What can be surmised from an understanding of the history of warfare in general is that in any form of armed conflict, collateral damage (loss of limb and life) to the populace at large as also of life-sustaining infrastructure are simply, unavoidable. And in the context of present times, what are termed as “Human Rights violations”, are also inevitable once cordon-and-search tactics have to be enforced during accomplishment of the National Internal Policy imperatives. Localized insurgency or Low Intensity Warfare (LIW) which metamorphosed mostly in the developing/ under-developed Nation States in the post WW II era is nothing but an evolution in warfare necessitated by the horrors of Nagasaki and Hiroshima.
However, there were two notable exceptions when peripheral damage during LIW was assiduously managed to negligible levels, namely during the counter insurgency operations in Malaya, post WW II (conducted by General Sir G Templar) and in Mizoram in the mid 1960s (conducted by the then Lieutenant General S F J Manekshaw, MC); as a matter of fact in Mizoram, this aberration was the lowest ever, any where in the world! In both cases the common, favorable factors in minimizing damage were the willing cooperation of the populace and enthusiastic participation by the local civil service administrators with the Armed Forces.
In the back-drop of the above, commonly understood LIW postulates, it is baffling that both the print and visual media as also the civil “rights” activists should remain focused on collateral damage to the exclusion of the unrelenting intent of the insurgents to pose a challenge to the State. Far worse is the trend to under score the fact that Maoists have failed to articulate any convincing ideology as an alternative to the Constitutional dispensation, in place. No one may be faulted for concluding that the basic tenet of the Maoists for ushering a modicum of economic parity between the Lower- Classes with the fringe of the Middle-Classes is simply by robbing Paul to pay Peter. Nothing illustrates this modus operandie better than three, true stories from the Red-Corridor where honest, a-political, distinguished and law-abiding citizens of India were subjected to down-right banditry by the Maoists, in the period 1986-2007.
The first notable victim was the Air Chief Marshal D A La Fontaine, PVSM, VM, AVSM, who on superannuation chose to make a home in a country-bungalow, in District Medak
The first notable victim was the Air Chief Marshal D A La Fontaine, PVSM, VM, AVSM, who on superannuation chose to make a home in a country-bungalow, in District Medak (Andhra Pradesh) off the National Highway connecting Nizamabad to Secunderabad. A few months later, the Air Chief needed to renew the arms licence of one pistol. In deference to his past status, the District Magistrate issued instructions and the renewed document was graciously handed to the Air Chief within the hour. About a month later, as he sat under the shade of a tree in his garden one mid-morning, eight motor-cycle borne youth, masked and armed with country-made pistols, rode in.
Once surrounded and entry-exit blocked, one of the intruders handed a chit to the Air Chief bearing the particulars of the pistol which had been produced for renewal of the license (!) and demanded that it should be made over to them with-out fuss. Should the “Sahib” delayed or attempted to raise an alarm, they will shoot-to-kill. The Chief weighed all options and acted with wisdom.
…the script was replayed from start to finish, till about two years later the Chief was dispossessed of his three weapons!
The DSP called on the following day with assurances, on behalf of the State administration, of prompt action and security cover, till the culprits were apprehended. Not withstanding the good intent of the administration, the script was replayed from start to finish, till about two years later the Chief was dispossessed of his three weapons! Need the Maoists shop for weapons of their trade in Bangladesh or farther East when they have ready access to a flawless inventory of weapons and their owners, in each district Headquarter of the country?! Let us put our house in order as else the foundation may collapse any moment. The Arms licence issue/renewal documents must be handled with greater circumspection by few “must-know” officers, only.
Now Vikram Pramar and his wife would fit the category of the “unknown” Indian or the “Aam Aadmi”. He was the scion of a feudal Jagirdar (Raja of Barwadhi), had his schooling at The Doon School, Dehra Dun and post-graduated in architecture from a University in Germany. He rose to head the Department of Architecture at the Baroda University while his German wife (Hanney) reared their only child. His father had willed to him, a two bed-room cottage with about seven acres of Saal forest as the compound, nearly 70 km from Ranchi (Jharkhand).
