LEFT EXTREMISM / NAXALISM
The term ‘Naxal’ derives its name from the village Naxalbari of district Darjeeling in West Bengal, where the movement originated in 1967 under the leadership of Charu Majumdar and kanu Sanyal. It refers to the use of violence to destabilize the state through various communist guerrilla groups. It soon became out of fashion in its homeland West Bengal, but the underground operations of the outfit continued.
Naxalites are far-left radical communists who derive their political ideology from the teaching of Mao Zedong, a Chinese revolutionary leader. They have been operating in various parts of the country since the early seventies. At various points of time, different areas of the country have been seriously affected due to overt violence resorted to by naxalite groups active in those areas.
Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh described naxalism as the most significant threat to internal security being faced by the country today. The threat has existed since long though there have been many ups and downs.
PHILOSOPHICAL BACKGROUND OF NAXALISM/MAOISM/LWE
History has been witness to repeated occurrence of violence against the ruling elite mostly by the peasant class motivated by leftist ideologies. The ideological basis for these violent movements was provided by the writings of Marx and Engels. This ideology is commonly called Communism / Marxism. This was later supported by Lenin and Mao Zedong. Leftist ideologies believe that all existing social relations and state structures in an elitist/capitalist society are exploitative by nature and only a revolutionary change through violent means can end this exploitation. Marxism advocates removal of the capitalist bourgeois elements through a violent class struggle.
Maoism is a doctrine that teaches to capture State power through a combination of armed insurgency, mass mobilization and strategic alliances. Mao called this process, the ‘Protracted Peoples War’. The Maoist ideology glorifies violence and, therefore, the ‘bearing of arms is non-negotiable’ as per the Maoist insurgency doctrine. Maoism fundamentally considers the industrial-rural divide as a major division exploited by capitalism. Maoism can also refer to the egalitarianism that was seen during Mao’s era as opposed to the free-market ideology.
Maoism’s political orientation emphasizes the ‘revolutionary struggle of the vast majority of people against the exploiting classes and their state structures”. Its military strategies have involved guerilla war tactics focused on surrounding the cities from the countryside, with heavy emphasis on political transformation through mass involvement of the lower classes of society. ‘Political power rows out of the barrel of a gun’ is the key slogan of the Maoists. They mobilize large parts of the rural population to revolt against established institutions by engaging in guerilla warfare. Maoism is no longer an ideological movement. Maoists are now creating a fear psychosis and denying democracy and development to tribals.
Unlike the political mass movements with violent underpinnings in the border areas, naxalites do not seek to secede from the Indian Union to establish a sovereign independent state of their own but their aim is to capture political power through armed struggle to install the so called ‘people’s government.
PHASES OF NAXALISM
Maoist spread their ideology very systematically and in phased manner as follows-
- Preparatory Phase – Detailed survey of new areas identifying important people, important public issues on which masses can be mobilized.
- Perspective phase – Mobilization through frontal organizations – staging demonstration against government / administration based on local public grievances.
- Guerilla Phase - Converting the public movement into violent guerilla warfare.
- Base phase – Here the Maoists try to establish their base and change the guerilla zone into a liberated zone.
- Liberated Phase – Establishment of people’s Government.
EVOLUTION OF NAXALISM IN INDIA
The spread and growth of Naxalism in India can broadly be divided into three phases or stages. The three stages have been described below.
The Naxalite movement began in May 1967 in the three police station areas, Naxalbari, Khoribari and Phansidewa, of Darjeeling district in West Bengal. The CPI Marxist – Leninist (ML) party that was based on Maoist ideology was founded in 1969. Soon, the Naxalite movement spread to many parts of the country, especially West Bengal, Odisha, Bihar and Andhra Pradesh. Their main followers were peasants and adivasis, or tribals, who often experienced discrimination and exploitation from state authorities. Also, several young unemployed people and students got attracted to the Naxal ideology. The period of 1970 to mid-1971 was the peak period of violent activities by Naxalites. A joint operation of police and army in 1971 in the worst affected areas in West Bengal, Bihar and Odisha led to the arrest and death of almost all top leaders of the movement. Charu Majumdar was caught and died in 1972 in police custody. The movement faced a severe blow during emergency when around 40,000 cadres were imprisoned in 1975.
The movement arose again in a more violent form after the Emergency. It continued to widen its base as per the strategy of ‘protracted war’. Their base grew from West Bengal to Bihar to Odisha and also to Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. CPI (ML) was converted into People’s War Group (PWG) in 1980 which had its base in Andhra Pradesh and struck heavy causalities among police personnel. PWG was banned by Andhra Government in 1992 but it continued its activities. Simultaneously, Maoist Communist Centre of India (MCCI) grew in strength in Bihar and carried out large scale attacks on landlords and other upper caste outfits. Naxal movement continued to grow at a steady pace across many parts of the country.
The problem became more serious after the merger of the Peoples War Group (PWG) and the Maoist Communist Centre (MCC) in September, 2004 which led to the formation of the CPI (Maoist). Today, the left extremist movement is a complex web that covers many States. According to the Ministry of Home Affairs, at present, 88 districts in the 10 States of Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh, Telengana and West Bengal are afflicted with ultra-left extremism forming an almost continuous Naxal corridor. The CPI (Maoist) is the major left wing extremist outfit responsible for most incidents of viole0nce and killing of civilians and security forces, and has been included in the Schedule of Terrorist organizations along with all its formations and front organizations under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967.
