Help us in Naxal areas but no religious mobilisation: Ramesh

Jairam Ramesh
New Delhi, Jan 20: Union Minister Jairam Ramesh on Friday made a strong pitch for roping in organisations like those run by Catholic Church to bring development in Maoist-hit areas but asked them to respect the Lakshman Rekha and not engage in religious mobilisation.

"I expect Caritas to respect the sentiment of not getting involved in religious mobilisation. That is not the objective," Ramesh said inaugurating the golden jubilee celebrations of Caritas India, a Catholic organisation.

"The objective is to use the powers of the organisation like yours to help us breakdown the deficit of trust between the Government and the tribal communities. That is our objective," he said.

Addressing a packed audience of Catholic priests including Archbishops and bishops, the Minister said he does not talk about Caritas as a Catholic organisation but as a social organisation run by Catholics.

Focusing on the issue of Maoist influence, Ramesh said the challenge is "how we deal with the whole issue of Maoist violence which is spreading across large parts of tribal areas.

"Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh. All central Indian tribal belt today is in the grip of what our Prime Minister has described as the most serious internal security challenge of our country."

The Minister said that people in these areas are unable to carry out their very existence in peace, normalcy and harmony because of the growing incidents of an ideology that is dedicated to the overthrowing all democratic institutions.

He said that organisations like Caritas and Ramkrishna Mission have a very important role to play in such areas, "provided social organisations respect certain 'Lakshman Rekha'."

Foreseeing a possible opposition from BJP-ruled Jharkhand for involving Caritas India in Maoist-hit areas, Ramesh said "you must be prepared for this" and said "the ultimate objective of course is to create an environment in which peace returns."

"I would make an offer to Caritas. Let us look at some of the areas that you can work. I have seen Caritas working in watershed development, I have seen your work in water supply, I have seen your work in housing, rehabilitation and natural disasters," Ramesh said.

Citing the example of range of development works being done by Ramakrishna Mission in Chhattisgarh's Maoist-affected Narayanpur district, the Minister said, the Rural Development Ministry could forge such a partnership on a "long-term basis" with Caritas India in implementing programmes in Jharkhand, Chattisgarh and in Orissa.

"In some of these areas that I have mentioned, the ultimate objective of course is to create an environment in which peace returns. So let us work towards a partnership. And just like Ramakrishna Mission has taken up Narayanpur district for its range of development activities," he said.

"...I think (you) have a very important role to play provided social organisations respect certain Lakshman Rekha and I am sure you will respect Lakshman Rekha," he added.

Stating that the tribal is caught between "the power of the state and the gun of the Naxalites," Ramesh said, "what we need to do is provide space for the tribal communities to participate in their daily activities without the fear of the gun."

He said "historical injustices have been perpetrated" against tribals. "There is no doubt in it. Large number of people have been displaced in course of development pressures in tribal areas."

Stating that the State has not demonstrated the degree of sensitivity that it should have towards the concerns of the tribal communities, Ramesh said 20 million people have been displaced in central India in the name of development.

"I, myself, have seen tribal communities being displaced not once... but twice and thrice... and resettlement and rehabilitation has not taken place. So it is true that if you look back in the last 50 years, it has been a saga of unfulfilled promises," he said.

"A tribal who goes into the forest is considered a criminal. There are a large number of cases. Forest administration has contributed immensely in this trust deficit between the tribals and the government," he said.

"When I was the forest minister, one of my main challenges was to reform forest administration and forest bureaucracy," Ramesh said.


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