On 20 September 2014, The Indian Express carried a report, captioned, “Ahead of Global Meet, Maoists Admit to Setbacks”. The report mentions about a letter uploaded on CPI (Maoist) website. Maoist organisations across the world are meeting in Milan, on 27-28 September and CPI (Maoist), addressing the global meet admitted that it has been facing several setbacks since Indian security forces launched Operation Green Hunt. Several issues of concern have been flagged in the letter, like – conceding ground to Indian state in several areas, harm to party structures in villages, dwindling mass support base, surrender by party cadres etc.
These adivasis form rank and file of the Maoist movement, not because of ideology but primarily for the extreme impoverishment and challenges faced by them.
As resurrection measures, mentioned in the said letter, CPI(Maoist) attempts to strengthening of ‘people’s government’ at district level and encouraging a community based economic model of ‘self reliance’ in Dandakaranya. Also, it is being reported in media that Maoists are losing ground in their stronghold, Bastar, in face of waning support from tribals.
The aforesaid is not a recent development and the CPI (Maoist) leadership has been harping upon the same since beginning 2013, if not earlier. In a searing self assessment, in April-May 2013, the Central Committee admitted to the said facets as also to increasing arrests, surrenders & killing of cadre to include betrayal by Sabhyasachi Panda and slaining of Kishenji, damage to weapon manufacturing & supply chain, difficulty in carrying out activities in North Telangana and along Andhra-Odisha border.
The state could not have asked for a more opportune time to further energise its counter Maoist strategies. The same should in tandem, to cover the realms of development, security and legislation. However, there has been no pronounced indication on part of the government, to give feelers of ‘seizure of initiative’ and efforts to fill in the voids so created. A strategy in short, medium and long term, needs to be devised and implemented without further loss of time. Few of the priority issues are highlighted in succeeding paragraphs.
To begin with, constitutional aspects need to be addressed on war footing. Sensitivity and action towards them, though had caught on; execution is still at the ‘drawing board’ stage. These measures have the longest gestation period, given our politico-executive setup, and have a direct bearing on the majority of affected population, the adivasis of Central India. These adivasis form rank and file of the Maoist movement, not because of ideology but primarily for the extreme impoverishment and challenges faced by them. As per Mohan Guruswamy, ‘their aspirations need to be nurtured and Maoists’ intentions to be defeated’.
…it is imperative that various players like adivasi activists, NGOs, journalists, grass root political cadres etc work towards enhancing awareness of the adivasis and give them a medium to raise their concerns.
The Fifth and Sixth Schedules under Article 244 of the Indian Constitution provided for self-governance in specified tribal majority areas. In 1999 the Government of India issued a Draft National Policy on Tribals to address the developmental needs of tribal people. Special emphasis was laid on education, forestry, healthcare, languages, resettlement and land rights. The government even established a Ministry of Tribal Affairs. The draft was meant to be circulated between MPs, MLAs and Civil Society groups. A Cabinet Committee on Tribal Affairs was to constantly review the policy. Little has happened since. The draft policy is still a draft, which means there is no policy. Continuing with inertia by the state is not desirable, since Maoists shall use this breather for consolidation.
A time bound implementation of PESA, warrants attention of our policy makers. Enacted in December 1996, it has so far achieved very little, in terms of implementation. Most of the affected states have not even fully accomplished the initial stages of implementation which commence with legislative measures, to formulate the respective State Acts. This has to be done, keeping the essence of PESA in mind, which has ‘face to face’ community governance at its tenet. The act was to enable Gram Sabhas to self govern their natural resources. Since, historically, the adivasis have been functioning as a community, vis-à-vis individually, PESA in its essence aligned with their aspirations. This is the reason, CPI(Maoist), in their latest statement has emphasised upon community based economic model of ‘self reliance’ in Dandakaranya. Maoists are known to have adapted in a much better fashion to local needs, as compared to the state agencies; as also, their decision and implementation loop does not metamorphose for so long.
In tandem, it is imperative that various players like adivasi activists, NGOs, journalists, grass root political cadres etc work towards enhancing awareness of the adivasis and give them a medium to raise their concerns. Dedicated journalists like Shubhranshu Choudhary, through their innovative ways have been taking voices of tribals to the world outside and also providing them an accessible medium in a cellular phone, to communicate with each other on local issues and concerns. His voice portal, CG-Net Swara, enables ordinary citizens to report and discuss issues of local interest. Such methods, in middle and long term, have the potential of weaning away the Maoists’ support base amongst tribals. The government at local and national level should encourage such innovations to occupy more space. This shall help in bridging the communication gap and ward off ‘keep the state away’, syndrome of adivasis.
…our information campaign needs to show and project what is being done, to manage favourable perceptions for the state.
