Saturday, December 22, 2007




According to K.S.Subramanian (please see Part I), in the years after independence, the Union Home Minister and the Home Secretary wore two hats. They were responsible for the maintenance of law and order and internal security in the country. At the same time, they were the chief protectors of the welfare of the Scheduled Castes (dalits) and the Scheduled Tribes ( adivasis), who constitute the majority of the population in the areas now affected by Maoism, euphemistically called Naxalite violence or left-wing extremism. In the second capacity, it was their responsibility to ensure that the various constitutional and legal provisions for the protection of these most underprivileged of the underprivileged sections of the Indian society were implemented and that they were protected from atrocities and excesses by the so-called upper castes, landlords, money-lenders, forest contractors etc. There was even a Civil Rights Cell in the MHA to underline the importance of its role not only as the upholder of law and order, but also as the protector of the civil rights of the people. This ensured that policy-formulation on dealing with Naxalite violence paid equal attention to law and order and allegations of social and economic injustice towards the dalits and the adivasis, which contributed to the Naxalite violence.
2. In subsequent years, the second responsibility in respect of the protection of the dalits and the adivasis was taken away from the MHA and entrusted to two newly-created Ministries for Social Justice and Empowerment and for Tribal Affairs. As a result, the MHA became a purely law and order Ministry and the maintenance of law and order became the driving force behind policy-making without the moderating influence previously exercised by its additional role as the chief protector of the welfare of these people. He points out that in the various strategy sessions on Maoist violence convened by the Prime Minister and the Home Minister since the present Government headed by Dr.Manmohan Singh came to power in 2004, the views of the MHA have prevailed. The Ministries for Social Justice and Empowerment and for Tribal Affairs have had little say in policy-making. They were not even invited to some of these strategy sessions.
3. To quote Subramanian:

" When the Naxalite movement had first emerged in the late 1960s......, the MHA was not just a law and order Ministry, but was also responsible for the important subject of the development of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. It formulated the Special Component Plan for the SCs and the Tribal Sub-Plan for the STs. The Ministry was also responsible for the subject of violence against the SCs and STs and took vigorous steps to contain the violence by organising co-ordination of measures by state governments. A Civil Rights Cell was in position to monitor the trends of violence and prepare reports for the Cabinet and the Parliament. The MHA was then a strong and powerful Ministry in charge of governance and the development of the SCs and the STs."

"Subsequently, the new Ministry for Social Justice and Empowerment and the Ministry for Tribal Affairs have come up and the subjects of the development of the SCs and the STs and the violence against them were transferred to the new Ministries. The MHA was reduced to a purely law and order agency. That is why the annual report of the Ministry for the year 2005-06 focuses more on Naxalite violence, but is eloquently silent on the increasing 'atrocities' against the SCs and the STs. A juxtaposition of the two patterns of violence should help the Ministry to look at the Naxalite violence in the right perspective and help formulate suitably-designed policies to deal with both patterns of violence."

" It is noteworthy that neither the Prime Minister nor the Home Minister have acknowledged the special constitutional responsibility of the Central and State Governments with regard to the development and protection of the SCs and the STs. The increasing 'atrocities' and crimes against these communities by members of the non-SCs and non-STs(my comment: the so-called upper castes) in the Naxalite-affected areas is an important issue, which both failed to mention. Further, no representatives from the Union and State Ministries of Social Justice and Empowerment or from the National Commission for the SCs and the STs were present at the meetings convened by the Central Government with the State Governments to consider the strategy and tactics to be adopted to deal with the Naxalite violence." (23-12-07)--- To be continued.
(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: )