After the formation of CPI (Maoist), Naxal violence has been on the rise since 2005, to the extent that in 2006, the Prime Minister had to declare Naxalism the single biggest internal security challenge being faced by India. Estimated to be 10,000 strong, the Naxalites have been a strain on the country’s security forces and a barrier to development in the vast mineral rich region in eastern India known as the ‘Red Corridor’. It is a narrow but contiguous strip passing through Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Odisha. In fact, at the peak of Maoist movement in Nepal, Naxal influence was seen to be spreading from ‘Tirupati to Pashupathi’.
In the last decade, extremist violence is increasing and expanding, taking a heavy toll of lives in the affected states. Most of the affected areas are forest areas predominately inhabited by tribal populations. Most of these areas fall in the Dandakaranya Region which includes areas of Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh. CPI (Maoist) has stationed some battalions in the Dandakaranya region. Local Panchayat leaders are often forced to resign and the Maoists hold regular Jan Adalat. They have been running a parallel government and parallel judiciary in these areas.
But violence alone cannot be the only yardstick to measure Maoist expansion. Maoists are also expanding in terms of indoctrination and consolidation. They are also trying to spread their ideology in the Bheel and Gond tribes dominated area, the ‘Golden Corridor’ stretching from Pune to Ahmedabad. They are trying to exploit new areas, various social groups and marginalized sections like Dalits and minorities through active association with their grievances against the state. Maoists have also made their presence felt in western Odisha, Upper Assam and Arunacal Pradesh.
The movement’s capacity to challenge the state has also increased enormously considering the incidents of violence and casualties resulting from them. The biggest incident was when they ambushed a whole CRPF Company in April 2010 in Dantewada of Chhattisgarh and killed 76 CRPF armed personnel, showing the extent of their strategic planning, skills and armament. In 2013, the left wing extremist movement made international headlines when they killed 27 people, including some high-level politicians, in Sukma District of Chhattisgarh.
THE ‘NATURE’ OF THE MOVEMENT
Barring a phase in the late 1960s and early 1970s the left extremist movement has been largely agrarian in the sense that it seeks to mobilise discontent and mis-governance in the rural areas to achieve its objectives. Some of the major features of the left extremist movement include the following;
- It has emerged as the greatest challenge to internal security.
- It has gained people’s confidence, grown in strength particularly in forest and tribal areas, by mobilising dispossessed and marginalised sections.
- It creates conditions for non-functioning of the government and actively seeks disruption of development activities as a means to achieve its objective of ‘wresting control’.
- It spreads fear among the law-abiding citizens.
While these features also form part of the activities of all terrorist organisations, due to its wider geographical coverage, left extremism has made a deep impact on the conflict scenario of the country.
AIMS, OBJECTIVES AND MODUS OPERANDI OF THE NAXALITES
The aim of the naxalites is to destroy the legitimacy of the State and to create a mass base, with a certain degree of acceptability. The ultimate objective is to attain political power by violent means and establish what they envisage as ‘The India People’s Democratic Federal Republic’. The naxalites predominantly attack the police and their establishments. They also attack certain types of infrastructure, like rail and road transport and power transmission, and also forcibly oppose execution of development works, like critical road construction. Naxalite activity is also manifesting itself through various civil society and front organizations on issues such as SEZ policy, land reforms, land acquisition, displacement, etc., with the objective of expanding their mass base and acquiring support of some intellectual elite.
While impeding development works and challenging State authority, the naxalites simultaneously try to derive benefit from the overall under development and sub-normal functioning of field institutions like police stations, tehsils, development blocks, schools, primary health centers and anganwadi centers, which administer and provide services at the ground level and also reflect the State presence.
POWERFUL PROPAGANDA MACHINERY
Naxalites have very powerful propaganda machinery which is active in all major towns as well as in the national capital. They even have their supporters in the media. These NGOs and activists wage a non-stop propaganda war against any government step that aims to check the naxalite movement. As a matter of strategy, naxalites try to be on the right side of the media all the time. They have their sympathizers everywhere who raise a hue and cry in the name of human rights against police action on the Maoists. These media groups are conveniently silent when naxalites kill innocent people.
LINKS WITH OTHER TERRORIST ORGANIZATIONS AND FOREIGN COUNTRIES
The CPI (Maoist) has close fraternal ties with many north-east insurgent groups, especially the RPF/PLA of Manipur and National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-IM) for sourcing arms. Most of these outfits have linkages with external forces inimical to India. The CPI (Maoist) has also frequently expressed their solidarity with the Jammu and Kashmir terrorist groups. These ties are part of their ‘strategic united front’ against the Indian State. The CPI (Maoist) also has close links with foreign Maoist organizations in Philippines (Communist Party of Philippines), Turkey, etc.
