Kanker (Chhattisgarh), June 5 (ANI): With confrontation between security forces and Naxal groups intensifying Adivasis or, tribals will be forced to live under a constant shadow of fear and uncertainty.
They have a long suffered local authorities' neglect for their core developmental needs and perhaps, the existing conflict has its roots in this deprivation.
It needs an urgent course correction and perhaps the onus lies with the government to correct past mistakes.
The shock and outrage caused by the massacre of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) men near Chintalnar, Bastar in April still rankles deep.
The senseless violence and the tragedy of human lives being snuffed out in a jiffy, will remain in the memory of the people for a long time.
Travelling down the road towards the area, one notices abandoned farms and dilapidated villages on both sides of the road.
Forests are a little way off, surrounding these villages or erstwhile villages.
For a State, where electricity is produced in abundant quantities, it was strange to note that after Jagargunda, Dantewara district there was no electricity in and around Chintalnar.
As evening progresses, the darkness engulfs the entire region.
Yet this region that lies close to the Andhra Pradesh border has seen better days of peace and quietude, as the tribal way of life meandered along its course.
Today, there is a disturbing quietude.
In the early 1990s, life was altogether different here. Amidst one of the finest teak forests in the region, there would be 'Haats' or, 'rural bazars' at Chintalnar and Jagargunda. Both immensely popular locations drew people from across 40 to 50 villages. This included Basguda and Bijapur which are 12 and 81 kilometres from these 'Haats' respectively.
This region produces the best quality of Tendu leaves. Every year, around April, when the minor forest produce like Tendu is gathered and sold, the scenario witnesses a dramatic change.
Traders from within and outside the state make a beeline for this valuable produce and nature of trade is transformed.
The roads from Chintalnar to Jagargunda are full of trucks laden with the bounty from the forests, the place is abuzz with activity and business is brisk.
They source Tamarind, Char, Tendu leaves, Salbeej, Teekhur, Dhoop from the villagers. These items have ready markets and fetch handsome returns. Many traders here have made a good fortune in the markets of Raipur and cities outside.
During the 90s, this flurry of activities happened amidst an air of normalcy. Buses would ply between Kanker and Jagargunda. Transport links in the area were good, as they linked all villages in Jagargunda.
The situation began to deteriorate recently. What is ironical however is that this prosperity does not light up the lives of the adivasis, who over the last few decades have been living under a shadow of Naxal presence.
Even while going about their normal activities, like forest gathering, selling their produce, they know they can be questioned any time. The control over their own lives, earnings, movements have been compromised.
It is not only an implicit tension or uncertainty that they have to cope with but an explicit form of aggression which they have witnessed like the damage of the existing infrastructure; roads by Naxal forces.
Over the years, there have been tangible signs of this deterioration in this area and presently it is wrecked by violence.
The lives of the people, mostly adivasis has been an endless saga of deprivation, of decline in all those areas of life crucial for their development.
Till the 80s, primary, middle, and high schools used to function without any difficulty. There was one school for girls, one was a residential and another was used for teachers' residence.
Gradually, all the schools have been destroyed. This has halted children's studies. It all has led to another kind of decline, in terms of young lives becoming directionless and their scope of development going haywire.
In essence, the destruction of schools and its ripple effect has diminished a possible chance of their young minds to create a bright future for themselves. Such a future could have been completely different from the environment today they have grown up in.
There have been other casualties as well. In the earlier times, there used to be a healthcare centre with doctors, nurses and other attendants where people from nearby villages could flock for medical attention.
What people remember most is the commitment of the doctors who served in these areas, responsive and caring to their patients.
Today, even though there is a hospital in Chintalnar but now it's manned only by a nurse. There are doctors appointed but they barely take out the time to come.
One can discern contributory factors to the deterioration that has set in.
The region, which has a large population of 'Gond' adivasis, has faced to different degrees, the brunt of unresponsive and uncaring administrative machinery.
Whether it was the police or the forest department personnel, revenue officials, forest guard or the patwaris, the developmental needs on the ground have been ignored or sidelined.
The machinery instead was made to suit the needs of the officials who were in-charge.
Amidst these lacunae, the Naxal forces bred and took root which today we see as a brazen force.
Over the passage of time, there have been unseen casualties, lost opportunities.
The people here have lived compromised lives, their health, education, livelihoods and even movement being affected by both an insensitive administration and in a more overt form by the presence of Naxal forces which have been embedded in the region.
A moot question is endemic to this entire region. For the adivasis living here, the answers they seek lie beyond the conflict which is leading to increasingly violent confrontation between Naxal and the security forces.
The answers would lie at first raising fundamental questions on how they can make the journey from the margins of society to its mainstream.
Addressing these questions and making governance not only responsive but development-centered is the need of the hour , according to the Charkha Features.
Today, the Government needs to pull out all the stops to not only ensure peace in the region but to integrate the adivasis into mainstream development process. By Asha Shukla, (ANI)