New Delhi: Newly-elected Chhattisgarh chief minister Bhupesh Baghel said that his government was keen on initiating a dialogue with “all stakeholders”, including the tribal population, to find a solution for the Naxal insurgency problem.
In an exclusive interview with the Times of India, Baghel said his government is not interested in “figures of encounters and body count of naxals”. He said the BJP government’s “bullet-for-bullet” policy has failed “miserably” and it was time for new ideas.
Referring to the 2013 Jheeram valley attack by the Naxals, he said that the Congress has lost a number of frontline leaders to the left-wing extremist movement. “Many innocent jawans, local tribes and journalists have also lost their lives to Maoist insurgency over the years. If this problem was to be solved by blazing guns, it would have been solved during [former chief minister] Raman Singh’s 15-year rule,” he said.
Baghel said it would be a “mistake” to assume that deploying more forces, intensifying encounters and counting bodies are indications of successfully countering the problem. “Instead, I will look for solutions with the involvement of all those affected,” he told the Times of India.
Saying Naxalism is also a socio-economic issue, not just a political one, the Chhattisgarh chief minister added there was a need to initiate dialogue, especially with the people of Bastar. “Every section of society, tribals, intellectuals, local businessmen, rights activists and even the forces deployed in the region are affected, one way or another,” he said. He said the locals feel “trapped in the situation”.
The government would work towards finding solutions to basic problems and restoring the people’s confidence, he said. “Bastar’s original nature is to live independently and its people prefer to live in the lap of nature, without any hassles. But the situation has completely changed now and suspicion and fear has crept into the minds of the locals,” he said.
In the lead up to the elections, the Naxals had called for a boycott of the polls. Several incidents of violence were reported. A BJP leader was critically injured, a Doordarshan cameraperson was killed, besides several jawans, in suspected Naxal attacks.
The results for the polls were announced on December 11, with the Congress party sweeping to power. It secured 68 seats, reducing the ruling BJP to just 15. After being sworn in, Baghel’s first decision was to waive short-term agriculture loans to the tune of over Rs 6,100 crore of 16.65 lakh farmers. He had also spoken about devising a new policy to deal with left-wing extremism.