The above outfit is also a member of the ‘Coordination Committee of Maoist Parties and Organisations of South Asia’ (CCOMPOSA), which includes ten Maoist groups from Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Sri Lanka. In 2006, CCOMPOSA at its Fourth Conference in Nepal reiterated its anti- India stand and reaffirmed its commitment to spread protracted people’s war to capture state power through violent means in South Asia.
SOURCES OF FUNDING AND LINKAGES WITH ORGANIZED CRIME
The main source of funding of the left wing extremist movements in extortion from government projects as well as from corporate companies working in their areas of influence. Most of the time, it is in the form of protection money. Sometimes they resort to kidnapping and killings also to terrorize the rich people so that they give financial help easily. Left wing extremism is most intense precisely in areas which are rich in natural mineral resources, i.e, where coal, iron, bauxite, manganese, nickel, and copper are found in abundance. Odisha and Jharkhand alone account for more than half of the country’s coal reserves. Coal is by far India’s largest energy resource. Therefore, it provides them enough scope for extortion.
The UN has expressed concern over the killing and maiming of children who continue to be recruited and used as human shields by Maoists in India and over the threat of sexual violence against girls within Naxalite ranks.
The Annual Report of the UN Secretary-General on children and armed conflict, reported that the recruitment and use of children, as young as six-years-old, by Naxalites, continued in 2013. Independent estimates indicate at least 2,500 children are associated with armed groups in Naxal-affected areas. Indian Ministry of Home Affairs has indicated that boys and girls aged six to 12 years were recruited into specific children’s units, known as ‘Bal Dasta’ and ‘Bal Sangham’, in Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Odisha States. Children are used as spies and for fighting with crude weapons, such as sticks. At the age of 12 years, children associated with Naxalites are reportedly transferred to age-specific units and receive military training in weapon’s handling and the use of improvised explosive devices.
In Naxalite recruitment campaigns, targeting poor communities, parents are forced to offer boys and girls to the armed groups under the threat of violence, including killing and torture. Similarly, children are threatened with the killing of family members should they escape or surrender to security forces. Further, attacks on schools by Naxalites have continued to affect children’s access to education in affected areas.
The recruitment and use of children remains to be criminalized by law. Children arrested under security legislation are often detained with adults, not tried through the juvenile justice system and deprived of their right to due process of law.
Based on statements of several women formerly associated with Naxalite groups, sexual violence, including rape and other forms of abuse, is a practice in some Naxalite camps. While no disaggregated data on children killed or maimed in clashes between Maoist armed groups and security forces was available, at least 257 civilians, 101 security forces elements, and 97 Naxalite members were killed in 2013 in 998 incidents.
NAXALITES ARE NOT REALLY THE MESSIAHS OF THE DOWNTRODDEN
From their ideology, it appears that naxalites are fighting for the rights of poor people and want to establish a people’s government, while the facts are quite contrary. Social uplifting of the down trodden is not their real aim, rather it is political power. They study the local problems and issues and use them as fodder to foster their end game which is clearly the seizure of power through violent means.
Maoists have vested interest in keeping poverty alive because it enables them to expand their territory. They don’t allow district administration to do any development work like building roads and improving electricity and water supply in the areas. The local population very soon realizes that they have been used by the naxalites and their social and economic issues take a back seat while the battle for supremacy emerges as the prime motto of Maoists. But, at times, it is too late and the locals are forced to support them.
CAUSES FOR SPREAD OF LEFT EXTREMISM
While the goal of the left extremists was to actualise their own vision of the State through ‘revolution’, they chose to usher that revolution by enlisting the support of the deprived and exploited sections of society particularly in areas where such sections constituted a significant part of the population. It is, therefore, necessary to identify the reasons for such deprivation and consequent discontent. “Expert Group on Development and the causes of Discontent, Unrest and Extremism” of the Planning commission has identified the following causes:
EVASION OF LAND CEILING LAWS
Land reforms were major plank through which the Congress brought rural masses under its fold. But after independence, this subject went under state’s domain. Politics of every state differed and it was driving force for extent and direction of land reforms. States which failed to deliver much at this front were to bear the brunt of left wing movement in coming times.
Despite a variety of legislations enacted to address a whole host of land related issues like introduction of land ceilings, distribution of surplus land, consolidation of holdings, prevention of fragmentation of land, protection of rights of tenants and settlements of waste-lands etc., their impact at the ground level is marginal due to tardy implementation. This had enabled the left extremists to exploit the disappointment of the promises made to beneficiaries particularly in areas where there are large number of landless labourers and share-croppers. For example, in Andhra Pradesh, it is the common perception that land for which pattas have been issued to the landless is under de facto occupancy of affluent and powerful people and that, even tribal leaders are working as agricultural labour in such lands.
Rampant alienation of the land rights of the tribals to non-tribals and the States measures to prevent and undo such transfers through legislations such as the Andhra Pradesh Land Transfer Regulation Act of 1970 have remained on paper, and have further accentuated tribal discontent.
DEVELOPMENT OF BIG INDUSTRIES IN BACKWARD AREAS
Further, from very beginning focus was on development of big industries in backward areas. This development included operation of mines, building of big dams, steel plants, fertilizer plants etc. away from urban centers, yet these continued to feed needs of urban India exclusively. So, tribals and farmers were losers in this arrangement as they were frequently displaced. According to an estimate, since independence, about 3-4 crore tribals have been displaced due to various hydro projects.