By 1994, their daughter had settled in the USA and the Pramars were fully assimilated with the Chota-Nagpur culture. Hanney’s speech could mistake her for a local but for her skin-color. They were Gandhians in out-look but Vikram kept an air-rifle and a .22 bore rifle to guard his poultry-pen against wild cats and Jackals. And one handy .22 bore pistol for personal safety during their monthly shopping trip to Ranchi.
Hanney was promptly taken hostage and instructed to send a note to Vikram to deliver the three weapons in ransom.
Having closed their Kangaroo court, the Maoists one day sent for Vikram. He was laid up with malaria, so Hanney with misplaced trust in the locals, tramped off with their tribal maid to face the “Friday Meeting”. Hanney was promptly taken hostage and instructed to send a note to Vikram to deliver the three weapons in ransom. Hanney returned home some eighty hours later; physically unharmed, well cared in captivity but emotionally unhinged by the ordeal. The Maoists now found it convenient to stop-over almost once a week at the Pramars cottage for “refreshments”. Unnerved, the couple sold their property to the first offer (a timber contractor, of necessity a benefactor of the Maoists), and moved to a rented house in Ranchi where the concrete-jungle simply killed Vikram’s spirit to live. Hanney, left all by herself, shifted to and lives on in an old-age Home at Bangalore. So much for those who romanticize the Maoists.
It is the avowed policy of the Maoists that they would augment their armories by riding the citizens of their weapons from all mofussil districts in the Red Corridor. Ever since the infamous emergency of the 1970s, it has become a practice to have all personal weapons of citizens deposited in the Police Thanas, a week preceding every election (Panchayat, State, Lok Sabha et al). All SHOs of Thanas who value their lives are obliged to present a copy of the weapons inventory to the Maoists and in some cases even facilitate a raid by them at the opportune time, on the Thana armory itself !
The last episode is the ten year period in the life of a retired, three-star General who wishes to retain anonymity. He and his wife frequented National Parks and Tiger Reserves, anytime they could snatch a few days leave. On one such occasion, a few years before retirement, they chanced to meet an ageing, Anglo-Indian widow who sold her cottage located in a tract of thick Saal jungle, full of wildlife and elephant herds on yearly migration. A few years hence, that tract of forest unfortunately fell in the heartland of the Maoist “Liberated zone”.
Even though the couple were respected and “worshiped” by the Adivasis but the Maoists were not prepared to have them on their turf.
Even though the couple were respected and “worshiped” by the Adivasis but the Maoists were not prepared to have them on their turf. Unluckily for the General, he once stepped into a trap during his morning walk. He was frisked, blind-folded and led to their Zonal Commander who demanded weapons as ransom. Putting a brave front and ignoring threats, the General maintained that they have no weapons. In due course, heads of six surrounding villages were summoned but they unanimously and bravely asserted that their “sahib has no weapons and in fact is fighting a court-case against the shooting of two Peacocks (National Bird) by a poacher to which we have testified in the court.” One among the Maoists when interrogating the General tended to instinctively stiffen his posture as a soldier would talking to an officer and may be the Maoists have persuaded the released army Jawans, to join their ranks.
The General won a temporary reprieve but what was once a haven of peace and tranquility suddenly became an area of darkness and despair. For a start, the near-by telephone transmission tower was blown and the BSNL prevented from re-commissioning it. Though located in the shadow of a thermal power plant, yet electric supply to the locality was totally prevented. The single, daily bus to the District Headquarters Township was discontinued and all road connections to urban centers fell in disrepair. After a decade long struggle through alternative technologies, to sustain their basic living comforts, the couple accepted defeat, left almost all their life’s possessions to a care-taker and returned to their ancestral inheritance in Punjab, to make a fresh start in life. Showing the stack of photographs of the cottage, the compound and the countryside brought a lump to the couple’s throats.
Those well meaning citizens/NGOs who lobby for the Maoists are welcome to personally ascertain the veracity of the above narrative. But make no mistake, the Maoists were and are marauding bandits who have created easy and regular access to adequate cash, basic weapons and explosives from within the country to sustain their anarchy. Let us not look for alibis but acknowledge the ground reality and only then, can we defeat them.