Naxalism in Bihar is expanding in some of the northern districts while at the same time declining in traditional strongholds in central Bihar. Many initiatives have been planned by the central government to combat Naxal forces in the last one year. Since Bihar is one of the states which has the largest numbers of zamindars or landlords and the biggest chunk of landless farmers in the country, the industrialization in Bihar has been in regressive mode for the last many years. The flow of funds into Bihar has mainly two sources – one, government funds for development and the other include NGO funds from different sources. This flow of funds has been misappropriated for decades due to rampant corruption and widespread nepotism and casteism. The accumulated impact of the failures of developmental initiatives created an impression among the Dalits and adivasis that while they have rights under the Constitution, the executors of the Constitution do not want to deliver these to them.
This disenchantment created a new turf for the Naxalites to intervene and become the custodians of the poor. Gradually they expanded into more than 22 districts of Bihar. The new initiatives of the central government have tried to implement a judicious mixture of welfare packages and providing sufficient paramilitary forces to curb the Naxal violence. The full impact of the new plan will only be seen in the coming years. Extensive research at the grassroots level reveals many different perspectives. One of the less known facts is the role of a silent killer of Naxal forces, namely, the role of social entrepreneurs. One case study from Bihar amplifies this fact. It is important to study how social entrepreneurs can defeat Naxal outfits without fighting a war against them.
A social entrepreneur from Bihar, Arbind Singh of Nidan won the Social Entrepreneur of the Year 2008 Award at the India Economic Summit held on 18 November 2008 in New Delhi held under the aegis of the World Economic Summit. Nidan works in different districts of Bihar and focuses on empowering the most marginalized sections of society. It initiated the process of micro-credit system in poor, mostly Dalit areas in the districts of Bhojpur, Samastipur, Patna, Jammui, Katihar and Muzaffarpur. Of these, Bhojpur and Jamui, are highly affected by Naxalism. During the process of creating self-help groups Naxal outfits tried to dismantle the basic structures of the organization and threatened the staff of Nidan with dire consequences. However, Nidan did not try to clash with the Naxalites and continued its work. The aim of creating self-help groups was to link them with the banking system which provides them loan for their business and which the group repays in due course.
Nidan’s work started in 1997 when the Naxal hold in some of its operational areas was at its peak. There was a direct threat to the poor not to attend any of the organization’s meetings. A decade later, the exercise has brought tangible results. The changing socioeconomic status of people, especially Dalits, created a dividing line with the Dalits from Bhojpur and Jamui supporting developmental initiatives. The change of thought among the weaker sections of society weakened the Naxal movement in Bihar. The good work of Nidan espoused a hope for dignified lives.
Nidan also engaged in the fight against the policies of the government through democratic means and has largely succeeded in its attempt. There was no one in society to fight a legal battle of the poor, least of all the Naxalites but Nidan did it through its legal help line. This has also brought the community into close proximity with the organization. Nidan started engaging larger sections of society to fight against arbitrary policies of the government. For example, under Nidan’s activities thousands of mostly Dalit rag-pickers in the six districts found a platform of dignity and economic safety. Nidan has also provided bread and butter to thousand of families. Initiation of community schools for the poor cemented the bondage of poor people with Nidan
While not getting into a situation of conflict with Naxal groups, Nidan’s initiatives nevertheless impacted on the expansion of Naxalism. The organization’s success has shown three things clearly. First, that development is possible in peace and not in social conflict. Second, that Naxal groups have never brought accumulative socioeconomic development to the marginalized sections of the society. Third, Nidan has taught the poor to realize their strengths. It has shown the democratic way of challenging government policies and has dissuaded the poor from making their way into Naxalism.