A peace march which is slated to begin from October 2, on the occasion of the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi looks at initiating a fresh attempt at peace and non-violence to end the Maoist conflict in central India. In the last 20 years, the conflict between the Maoist guerrillas and security forces have led to the death of more than 12,000 people. Of those who have lost their lives, 2,700 are the security personnel and 9,300 are Adivasi men and women, most of whom had no part in the violence.
While there have been similar such efforts, mostly by urban intellectuals, this aims at involving the Advasis. More than 150 Adivasis and their friends will start the march from Chatti village, situated at the border of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Chhattisgarh. Interestingly, the marchers will symbolically walk the same path that the Maoists took in 1980 to enter the Dandakarnya forest. The Dandakarnya forest is spread across six states in central India and has been the epicentre of operation of the Maoist movement. This march also seeks to appeal to Maoists to drop arms and tread the path of non-violence to put across their demands.
The marchers plan of walking 15-20 km every day to reach Jagdalpur in Bastar on October 12 to do a public meeting.
“Want our brother & sisters to emerge out of violence”
The Logical Indian spoke to Mr Shubhranshu Choudhary, one of the participants of the foot march for peace.
Mr Choudhary told The Logical Indian that the plan to initiate a peace process was made in a three-day meeting held at Tilda, Chhattisgarh in June. Two things were decided upon. First was that the Maoist hit central Indian states needed a peace process and secondly that the process should be done under the leadership of the Adivasi community.
“Post this meeting, Adivasis from Gond Adivasi community of Telangana assumed the leadership role. The Maoist movement which began two decades ago in the present-day Telangana has completely ended a few years back. The Telangana Gond Adivasis in a way wanted to tell that they too have suffered but now we have come out of it and that they want our brothers and sisters who are still in the clasp of this violence to emerge out of it,” said Mr Choudhary.
A Gond community member, Sidam Arju in the Tilda meeting said that these Maoist leaders were their boys and girls, adding, “we agree with most of their demands – they are our demands too – but the path of violence is causing more trouble.”
“Something like the 2nd October ‘samvad yatra’ is thus needed to bring their people back home and turn them away from the path of violence,” Arju said in the meeting.
Notably, the Gond Adivasi community is the second largest Adivasi community in the country and is spread across Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Telangana, Chhattisgarh, and Madhya Pradesh. It is also the community which is majorly affected by the Naxalite movement.
After the meeting in Tilda, another meeting was then organised in Adilabad district of Telangana in July. The common sentiment at the meeting was that they want their Adivasi community from other Maoist-hit states to adopt a path of non-violence.
Alternative peace process
While one of the ideas of this march is to appeal to Maoists to drop their arms, however, the motive of the march goes much beyond just that. “We are calling this an alternative peace process. In a normal peace process, you bring both the sides to the same table. However, we are also looking forward to helping the Adivasis in obtaining an education, getting access to healthcare and even initiate dialogue around Adivasi laws.”
A standardised machine-translation tool between Gondi language to Hindi or Gondi to any other language is also being developed. It is believed that the Gond community has been largely cut off from mainstream India mainly because there has a communication barrier. This has stopped them from expressing their problems.
Moreover, this peace process also aims at creating a platform for the Adivasi community to raise their issues. Also, there are plans to provide the community with a solution to improve their livelihood using the traditional skills and knowledge they have.
Choudhary says that this process is long and would require time to achieve its ultimate aim of establishing peace and self-sustenance. However, this peace march does aim at encouraging leadership from within the Adivasi community. “As professor Hargopal from the National Law School of India University said in the Tilda meeting that how even if one life is saved through this peace process, it would be considered as a success,” says Mr Choudhary.
Those who wish to volunteer or help the march monetarily or wish to know more about it can reach out at 9811066749 or drop a mail to [email protected]