On September 4, 1999 Chandala-vada Umesh Chandra, a young IPS officer of Andhra Pradesh cadre, famous for his anti-Naxal operations was assassinated by Naxalites. In October 2004, the People'sWar Group marked out 5,000 acres of land for ?redistribution?, threatened landowners and corporates from Microsoft to Infosys. In January 2006, four Rajdhani Express trains were stopped near Gaya en route due to the Naxal threat. In the past 16 years, in Andhra Pradesh alone, the Naxals have killed over 2,000 civilians, 500 security personnel and destroyed property worth 200 crore rupees. In Bihar they have ransacked police armoury, freed their kin from jails and laid a siege of Jehanabad town. Police constables in Chhattisgarh refuse to take postings in areas of Naxal dominance.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, while speaking at a conclave of Chief Ministers of the 13 Naxal-affected Indian states said, It would not be an exaggeration to say that the problem of Naxalism is the single biggest internal security challenge ever faced by our country.
Who are these Naxals? Groups like, People'sGuerrilla Army, People'sWar Group (PWG), Maoists Communist Center (MCC), Communist Party of India (Maoist), and the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Janashakti are the extreme leftists (ultra-leftists or Naxals). They aim the conquest of India by overthrowing parliamentary democracy through a communist revolution brought about by protracted guerrilla warfare, and the establishment of a communist state on lines of China.
The writings of Charu Mazumdar form the ideological base of the ultra-leftists. In 1965-66, Mazumdar argued that democracy in India was a sham, and postulated a parallel application of a mixture of Marxist-Leninist-Maoist thought in Indian politics. Mazumdar'sinitiatives put forth revolution-based communist politics attempting a revision in the communist movement of India. The communists refer to his presentations as the ?historic eight documents?.
In 1967, an armed tribal unrest took place in West Bengal'sNaxalbari area. It was sparked by an attack on a tribal youth Wimal Kesan by landlords, when the former had gone to reclaim his land. The tribals armed themselves, and started capturing back their lands. It was a fight between Mazumdar-backed tribal violence and the government. The name ?Naxal? is derived from Naxalbari. The tribal uprising lasted for 72 days and is called the ?Naxalbari Uprising?. Mazumdar was arrested in Calcutta (Kolkata) on July 16, 1972 and died in police custody eight days later. The same year, in Andhra Pradesh, Kondapalli Seetharamaiah, an influential Naxal leader, reorganised the ultra-leftists. By 1978, however, the Maoist movement was in shambles.
In the pre-Mazumdar days, the Indian communist movement was basically Marxist-Leninist oriented?or ?Westernised?. Charu Mazumdar following the Maoist pattern attempted to ?Easternise? it, while Seetharamaiah tried to ?Indianise? even the Maoist outlook by seeking to spread agrarian-based communist revolutions through the Go to Village Campaigns. In 1980, unlike Mao, he discarded the total annihilation of ?class enemies? as the only form of legitimate communist revolution, and stressed on floating mass organisations. He formed the People'sWar Group (PWG).
Since then, the PWG has built up armed groups in Andhra villages, euphemistically called, Radical Youth League Units. The PWG builds bases in remote areas that are difficult to reach by security agencies, and transforms them into guerrilla zones. After over-running the local government machinery, it establishes a parallel government at the local level, terming these zones as to why the ?liberated zones?. It then indulges in self-motivating operations such as ?area-wise seizures? and ?encircling cities?. The October 2004 putting of Red flags on plots at Hyderabad'soutskirts was an example of ?encircling cities? aimed at boosting cadre morale and extorting money from landowners. In order to identify with the people, the PWG is supposedly fighting for, it aims to install a people'sgovernment and calls it'sarmed activities the people'swar. The PWG aims to usher in its communist revolution, calling it the ?New Democratic Revolution? (NDR). Ironically, the PWG expelled Seetharamaiah, who died unsung on April 12, 2002.
The Central Committee (CC) is the highest policy-making body in the PWG. It comprises of 21 permanent and six alternate members. At present Muppala Lakshman Rao, alias Ganapathi is its General Secretary. It has two wings?the political and the armed. The armed wing is headed by a ?Central Military Commission? (CMC). As General Secretary of the political wing, Ganapathi heads the CMC. The military commissions are present parallel to the political committees at each level. At the micro-level is the Village Defence Squad (VDS), organised as a militia group. The main fighting part of the outfit or a platoon comprises 25 to 30 highly-trained guerrillas. Formed in December 2000, the PWG'sfighting force is called the People'sGuerrilla Army (PGA). It has its own flag and an insignia, too. The estimated cummulative strength of the armed ultra-leftist groups is about 10,000 and is distributed in an area called the ?Red corridor? influencing 27 per cent of India'slandmass!
The situation is grim. The Naxalite movement is increasing its tenacity to strike at will. Thousands of armed guerrilla warriors are no longer engaged in isolated attacks, but are resorting to large militarised assaults and have forged external links. In 2001, the Maoist Communist Center (MCC), and nine other Naxal outfits of India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka joined hands to form a trans-national umbrella organisation called the ?Co-ordination Committee of Maoist Parties and Organisations (CCOMPOSA) with a purpose to unify and coordinate the left extremist activities in South Asia. The failure and reluctance of governments to recognise the Naxal threat and to deal with them immediately, effectively and ferociously, has permitted Naxalism to spread. When political parties need Naxal-support during elections, they describe Naxals as a social problem. After elections, Naxalism is treated like a law and order situation. Governmental response has been defocused.