Malkangiri district is one of 250 most backward districts of the country. In 1977 a dam was built here which resulted in physically isolating more than 160 villages. This district lies on Orissa- Andhra border. These isolated villages are in Orissa, but are accessible only from Andhra Pradesh side. Since then these areas are practically operating without Indian administration. Consequently, this has become base and a sanctuary for naxalites.
DISPLACEMENT AND FORCED EVICTIONS
In the poorer states of India, the SCs and STs constitute a high proportion of marginalized SCs and STs anywhere in the country with much worse social indicators. It is the SCs and STs which constitute the backbone of LWE in these high-concentration states.
STs in these states usually live in a highly forested, relatively hilly, rugged terrain. The Adivasi tribal population of these states have traditionally lived in the forests, and for centuries lived in harmony with nature and helped to sustain it. They have traditionally held rights over forest produce, which they have used to sustain themselves.
Historically, tribal life was well integrated with the forest, but legislations and governance in the last century considerably altered this symbiosis. The Forest Act, 1927 and the Forest conservation Act, 1980 along with stringent Supreme Court orders have turned forests into prohibited areas for the tribals, creating serious imbalances in their lives and livelihoods. This has turned the tribals against government’s methods of forest management, and gradually against government itself. This discontent has provides fertile ground for the spread of left extremism among tribals living in forest areas.
USURY AND INDEBTEDNESS
Usury and indebtedness are the chief causes of acute distress and exploitation like land alienation and bonded labour. Indebtedness among STs is particularly widespread on account of food insecurity, non-availability of production and consumption credit through public institutions, and corruption in the public lending agencies.
GOVERNANCE RELATED FACTORS
Apart from this, Indian state repeatedly failed to deliver its services such as maintaining law and order, social infrastructure, relief during epidemics or disasters in the remote areas. Special laws on prevention of atrocities, protection of civil rights and abolition of bonded labour etc. were poorly implemented. Due to Incompetent, ill-trained and poorly motivated public personnel even essential public services including primary health care and education could not be implemented properly. These made people indifferent to the democratic principles and some of them even got averse to the state when they were indoctrinated. These places were breeding ground of Naxalism where they established there bases.
Laws prohibiting transfer of Adivasi lands to non-adivasis and acquisition of land by non-adivasis in Fifth Schedule areas, where such laws exist, suffer from numerous loopholes besides tardy implementation. These loopholes are adequately documented state-wise but states have not amended their laws to remove them and strengthen protective measures against alienation of tribal land. This must be done as priority national programme and action taken regularly to monitor its progress.
MANAGING LEFT EXTREMISM
FOREST RIGHTS ACT, 2006
The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 is unique in being a legislation that guarantees traditional local communities, the right over forest land on which they have been dependent since ancient times. The act recognises the rights of forest dwellers, including Scheduled Tribes and others, to use, protect and manage forest resources where they live.
BACKWARD DISTRICTS INITIATIVE (BDI):
Backward Districts Initiative (BDI): Since the naxalite menace has to be addressed on the developmental front also, the Central Government has provided financial assistance for 55 Naxal affected districts in the 9 States under the (BDI) component of the Rashtriya Sam Vikas Yojana.
MODERNISATION OF STATE POLICE
Funds are given to the States under the Police Modernisation Scheme to modernise their police forces in terms of modern weaponry, latest communication equipment, mobility and other infrastructure.
REVISION OF SECURITY RELATED EXPENDITURE (SRE) SCHEME
The level of reimbursement under the Scheme has been raised to 100% and new items like insurance scheme for police personnel, community policing, rehabilitation of surrendered naxalites etc. have been covered under it.
RECRUITMENT IN CENTRAL ARMED POLICE FORCES
In order to wean away the potential youth from the path to militancy, recruitment guidelines have been revised to permit 40% recruitment in Central Armed Police Forces from the border areas and areas affected by militancy or naxalism.
Home Ministry has requested all the Naxal affected states to implement the “Surrender-Cum-Rehabilitation” scheme for the Naxalites who want to shun and join in the majority interest of the mainstream Government. Jharkhand government had offered monthly allowance of Rs. 2000, Life insurance worth Rs. 10 lakh, vocational training for 2 years, one acre agri-land and free educational to the Naxalites and their families.
But there is no effective intelligence mechanism to identify Naxal cadres. Often, tribal youths surrender as Naxal cadres; many of them even join the Naxal movement to reap these benefits. Further it is alleged that Police forces pressurize (even coerce) those who surrendered to reveal information, or to join counter-Naxal operations like Salwa Judum. This demotivates rebels who want to surrender.
The government has also initiated publicity campaigns in order to garner support from the general public in their efforts to crack down on the naxals. Centre has warned Maoist sympathisers including members of civil society and NGOs found supporting the naxals by propagating their ideology or by any other means to be ready to face severe punishment. Mobilising the support of the people is also absolutely essential to weaken the support base of the Naxals. Authorities should encourage civil society groups, having knowledge of, and sympathy with, local tribals in assisting for wider participation of people in implementation of the strategy.
