Empower tribals or it will get worse: Ex-DG, BSF

Commissioned in the Indian Police Service in 1965, EN Rammohan holds wide-ranging experience of fighting insurgency in Assam as well as Nagaland as the head of the Border Security Force (BSF) in a long career. In an interview with Tehelka Editor-at-Large Ajit Sahi, he suggests it would be counterproductive to escalate the war against the Maoists in Chhattisgarh as a reaction to the massacre by the rebels of 27 people, most of them leaders and workers of the Congress party, on 25 May 2013
Ajit Sahi

Ajit Sahi

May 29,2013e


Photo: NaveeshPhoto: Naveesh

The Maoists have claimed that they killed Congress leaders Mahendra Karma and Nand Kumar Patel in  on Saturday as a retaliation for the Salwa Judum and Operation Green Hunt. What do you have to say to that?

The answer must be given in the context of the non-application of the Fifth Schedule  of the Constitution. As per the Constitiution, the Scheduled Areas of the country are to be ruled by the Governor by appointing a Tribes Advisory Council which will decide what is done with the area and how it is to be administered.This Tribes Advisory Council has never been constituted by any governor. The chief minister has no role in the administration of the tribal areas and nor does the forest minister. The Tribes Advisory Council will decide whether the area must be given for mining or not. If you give the tribals this power, they will administer the area. If they want to extract minerals, they will have a liaison with the company and they will file an agreement and the company will take out the ore and the Panchayat will get the money.

What does this have to do with what the Maoists have done?

The advasi does not have this right. The chief minister of the state signs an agreement with the company and they evict tribals from the area. Is it not illegal and unlawful?

Are you saying that denial of rights to the land is fuelling the Maoist insurgency?

Obviously. The tribals are helpless. They have been evicted from hundreds of acres of land. The Maoists say that the government is illegal and unlawful. We will have to fight them.

Why has counterinsurgency been successful in the North-East but failed in Chhattisgarh?

the insurgency has not been successful in the North-East. First, we must ask why are civilians taking up the gun? it is because the government has been illegal and unlawful. If you remove the cause of insurgency, then it will disappear.

On 27 May, an additional 1,000 troops were sent and a combing operation was begun. How do you rate its chances of success?

There is no chance of any success because the leadership of the counter resistance forces is so poor. Besides, the main thing is that you are fighting on the wrong side. How are you going to help the adivasis when they see that the police are conducting operations? Do you know how many innocent people get killed in the process? How do you get the Maoists out of this game? That should be the objective.

Why dont you answer that question? How do we get Maoists out of this game?

Very simple. Enforce the Fifth Schedule. Let the adivasis administer the area themselves. The chief minister is illegally administering the area by signing a lease with the mining companies. Is that not illegal and unlawful?

Isnt the Chief Minister also a legally and democratically elected representative?

He may be democratically elected but he is doing an illegal thing. He has no power under the Act to administer the forests. The Fifth Schedule says it must be administered by the Governor of the state reporting to the President of India. Where does the Chief Minister come into this?

I want to ask you about Saturday’s massacre of 27 people. A lot has been said about how the route of the Congress convoy was changed at the last minute and the fact that not enough route clearance was done, that sanitisation wasnt done. What are these things sanitisation and route clearance?

Whenever there is insurgency in a forested area, particularly if there are some low hills and they are thickly forested and the road is passing through that, if any convoy of the Government or a political party is passing through that route, they should inform the Government that the route should be sanitised. There should be a road opening party to go on either side of the road to a depth of 1 km so that an ambush cannot be placed. They should occupy the area at least eight hours before the party is about to move and they should sit there. Secondly, an anti-sabotage party should go through with explosive detecting equipment and sanitise the road. Only after they give the clearance, the convoy should be allowed. I don’t think any of this had been done in this case.

But how can you sanitise a route that is as long as 70-100 km?

You cannot. But if you have a large enough force, then you can sanitise it. We have done it in the North-East. I’m not talking about some fairy-tale. I have done it. If it takes five days to cover 100 km, then take five days and sanitise it. If you are sitting there, then they can’t come and plant an IED.

The CRPF have faced a lot of fire from the Maoists in Chhattisgarh. Last year, the Maoists kidnapped the District Collector of Sukma, where the killings occurred on Saturday. Why are they so capable in that region?

Obviously, the forces have not been effective. The Sukma Collector went to that place with only two security guards. What a fool he is. He is a very important man and the collector of a district. He can’t go with just two men. He should have sent two-to-three companies ahead of him and cleared the area.

But he was trying an outreach among the tribal people.

Nonsense. You don’t have an outreach with two men as your guards. He will get kidnapped. The Maoists are using the adivasis to come to power. You are not treating them justly which is why they are going to the Maoists. The Maoists will promise them that when we get the power you will administer the area yourself. The adivasis are poor, illiterate people. What can they do but agree? The only way out is to implement the Fifth Schedule.

But in 65 years, the Fifth Schedule has never been implemented and it is not going to be implemented in a hurry.

It is the law of the land and if you are not implementing it, then you are illegal and unlawful. I’ll give you the answer why it is not implemented. Because, there are millions of dollars available to the Government under these areas and nobody wants to give that money to the adivasis.

Where do you see the situation headed now in the next two to six months?

It is going keep going on and on. Continuous fighting will take casualties. A lot of innocent tribals will be killed and the situation will keep on going from bad to worse.


18 Comments (+add yours?)

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