. The state should tackle the Naxal menace as a socio-political issue instead of a law and order problem.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

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.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

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.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

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.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

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.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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