Violent Social Conficts in India’s Forests
deplete the orests. A signicant part o displacement as well as orest diversionis or deense establishments, but this is rarely noted even in the civil societydiscourses around orest loss. In Chhattisgarh, the government has also resortedto a policy o village regrouping – orcibly evacuating people rom their villagesin the orests and settling them in shanty camps on the main roads, in order towean them rom supporting the insurgents. While the government has ociallyclaimed that they are feeing rom Naxalites, ocials have also argued that vil-lagers need to be regrouped to provide them basic services like schools and healthcare. This is in some sense not very dierent rom getting villagers out o nationalparks and sanctuaries, and then justiying it in terms o their own development.From another perspective, the orest is integral to the origins o Naxalism, sinceit is the exploitation aced by tribals who live in orests that has led to widespreadsupport or Maoist guerrillas. Adivasis lack secure tenure rights and are harassed byorest guards or minor violations. The Naxalites have provided protection againsteveryday harassment and eviction; redistributed land to compensate or the absenceo land reorm, and also played a major role in increasing the prices o tendu leaves.While confict is not driven by orest resources in the sense that it is otendriven by minerals (as in blood diamonds), orest incomes are an important ele-ment in the ongoing confict. In Chhattisgarh or example, while the Naxaliteslevy ‘taxes’ on tendu contractors, the leader o the anti-Naxalite campaign, theSalwa Judum, Mahendra Karma, has been charged by the CBI or his role in theMalik Makbuja timber scam.
For the government, the orests have a negativevalue as a cover or guerrillas, and are also an excuse or the ailure o govern-ment services, while or the villagers it is the structural violence o orest pol-icy that engenders support or Naxalism. For the government, the confict ariseswhen villagers take up arms against the government – and that alone constitutesviolence; or the villagers, the violence begins when the orest guard demands abribe or the policeman rapes a woman. What or the government is ‘business asusual’, is or people ‘violence as usual’.In short, when one ocuses on confict and violent social confict at that, itis important to set it against the backdrop o a continuum o actions, which aremore or less violent in their eects. Further, confict must be understood as bothlatent and maniest confict, because while the poor may be dissatised with astate o aairs, they can only express it when they eel they have some backingagainst or escape rom the brute consequences o protest. When analysing policyor law, it is inevitable, especially in a plural society, that any policy will involvesome adhoc resolution o conficting interests; the question is which side has therelative advantage, and the extent to which a policy generates urther confict.In the ollowing section, I provide a brie overview o the history o India’sorestry in relation to confict.