The true meaning and objective of democracy is to ensure that every citizen is assured of safety and fairness and allowed to live in peace, with self respect and dignity. This is a right guaranteed to him. The preamble of our Constitution and of repeated state policies lay particular emphasis on social and political justice. But this remains a mirage only for certain classes of citizens for whom life is still a struggle for existence and survival. There are many areas and regions that are badly under developed and even basic means of livelihood are denied to them. They are virtually cut off from civilisation and fruits of development. There are several factors contributing for the birth of Naxalism in this country. The tribal and other people inhabiting areas have always been nursing a sense of utter neglect, injustice and even persecution. They are victims of exploitation by unscrupulous contractors, money-lenders, traders and businessmen and corruption of petty officials. The feudal landlords used to be unduly harsh in their dealings with them. Politicians use them as mere vote banks and pay only lip sympathy and do precious little to alleviate their sufferings. Power and absolute power have corrupted the politicians and bureaucracy and they have become insensitive to the problems of the tribals and other poorer sections. Naxalism took birth in Naxalbari in West Bengal in the sixties and spread to Andhra Pradesh too. It was effectively contained in North Andhra where it manifested first because of the strong and effective measures taken by the government to maintain law and order and peace. It does not exist now in its place of origin in West Bengal, but like cancer it has spread far and wide and assumed violent and menacing proportions over the last four decades in different states of the country. It has now become a national problem calling for well co-ordinated and concerted efforts under constant monitoring by the Union Government.
Telengana in Andhra Pradesh witnessed armed struggle during 1946-51 and the main issue of the struggle was land. The land reforms did not benefit the land-less poor in this region much and hence village?level Sanghams were formed to carry on the struggle. This helped much in putting and end to the obnoxious practice of vetti (forced labour or bonded labour), exploitation of the poor peasants, molestation of women and other atrocities and injustices and redistribution of lands and redressing other grievances. But, once the struggle became weak, the feudal elements forcibly reoccupied their lands and perpetuated their high handedness as before. The Tenancy Act of 1950 as amended in 1954 provided ownership rights to the protected tenants, but it failed because of lukewarm implementation. The Land Ceiling Act of 1961 too did not improve their lot much because of ineffective implementation. It was in such circumstances that Naxalism took roots in Telengana and the hilly and forest region proved a safe haven for fast growth of the organisation. The Naxalite leaders espoused the cause of the oppressed and hapless tribals and dalits and could find recruits to their movement fast. It had strong ideological base to begin with, but soon took shape of armed struggle and the ideological base became weak. The feudal land-lords were their main targets and when Police challenged them and caused losses in their ranks, they turned their ire against Police too. The movement spread to several districts by eighties and became strong, both in numbers and in the methods they adopted. They started indulging in indiscriminate violence, intimidation and threats for ransom, and use of violence to mobilise funds for procurement of weapons and explosives. As numbers increased and funds were a plenty, the struggle degenerated and the ideological base got diluted, with mercenary and frustrated unemployed youth from the weaker sections started joining the ranks. Unfortunately, there was no strong political will or consistency in policies adopted by different political parties on the naxal problem. Naxals were also being used to enlist their support during elections and there were times when political leaders even hailed them as patriots and brothers. Thus politicians were blowing hot and cold, taking tough stand when Naxals were on the rampage because of soft pedaling by the party in power and going soft when it was election time etc. This type of vagaries in political stands bereft of consistency made the job of police very difficult and they had to suffer many casualties. Police necessarily had to react to the mindless violence of Naxals who were killing not only innocent people, some of whom were from poorer sections, but causing indiscriminate destruction of public and private property including public transport, railway stations, police stations and other government buildings. They learnt the art of making explosive devices and laying land mines, killing many innocent people. Their barbaric and inhuman violence created panic among the political leaders in Telengana and they started shifting to cities leaving a vacuum of leadership in rural areas. The weak-kneed policies of political parties encouraged them to run parallel governments so much so they started holding Praja courts and dispensing one sided justice in the crudest form reminiscent of aboriginal days. The movement spread to other states too and it soon assumed menacing proportions.
Unfortunately, governments did very little to address the grievances of the tribals, the poor dalits and other poorer sections, who still live in the dark age of under development, neglect, exploitation and injustice. The administrative machinery has been insensitive and apathetic to their lot. Erosion of value systems in the society at large and politics in particular, the all pervasive corruption, the divisive politics that the politicians play and several ills that afflict the body politic have been fragmenting the society. Naxals naturally have scant respect for the politicians or the administration and have no faith in democracy. They believe in ruling by gun and consider violence only as the means to achieve their objective. They would abduct politicians and officials to demand release of their top leaders in prison. They would kill politicians and top police officials to demoralise the political parties and police officials. Their unabated violence on large scale forced the government to ban the outfit a couple of times and each time it was done, it helped stemming the intensity of the violence. Unfortunately, it would not last long as political parties cave in and lift the ban under pressure for selfish political ends, and the situation would be back to square one.
Government made half hearted efforts a couple of times to bring the Naxals back to the main stream, having enlisted their support during elections and promising negotiations after their coming to power, but the dialogues had to be aborted as neither side was sincere enough. One such recent effort in Andhra Pradesh failed and had to be aborted. What is worse, the Naxals merged with the Maosists during the talks and it has now become a more militant outfit, learning all the methods and techniques of the Maosists of Nepal and Bihar. The recent massacre of innocent tribals in Uttaranchal in which even women and children were brutally hacked in dozens indicates the gravity of the situation. It cannot be left any longer to the affected states to handle this menace. The following steps are suggested to tackle this problem effectively: