NAXALITIES: WE CANNOT COMPROMISE ON INTERNAL SECURITY
History has been a witness to several instances where nations have just disintegrated because of schisms within. A nation mauled by dissidence and centrifugal forces fall easy prey to external aggression. If you turn over the pages of history, you would find that warring chieftains on the Malabar Coast made it possible for the Portuguese, the Dutch, the French and the English to have an easy foothold on this part of India. Haven’t we learnt enough from history to prevent divisions from within from eating into the vitals of the nation?
We have enough of troubles from within: the unceasing terrorist strikes in Jammu and Kashmir; the insurgency in the North-East and the snowballing violent naxalite movement in as many as 13 States. No doubt, we have been tackling these trouble spots in our own way with security forces tackling the determined way the terrorist violence in Jammu and Kashmir/ the Government dealing with the deep-seated problems in the North-East the spasmodic way, and on top of alt the naxalite problem in an uncoordinated way. While it is understandable that there is an ‘external element7 in the growing terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir, you can’t ferret out that kind of excuse in the case of the insurgency in the North-East. But here too, one finds that the insurgents have set up bases in Bangladesh, Nepal and Myanmar. Once we let a small spark assume the uncontrollable proportions of a conflagration, it is very difficult to put it out. Now there are reports that the naxalites in India are having close links with the Maoists in Nepal.
It has been the noble motive of the States affected by the naxalite problem and of the Centre to bring the disenchanted citizens around a round table for heart to-heart discussions on what makes them drift away from the mainstream and take to arms. Mr. N. Ghandrababu Naidu, the former Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, survived deadly attacks mounted by the War Groups in his State and his successor Dr. Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy extended an olive branch to the Maoists, but without success. Overwhelmed by the violence triggered by extremists in different parts of the country, the Union Home Minister, Mr. Shivraj Patil too, has recently declared that he wouldn’t have any dialogue with naxalite leaders unless they give up violence.
How did the naxalite movement grow? The word ‘naxalite’ comes from Naxalbari, a hilly area in northern Bengal where peasants forcibly occupied lands in an anti-landlord movement in 1967. Soon the term ‘naxalite’ was applied to the radical Indian communists led by Charu Mazumdar who called for a protracted struggle by peasants. The movement had an echo in Kerala where there were stray cases of naxalite violence in the form of attack on police station, but the movement soon died out owing to the several socioeconomic measures introduced by different governments in the State.
The movement petered out in West Bengal in course of time only to come back with all infernal fury after it spread to Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Bihar and a few other Stares, ml969 the naxalites broke away from both the CPM and CPI to form a new outfit called Communist Party (Marxist-. Leninist). The party was banned during the Emergency in 1975.
Sometime ago the National Security Adviser had warned about the growing threat from the naxalites to India’s security and integrity. It is indeed a guerilla war the Maoists-or call them People’s War Groups or naxalites are waging against the State. The elements of precision and surprise in their operations invariably catch the security forces napping. They spare none when it comes to killing-security forces or civilians who have formed Self-Defence committees in tribal belts. AncHhey produced high voltage drama quite recently when they could even “hijack” a train. They could have done anything with the poor passengers; and one should thank God that they spared them. It is a wake-up call to both the Centre and the States that the naxalites still call the shots where they have a dominating presence.
That a lot of planning and coordination goes into their assaults is evident from the way the Maoists stormed a prison in Jehanabad in Bihar in November 2005 and a sub-jail in R. Udayagiri town of Gajapathi district in Orissa on March 24, 2006. In Jehanabad, in2005, hundreds of Maoists coverged on the district headquarters and killed six persons and set free 250 of their cadre from the Jehanabad prison. While blasting their way out of the town, exploding bombs, they announced through loud speakers that they had nothing against the people and they were only against the police and administration.
On March 24, 2006 Maoists stormed a sub-jail in Orissa freeing 40 prisoners. They also attacked the local police station and an armed police camp killing three policemen before fleeing with a large cache of arms.
More than200 extremists along with an equal number of supporters raided the town from all sides after snapping telephone lines and disrupting electricity. They simultaneously attacked State Armed Police camp, jail, police station, treasury, tehsil office and a telecom tower spreading terror in the town.
Three years ago, the naxalites raided the district headquarters town of Koraput in Orissa and looted arms and ammunitions from the district armoury.
The naxal problem cannot be treated as a mere law and order problem. That extremism is rampant in only certain States like Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and West Bengal, must provide food for thought. Why does such a problem not exist in States like Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala and Rajasthan, needs a study? There needs to be a thorough research by NGOs headed by sociologists and economists as to why certain sections of people in India-mostly drawn from tribals and other poor groups-want to stay away from the mainstream and take to use of force to make the authorities understand that all is not well with a chunk of India and its people. None would like to take to a course that endangers his life without any compelling reason
Such measures as forming people’s resistance groups to fight armed extremists, is only a half measure. We have seen that such measures have been counterproductive in the Kashmir Valley where such people’s groups have been mercilessly killed by terrorists. We have found this happening in the naxalite-infested tribal regions too. We have heard of the onslaught of the Maoists on Salwa Judum activists-local resistance groups-in Chhattisgarh. Though Salwa Judum was launched by a Congress legislator in Dante wada district, it had the full backing of the BJP Government in Chhattisgarh. Despite this, more than 60 tribals were killed in the last two months alone by Maoists in reprisals against Salwa Judum activists. When this is the reality, what is the meaning of the recent announcement by the Centre that they would make greater efforts to set up local resistance groups against the naxalites? One can draw comfort from the Government’s assurance that such an effort would be taken up “in a manner that the villagers are provided adequate security cover and the area is effectively dominated by the security forces.” Without adequate security cover, the resistance group would turn out to be cannon fodder for the extremists.
At a meeting held in September 2005 the Union Home Minister mooted the idea of a joint task force to deal with naxalites. The Home Ministry sized up the gravity of the problem when it revealed that 75 districts in nine States are hit by naxalite activity. It also said mat the CPI (Maoist) has been attempting to carve out a ”compact Revolutionary zone”, from Nepal through Bihar and the Dandakaranya region, to Andhra Pradesh. The Home Minister suggested a two-way approach to deal with the naxal problem-police action to deal with violence and spurring economic development in the affected areas.
The billion-dollar question one must ask oneself is: What happened to the plethora of antipoverty schemes and tribal development plans of the last five decades and more? Is this revolt a response to the abject failure of our schemes?
A leading daily of Bihar commented on the incidents of jailbreak in 2005, “The jailbreak has only reinforced Bihar’s anarchic image…there is an urgent need to go beyond law and order concerns and place the State’s endemic caste and class violence in a larger socioeconomic context The uprising in the naxal belt of Bihar is a product of social unrest-engendered by decades of upper caste dominance. Stories of bonded labour suffering hardships at the hands of landowning upper castes are legion…”
The problem of the threat to internal security by the fast-spreading naxalite movement needs to be tackled on a war footing. The Government needs to take a hard look at what went wrong with regard to the schemes for the development of the most backward regions in the country and how to mainstream these regions with fast-track socioeconomic scheme giving no room for corruption at the different implementing stages. Build up confidence with the aggrieved while having no compromise with challenges to state authority.