By Shyam Khosla
Operation ?Jail Break? is a grim reminder of the grave challenge left wing terrorism poses to country'sdemocratic institutions and territorial integrity. The attack on the district headquarters of Jehanabad was meticulously planned and executed with military precision. Several hundreds of fully armed and motivated Naxals – about 1,000 according to some reports – moved in waves, encircled the town, snapped power and phone lines, blew up a culvert to disrupt rail traffic and captured the jail to free Maoist cadres and one of its top regional leaders. They also abducted and killed at will leaders of its rival private army – Ranvir Sena. While the ultras carried on their operation for two hours during which they killed several people and freed/abducted several hundred others, the state machinery utterly failed to perform its primary duty of protecting the civil society. The authorities claimed ?success? in preventing the Maoists from looting arms and ammunition from the police armory even though the attacks on the police lines and the police station were most probably diversionary tactics that kept the police engaged in self-defence even as the Naxals wreaked havoc in the jail.
Ranvir Sena'soutrage and its response that Maoist will have to pay a heavy price for their misadventure are understandable. But it will not solve the problem. On the other hand, killing innocent members of the deprived sections of the society in the name of retaliatory action against ultras will only further complicate the situation. Caste war is no way to meet the challenge thrown by the ultars. The administration, the media and the political class will do well not to dismiss the Maoist attack on a town barely 50 kms from the state capital as yet another example of collapse of law and order machinery in Bihar. The Naxal menace is a much deeper and widespread phenomenon that has to be tackled at several levels and in a resolute manner with the help and willing cooperation from the civil society, the political class and the security forces. Ultras operating under the banner of CPI (Maoists) are now active in 14 states of the Union. What is disturbing is that their dream of creating a Red Corridor from Nepal to Nellor and beyond is materializing at a rapid speed. The situation is grim and calls for a sustained battle against those who are waging a war against the State and the nation. All those who have a stake in national unity, peace and democratic institutions must come together to fight the menace irrespective of their political and other differences. The Government of the day must show political will to fight the menace to the bitter end. It would do well to remember how left wing terrorism was crushed in West Bengal and how Punjab terrorism was handled.
Unfortunately, UPA Government'scallous and confused approach toward left wing extremism has caused huge damage to the security scenario in different parts of the country. 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 Maoist operating under different nomenclatures. Whatever its other failures, TDP Government too had adopted a no nonsense approach towards the underground and launched a frontal attack on its terrorist network. 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 without asking them to lay down arms. Congress-led Government'ssoft approach towards them was a great morale booster for the PWG. 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.
Last year, the DGPs of Naxal affected states had expressed grave concern over the lifting of the ban on PWG by the Andhra Government without consulting neighbouring states. By the time the state government realized its blunder in lifting of the ban on PWG without asking it to abandon arms, it was too late. Left wing extremists exploited the space provided to them by the state government to regroup themselves and forged an alliance under the banner of CPI (Maoists). The Union Home Ministry has credible information that the Maoists have procured sophisticated weapons through various agencies with the active support of the ISI. Intelligence agencies? assessment is that Naxals have now more than 18,000 fully armed and trained cadres operating in 14 states of the Union.
More than 100 districts in the country are affected by Maoist violence. These are among the most backward areas of the country where poorest of the poor live. Civil administration appears to have withdrawn from seriously affected areas leaving the people to fend for themselves. There is an urgent need to improve the lot of the people in Tribal and other backward areas. Fruits of development much reach these areas in concrete terms. An effective mechanism will have to be evolved to ensure that mistakes committed in J&K are not repeated. It is no secret that large chunks of massive funds pumped into the valley in the name of development found their way to the terrorists or were pocketed by corrupt politicians and civil servants. While solving the economic problems of the poor and the deprived section of the society is an important aspect, fighting Naxals with kid gloves will only encourage them to continue their war against the State. They have linkage with other terrorist outfits like ULFA and have a strong base in Nepal. Diplomatic finesse will have to play its role to involve the Nepal Government in the fight against Maoists. Most importantly, the Government will have to wage a sustained battle against left wing terrorists to send across the message that the Indian State has the will and the resources to defeat them. Will the Government wake up to the gravity of the situation and let the terrorists know that it means business?