Realising that Maoist menace poses a grave threat to India’s security and territorial integrity, the government has, at long last, decided to sternly deal with the insurgents, who are waging a war against the country. Although Home Ministry maintains that 13 states and union territories have been affected by Naxal violence, those who closely watch the Left-wing extremism hold that Maoists are active in 220 districts spread over 22 states and union territories and that they have acquired sophisticated weapons and expertise in the use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Security experts believe that Naxals have in their possession at least 7,000 weapons, including AK-47 rifles and SLRs.
Main features causing concern and anxiety to the government are Maoists’ spread over a large geographical area, increase in their potential for violence, unification of PWG, MCCI and other smaller groups into a unified command, their plan to establish a red corridor and their nexus with terror groups such as LTTE, ULFA and Maoists in Nepal.
A broad understanding that ultras are a gang of criminal elements, bereft of any ideological moorings, that needed to be eliminated emerged at a meeting of chief ministers of states affected by Maoist violence. The meeting called by the Union Home Minister P Chidambaram last month decided to launch an all-out offensive against Maoists. The campaign will be a joint venture by the army, paramilitary forces and police. A mechanism for exchange of intelligence and experiences will also be evolved to keep track of ultras, who keep moving from one state to another. It is a welcome change in Centre’s approach. Earlier, the then Home Minister Shivraj Patil used to dismiss suggestions for a central action on the premise that it was for the states to tackle the problem. He would advise states to undertake development activities in affected areas if they wanted to fight insurgency. Chidambaram, on the other hand, has publicly stated that no meaningful development activity could be undertaken in disturbed areas. The country seems to have learnt from the experience in Kashmir Valley where massive funds were pumped in over the past several decades but this could not end the alienation of local population. Most of these funds, the government discovered, never reached the people and fell into the hands of separatists who used them to fuel insurgency. It is no one’s case that that the government shouldn’t remove the genuine problems of the people like socio-economic disparities, grinding poverty and lack of infrastructure. The point one wishes to make is that the primary duty of a government is to restore law and order and establish its authority before it can undertake development activities.
The ongoing operations against ultras in Lalgarh in West Midnapore district of West Bengal are a case in point. According to the Union Home Secretary, around 200 to 300 sq km of Lalgarh had been practically under the control of Maoists for more than eight months. The central forces-led offensive has driven ultras out of large parts of Lalgarh. Although people are still apprehensive about the return of ultras, the central forces are doing a commendable job. It is now for the West Bengal government to provide succour to the deprived sections of the society, which had suffered-and suffered badly-at the hands of the so-called liberators. The government must invest heavily in building infrastructure in the liberated areas for better communications, health and educational facilities. Maoists, on their part, have planned a strategy for counter-offensive. Documents recovered by the intelligence agencies show that ultras know that 10 battalions of para-military forces being withdrawn from J&K will be deployed to launch a major operation in Chhattisgarh to liberate 4,000 km of Bastar forest areas dominated by Maoists. Maoist document, a secret circular, has urged its cadres to prepare for a long-drawn battle with security forces to defend their “military headquarters”. They have been ordered to meticulously plan attacks to “inflict severe losses on the security forces”. The security forces stand forewarned of the nature of the war with insurgents.
The Naxal movement that erupted in a small village-Naxalbari-on the tri-junction of India, Nepal and Bangladesh in the year 1967 has passed through three major phases. Initially, it was a revolt against exploitation of farmers, workers and tribals. Santhals armed with bows and arrows forcibly occupied lands of kulaks and looted paddy from hoarders. In the first three months, more than 100 such incidents took place in that remote area of West Bengal. Two years later, CPI(ML) was launched with the avowed objective to “rouse the peasant masses in the countryside to wage a guerrilla war, unfold an agrarian revolution and build a rural base to encircle cities and finally to liberate the whole country”. Drawing inspiration from Mao, Naxal movement’s leader, Charu Mazumdar militarised the movement to “annihilate class enemies”. It spread its tentacles in several states and was at its peak during 1970-71. “Operation Steeplechase” was launched by the union government to crush the ultras. The operation was extremely successful and top Naxal leaders, including Charu Mazumdar, were arrested. Charu died in prison shortly thereafter leading to a split in the party.
The third phase of Maoist insurgency began with the YSR government entering into a secret understanding with PWG for the latter’s support to the Congress and its allies in return for suspension of operations against them. Many PWG leaders surfaced and a massive recruitment campaign was launched. Fully-armed PWG cadres would move around cities and villages threatening and attacking people. PWG further utilised this period to reorganise its forces and to hold secret parleys with Maoist Communist Centre of India (MCCI). At a secret conclave in West Bengal, a unified party of all Naxal groups called CPI(Maoist) was formed. It gave a tremendous boost to insurgency in the country. They drew out a plan to create a red corridor from Indo-Nepal border to Dandakarnya region to slice the country into two and to eventually capture the country. Maoists’ morale also got a boost and they launched several daring raids at government establishments, including police stations, jails and railway stations.
Having decided to eliminate this menace, the government must carry forward the war against this terror outfit to its logical conclusion. Narrow political gains and ideological confusion shouldn’t be allowed to weaken the war effort. It will indeed be a long and bitter war. Let the nation stand up as one against this menace.