CENTER STATE COOPERATION
Given that the naxalite menace is a multi-State phenomenon and the objective of the Maoists is not merely to subvert law and order in tribal areas in various States but wage war against the Indian Republic, the involvement of Centre becomes imperative. Under these circumstances the Union Government may have to consider invoking even Article 355 of the Constitution which states, “It shall be the duty of the Union Government to protect every State against external aggression and internal disturbance and to ensure that the governance of every state is carried out in accordance with provisions of the Constitution”. The Union Government will have to work out a coordinated plan of operations by all the States carried out in an integrated manner.
Already, a special cell in the Home Ministry has been coordinating with the States concerned and providing them assistance in anti-naxalite operations. As Law and Order is a State subject and so the Centre should provide the necessary backup and play a catalytic role by way of facilitating and aiding the negotiation process—all this without impinging on the rights of the States or undermining the federal spirit of the Constitution.
CUTTING THE SOURCE OF FINANCES FOR NAXALITES
Like any other extremist movement the Naxalite movement also mobilises funds which sustain them. Such mobilisation is in the form of extortion from local people and also from contractors executing various projects in the affected areas. Besides, funds are also raised through forest and mine operations. One way to ensure that development funds do not reach the extremists is by entrusting these works temporarily to organisations like the Border Roads Organisation and other governmental agencies which can execute these works directly. This should be done as a purely temporary measure and not to stifle local private entrepreneurship.
Clamping down on the sources of funding for left extremists is another area that requires urgent attention. The extensive contractor-transporter-extremist nexus and its links with illegal mining and collection of forest produce in the entire region affected by left extremism yields a huge volume of funds for the extremists. An effective anti-extortion and economic offences wing that can curtail, if not totally dry up, such funding sources to extremists, has to be constituted.
- The cooperative banking structure which is the most accessible to the poorer sections should be urgently revamped and revitalised. There is also need for widespread provision of Grain Banks managed by Gram Sabhas in tribal areas.
- Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Gurantee Act (NREGA) should be intensively implemented. It aims to enhance livelihood security in rural areas by providing at least 100 days of wage employment in a financial year to every household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work.
- Forest produce should be provided a protective market by fixing minimum support price for various commodities and provision of modern storage facilities.
- Disparities in availability of physical, developmental and social infrastructure should be removed by speedy creation of infrastructure in Naxal-affected districts.
- Given that most of the rural poor, SCs and STs are dependent upon agriculture. This requires strengthening subsidiary and supportive activities in animal husbandry, fisheries, horticulture, sericulture and poultry.
GOVERNANCE RELATED MEASURES
- In Naxalite infected areas the first step is to enforce land ceiling laws. This has to done despite the pressures of landlords, money lenders and influential castes. Several landless poor have been subsequently alienated from their lands. These lands should be restored to them.
- Acquisition of land has emerged as the single largest cause of involuntary displacement of tribals and turning them landless. Indiscriminate land acquisition should be stopped and land acquisition for public purpose should be confined to public welfare activities and matters of national security.
- Usury and indebtedness are the chief causes of acute distress and exploitation like land alienation and bonded labour. All debt liabilities of weaker sections should be liquidated.
- There should be effective implementation of the existing constitutional provisions, Protection of Civil Rights and SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act laws. National Commissions on SC & ST and NHRC should to be given powers to make them effective in cases of violation of laws.
- The law enforcement machinery in the affected areas would need to be strengthened. Some measures could be; additional police stations/outposts in the affected areas; filling up the police vacancies and improving the police-people ratio; sophisticated weapons for the police; personnel to be given training in counter-insurgency including protection of human rights etc.
- All the Central and State schemes should build in enough flexibility to allow panchayat bodies to reshape them to suit tier objective conditions. Panchayats at three tiers should have powers and authority to hold officials accountable for the subjects deployed to panchayats. Similarly, they should have powers to review performance and working of all departments in their areas.
- Create a separate Ministry for the development of the Naxalite affected States in line with Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER) in order to overseen speedy development of the Naxalite affected areas.
- The Maoists has become a well-armed forces and will fight to try and retain power by targeting the Para military forces and police. Such perilous activities cannot be left to be routinely dealt with as ordinary crime or law and order problem. There is need for a specialised national level agency, to be constituted by a statute of Parliament which can tackle these federal crimes.
NEGOTIATIONS WITH NAXALS
In 2006 the government has initiated a ‘14-point policy’ which rightly underscores the need to contextualise left extremism in a perspective that is much wider than the conventional wisdom which places trust on a mixture of the ‘police stick’ and the ‘development carrot’. While the ultimate goal of the left extremist movement is to capture state power, its immediate manifestation is in the form of a struggle for social justice, equity, dignity and honesty in public services. It should be possible to visualise this movement not as a threat to the security of the State but a fight within the State for obtaining what the system promised but failed to deliver. To sum up, left extremism feeds on persistent and serious shortcomings in the domain of general and development administration, resulting in the failure of the government to address the needs of the poor in areas pertaining to land, food, water and personal security, equity, ethnic/cultural identity etc. Most of the ‘participants’ in violence perpetrated under the banner of left extremist organisations are alienated sections of society rather than perpetrators of ‘high treason’. They have to be treated as such.
