Indian Catholic News

Indian govt accused of 'anti-tribal' recruitment

Hundreds of local youth have been recruited into paramilitary forces to tackle the Maoist insurgency in central India.

Members of a Maoist group pose for a photograph after they surrendered before Jharkhand state police in Ranchi on Oct. 17, 2016. (Photo by IANS)
New Delhi: 

Activists have criticized the government's recruitment of hundreds of tribal people into paramilitary forces in its fight against the Maoist insurgency in central India as "anti-tribal."

The recruitment drive "will pit tribal people against their own and lead to the tribes being wiped out from the area," said Bishop Paul Toppo of Raigarh, based in Chhattisgarh state.

The bishop was responding to the federal government having recruited 743 candidates, including 242 women, to form an "exclusive tribal battalion" within the Central Reserve Paramilitary Force in the Bastar region of the state.

The bishop initially welcomed the government's approach last year for employing more tribal people.

However, the government "should understand the problem of poverty, unemployment and social insecurity. Just giving jobs to few youth will not solve the problem," said the bishop, a member of the Indian Catholic bishops' office for tribal people.

Bishop Toppo said that the unrest in the area was rooted in the underdevelopment of local people in the mineral-rich region, where government supports big mining firms and other industries that often overlook the needs of local people.

Frequent armed fights between paramilitary forces and insurgents, mostly tribal people purportedly fighting for land rights and against exploitation, claim hundreds of lives every year.

Tribal leader and activist Anabel Benjamin Bara was more forthright in his criticism. In the past, the paramilitary men who died were not local to the area. Now, the government "has found a way to uproot local tribes people," he said.

Bara, who is a researcher at the Jesuit-managed Xavier School of Management, told "the government knows that it can’t fight the menace without the help of local people so it created this mechanism.

"They are killing two birds with one stone," he said.

The ruling pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party is accused of supporting hard-liner ideology of establishing a Hindu-only nation in India, and ignoring the rights of religious minorities, economically poor tribes and Dalit people.

Nabore Ekka, a tribal leader based in New Delhi, told that the government "harasses and terrorizes" people in the tribal strong-hold states of Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh because they are the "biggest obstruction" to establishing mines and other businesses.

"The government is trying a different method to induce fear among tribal people and divide them," he said.

Ekka said that if tribal parents continue to send their children to join the army, it will antagonize Maoists, who will further target poor tribal villagers.

The tribal people are in a lose-lose situation. If they help the military they will be targeted by Maoists, and if they help the Maoists they will be targeted by the government forces, he said.

Maoism, known locally as Naxalism, originated in West Bengal in 1967. Naxalites are the offshoot of a peasant movement inspired by Leninist-Maoist philosophy in Naxalbari village in West Bengal state in eastern India.

The movement began as a land-seizure movement, and developed into an armed struggle for "seizure of power" at the national level. It spread to other states in the late 1960s.

The Naxalites now operate in 60 districts in India, mainly in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Orissa and West Bengal. Chhattisgarh is the epicentre of the conflict.

Source: UCAN

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