Bastar, which has one of the poorest populaces, is, however, wealthy when it come to minerals. It contains significant deposits of bauxite, dolomite, iron ore, limestone, marble, granite, tin, corundum, and coal. Groups like Tata and Essar have high stakes in the region for their greenfield steel plants and mines. More than 1,565 hectares of land, including 105 hectares of forest land, had been given to Tata in 2010. In 2005, the Essar plant in Dantewada was likewise given land.
The actions of the Indian State through the decades, against perceived dangers to India’s sovereignty, in locations ranging from Nagaland to Kashmir, have frequently been brutal and merciless. However, even by those standards, the contemporary experience of Chhattisgarh has reached new levels of barbarity.
It has been observed over and over that corporate interests have influenced the government’s strategy so as to oust tribal individuals from their native lands and occupy them.
Chhattisgarh is a key segment of the Maoist red corridor, as identified by the security forces. The Red Corridor is spread over the 10 states of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Bihar and Chhattisgarh.
Various security operations have been conducted by the State to counter left-wing extremism in the previous decade and a half, particularly since 2004, the year the Communist Party of India (Maoist) was formally created after the merger of the People’s War group and the Maoist Communist Centre.
Since then, the armed struggle between the Maoists and the State has caught the media’s attention over and over, due to the barbaric nature of the attacks and counter-attacks from both sides. The excessive use of the security forces must be given credit for enhancing the position of the Maoists.
Twenty-five CRPF personnel were killed In a Maoist attack in Sukma on April 24. It was supposedly a consequence of sexual violence perpetrated by the armed forces on tribal women in conflict-ridden areas. ‘Vikalp‘, a Maoist spokesperson, said, “These attacks are retaliatory, defensive, to defeat anti-people policies and to take forward the pro people struggle.” He further added, “Bhejji and Chintagufa-Burkapal attacks should be seen as (retaliatory) attacks for the dignity and respect of tribal women. These attacks are being carried out to liberate the tribal people in conflict areas from the inhuman atrocities they are facing from the security forces.”
‘Vikalp’ went on to clarify that the soldiers were not their enemies, least of all their ‘class enemies’, but that they were getting in the way of public welfare by being a part of the government’s anti-people machinery. He appealed to the soldiers not to lose their lives while protecting ‘such people and their property’.
The political parties working in the area couldn’t probably connect with the tribals the way the Maoists did.
The Maoists caught hold of territories where the administration was not visible. For a considerable length of time, development never showed its face in these towns inside the forests. No power station, water system, ration shop or school was set up in these areas by the State. People living in these areas are the overlooked individuals of the nation.
Though not formally stated anywhere, the State could be looking at trying to crack down on the urban networks of the CPI (Maoist) in order to destroy the organisation. The problem with this would be that disagreeing with the State’s definitions of patriotism or democracy, or bringing up issues pertaining to human rights abuse by the security forces, or even refusing to side with the government in the unfurling war could get one branded as a ‘Maoist’.
Columnists, researchers, activists, lawyers and students could be made to fit this definition of ‘Maoist’ and then be ‘annihilated’ by the State.
In the name of combatting the Maoists, the State has launched an open war against the tribals in the area, not even hesitating to use rape as a weapon. There have been instances of gang-rape in Bellam Lendra and Kunna. In just three months, there were reportedly 46 instances of sexual violence by security forces.
The strategy used to tackle Maoists, by both the BJP and the Congress before them, is failing. The problem is that any time there is a suspicion of a Maoist presence, security forces carry out collective punishment on innocent tribals, thus alienating them. The Maoist problem needs a political solution and not State-sponsored oppression against tribals. The more tribals are oppressed by the State, the more it is likely for them to side with the Maoists.