Both Congress and BJP governments at centre underestimated Naxals for the last 10 to 13 years.” P Chidambaram
In the latest aggressions the Maoist held hostage 12,000 passengers of New Delhi-Bhubaneshwar Rajdhani Express at Banshotla station near West Midnapore, West Bengal. Their demand was simple; to release the maoist leader Chhatrdhar Mahato, something that was rejected earlier by the West Bengal Chief Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.
This incident constitutes only one link of the series of anti-nation activities carried out by the Maoists/Naxals. From blowing up railway stations and transmission towers to uprooting railway lines to the killing of policemen and even innocent citizens, are continually performed by Maoists.
Prime minister dr. Manmohan Singh has once again reiterated that the naxals are the single largest threat to the internal security of the country. Thanks to his statement. But the question what practical measures the centre or the state governments are going to take for curbing the menace remains unanswered. In 2006 too, PM had called the Naxalites ‘the single biggest internal security challenge ever faced by our country’ and in September 2009 he said in a meeting of police chiefs from different states that India was losing the battle against the Maoists rebels.
So far, a soft attitude to the Naxals allowed them flourish to an extent that in some regions they established parallel governments to that of the state. In the guise of struggling against poverty, Naxals managed to achieve a commanding position in the tribal regions of India. Today, they are said to be present in 231 of the country's 626 districts while the strength of their armed cadres has doubled to 20,000 men and women in the last five years.
The history of Naxalism dates back to an agitation staged on May 25, 1967, against police atrocities meted out on Naxalbari- a small village in West Bengal villagers. On the forefront of the agitation were the extremist cadres of Marxwadi Communist Party led by comrades Charu Majumdar and Khanai Chatterjee. Now, they are not confined only to West Bengal, rather they have spread in around 20 states-especially Orissa, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and, Andhra Pradesh- as the union minister of home P Chidambaram reportedly said. Around 2,000 police stations of 223 districts are affected by Naxal violence either completely or partially.
The Maoists in the majority of the states conduct operations according to a well planned strategy reportedly designed by sharp military mind. They have demarked the responsibilities much like the Chinese Military Regions (MR). Five to six villages are grouped together under a range committee; several range committees make up an area committee, which make a division. Divisions are commanded by zonal committees under which the Maoists have special formations. Naxalites have now become better equipped than they were in the late 1960s and early 70s when home-made pipe guns and improvised bombs were their main weapons.
While Maoists/Naxalites posed a great threat since their very existence the policymaking establishment and the government soft-pedalled the menace while raising the bugaboo of Muslim terror. According to confirmed statistics more innocent people were killed in Naxal-Mao-Ulfa related violence in the North-Eastern states and the rest of India than the number of people killed in terrorist violence in Kashmir or any terror attacks in India.
During the past three years the Naxalites have killed 2600 people especially in the states of Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Bihar and Jharkhand. The states witnessed 2212 deaths from January 2006 to August 2009. A senior officer of the interior ministry said that during these years around 5800 Naxal related violent incidents were reported.
Through the slogan of standing for the cause of poor and dehumanized sections of the society, the Naxalites killed two birds with one stone; they managed to gain local support against the government and escaped from being tagged as enemy to the country. Nevertheless, the fact is not hidden that many innocent citizens too have been killed by their violence.
Yet, the locals support them. In Lalgarh, it were tribal men and women who with bamboos and axes helped Maoists control the area for a long time. Gour Chakrabarty, the spokesperson of the CPI (Maoists) in an interview to an English daily newspaper had called it “people’s uprising against the oppressive government”. The claim of Naxals fighting for the poor is still effective.
Reports appearing in the media show that pro-Naxals/Maoists citizens are those whose villages lack basic amenities. If Naxals provide locals with quick justice through the courts they have set up and they cater to people’s daily needs, whatever extent it may be, there remains no reason that locals will not support them.
A story appeared in Hindustan Times, Mumbai when the Lalgarh issue was on works as an eye-opener in this regard. Comrade Manoj, a prominent CPI (Maoist) leader in Lalgarh while relating his story told that his village Bamundanga in Shalboni had been a stronghold of CPI (M) for the last 30 years. Despite the party being in rule, neither the state government nor the Panchayat and Zilla Parishad took any interest in developing the area. He told that absence of employment opportunities and lack of basic infrastructure like roads, electricity and clean water are rife in the area. Of being tired treated like rodents; the villagers demanded the development of the area, which infuriated the local CPI (M) ‘bosses’. The police and Marxists slapped false cases on them, accusing them of working for the People’s War Group (PWG). The police branded them Maoists. ‘So we began to think we might as well join the Maoists.’
It is an enough reason for the tribals to turn against the government that it hands over their lands to the big companies for industrial purpose. They resorted to even violent protests once the government tired to approve the Special Economic Zones in Nandigram and Tata Nano Plant in Singur. All India Trinamool Congress raised the same voice as that of the adivasis and they supported her in the next general election in which it bagged with 19 of the 42 seats compared to the only one in 2004 general elections. In other states too i.e. Jharkhand and Orissa where village are constantly under the fear of displacement and loss of livelihood sources if government gives their lands to the companies to set up plants; a move that will push them even deeper into poverty.
Of course, the government had announced many schemes for the welfare of the tribals but the corrupt system does not let the schemes benefit in its true meaning. According to a media report appearing in the beginning of 2008, the Centre had approved a plan to bring 33 Naxal-affected districts and 22 districts near Naxal areas to the level of development mandated by the national development index by 2012. So far, we have nothing but hope that work in this direction already has started.
However, the Centre is poised to initiate, anytime in this month, a coordinated seven-phase offensive to take on Maoists in their core areas. For the first time, the ground is being laid for involving the Indian army and air force in operation against Maoists. At this point it will be important to the government to ensure minimum citizen causalities or the operation can give a reason to them for supporting Maoists.
Congress general secretary and former chief minister of undivided Madhya Pradesh Digvijay Singh said, “The three reasons why Maoist influence is growing is poor governance, non-implementation of the Tribal Bill and the fact that the tribals don’t have rights to natural resources. They should have rights not just over minor forest produce but also major forest produce and that includes the mineral wealth in these areas”.
More focus should be given taking the tribals driven from poverty and absence of basic amenities into confidence by assuring them complete protection and providing with necessities of life including employment, clean water, roads, electricity and land reforms. The government should wage a campaign to recruit the maximum number of security officers from among the tribals. In many states, tribals have been reported to be surrendering following the government’s assurance of their rehabilitation and welfare. Might can conquer heads but it cannot change mentality and direction of thought.
Statistics by Union Home Ministry on causalities caused by Maoists/Naxalites
2009 (till May) 39
Source: Dawat Sehroza