The violent activities of the ‘foot soldiers’—as opposed to its ideologically hardened hard core- could well be due to the fact that their attempts to get their grievances redressed through non-violent, democratic methods may have not evoked due response. The temptation to utilise the police forces is very high but it should be remembered that unaccountable police action and abuse of police power validates violence even among the previously non-involved populations.
In that context, there may also be a need to keep the door open for negotiations with such groups and not necessarily insist on preconditions such as lying down of arms. Negotiations have a definite ameliorative role under the circumstances; this is the experience the world over. Faithful, fair and just implementation of laws and programmes for social justice will go a long way to remove the basic causes of resentment among aggrieved sections of society. Sustained, professionally sound and sincere development initiatives suitable to local conditions along with democratic methods of conflict resolution have a higher chance of success. Actualisation of such strategy of ‘containment’ would require all round capacity building within the apparatus of the State and civil society, sincerity and perseverance of efforts and accountable and transparent administration.
SUGGESTIONS OF THE SUPREME COURT
The Supreme Court asked the Centre to consider extending an olive branch to armed outfits in order to solve the problem of Naxalism in a peaceful manner. The court referred to the initiative taken by the Colombian President in holding talks with armed guerrillas which brought to an end the more than 50-year-long civil war raging in Colombia. President Santos had initiated the negotiations that culminated in the peace accord between the Colombian government and FARC rebels, which was one of the world's richest guerrilla armies.
The armed conflict between the illegal outfit and the government had cost the lives of at least 2.2 lakh Colombians and displaced close to six million people over five decades. Santos was awarded the 2016 Nobel peace prize for his achievement. Holding that peaceful solution of the Naxal problem needed to be given a chance, the bench recommended someone from the government to take the initiative in holding talks with the outfits as done by President Santos in his country.
Referring to another instance, the bench reminded that two tribal groups in Nagaland had been fighting each other for 60-70 years causing many casualties but finally reached an amicable settlement through the intervention of the church. The armed conflicts in Mizoram also came to an end with negotiation.
Naxalism poses a major challenge to the country. The approach to the Naxalites problems needs a blend of firm but sophisticated, handling of Naxalites violence with sensitive handling of the developmental aspects. If Governments at the Central and States looks after the issue more seriously and take urgent measures then we can definitely root out this malaise from the country. The success of Andhra Pradesh in containing the Naxalite problem is not merely due to the military one, but as a result of comprehensive strategy encompassing military tactics supported by a successful surrender and rehabilitation package. This success should be replicated in other Naxal areas.
It is not a coincidence that it is the tribal areas that are the main battleground of left wing extremism today. Large swathes of tribal territory have become the hunting ground of left wing extremists. Exploitation, artificially depressed wages, iniquitous socio political circumstances, inadequate employment opportunities, lack of access to resources, under-developed agriculture, geographical isolation, and lack of land reforms- all contribute significantly to the growth of the naxalite movement. All these factors have to be taken into consideration as we evolve solutions for facing the challenge of Naxalism. There has now emerged a consensus on not treating violent left extremism only as a law and order problem but as a multi casual malaise with breakdown of law and order as its ‘ranking symptom’. In short, management of left extremist violence would require tapping the capacity of all the elements of the government and civil society.
RESOLUTION OF LEFT EXTREMIST CONFLICTS
Many left extremist movements, notably the uprising in Naxalbari, could be resolved successfully. An analysis of what really happened in such areas particularly in Naxalbari may provide necessary insights for resolving the present problem of left extremism. From 1972 onwards, the Government of West Bengal adopted a lot of measures in the Naxal-affected districts. The Comprehensive Area Development Programme (CADP) was introduced to supply inputs and credit to small farmers and the government took the responsibility of marketing their produce. Naxalbari and Debra, the worst Naxal-affected areas, were selected for the programme. After the Left Front government came to power in 1977, Operation Barga was started to ensure the rights of the sharecroppers. Alongside, significant increases were made in the minimum wages which benefited large sections of the rural poor. As a result, the beneficiaries of these government programmes began to distance themselves from Naxalism and the process signalled the beginning of the end of Naxalism in these areas.
At about the same time, directives were issued to government officials in Srikakulam in Andhra Pradesh and Ganjam in Odisha to ensure that debts incurred by the tribal poor are cancelled and instead, loans were advanced to them from banks and other sources for agricultural improvement. In West Bengal, after the Left Front government came to power There are important lessons to learn from the experience- there is no ‘permanent cure’ to conflict situations and any let up in measures which bring relief can cause recrudescence of conflicts.
The situation in Chhattisgarh today continues to cause serious concern. The Bastar region of the State, which is seriously affected, is an example of how left extremism gained ground because, among other things, the tribals in the area were deprived of forest-based employment. Initially, the forests of Bastar were used by the extremists from Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra as a temporary refuge; later permanent training camps came to be established. The active participation of local tribals followed much later in the wake of stresses and strains on their livelihood, growing food insecurity and the growing despair about improvements in their socio-economic situation.