With regards to the development, it is pertinent to mention that implementation of various welfare programme should be focused upon. Government just cannot afford to announce schemes after schemes, in face of the given inadequate setup to implement them. Also, clarity on Forest and Land Acquisition Act needs to be arrived at, in earliest timeframe, to allay speculations that are doing rounds in Maoist inclined media that behind the cover of revisiting these acts, the Government is attempting to bring back corporates. This propaganda needs to be scuttled by prioritising the revision, if the same is intended at. Lest it shall give the Maoists a boost to regroup and mobilise.
Complemented by focused implementation of welfare programmes, the opportunity has to be wrested by the security apparatus to bring about tangibles in speediest manner, thus instilling confidence in the environment, against Maoists. Also, our information campaign needs to show and project what is being done, to manage favourable perceptions for the state. Perception amongst the adivasis is gaining ground that eventually it would be the ‘State’ and not the ‘Maoists’ that shall bring in genuine and long term development – and in the process, also preserve their identity and safeguard their aspirations.
Unfortunately, weaknesses in the security mechanism, manifesting in lack of synergy amongst state and central security forces, has slowly led to ‘turf war’. And ironically, such cracks are showing – coinciding with weakening of Maoists movement. A case in point has been the rift that surfaced recently between the CRPF and Chhatisgarh Police, in the immediate aftermath of the Tahakwada attack, in which 11 CRPF and four police personnel were killed. IG CRPF in Chhattisgarh, blamed the State Police leadership for blocking a ‘massive operation’ by CRPF, across Maoist ‘base zones’ in Bastar, which, he asserted, could have prevented the March 11 attack. The last leg of the proposed operation was intended to target the Darbha and Tongpal zones, around March 10, and, which as pointed out, would have sanitized the entire area thus averting the fateful incident. Senior Chhattisgarh Police leaders subsequently criticized CRPF brass for “raising confidential issues of national security through media”. The merits or otherwise of the CRPF proposal notwithstanding, the spat exposed the continuing discord between Central and State Forces on issues of strategic and tactical response to the Maoist challenge.
For any insurgent organization, surviving is the essence of winning. Maoists have been emphasising focused approach to preserve their subjective forces.
Further, CRPF, in first week of September, shared findings of the probe into the incident. The enquiry inferred that most of the survivors, who followed the first section that was ambushed, instead of helping their trapped colleagues stayed behind and later deserted them. The probe has found 23 of the 28 survivors prima facie guilty of “inaction and lack of satisfactory counter-action”. The paramilitary force has already suspended 17 of its personnel and suggested the state police to act against six of its men for dereliction of duty. The inquiry also noted that “there was delay in sending reinforcement”. Tongpal police camp was only four to five-minute drive from the spot, but the reinforcement party did not arrive in time. The state police, however, has remained non committal on it so far.
Rather than pointing fingers at each other, need of the hour is to analyse the lessons learnt, implement measures to overcome weaknesses and most importantly to train together under hands down leadership at execution level. Several agencies in the fray, in general, have to develop affiliation towards the common intended goal. Period of relative calm, should be utilised to further weaken the insurgent organisation, and vice versa cannot be afforded. The system will do well to realise the same and faster it is, better it would be for our fight against the Maoists who thrive on- adivasi cadre, front organisations led propaganda machine, an aligned intelligentsia and revenue generation from extortion and protection, in cohort with some industrialist- politicians and bureaucracy. Incidentally, this may be the last opportunity that the state may have to retrieve the overall situation. The alternative, later, could be too horrific even to contemplate.
For any insurgent organization, surviving is the essence of winning. Maoists have been emphasising focused approach to preserve their subjective forces. The efficient harnessing of diminished resources and concentrated attacks on state’s weak link are integral part of this effort and they have always been able to make a headway towards the same, whenever they have desired. Despite defections, losses and visible degree of demoralization; the core leadership remains committed to its cause.
 Pavan Dahat, ‘Maoists losing ground in Bastar’, September 21, 2014, The Hindu
 ‘Maoists Assessment 2014′, www.satp.org
 ‘The Heart of our Darkness’, Mohan Guruswamy, ‘Naxal Violence – the threat within’ (ed), Gurmeet Kanwal & Dhruv Katoch, 2012, KW Publishers.
 ‘PESA, Left Wing Extremism and Governance:Concerns and Challenges in India’s Tribal Districts’, Ajay Dandekar & Chitrangada Choudhary, IRMA, Anand, pp 5-9
 Remarks were given by Shubhranshu Choudhary during his talk on ‘Weaning Away the Maoists Suppot Base’ as part of CLAWS National Workshop on Internal Security on 12 September, 2014.
Ashutosh Bhardwaj, ‘23 CRPF men, cops left without a fight as Naxals ambushed colleagues’, September 08,2014, The Indian Express