People in Chhattisgarh have started a 'pad yatra' in Maoist-hit areas, especially in the Bastar division of the state, supporting the victims and survivors of both Maoist violence and security forces. They urged for a dialogue between the state government and Naxalites to resolve the 40-year-long tussle.
The peace rally began on Friday, March 12, with more than 150 participants. Most of them are family members of the victims and survivors. In the 11-day rally, the participants will cover 222-kilometre, from Abujmarh in the Narayanpur district to Raipur till March 23. The rally is planned between these two routes, as they are the headquarters of Naxals and the state government, respectively.
The rally has been dubbed as 'Dandi March 2.0', after the Dandi March led by Mahatma Gandhi in 1930, which was also commenced on March 12.
It is being conducted by the organisation 'The New Peace Process', convened by Shubhranshu Choudhary, a Knight International Journalism Fellow and the founder of the local online portal CGNet Swara. The program was initiated in 2018 and works towards restoring peace in Central India.
"The motive of the rally is to end the never-ending tussle between security forces and Naxals and to give Bastar it's freedom from violence," Choudhary told The Logical Indian.
"When Gandhiji broke salt law, India was a British colony. But now as we have our government, we appeal to them to follow the Constitution and bring peace to Bastar. We appeal to citizens as well to follow the peaceful way to resolve the issue," Arvind Netam, the former union minister said before flagging off the rally.
"This is our third yatra. We have conducted two yatras earlier and have initiated several dialogues between the authorities and the Maoists," Choudhary said.
On October 2, 2020, the organisation had conducted an opinion poll within Bastar, in which 92 per cent people voted in favour of holding a peaceful dialogue to resolve the issue between the government and the Maoists, prevalent for more than 40 years, and which has claimed more than 12,000 lives in the last 20 years. "To push the same mandate, we are working in between these two headquarters," he said.
Choudhary said that it was important for both the parties to come to a negotiating table before the existing condition worsens in Chhattisgarh. "The pad yatra's motive is to urge both the parties to start a dialogue to resolve this impasse, which is going on for more than 40 years."
Amid the rally, the CPI Maoist's Dandakaranya Special Zonal Committee issued a statement on Tuesday, March 17, agreeing to start a dialogue with the government. "The Maoists seemed to respect people's will, but the state government's response is awaited. It is to be noted that the government had promised talks in their election manifesto as well," Choudhary said.
The Maoists agreed to hold talks but lay three conditions:
- The state government must remove the security forces deployed in the Naxalite-dominated areas
- To remove the ban imposed on Naxalite organisations
- To released Naxalite leaders imprisoned for years
In the document, the committee spokesman also mentioned the earlier dialogue experiences between their party and the government. He said that negotiations were started with the Naidu government in 2004 because of the Census Citizens Committee's sincere efforts in Andhra Pradesh. But after two rounds of talks, the government had unilaterally shut down and exercised severe repression, according to the Dainik Bhasker report.
After Swami Agnivesh started the negotiations for 2010, the talks were not only suspended, but one of the Naxalite party members and Comrade Azad were murdered in a fake encounter.
The spokesperson claimed that the government was putting touts like Choudhary forward as part of their tactic to distance the progressive tribal-friendly intellectuals, social workers from the revolutionary movement.
Speaking to the media, Inspector General of Bastar division, P Sundararaj, Bastar said that the Maoists so far had failed to justify the brutal, violent activities they had carried out in the name of revolution or movement.
"The common people have also started questioning Maoist ideology and their ways of working. Even their cadres are leaving the organisation," Sundararaj added.
As per the recent development, state government spokesman and agriculture minister Ravindra Choubey on Wednesday, March 18, said that the government does not trust the letter issued by Maoists, as many such statements were issued earlier. Although an official response from the government is awaited, Choubey said the talks can be held only after the Maoists give up the guns. A day earlier, Home Minister Tamradhwaj Sahu said that the final decision lies with the Chief Minister.