“All forms of development are ultimately a collection of class struggles through the ages and the development of Society ultimately depends upon the means of production adopted by them” wrote Karl Marx in his famous book Communist Manifesto. His sayings hold true and the only factor that can ever judge the state of a nation is the condition of its society. It is the plight of the society that has revolutionized the world with new forms of governance time and again and it is the might of the society that always stands tall.
India, a nation with a vast history of class struggles today probably comprises of the most diverse society. A society that has progressed through the ages and etched India on the world map of progress but simultaneously, a society that is still haunted by cultural demons, social evils and monsters brought out of class and caste oppression. Among age old evils like girl child infanticide, the dowry system and child labour, a new demon has risen in the form of neglect and forced expulsion of tribal people from their homelands. Those tribal people that probably define the origins of India better than any other who calls himself an Indian and clear neglect of their existence poses a grave danger to the stability of the rich and the steadfast Indian society.
Our society is born out of unification of people that were divided into classes thousands of years back and although our Government has made provisions to uplift the under-privileged, a large section of the society still remains not only neglected, but also cursed at the hands of everyone around them.
A new policy introduced by the Government in April 2000 that allowed setting up of industries in SEZ’s (Special Economic Zones) in various areas of the country. Although the Government dictates the companies who sign up for the SEZ policy to provide job opportunities to the natives of the area of the establishment of the plant, the companies mostly proceed with their own terms. Political parties, mostly those formally in Opposition in the Assemblies pretend to become the saviours of the people. They promise them protection of their farmlands and trade and in turn incite them to protest against the establishment of industries and the Government. The Government taking offense to the protests labels the Opposition as the ’disrupters of growth and industrialization’ and retaliates with equal vengeance. A dreadful and living example of this is the massive bloodshed that took place in Nandigram in West Bengal where CPI government along with the Police clashed with the protesting peasants led by their so called protectors, the Trinamool Congress. Many people died, homes were ravaged and the real cause of the uplitfment of the peasants and farmers of Nandigram was lost in the air of politics and violence.
During the British rule, the British passed a law seizing land from the native tribals and forcefully subjected them to the Permanent Settlement or the Zamindari System. Thus, their own land was not theirs to claim and they were forced to serve under Landlords. When India gained Independence, the land now although Indian, still belonged to the Zamindars and the Indian Government, just like the British, neglected the rights of the tribal people. Forced to be slaves in their own homeland in a democratic India, they were driven to the point of taking up arms and today, we fear them as the “Naxalists.” These Naxalists now wage war against the Government and freely kill civilians and security personnel alike. In the states of Jharkhand , Chattisgarh, Orrisa and Andhra Pradesh , the Naxalites have created a kingdom of their own. The Government, failing to acknowledge the situation as a result of years of their own neglect, retaliates with anti-Naxal strategies like Salwa Judum, where they arm civilians to battle them. Thus, they make the entire area a war zone where these government officials themselves raid villages and kill the innocent.
The neglect of the Scheduled Tribe “the Bodos” in Assam for years by the entire nation led them to take up arms and spread violence and demand for a separate state of “Bodoland”. While the method of these people to use violence to acquire their rights is morally and ethically wrong, it cannot be denied that a major reason for them to take up situation in their own hands is the neglect and inefficiency of the Government. The war between the Security forces and the rebels kills thousands of innocent civilians and offers a future of damnation to the entire state in question, be it Assam, Jharkhand or West Bengal. The infrastructural development of many states comes to a stand-still simultaneously, the health facilities deplete and the education system collapses. The innocent, for whom the war is fought are forgotten yet again and are left to a state of Medievalism. The battle for the people changes course and becomes the battle for supremacy for both the Government and the rebels.
The Narmada Valley Project is yet another example of the shameless inefficiency of the Government as it provided compensation for only a one-year harvest to the people whose entire homes and fields were to be flooded due to the construction of the dam on the Narmada river. Although Medha Patkar led Narmada Bachao Andolan(NBA) did a noble and commendable job of protesting for the proper rights of the people, it involved itself far too much in sheer protest of the decisions of the Government instead of looking after the rehabilitation rights of the people. Reports of widespread violence and killings of those who agreed to be rehabilitated by the NBA supporters fled in a huge amount. Once again, sheer politicization of the issue led to the neglect of the best interests of the people. Had the NBA focused its energies on insuring the fulfillment of the rehabilitation, the farmers would have found happiness and better life long back.
The effects of forced expulsion of farmers and tribal people from their lands add to the misery of our society as they are made to experience swelling poverty and shortage of supplies. Doctors and Teachers sent by the Government end up turning back with cold feet and while they run to the safety of their homelands, they leave another homeland in misery and doom. Diseases swell and the life expectancy reduces drastically. We hang our heads low with shame when we see India ranked at no. 128 out of 177 countries on the Human Development Index (HDI). But what we fail to realize is that the reason for this is our neglect and indifference to the plight of our own countrymen.
So how does the plight of people distant away affect us while we sit in the comfort of our air conditioned homes thousand kilometers away? The answer is simple; the rebellion of the distressed has become so fierce that their fight, which is restricted to the jungles today, will be brought to our door steps tomorrow.
Reforms need to be brought in order to contain the social situation before it engulfs the entire nation into a political turmoil, which unfortunately has already started happening. The Government needs to be less negligent towards the villagers and peasants and the needs of the poor should always be given preference over the ambitions of the rich. The aim with which the Government stands today is the total eradication of the rebels and not the development of the areas in question. This needs to change immediately. The concentration of energies should be towards infrastructural development of tribal and village areas, more importantly towards the social upliftment of the people. Industrial development should not always tower over agrarian trends and cultures of regions.
It is a shame to learn that one of the very few National Highways that connects the North Eastern States is the one that was built by the Japanese as a part of their Indian expedition of WWII. The oil dug out and refined in Assam should not be used for development in Delhi and Mumbai, but should also be utilized to develop Tripura, Mizoram, Meghalaya etc. The Government should lift the veil off its superficial integration of India as far as development is concerned. Routine checks should be made in order to ensure that whatever relief money is sanctioned for the betterment of the affected areas does not go into private bank accounts of corrupt Government officials, as is witnessed widely today.
However, it is very important to realize that the Government is none other than us ourselves. We shouldn’t just condemn the rebels for adopting violence and should try to improve conditions at our own grassroot level, for it is only a collection of small efforts that invokes a revolution. Our efforts should be towards helping uplift the poverty of the tribals and distressed peasants through monetary aid. But most importantly, we need to rationalize our mindsets and remove all the prejudices that exist despite our claims of being believers of equality. For it is only when we will start believing that they are not only people who live in photographs and newspaper articles that we will start taking them as one of our own in every aspect. Although no compassion should be shown towards the rebels and their means, the poor innocents caught in the middle should not be neglected and left to the care of poorly funded social organizations.
For until we all do not bleed for every wound inflicted on these people, the sword of violence hungry rebels will always prove to be mightier than any pen signing peace accords and monetary sanctions.