Cases against Scheduled Tribes in Chhattisgarh’s Naxal areas to be reviewed

When the BJP government was in power in Chhattisgarh, the Congress would allege Scheduled Tribes in Naxal-affected areas were being framed

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Bhupesh Baghel for Scheduled Tribes

Raipur: The Chhattisgarh government of the Congress has constituted a committee to review cases filed against people belonging to the Scheduled Tribes in Naxal-affected areas.

Senior officials of the state said here on Tuesday that a high-level committee has been set up for reviewing cases registered against people belonging to the Scheduled Tribes in Maoist-affected areas.

The chairman of this committee will be retired Justice AK Patnaik. Chhattisgarh’s Advocate General or Additional Advocate General, Additional Chief Secretary of the Home Department, Secretary of the Tribal Development Department, Director General Jail (Naxal Operation Incharge), Director General of Police and Commissioner of Bastar Division will be its members.

Officials said that the committee has been formed on the instructions of Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel.

Are Scheduled Tribes really being persecuted?

When the Bharatiya Janata Party government was in power in the state, the Congress, which was the opposition, used to allege that tribals of Naxal-affected areas were being implicated in fake cases.

This may be construed by the BJP, now in the opposition, as the language of Maoist sympathisers. According to Maoist sympathisers, the Constitution “ratified colonial policy and made the state custodian of tribal homelands”, turning tribal populations into squatters on their own land and denied them their traditional rights to forest produce.

These Naxalite conflicts began in the late 1960s with the prolonged failure of the Indian government to implement constitutional reforms to provide for limited tribal autonomy with respect to natural resources on their lands, for example, pharmaceutical and mining, as well as pass ‘land ceiling laws’, limiting the land to be possessed by landlords and distribution of excess land to landless farmers and labourers, say Maoists.

In the areas inhabited largely by Scheduled Tribes, disputes related to illegal alienation of ST land to non-tribal people, still common, gave rise to the Naxalite movement, say mainstream communists with a tenor that is not harsh on the lawless violence by Maoist terrorists who run used to run a parallel government in the areas of their dominance, replete with kangaroo courts.

On 16 April 2018, the Union Home Ministry had removed 44 districts from the list of left-wing extremism (LWE) hit states, bringing the number of affected districts down to 30. Soon after, in May, security forces killed more than 40 Naxalites in Maharashtra’s Gadchiroli district. The Baghel government may well play a role in helping the dispersed Maoists regroup and gain a firm foothold in Chhattisgarh again.