More than 150 tribals from the states affected by Maoist insurgency on Tuesday began a 'Shanti Padyatra' or peace march from a village in Andhra Pradesh's East Godavari district to appeal to all sides to give peace a chance.
Tribals and activists from Telangana, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Jharkhand began their march from Shabri Gandhi Ashram in Chatti village amid a boycott call by Maoists and will cover 186 km to end it at Jagdalpur in Chhattisgarh after 10 days.
The organisers said that a conclave 'Bastar Dialogue 1' will be held in Jagdalpur on October 12 and 13 at the end of the march to discuss future strategies.
Symbolically, the marchers will take the same path taken by Maoists 40 years back to enter Bastar from Andhra Pradesh through Dandakaranya forest, said organiser Shubhranshu Choudhary.
The peaceniks will walk along the National Highway-30, which connects Telangana to Chhattisgarh.
The organisers have termed this as the first step towards what they call the new peace process.
According to them, the insurgent movement since its inception has become one of the major threats to the democratic structure of India. The violence by Maoists and security forces has claimed the lives of 12,000 people in 20 years, including 2,700 security personnel and more than 9,300 tribals.
Pointing out that the Andhra Pradesh government's last attempt to broker peace failed in 2004 and the violence continued unabated, the organisers feel that the peace process should be given a second chance.
Many organisations, individuals, community elders and leaders, scholars, academicians, human rights activists and professions decided to come together to discuss the prospects, possibilities and alternative ways of building peace in central India, the organisers said.
The Communist Party of India-Maoist called for boycott of the peace march. The outlawed group urged tribals not to take part, saying it aims at stopping Bastar tribals from fighting against corporate houses and claiming their water, forests and land.
CPI-Maoist Dandakaranya Special Zonal Committee Spokesperson Vikalp, in a statement, alleged that NGOs organising the peace march are funded by multinational companies.
He said that the organisers should first ask the government to stop displacement of tribals, cancel MoUs with companies and withdraw paramilitary forces.