The recent talk by the Prime Minister of adopting a walking on two legs strategy that would recognise Naxalism as not merely a law and order problem but relate Naxalism directly to under-development exhibits this defocus. How can the government seek to call Naxalism, a social problem when it possess central military commissions that aims at overthrowing Indian democracy?
The government must, therefore, draw up an anti-Naxal charter. A state-wise pro-active governmental initiative must be launched. It must be a tri-dandi initiative?a three fold one?educative, rehabilitative and combative.
On the educative front, special propaganda modules must be made to expose Naxalism'strue face, one that abducts, rapes, extorts and kills. The demonisation of the Naxalite movement is not difficult. Instances of Naxal atrocities can be documented and shown to people. Catchy anti-Naxal slogans, skits and songs must be developed and spread. Special groups of actors must go village to village and play out these skits. Bill-boards must be put up in towns and villages informing people about Naxalism and its true colours. The Naxals try to win over gullible village youth through false promises of a better life but end up making them brigands without a future. Similarly, there have been numerous cases of sexual exploitation of women cadres by the Naxalites An exposure at the village level would dry up the recruitment fields for the Naxals and make it difficult for them to lure away the youth. A complete chronology of Naxal brutality and attacks on rural infrastructure proving them to be not just anti-people, but also as anti-India, and anti-progress can be presented in a pocket-book form in local languages and distributed.
There must be a rehabilitative package for surrendered Naxals and provisions for their protection from retaliatory attacks by their former comrades. Regular taluka programmes should be held to keep avenues open for surrender. Surrendered Naxals must be debriefed and integrated back into society by imparting special vocational training and skills. The government must send out a clear message that it would not harass surrendered Naxals and their families. The better the rehabilitative package and its propaganda, the more Naxals cadres would abandon the ultra-leftist promises and return.
Women cadres, usually the victims of exploitation must be provided protection and alternate employment opportunities in various skilled and unskilled projects. Women Self-Help Groups (SHGs) must be promoted in affected areas. A public-private partnership must be formed to evolve an economical rehabilitative package. Simultaneously, the government must also launch special purpose vehicles to look into the infrastructural development of Naxal-affected areas. Usually these areas are severely backward and poor. A collective economic improvement would automatically make people less inclined towards the false hopes of the communist revolution that the Naxals espouse. The rehabilitative package must extend to the families of security personnel killed in action against Naxals. Each security personnel should be insured for atleast Rs 10 lakh.
The combative step is like a surgeon'sknife, painful but effective. In Mao'sown words, the language of the bullet has universal understanding. A special task force must be formed at the Centre having multi-state functionality with the aim of taking the fight to the Naxals?to fight the guerrillas like guerrillas.
Elements from both the army and paramilitary forces should be included in the task force. It should have its own air wing. Additional air-strips must be built in Naxal-affected areas to shorten response time of security forces. The strategy should be quick deployment of battle-ready troops, encirclement and liquidation of the Naxal threat. Satellite tracking and monitoring of the affected areas is needed. Lately, the Maharashtra government has chalked out a Rs 733 crore anti-Naxal programme for the affected districts of Gadchiroli and Chandrapur. It has asked the Centre for setting up of a helicopter base in Nagpur, have medical support teams, and be provided with a team of the CRPF that was promised two years ago.
The intelligence agencies must improve their information gathering capabilities and launch a cash incentive scheme to garner information about Naxal leadership. Local village level defence and intelligence squads would form the frontline of such a combative strategy. Each Naxal attack must be traced to locate hideouts and training centres. The government'scombative focus must change from battling foot soldiers to leadership liquidation. A covert strategy must be evolved to specifically target Naxal leadership. Arrested Naxal leaders must be secretly removed to high security jails, so that when a rescue attempt is launched it can be encountered without risk of losing the arrested Naxals. A special fast track court must be set up to try Naxal cases. Surveillance of rail and road infrastructure along Naxal-affected areas must be increased to reduce chances of attacks. In order to squeeze the Naxal influence, an Inter-state Naxal Movement Deterrence plan must be drawn with an enhanced security presence not only along state borders but also along the hills and plains. This would deter Naxals from undertaking inter-state travel and thereby lock them in.
The government must precede the initiation of serious peace talks with Naxal leadership, with a well publicised programme for mass surrender, aimed at ending this armed rebellion. But before engaging in peace talks, the government must lay down three conditions. Disarm the cadres, dismantle combative capabilities and training centres, and disband the military commissions. The government must also seek return of stolen government arms and unspent ammunition. If such peace talks fail, the government must immediately adopt a zero tolerance policy towards the ultra-leftists, and order Naxal leadership liquidation. This would control the situation from spreading and severely dent Naxal strike capabilities.
If free enterprise is to survive, if India has to remain a parliamentary democracy, then the poison of Naxalism must be countered immediately, otherwise as Naxalism spreads the India we know, would be increasingly threatened by the Red-flag.