The districts of Chhattisgarh partially controlled by Maoists voted overwhelming in 2013. Compared to 2008, voter turnout in 2013 increased by 9.67 percentage points in 12 constituencies. The record rise in polling illustrates that Naxal-dominated constituencies embraced the democratic process more avidly than the rest of Chhattisgarh. The rise in polling in south Chhattisgarh was attributed to a reduction in Maoist strength.
STORY OF SANDESH- Sandesh block in Bihar has seen gradual elimination of Naxalites. Naxalism in Bihar started from two blocks of Bihar. Sandesh was one of them. The Panchayat elections held in 2006 was the first important signal of the growing unpopularity of Maoists in the villages. It also created a significant distance between the Maoist leaders and the local community. The process of social cohesion against the Maoist started in many panchayats of Sandesh block. This new attitude of the social order forced sympathizers of naxalites to mend their ways or leave the villages. Social pressure forced many naxalites to switch over to farming and shed of their association with Naxal outfits. Gradually, Sandesh block grew relatively free from Naxal violence.
THE AASDWAR PROJECT IN JEHANABAD (BIHAR)- There are many initiatives started by the Bihar government to curb Naxal movement in Jehanabad district which remained in the news for naxal violence for more than two decades. One such is the Aasdwar Project in Jehanabad district. The scheme is currently underway in five Naxalite affected panchayats of the district. Villages under these five panchayats are witnessing a flurry of development activities on a war footing. The state government has come out with a liberal package of welfare schemes under Aasdwar, including construction of cement lanes, drains, chaupals and link roads worth `29 crore. Other works include construction of buildings for schools and Aanganwadi centres, culverts and individual toilets. The government has also taken some affirmative action in respect of forest rights (Forest Act 2008), displacement, livelihoods etc. The people, at large, seem to have embraced the state’s Aasdwar programme in a big way. So, as this case study amplifies, Naxalism can be defeated and eliminated by the process of development and a new social order but the change has to come from within.
Andhra Pradesh had shown a model for controlling naxalism. Though the ‘Greyhounds’ naxal fighting force was its main element, infrastructure development and effective surrender and rehabilitation policy have also proved effective. The model was so successful that all the Naxalite leaders were forced to leave Andhra Pradesh and try new hideouts in Odisha, Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra.
COUNTER OPERATIONS BY CENTER/STATE GOVERNMENT
Maintenance of law and order is domain of state governments, yet central government has deployed troops of CRPF in these areas. These troops are attached to police station or to district police. They don’t have specific job assigned to them and hence doesn’t have autonomy. They just act as support system to state police. Also, center has deployed there COBRA – Commando Battalion for Resolute Actions a specialised unit of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) of India proficient in guerrilla tactics and jungle warfare.
GREY HOUND POLICE
The Greyhounds are an elite commando force of Andhra Pradesh, India created to combat left wing extremists. It is considered the best anti Naxalite force in the country, even above the CRPF’s COBRA which has more men, budget and better arms than the Greyhounds. Greyhound is a simple but effective organization and recruits the best of the best from the Andhra Pradesh Police. The Force is also known for its guerrilla approach and its functioning in the field, which is near similar to that of the Maoists. The strength of the greyhounds lies in the fact that it is more of a guerrilla force than a special force.
Salwa Judum was a movement in the Bastar area of Chhattisgarh which assumed the form of mass movement against the atrocities committed by naxalites. It literally means “Peace hunt” in the local Gondi tribal dialect. The administration claims that it was spontaneous, peaceful and a voluntary case of public uprising against the Maoist movement. The naxalites never wanted the Salwa Judum movement to succeeded in Bastar because they were bounded by the ‘Greyhounds’ force of Andhra Pradesh and Bastar was their biggest bastion. They established their people’s government in Dandakaranya Zone (which is a cluster in the remotest corner of the five adjoining states of Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra). This is an area of immense strategic and geo-political importance for naxalites. The militia, consisting of local tribal youth, received support and training from the Chhattisgarh state government. They adopted some counter strategies against Salwa Judum. Firstly, the leadership of this movement was branded anti-people and some key leaders were executed. Secondly, the entire propaganda machinery in favour of the naxalites was ordered to throttle Salwa Judum movement in its infancy. Soon, the movement was discredited on many counts. It was shown that it was a proxy police movement and the police was recruiting children forcibly. Poorly trained, ill equipped and immature, some of the Salwa Judum cadres themselves looted many tribal villages. It is believed that in 2006, more than 100 villagers involved in the movement were killed by the naxalites. Finally, in May 2013, senior Congress leader Mahendra karma, who had supported the movement, was killed mercilessly. Surprisingly, the so-called human rights activists and intellectual supporters of naxalites were silent on this killing. With no support from any quarter to counter this propaganda, the Salwa Judum movement was killed in its infancy.
On 5 July 2011, the Supreme Court of India declared the militia to be illegal and unconstitutional, reminding only state has responsibility of maintaining law and order and ordered its disbanding. The Court directed the Chhattisgarh government to recover all the firearms, ammunition and accessories. The use of Salwa Judum by the government for anti-Naxal operations was criticized for its violations of human rights and poorly trained youth for counter-insurgency roles. It also ordered the government to investigate all instances of alleged criminal activities of Salwa Judum.
SHOULD ARMY BE DEPLOYED AGAINST NAXALS?
