Homeland Security

Meeting Maoist Challenge
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Issue Vol 25.4 Oct-Dec 2010 | Date : 05 Jan , 2011

While Maoists have been slowly but surely spreading their hold over district after district, scoring a total of over 200 districts, the Indian state slept through this phase spanning over couple of decades. Maoists have been raiding police stations, police and Central Police Organisation (CPO) camps, prisons and ambushing small parties of policemen essentially to demoralize them and collect their weapons. Mining of roads is to limit police movement and to quarantine administration to district headquarters and terrorise the locals.

Though the Maoist depredations has been going on for quite some time, the Government of India and the public at large has suddenly come alive, to the emerging threat only after the three violent incidents taking place in quick succession. Starting with the attack on CRPF at Dantewada in Chhattisgarh, followed by blowing a civilian bus near Chingawaran on Sukma Road in the same area and finally the derailing of Gyanenshwari Express which has brought Maoists threat into focus.

Though the Maoist depredations has been going on for quite some time, the Government of India and the public at large has suddenly come alive, to the emerging threat only”¦

The growing power of Maoists is the outcome of complete failure of the Indian government, both at the centre and states, to offer residents of impoverished eastern states an alternative to rebellion. The Maoists don’t exist in a vacuum; they are the end product of inequality and failed governance that plague rural India in these parts and which underpins many of the world’s insurgencies. It is the legacy of criminal neglect, maladministration, corruption and mistakes spread over decades that has brought the country to this sorry pass. India has some-what succeeded to hold thus far, the Maoists menace, to over just 200 districts, because the development efforts and inclusive growth have to an extent, succeeded in other areas and the prevalence of modicum of governance there.

Naxal movement started in the village of Naxalbari in West Bengal, in India’s extreme North East. In May 1967, a group of armed Maoists attacked police in that village following a land dispute. Later that year, the Naxals formed their own governing bodies and emerged as a distinct movement. Naxalbari and the surrounding area, inhabited by rural poor population, was fertile ground for rebellion. Their movement gradually expanded over the decades into adjoining areas. In recent times Naxals are being termed as Maoists. Sporadic Maoists violence has claimed thousands of lives, amongst locals, as well as police and CPOs, deployed in those areas. Violence is the way of such groups, which serves many ends and publicity is their very life blood.

‘The Maoists movement was described by the Indian Prime Minister, some three years earlier, as the most serious security threat faced by the nation and yet Delhi did very little to counter this threat. Maoist movement in its present incarnation is not a secessionist movement but appears to aim at capturing political power in states and eventually at Delhi, much as Mao did in China in 1949 and what is being attempted in Nepal.’

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Maoist movement has seen many ups and downs. It has now reached a stage where more than two hundred districts are in the grip of Maoists. This situation developed over a period of time and all this while state governments and Delhi’s half hearted efforts failed to gain control over the emerging scene, except perhaps in Andhra Pradesh where it has been possible to hold the Maoist movement somewhat in check.

Not only no heads ever rolled, but those who failed the state kept climbing the promotion ladder and along with others kept amassing wealth.

No workable solution to the problem can be evolved without analyzing the very causes and roots of this problem. In the states where Maoists are active, there is large scale, deprivation, extreme poverty and despondency amongst vast sections of the marginalized and dispossessed population, whom all development and poverty alleviation schemes have simply bypassed. For them there has been no ‘inclusive growth.’ No one in Delhi, Finance Ministry and Planning Commission etc bothered to find out where large funds being made available for inclusive growth were disappearing. Even though by mid eighties it was realized that not more than 15 percent of the development funds were reaching the intended targets, yet nothing was done to correct this malady.

In these areas, the most affected are the Adivasis and tribals who have suffered the maximum. Their small land holdings have been taken over by mining mafias (plundering the wealth below these lands, obtained through licenses obtained for a pittance) hydel projects, MNCs and some others, whose forest rights have been dissolved, leaving them no means of livelihood. Forced evictions from their dwellings and lands had become a routine affair, with inadequate and, in many cases, no compensation paid. No roads, no schools, hospitals, no healthcare centres, no jobs, nothing came up in these areas. At the same time these groups and others have undergone population explosion.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Lt Gen Harwant Singh

Former Deputy Chief of Army Staff. He also commanded a corps in J&K.

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