By Shyam Khosla
Andhra Government'spipe dream of ending the decade-old insurgency by People'sWar Group (PWG) by engaging them in talks has boomeranged. The so-called peace process collapsed with the Left wing extremists mounting a bitter attack on the YSR Government and dismissing the process as a ?farce?. The extremists have blamed the Government that lifted the ban on the PWG without asking it to lay down arms and shun violence for ?fake? encounters and combing operations. What did the Naxals expect? Perhaps they thought the police was as ?obliged? to them as the Chief Minister and would remain hapless spectators as the PWG goons mowed down uniformed men and innocent citizens to spread terror and collect ?taxes? to run a parallel administration. The incompetent Government that harboured delusions gave the extremists enough space to wreck vengeance on their enemies and to regroup and re-arm their cadres. Naxals were never interested in peace talks. They dragged on the negotiations till they had achieved their objectives and are now ready to resume the ?armed struggle? at the time of their choice. It is no surprise that there has been an abnormal rise in killing of policemen and civilians in terrorist-related incidents in the state during the past three months. Media reports say there has been a quantum jump in Left wing terrorism in other states as well. Maoists have established themselves in nine states. The Union Home Ministry is deeply concerned that the situation in these states is spinning out of control and is now arguing for a comprehensive and integrated plan of action. There is now a broad consensus in the ruling establishment that one can'tfight Maoists in Chhattisgarh even while talking to them in Andhra.
The Congress-led Government'scallous and confused approach towards Left wing extremism has caused immense hurt to the security scenario. It abandoned an integrated and pro-active approach of the NDA Government towards Left wing extremism in its inexplicable obsession to undo everything the previous regime had done. It has no roadmap to handle terrorism that now engulfs large parts of the country and has virtually destroyed the mechanism put in place by the previous regime to tackle extremism operating under the garb of ?People'sWar?. Whatever its other failures, TDP Government adopted a no nonsense approach towards the underground and launched a frontal attack on its terrorist net work. People'sWar Group (PWG) cadres were under great pressure and a large number of them surrendered or cut down their activities. YSR Government'sfirst major decision after coming to power was to lift the ban on PWG and to make a unilateral offer for talks. As mentioned in these columns earlier, the Government'ssoft approach towards them was a great morale booster for the Left wing extremism. Its cadres armed to the teeth with sophisticated weapons roamed about in towns and cities of Andhra spreading terror and recruiting cadres. The security forces that had gained an upper hand at a heavy cost of lives of its trained personnel were aghast and raised serious questions about the State Government'sdecision. But no one in Hyderabad and New Delhi paid any heed to their misgivings.
UPA abandoned an integrated and pro-active approach of the NDA Government towards Left wing extremism in its inexplicable obsession to undo everything the previous regime had done. It has no roadmap.
The popular perception is that the Congress party had entered into a secret understanding with the PWG for a conciliatory approach towards the Naxals in return of the latter'ssupport to the Congress candidates in assembly and parliamentary elections. That was one of the reasons that led to the defeat of the TDP in these elections. It is not only the lifting of the ban on PWG in the face of stiff opposition by the security agencies and reservations expressed by TDP and the BJP that lent credence to the reports about a clandestine arrangement between the ruling party and the rebels. Its actions like shunting key officers who had spearheaded by the crackdown during TDP regime and suspension of operations against the outlaws are clear signs of an arrangement. The Naxals exploited to the hilt the space offered to them by a friendly Government. They managed to tackle the ticklish issue of merger between various left wing underground outfits. The MCC and the PWG merged to form the CPI (Maoist) that has emerged as a deadly and extremely powerful outfit whose writ runs across large areas ?liberated? by rebels. At another level, it has floated an umbrella outfit to carry on a parallel campaign in support of the underground that is publicly committed to carry on an ?armed struggle? to ?liberate? India.
Left wing terrorism has engulfed about 100 districts ? about 1/5th of the country. There are disturbing reports that Maoists are spreading their tentacles in U.P, Uttranchal and Kerala. Naxals have gained ground in the tribal belt running from Nepal Border to the Rayalseema region of Andhra. These are one of the most backward areas of the country where poorest of the poor live. More disturbing are the reports about the link up between the Maoist operating in Nepal with those in India. Together they pose a grave threat to the security of both the countries. It is high time the two countries join hands to tackle the Maoist menace. The Prime Minister has expressed deep concern over the spread of Left wing extremism and underlined the need for an offensive against Naxals. Let the Government come up with a comprehensive and integrated plan of action to meet the challenge posed by Maoists.