The army is trained to fight against an enemy country. Fighting with our own people is not the job of the army. In fact, the army is employed to protect its own people. It would be very difficult for the army to distinguish innocent people from hardcore Naxalites. The Army is a symbol of national pride. We must ensure that the image of the army is not affected. So, naxalism has to be fought by the police and other para military forces. Also Indian Army is already over stretched and if used internally, our frontiers will be quite vulnerable to hostile neighbours.
Also, a complete armed solution is not the only answer to naxalism. We should give more emphasis on effective administration, development and growth of the affected areas. As of now, it is not advisable to deploy Indian army against naxals. However, air support from armed forces can be taken not for air strikes but for evacuation, supply, medical aid, etc. If demanded, armed forces can extend “logistical support” and “provide training” to police in tackling the menace.
NDA'S NEW ANTI-NAXAL DOCTRINE
The Narendra Modi Government has formulated a new anti-Naxal policy that will place greater weight on achieving "short-term goals" in the fight against left-wing extremism, marking a sharp departure from the UPA government's approach to the red corridor.
The NDA's anti-Naxal doctrine, contrasts with the long-term anti-Naxal strategy championed by influential sections of the previous UPA government which advocated solutions through land reforms and by implementing the Panchayat (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996 (PESA).
Home Minister Rajnath Singh's new policy focuses on the 23 worst-hit districts among the 88 left-wing extremism-affected areas. The Government is hoping to attract its best talent to serve in these troubled areas, with the policy offering new incentives for officials. "The state governments will post the most competent District Collectors, SPs and sub-divisional officers and Station House Officers for fixed terms of three years," the policy states. "As an incentive, they will be assured of a posting of their choice and given extra allowances, exposure visits abroad and central deputation." Under the UPA, the anti-Naxal policy was largely focused on four states- Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Bihar and Odisha-comprising 50 districts.
Another key change being made by the NDA Government is on implementing the Integrated Action Plan (IAP), a major anti-Naxal initiative that was being run by the Planning Commission. The new plan does away with the earlier district-wise approach to development, instead focusing on lower-level blocks to implement schemes. This is aimed at reversing a trend wherein large swathes of worst-affected zones remained undeveloped.
REACHING OUT TO THE ADIVASIS
The plan will do more to bring adivasis into the mainstream. The government has outlined a strategy of giving more recognition to adivasi icons, for instance, by naming airports and roads after them and celebrating their anniversaries.
Adivasi outreach will be a central theme in the policy, through increased monetary support from state governments for celebrating adivasi festivals and the setting up of dedicated museums and cultural centres. The policy will also open up recruitment in central police forces for tribals, declaring that "tribal youths who meet the eligibility criteria should not be barred from being recruited in the general category provided they meet the other prescribed benchmarks". Previously there were many cases of recruitment of tribal youth in central forces were rejected on various grounds. It is a balanced approach where on the one hand our effort is to bring the adivasi into the mainstream and on the other, to strictly deal with those who indulge in violence.
The new development plan will identify three to four locations in each of the worst-affected districts, proposing setting up of development hubs. There are plans to speed up construction of roads in affected areas by boosting a dedicated security cover for critical stretches. The plan will also expedite the creation of an engineering wing in the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), the lead counterinsurgency force in these areas.
The new doctrine also envisages the setting up of a core group of ministers at the central level as an oversight mechanism. The group will have Home Minister as the chairperson, with Finance, Tribal, Rural Development, Panchayati Raj and Environment and Forest Ministers as members. Chief Ministers of 10 left-wing extremism affected states will be special invitees.
But if the NDA's new anti-Naxal plan is to succeed, many challenges have to be overcome first. Security personnel in affected areas say police stations remain ill-equipped. Even the most basic intelligence, such as dossiers on Maoist cadres active in a particular area, is not made available in many stations. In some districts, the police-to-population ratio is below the desired level. The police forces are also not adequately trained.
The current LWE situation is marked by scaled down violence by the extremists who understandably are into a consolidation mode after suffering some reversals. Recruitment activities still continue, so do the efforts to ideologically reshape the movement that seems to have deviated significantly from its original objectives and strategies. A tactical retreat of this nature often creates the illusion of victory among the policy makers. At the same time, low level violence creates significant opportunities for the government to revisit its own strategies, make inroads into the extremist areas, and prepare for future escalations.
TELECOM NETWORK ROLLOUT IN NAXAL-AFFECTED REGIONS
The Centre has completed the rollout of telecom network in areas worst affected by left-wing extremism (LWE) across 10 States in record time, as part of a major initiative to boost development in the Red Corridor. The public-private partnership project was completed recently, which was part of the Pragati Program of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The project was undertaken by Vihaan Networks Ltd (VNL) and Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL). Keeping in mind the difficult terrain, absence of roads, electricity and other infrastructure, solar technology was deployed to power all equipment on the towers, making this the largest green mobile network anywhere in the world. The towers and equipments are indigenously designed, developed and made in India. Apart from communicating with family, friends or associates, information related to agricultural inputs and markets is also now available. Banking and other commercial activities are now accessible. Emergency and other health services are within reach. Governance is easier and more interactive.