Stop Militarization, Engage in Dialogue sign now


Dr. Manmohan Singh
Prime Minister of India

cc: Mr. P. Chidambaram, Home Minister of India

Respected Sir:

We are a group of concerned individuals, committed to peace and justice in India, writing to you about the escalating armed confrontation between the CPI (Maoist) and Government forces.

You have recently said вdialogue and engagement is the best way forwardв Unless we want to go to war with Pakistan, dialogue is the only way out.в Surely, the fallout of waging war on oneвs own citizens is as serious, and perhaps more so, than the fallout of war between two states. Yet, from all accounts, the government is planning a major military offensive after the monsoons across several states, in an effort to wipe out the CPI (Maoist). This attempt to replicate the recently concluded war in Sri Lanka, will involve a similar huge cost in civilian lives, which is unacceptable in any country, which claims to be a constitutional democracy.

The military build-up by the government is accompanied by the increasing use of extra-judicial killings, arbitrary arrests, and the enactment of security laws, which penalize ordinary freedom of expression. It has also involved, as in Chhattisgarh, the use of non-state actors like Salwa Judum to terrorise villagers, burn their homes and force them into camps or outside the state. Over a thousand people have been killed and hundreds of thousands displaced and rendered destitute by the Salwa Judum, SPOs and security forces acting in concert. In the context of Pakistan, you, Dr. Singh, have said: вI was told that Mumbai was the work of non-state actors. I said this gave little satisfaction and that it was the duty of their government to ensure that such acts were not perpetrated from their territory.в What is applicable to the Government of Pakistan must be equally applicable to the Government of India and the Government of Chhattisgarh, which continues to support and promote the illegal activities of the Salwa Judum and Special Police Officers (SPOs). In addition, even when the Supreme Court has ordered that the Chhattisgarh government give compensation and rehabilitate victims of Salwa Judum and security forces, the CG Government has taken no action whatsoever.

The Home Ministerвs statement that development work can be carried out only after security is established by the government forces in the region is against all the principles of citizenship. It also views security in narrow terms as the security of the state, ignoring the real need of ordinary people to be secure from arbitrary arrests, killings and displacement. The police and security view of Naxalism as purely a law and order problem, which justifies the need for more security forces, more police stations and better weaponry ignores the socio-economic context which gave rise to Naxalism in the first place, including concerted corruption and harassment of the poor by the police in these areas. The militaristic approach of the Government of India and of the state governments to a situation which is an outcome of their own systematic and criminal neglect over the years of such underdeveloped regions, largely populated by the adivasis and dalits, cannot be allowed to become вthe solutionв towards the resolution of the ongoing conflict. Indeed, the usual insensitivity of the administration and of the forces often from other states has often given it the character of an ethnic war in the affected areas, as is being witnessed in Lalgarh or Dantewada.

The Maoists have responded to the State offensive by retaliating through militarization. They are killing policemen, security personnel and those they deem informants, leading to an escalating spiral of violence. While they claim to draw their support from the people, their actions are putting at risk the very people they are fighting for, a risk that people are virtually being forced to take.

While the government and the Maoists are engaged in military offensives, the real issues that concern the people have been lost or are severely neglected. Apart from the issue of affirming peoples rights over land and forests and stopping the widespread land acquisition without the consent of the local people and related displacement and dispossession that is taking place, significant issues related to peopleвs right to food security, good quality education and health, regular employment, and the ability to lead peaceful and dignified lives on an everyday basis has been seriously undermined due to this ongoing armed conflict.

As concerned individuals who wish for a peaceful, democratic and just resolution of conflicts, we urge the Central and the State governments and the Communist Party of India ( Maoists) to:

1. Enter into a dialogue without pre-conditions
2. Put peoplesв security and welfare above everything else. Concerns regarding food security, unjust and forcible land acquisition that threatens livelihood should be addressed through dialogue and without escalated deployment of forces.

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Dr. Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India


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