|A.P.Cabinet Sub-Committee Report on Left Wing Extremism|
|- P.Sivaramakrishna , Social Action April-June 1991|
|The Council of Ministers of the newly formed Congress (I) Government of Andhra Pradesh at its first meeting on 4th December, 1989 resolved, among others, to constitute a Cabinet Sub-Committee comprising four Ministers to study the problem of left wing extremism in the State and to submit a report. The present Chief Minister, Mr.N.Janardan Reddy, is a member of this committee. 56 persons belonging to different walks of life have deposed before the sub-committee. Out of them 12 belong to I.A.S., 12 I.P.S., 2 I.F.S., 2 jurists, 4 journalists, 5 civil liberties activities, 4 professors, 13 people’s representatives, 1 student leader and 1 former Naxalite.
Based on the depositions, the committee prepared in the month of May 1990, a strictly confidential 30 page draft report which has not so far formally seen the light of day. Some extracts from the report, which we procured informally:
The springboard of the PWG movement – North Telengana – remains the citadel, while the trans-Godavari Valley forests complement by providing adequate cover and shelter to the dalams (P.2).
The strength of left wing extremism, is not so much on its ideology but the well-knit secret organisational structure, heavy arsenal and guerilla tactics( p.6).
It was felt that there has been no instance in the world in which extremism/terrorism, to which what may be regarded as ideologically oriented movements have degenerated has ever been successfully dealt with by a response of the government other than sustained law and order measures. Hence, vigorous police operations were recommended (p.8).
Diametrically opposite to this view, there have been suggestions to deal with this problem only at the socio-economic and political levels. Several causes that create and sustain extremism were cited. Elaborate mention was made about police excesses, corruption and arbitrary conduct of functionaries of the Government, unbridled state repression against those who were fighting against socio-economic inequities were highlighted (p.8).
In cases of deaths in police custody all concerned including the Station House Officer will face judicial enquiry. In the case of deaths of extremists in encounters with police also judicial enquiry should be conducted. The above enquiries will be conducted by the concerned District Judge (p.11). Thus a predictable, accessible and credible system is to be established to inspire confidence among public as well as law enforcing agencies (p.11)
The scheme of separation of judiciary from executive shall be extended to Agency areas (p.12).
The main focus of left wing extremist activity today is the Godavari valley region which is not just confined to Andhra Pradesh but extends through parts of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Orissa (p.13)
The Land Transfer Regulation does not extend to the Scheduled Tribes in the non-scheduled parts of the districts or non-scheduled districts where the protection of this legislation is not available to them. Instances have been brought to the notice of Government where large areas of tribal concentration have been excluded from the scheduled area while there have been cases of inclusion of predominantly non-tribal areas in the scheduled list bringing forth virulence to the demand of the non-tribal poor for protection of their rights vis-a-vis the tribals compunding the problem in the Telengana region(p.15)
There is virtually no significant effort at implementing debt relief regulations and helping the tribals(p.18).
State Government should take positive steps to actively implement money lending regulations and debt redemption laws by fixing suitable targets for field agencies(p.25)
In this light the Team while that protective land reform reiterating measures should constitute the chef corner stone of the edifice to remedy the present situation would suggest that the adequacy of compensation for land taken over by the State Government from the non-tribals may be examined so as to make it more or less equal to the market value prevailing in the locality (p.20)
There has been a controversy about the role and functions of the Raj Sabhas of Gonds in Adilabad district and there have been reports of conflicts between the Raj Sabhas and the Panchayat Raj Institutions. Traditional tribal institutions like Raj Sabhas should be protected and actively promoted. This may be done in such a way as to enable coexistence of these institutions alongside of the Panchayat Raj Institutions. Their respective spheres of activities may be clearly demarcated (p.26).
The Fifth Schedule of the Constitution enjoins special responsibility on the Governor of the State in respect of Tribals and the tribal areas. Reports from the Governor of the State at suitable intervals may have to be considered by the Ministry of Home Affairs in consultation with the President’s Secretariat (p.27)
In summing up the committee admitted that there is very little political challenge to the extemists. No political party is effectively propagating in a substantive way any political phlosophy contesting the politics of violence. The last para repeats the rhetoric that extremism is an issue not only for a few districts but the entire State and the Country (p.31).
While the report has spelt out the different dimensions of the situation, it is suffering due to the conventional, compartmentalised viewpoints and fails to take stock of up to date developments and comprehensive understanding of the situation.
