The Naxalite crime at Dantewada is a chilling reminder of how political extremists are using tribal grievances as cover in their violent attempt to overthrow the Indian republic.
There have been angry calls to escalate the conflict and send in the army. But while gunfire will have to be met with gunfire, the authorities should take care not to further alienate tribals, which is just what the Naxalites want.
Their hero Mao Zedong once said: “The guerilla must swim in the people as the fish swims in the sea.” Our India must try hard to win back the confidence of tribal India.
Development activity is one answer. Business groups can play a role here. The tribal areas are rich in minerals, but companies have cynically ignored tribal interests in the rush to get mining rights, preferring to bribe politicians instead. Mining camps run behind barbed wires are no answer. Companies should reach out to tribals and try to understand their genuine grievances, not as fashionable CSR, but as a core business strategy—even if it costs lots of money.