Arundhati Roy in Outlook on “Walking with the Comrades” is certainly hard to put down. The two quotes I have taken from the article provide at least a partial but fundamental answer to the Naxal conundrum:

“The (Indian) Constitution ratified colonial policy and made the State custodian of tribal homelands. Overnight, it turned the entire tribal population into squatters on their own land. It denied them their traditional rights to forest produce, it criminalised a whole way of life. In exchange for the right to vote, it snatched away their right to livelihood and dignity.  (p. 26)

But the politics of tendu, bamboo and other forest produce was season.  The perennial problem, the real bane of people’s lives, was the biggest landlord of all, the Forest Department. Every morning, forest officers, even the most junior of them, would appear in villages like a bad dream, preventing people from ploughing their fields, collecting firewood, plucking leaves, picking fruit, grazing their cattle, from living. They brought elephants to overrun fields and scattered babool seeds to destroy the soil as they passed by. People would be beaten, arrested, humiliated, their crops destroyed. Of course, from the Forest Department’s point of view, these were illegal people engaged in unconstitutional activity and the Department was only implementing the Rule of Law. (Their sexual exploitation of women was just an added perk in a hardship posting.)” (p. 39)

Why the property-rights solution finds no mention?
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Parth Shah
Parth Shah

Parth J. Shah is Founder President of Centre for Civil Society, a think tank that promotes choice and accountability across public and private sectors. Parth’s research and advocacy work focuses on the themes of economic freedom, choice and competition in education, property rights approach to the environment and new public management. He is a member of the education task-force of the governments of Delhi and Karnataka, and serves on the Senate of the Central University of Himachal Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. He recently edited Liberalism in India.