1. Though the land problem sustains the struggle, it is not its only source. Naxalites since seven or eight years are organising the labourers particularly in the tribal areas in forest timber operations and other roads and building works and getting their wages increased. The minimum wages in forest timber operations were not revised since 1984. The wages list of the forest department is a "confidential" document. The tribal welfare department is not implementing the minimum wages act in the Roads and Building woks executed by them. Naxalite groups arbitrate the wages and one is surprised that even this arbitration is in favour of less than minimum wages. The government, though capable of giving more wages, is not interested to look into it.
2. The then Chief Minister Mr.Chenna Reddy responding to the news of people’s courts of Naxalites, had stated at a function held in the High Court that he would bring about a totally different socio-judicial set up to render justice to the weaker sections. Further he referred to the Raj Sabhas of Gonds which are effectively solving the civil and criminal cases of he tribals. But the final product is mobile courts with the same civil/criminal procedures. Under the Tribal Areas Act 1949 of Telengana, there used to be traditional village panchayats taking up the cases. The complainant was always free to appeal against its judgement to the Agent to the government. The 1959 Act has superseded this Act and the executive courts came into force. This report has recommended the replacement of the executive courts by the judiciary. Now the executive officers know the field situation. If they are willing, they can always conduct the village courts in the village. But once the judiciary is inducted, its litigation procedures and th monopoly of lawyers will certainly keep the tribals away from them. While the administration of justice should be made a community exercise, the committee recommends to make it more professional. This can under no circumstances be considered a solution and is bound to keep the tribals away from the corridors of justice.
3. The committee has failed to focus the problems of the 30,000 Samantha and Khondh tribals of Orissa who were displaced by hydel projects and are now settled in the thick reserve forests of Visakha and East Godavari of Andhra Pradesh. Since they have settled in reserve forests, no government scheme to help them without the concurrence of the Government of India can be planned. Naxals are actively supporting them against harassment by the forest department. Similarly the extent of shifting cultivation inside the reserve forest is stated to be about 5,000 acres. The Government of Andhra Pradesh has given instructions in favour of regularising this encroachment prior to 1980, but is silent on the Samantha problem. All the political parties are interested in getting the big projects cleared speedily. Nobody is speaking about the displaced people and degrading forests.
4. The Giijan Cooperative Corporation needs to change its functioning and adjust the loan with which it maintains its assets, the infrastructure etc. The amount realised for this purpose can be passed on to the tribals by increasing the purchase price of minor forest produce.
5. It is astonishing to see how the committee has ignored the fragmentation of the tribal pocket in the formation of the mandal type set up in 1987. While tribals in Andhra Pradesh are spread over as many as 139 Mandals only 42 mandals belong to the full schedule category.
6. Coming to the fifth schedule, there are no reservations to the tribals in proportion to their population in primary agricultural cooperative societies. Though tribal members are in majority, the non-tibals monopolise directors’ posts. There are no reservations in the Karshakaparishat either. Official policy always vaccilates about the sale of government liquor in the scheduled areas. The governor to whom the constitution assigns the administration of the tribals has never opened his mouth about the lapses under the fifth schedule and has not responded to the letters written to him in this regard.
7. The Government under the accelerated action plan launched on 1st May 1990, has designated a secretary level I.A.S. officer, and a Minister in charge of the programme in the districts. It seems that the ruling party, in tune with its policy of mixed economy, has determined to promote some "haves" through government programmes and welfare measures, so that these haves will negotiate or contain the forces leading to disturbances. One such step is promoting tribal contractors in civil works and issuing mining licences to tribals. In 1982 the Government has issued a memo to expedite the applications of tribals who want to sell their land to other tribals. But one should not forget that the corruption and smuggling in forest management has led to the Naxal movement. Most of the contractors and local political leaders survive by compromising with the Naxals while different political parties give speeches in Hyderabad demanding stronger action to curb the Naxal probelem.
One can thus see that the major probelms leading to Naxalism have not been tackled. So in future there is every likelihood of greater unrest against the haves irrespective of whether they are tribals or non-tribals as it is happening in the Jharkhand movement. Since these movements are considered to be peaceful all these forces may come together.
The various groups or individuals in Andhra Pradesh study the Naxal issue from different stands; news value, ideological, political and welfare implications, civil liberties, bureaucratic action etc. without any grassroots level knowledge of the issues involved, the bottlenecks and the self-interest of local leaders as well as their parties in the extra-constitutional arbitration. The only information the government or media always compile carefully is on Naxalite encounters, never the violations of the instruments of rule of law such as minimum wages, fifth schedule, mismanagement of forests, equity in the distribution of welfare benefits, displacement, fragmentation of socio-economic entites etc. The problem cannot be dealt with as long as it is viewed only as a law and order issue and the causes are not understood.