He is the most vocal minister in the Union cabinet on issues concerning tribals, their rights, livelihood, and their treatment at the hands of security forces. After the latest bloodbath in Chhattisgarh, Union minister for tribal affairs and panchayati raj, Kishore Chandra Deo, spoke to Saba Naqvi.
Did Union home minister P. Chidambaram make a mistake in defending the encounter?
I believe his first statement was based on facts given by the state government, which wilfully misled him.
How can you be so certain?
I’ve spoken to all the local Congress leaders, tribal leaders, those who’ve independently visited the site, and they all believe this was a mistake by the CRPF.
So why is he defending the CRPF?
He has certain responsibilities, even though law and order is a state subject. CRPF and paramilitary forces are not trained to deal with civilian uprisings. And while taking the CRPF version, we cannot overlook they are an interested party here.
Are Maoists India’s gravest internal security threat as he and the PM believe?
I wouldn’t put it like that. Let’s examine the human shield theory, that Maoists use tribals for their protection. My point is, have you been able to protect these people from the Maoists? No. And now you complain they’re ‘human shields’, so you mow them down? None of the villagers was armed. The CRPF says bullets don’t have eyes. But if the people firing bullets are blind, they should not fire. If it is dark, use night vision equipment. If you don’t have it, don’t go out at night.
Are 5th schedule and tribal advisory councils solutions?
It’s a good idea, but such councils can only be, as their name suggests, advisory. We need a completely different approach. My state has wide experience in tackling Naxalism. We need a force like the AP’s Greyhounds, not Salwa Judum. People also complain that Maoists block development schemes, road construction. Use CRPF to protect development works. Take them out of policing people.