A Challenge Unprecedented
On Sunday April 04, 2010, during a visit to Lalgarh in West Bengal, the Home Minister PC Chidambaram called upon the Maoists to abjure violence and come forward for talks, “if they really want to solve the problems of the people” he said. Dubbing the Maoists as cowards, the Home Minister renewed his offer for dialogue. In his perception, the Maoist challenge would be neutralized in the next two years or so. The level of confidence was indeed reassuring!
At around the same time, a popular Indian Television channel was carrying a documentary set in Chhattisgarh on the Maoist threat. As per the journalist embedded with security forces on a mission, the tide was definitely turning in favour of the government. He felt that the security forces were catching up on their training oriented to anti-insurgency operations and would be able to restore normalcy soon.
Just two days later, the Maoists delivered a devastating blow in Dantewada, Chhatisgarh when at dawn, 75 policemen of the CRPF were massacred in an ambush, making it the worst carnage in the four decades of the history of Naxal violence. The debacle also exposed the fact that as a nation we are not in a position to successfully thwart the Maoist violence. This is no longer a simple law and order problem that the police organisations are accustomed to dealing with. It is a war thrust upon the state from within. The police forces at present do not have adequate training, equipment, leadership, experience or doctrine to fight such a war.
The innocent inhabitants of the region understandably look for security from whoever is prepared and is capable of providing regardless of their affiliation.
It will take considerable time and effort both at the levels of central and state governments to revamp and reorient the police forces to take on the Maoist challenge. Therefore, there is an urgent need for true introspection and for evolving a coherent or comprehensive strategy to deal with the situation that threatens to spiral out of control. Apart from the heavy loss of life in this episode, what is of greater concern is the fact that after the massacre of 24 policemen in West Bengal and 12 in Bihar during the last few months, this was yet another audacious assault by the outlawed Maoists to undermine the authority of the state.
Operation “Green Hunt” was launched last year with paramilitary forces having limited experience in counter insurgency operations essentially to augment the inadequately trained and poorly equipped police forces of the state deployed to take on the Maoists. Since then the paramilitary forces continue to be inducted in increasing numbers to contain the spreading rebellion in the remote and underdeveloped areas of the affected states, long neglected by the respective state governments. Caught between the radical left wing guerrilla movement and the government forces, the poor innocent inhabitants across the vast swathes of India thus live under a state of siege. Today Maoist threat has undoubtedly emerged as a security challenge unprecedented and most daunting. If not tackled effectively now, it could only worsen with passage of time.
The first signs of Maoist movement appeared in 1946 – the Tebhaga movement in undivided Bengal which was soon followed by an uprising against the feudal rule of the Nizam in Telangana. Over 4000 lives were lost before the movement was withdrawn. Naxalbari movement first began in 1967 with a revolt against landlords in three police stations of Naxalbari, Kharibari and Phansideva. This movement gave birth to formation of Communist Party of India Marxists-Leninist (CPI-ML) on April 22, 1969. The movement also spread to Srikakulam in the Eastern Ghats and became bloodier with the passage of time. Tribals organised themselves into guerrilla squads called Dalams and eliminated prominent landlords who had grabbed their land.
Today Maoist threat has undoubtedly emerged as a security challenge unprecedented and most daunting. If not tackled effectively now, it could only worsen with passage of time.
The movement spread to other districts of West Bengal, Bihar, Orissa Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. The movement was organized and coordinated by CPI (ML) groups in the respective states. The top leaders like Charu Mazumdar in Bengal and Satya Narain Singh of Bihar, however, lacked military sense and vision. They attempted to build a Peoples Liberation Army consisting of peasants but the movement could not develop any significant momentum against the state and especially so when Kannu Sanyal went into hiding while many other top leaders including Charu Mazumdar were arrested. Charu Mazumdar died soon after, but tragically the state governments did not act decisively to address the root cause of insurgency.
Exploitation continued and peasants remained in a state of continued bondage.
After a lull for over two decades, there was a resurgence of the Naxalbari movement, essentially a Maoist effort, in 1981-82 in the Telangana area. After the death of Charu Mazumdar in 1972, it re-emerged as Peoples War Group (PWG) in 1980 under the banner of CPI (ML) in Andhra Pradesh. The historical merger of CPML – PW and MCCI to form CPI Maoists in October 2004 led to phenomenal expansion of the movement. The concept of Compact Revolutionary Zone (CRZ) known as the Red Corridor was mooted to encompass areas from Bihar to Andhra Pradesh through the dense forest of Central India. Since then it has continued to grow in strength covering over 200 districts of the seven most affected states. “They can dream. They have the privilege to dream in a democracy” said the Home Secretary GK Pillai responding to Kishenji or Koteshwar Rao’s prognostication of the Maoists overthrowing the National Government by 2050 or even earlier.
in the massacre carried out by 200 Maoists on February 17, 2010 in a village near Jamui in Bihar, there were at least 50 children involved.
One is reminded of what the former President of India Dr APJ Abdul Kalam once said, “Dream, dream, dream; dream transforms into thoughts and thoughts result in action. You have to dream before your dreams can come true,” statement from the Maoist leadership therefore ought not to be taken lightly.
The Basic Problem
The Maoist campaign ought not to be seen only as a foreign inspired onslaught on the Indian state. While there is undoubtedly support for the indigenous brand of Maoists from powers inimical to India, the root cause however, is the fear in the minds of tribals who are not Maoists per se, of losing their land, natural resources and livelihood to the urban rich whose sole interest in their perception is economic exploitation. Suffering from a powerful sense of deprivation, the tribals have been engaged in a struggle to regain what they have lost or to preserve what is left and are fearful of losing. The Maoists have only successfully superimposed their brand of politics of violence and power through the barrel of the gun on the tribals and are only exploiting the situation to convert a tribal struggle to the level of a war against the state.