Sunday, October 5, 2008

No President Rule but Stop violence in Kandhamal: Letter to the PM

Dr. Manmohan Singh, Honorable Prime Minister of India, New Delhi, India,

Copy to:
Smt Pratibha Patil, The President of India
Smt. Sonia Gandhi, President: Indian National Congress
Mr Naveen Patnaik, Chief Minister of Orissa
Shree Somnath Chaterjee, Speaker of Lok Sabha
The Media

Dear honorable Prime Minister Dr Singh,

I am surprised to read in few media section on possibility of President Rule in Orissa though statements issued by both central Government and Orissa state Government clearly indicate there was an infrastructure failure in Kandhamal for which security people from out side the district could not reach on time.

Unfortunately, cooperation between state and central Governments is missing in the latest violence in Kandhamal and has been become a political battle field for both UPA and NDA due to up coming national and state elections next year.

Practically if the state Government has failed to stop communal violence in Orissa, then morally union Government of India has also failed to stop terrorism and communal violence in other states which is clear from recent consecutive terrorist activities in Bangalore, Ahemadabad, Delhi, Maligaon and violence in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala etc.

Along with Kalahandi, Balangir and Koraput (KBK), Kandhamal is also one of the backward districts in the country.

Since independence, there is no railway line passing through this district though it is geographically located towards the center of the state. Theoretically, the district has potential to act as bridging point to connect North-East to South-West and South-West to North-East of Orissa. However, this was not the case due to severe failure of road infrastructure in the district.

Though officially NDA Government declared NH217 passing thorough some of the small towns in Kandhamal, in actual road condition have not yet improved as there was no support from the present central Government to this project.

Except a heart line like road from Tumudiband to Phulbani via Baliguda and G.Udayagiri there is no alternative road in manageable condition to Phulbani or Bhanjanagar from Tumidibandh.

Blockade of this route can easily make difficult for security movement in the region as was in the recent case. Most of the buses which were traveling from state capital to KBK districts are now diverted to some other routes as these routes passing through Kandhamal are in worst in condition. Other state roads in the district such as Lanjigarh road – Tumudibandh-Simanbadi - Daringbadi- Bhagbanpur-Gunduribadi –Bhanjanagar, G.Udayagiri – Paburia – Bandhaguda – Nuagaon and Raikia – Simanbadi are unusable in normal standard.

If there was no political ill treatment then Vijawada – Ranchi highway which was proposed by Orissa Govt. recently should have passed though whole Kandhamal district from Tumudibadh to Puruna Cuttack instead of just few kilometer as proposed now and brought more development in road infrastructure in Kandhamal.

Our railway minister is now also eager to implement President Rule in Orissa, however, no proposal has been considered yet for Lanjigarh road – Phulbani- Anugul railway link passing through whole Kandhamal district, the rail route that is one of the major hopes for railway development in this backward and highly tribal and Christian populated district.

On the other hand most of the railway projects in KBK are hanging since decades. Kantabanji – Khariar – Dharamgarh – Nabarangpur – Jeypore which passes most backward pockets in the country (Nabarangpur, Koraput and Kalahandi parliament constituency were recently ranked at the bottom 5 Lok Sobha constituency in Socio-economic development by India Today, Sept 22, 2008) is not yet surveyed and approved whereas railway minister’s home constituency gets railway projects of tens of thousands of crores in last 3 years.

When both state and central Government has equally failed since decades to develop road and railway infrastructure of a remote and backward place (which was already known for communal tense between tribal and minorities since years) then it is foolish to think that President Rule in Orissa would solve the problem permanently.

A sensitive issue like communal violence in Orissa can not be solved unless there is a political seriousness to solve the problem. Kandhamal is not a new issue, tension between two tribes, one supported by missionary group and other by Viswa Hindu Parisad in Kandhamal was there since years. Most of the major national political parties are well aware of this thing.

The story on communal tension as presented in the national media and by national political leaders is not all about the case, one need to unearth the hidden tension between two tribes of Kandhamal in the context of communalism.

It would be nice if both state and central Government look the matter in the local level before bringing national politics to it and bring more infrastructure and educational development to this remote pocket which would help to solve the problem permanently.

Implementing President Rule may satisfy some of the UPA partners but will never solve the problems in Kandhamal permanently. Rather it would bring a dark spot for a Prime Minister (who is largely respected among intellectual mass in the country) simply due to toppling a democratically elected Government not because Naveen Patnaik Government has failed but because when Central Government itself has been failing to control terrorism and communal violence in other places in the country.

On the other hand politically it may bring more controversy as when Graham Strain was brutally killed in Orissa with his children there was no implementation of President Rule in Orissa at that point of time (the time when both center and state were rules by Indian National Congress party). Thus, it may further help Hindu fundamentalists to spread their ideas and bring more communal tension to a naturally beautiful place like Kandhamal and rest of the country.

President Rule in Orissa would also add another political struggle to the list severely affecting state and center relation in years to come.

I sincerely hope your Government would not take such a step which would harm Orissa state and the nation in general and request both Orissa state and central Governments of India to come forward and cooperate to stop communal violence and bring back peaceful normal life to Kandhamal.

Thank you and best regards

Digambara Patra

Dr Digambara Patra
Assistant Professor
Department of Chemistry
Faculty of Arts and Sciences
American University of Beirut
Bliss Street-P.O. Box: 11-0236
Beirut, Lebanon

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