The growth of Left Wing Extremism in India from an obscure village in the Naxalbari Block of West Bengal in 1967 to 235 districts across its length and breadth in 2011 does not bode well for the nation. Thirty five of these districts are seriously affected by violence and contain within them areas where the writ of the state has ceased to exist. In these places, mostly located in jungles and underdeveloped areas, the Maoists have established their strongholds and are running a parallel government. Even the deputy commissioner and superintendent of Police lack access to these areas unless very heavy police escorts are made available. At places even police escorts are ineffective in providing access.
The Maoists methodology of spreading their influence follows a mix of coercion and collusion, which has enabled them to establish their hold in ever increasing circles of influence.
Two issues stand out in the above situation. The first is the failure of the state over past four decades in arresting the growth of extremism in large tracts of the country despite the Prime Minister referring to the threat as ‘the most serious internal security challenge facing the nation’. This reflects a malaise in governance which should lead to soul searching on the manner in which the civil services in the country are constituted and function. All these districts had deputy commissioners (DC) from the Indian Administrative Service. Successive DCs over the decades have failed in providing to these areas basic levels of governance which has resulted in such a situation coming to pass. The administration has also failed miserably in the Northeastern states and in Jammu and Kashmir. This constitutes nearly half the land mass of the country. The reasons why the Indian Administrative Service has failed to deliver in these areas must be analysed by the political establishment. We also need to consider bringing about radical changes in the recruitment, role and functions of the civil services to make them effective and accountable instruments of the state.
Along with this, another matter of concern is the perceived infiltration of Maoist ideology into some of the government officials in the affected states. The 15 August 2011 issue of India Today has published a conversation between an ex police officer (who had left the Service in 1996) and a leading Maoist ideologue which points to such a nexus. The fact that the police officer is now a Member of Parliament from Jharkhand adds to the seriousness of the problem. This too needs to be seriously addressed.
The Maoists violently oppose all development activity such as the construction of roads, provision of schools and drinking water facilities and a score of other welfare measures, which the administration has tried to take up in these areas.
The second issue is of even greater significance. The Maoists methodology of spreading their influence follows a mix of coercion and collusion, which has enabled them to establish their hold in ever increasing circles of influence. Fault lines in society are effectively used by them to promote their agenda. All societies have fault lines and India is no different. But the Maoists, by propagating the cause of the downtrodden have taken ownership of such issues and are now perceived by many as being the sole representatives of the marginalised and weaker sections of society. They have filled the vacuum caused by the lack of governance in many of India’s remote areas and have now become well entrenched in their strongholds. This represents the greatest danger to our country, to our way of life and to our democratic institutions.
We have enough romanticists in India who view the Maoists as modern day Robin Hoods. The truth unfortunately is quite different. The Maoists use the masses simply as a tool to further their prime agenda which remains capturing power in the Centre through the barrel of the gun. Development is not a part of their agenda. Control of the masses is. The battle is ideological; to create a communist dictatorship on the lines enunciated by Stalin and Mao. Acts of depredation frequently indulged in by the Maoists seldom receive media attention – and when some acts do get highlighted, they tend to get rationalised as justifiable reactions to State actions or are simply dismissed as media hype.
The fact that Maoists are perceived to have taken over the space which rightly should have been the preserve of the political class – both ruling and in the opposition, has serious ramifications. The Maoists are now making use of this perception to further their own agenda. This has led to the phenomenon of the ‘keyboard terrorist’. Simply put, it means make use of the people who have mass media appeal and good communication skills to espouse their cause. Two categories of people emerge here. The first are those committed to the Maoist ideology through belief or coercion. They are the “Arundhati Roy’s” who give to the Maoists a romantic larger than life Robin Hood image of helping the poor against the exploitation of the rich. The truth is however bitter. The Maoists violently oppose all development activity such as the construction of roads, provision of schools and drinking water facilities and a score of other welfare measures, which the administration has tried to take up in these areas. Contractors are killed, schools are burnt, electric poles are destroyed and any activity which could lead to development is halted. For if development comes to the area, the support base of the Maoists will diminish substantially.
If we wish to preserve our freedom and way of life, it is vital that the Maoist threat be addressed with the single minded focus it deserves.
The second category of people is those that genuinely raise concerns in support of the poor and marginalised sections of society. When they talk of alleviating the ills of the downtrodden, they ipso facto support the Maoists as they are ignorant of the Maoist ideology which aims at overthrowing the Indian constitution and replacing it with a type of authoritarianism of the Mao or Stalin variety in which the rights of the people will be suppressed. Into this group comes a large part of the youth of India – well meaning young men and women from our colleges all across India –brimming with idealistic fervor and ever eager to fight for justice and what they believe in. Through them, the Maoists get the intellectual oxygen and the legitimacy to continue their movement. In the event of a Maoist takeover of the state, the first set of people to be eliminated will be those like Arundhati Roy. Maoists will have no use for them once their objective is achieved. Unfortunately, so will be the fate of intellectuals from our colleges and universities. The lessons of history, as seen in Russia and China are difficult to wish away.
If we wish to preserve our freedom and way of life, it is vital that the Maoist threat be addressed with the single minded focus it deserves. The thrust has to be on multiple levels and would encompass ideology, governance and economic development. The use of force too would be an essential component of bringing peace to the region.