How could national security be safeguarded and the country spared of bloodshed and brutality? A number of measures could be suggested. On account of space-constraint, however, I would spell out here only two of these suggestions, one relating to politics and the other to economy.
The state governments that are covered by the compact revolutionary zone and through which the red corridor passes must make an effective institutional arrangement to coordinate police action against the Naxalites. Intelligence should be shared and, wherever necessary, joint operations launched. Special squads of personnel trained to operate in forests and hilly areas and suitably equipped to counter guerilla tactics should be raised by each of the affected state.
Experience has shown that wherever special units have been set up and trained squads put in operation over a sufficiently long period of time, the outcome has been encouraging. Narrow political calculations, of course, have to be kept at bay. It is unfortunate that the excellent results achieved by the Andhra Pradesh'sspecial units were fritted away on account of petty politics of vote bank. On the eve of elections to the State Assembly and Parliament, with a view to securing support of Naxalites, promises to declare a ?ceasefire? and hold negotiations with them were made by a leading national party. After coming to power, both at the central and state levels, prolonged negotiations were held with the Naxal leaders who were allowed to keep their weapons and make even a show of them. All this infused a new life in the movement. By the time the negotiations ended without any agreement or understanding, the Naxalites had regrouped and re-equipped themselves, gained fresh confidence and evolved a new strategy of action at the ground level.
The politics of vote banks vis-?-vis Naxalites has not been played for the first time. In 1982, N.T. Rama Rao played it with consummate skill. He called the Naxalites true patriots who had been misunderstood by the ruling classes. By 1985, however, he was forced to take action against them. M. Chenna Reddy, Congress Chief Minister, acted no differently. In 1989, he, too, declared that the Naxalites were patriots. When Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu adopted a firm approach against Naxalites, it was Rajasekhar Reddy'sturn to appease them. In other states, too, political parties and individual leaders have not hesitated to arrive at an understanding of mutual help with the Naxalites. This has enabled the latter to carve out an unhindered space for their activities, while the former have been getting electoral support of Naxal cadre at the time of elections. This mutual understanding has been widely noticed in Bihar and Jharkhand.
It is, indeed, unfortunate that short-term political gains are often given precedence over the need for having a clear, consistent and firm line. An apolitical and coordinated approach of the central government and the state governments concerned, their special police units and trained squads are absolutely necessary. Otherwise, the Naxalites would continue to believe that they are pursuing a ?tottering foe?.
On the economic front, an equally strong and sustained campaign need to be launched to relieve the rural distress which, of late, has assumed serious proportion. A recent national survey has revealed that about 33 per cent of India'spopulation, that is about 200 million ruralites, live on only Rs 12 a day. They spend as much as 70 per cent of their income on food and cannot afford to buy nutrition like green vegetables. About 36 million young people between the ages of 15 and 29 years are ?usually unemployed?; on some days, as many as 58 million remain without work. Hundreds of peasants in debt are committing suicide and thousands of poor ruralites are also getting displaced consequent to their lands being taken for development projects. In these circumstances, anger and frustrations of the poor and their attraction for movement are understandable.
It speaks volumes abut the failure of Indian polity, Indian leaderships and Indian social and cultural values of the post-1947 period that a very large number of people in the country should still be grinded by hunger and haunted by unemployment every day, while millions of others get more and more affluent and are sucked into the orbit of consumerism. The Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme may provide some relief to the hungry and the unemployed. But a more fundamental, a more long-term plan, conceived with a new vision for future India, needs to be formulated and implemented.
A closer link needs to be established between urban, semi-urban and rural areas. A planned process of de-ruralisation and simultaneous urbanisation, industrialisation, and ?service-isation? should be initiated. It should be ensured that those who are displaced from the rural areas consequent to the execution of the development projects are absorbed in those very projects and given pre-service and in-service training to acquire requisite skills and improve them further. The monetary compensation received by the claimants should be invested in the company in the form of shares with a guaranteed return equivalent to the amount of compensation. This would provide four-fold benefits. First, the risk of compensation money being squandered would be eliminated. Secondly, the recipient, by virtue of his investment, would develop an interest in the advancement of the company. Thirdly, in the event of failure of the company, the rock-bottom amount would be available to the investors of this category. Fourthly, the erstwhile ruralite would become a skilled person, and if he seizes the opportunity to further upgrade his skills, a brighter future would be opened to him and his family.
Above all, it must be fully understood by the Indian society and the State that Naxal movement is inherently dangerous and destructive. It can do no real good to any class of people. It can result in giving to India merely a blood-soaked grammar of anarchy. Its ideology is wholly imitative of the Chinese model of the thirties and forties of the last century and takes no account of the great many changes that have occurred all over the world in various spheres of life. It bewitches the poor by its catchy slogans and captures the impressionable minds by way of romantic and adventurous notions. It sets one class against another class, one caste against another caste, and often declares yesterday'scomrades today'spolice informers and traitors, deserving verbal trial and elimination. Whatever may be professed in theory, in actual practice it has killed more poor ?informers?, petty government officials and small businessmen and contractors. Equally nihilistic is the Naxalites? attitude towards the idea of India, her underlying unity and her distinct culture. They advocate the right of the so-called nationalities of India to self-determination and secession, knowing fully well that exercise of such rights could only lead to unending divisions and discords and ultimate extinction of the Indian entity.
Today, the Naxalite movement presents a huge challenge to India'speace, security and overall well-being. The issues embedded in this challenge are many sided and formidable. Nevertheless, they could be successfully tackled if the measures outlined above are taken in conjunction with the task of reforming the State and the society and the values underpinning them. But one thing that the governance machinery of India must fully grasp immediately is what Paul Wilkinson has underlined: ?Rebellions do not generally fade away; they have to be put down, if normal life and business are to be restored.?
(The writer is a former governor of Jammu and Kashmir and a former Union Minister.)