Believe it or not: but the Government of India has reportedly unveiled a “dream project” to solve the Maoist-Naxalite insurgency problem. And what is this project? According to a report in Freedom First (September 2009) written by V Balachandran, a former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, Government of India, a Maoist who surrenders shall get a three-year fixed deposit of Rs three lakh, and in addition, payment of Rs 2,500 pm. We don’t have any idea how long this monthly payment will continue. Is it for a specific period of time? Or is it till the Maoist reaches retirement age? Can he claim retirement benefits as well? And who is to identify a “Maoist”?
The idea of what is best described as a “buying out” a terrorist is the obvious belief that even a Maoist can be bought over if adequately financed and paid. This is only likely to create more Maoists than in the past. It is quite possible that there are, among Maoists, two classes: One, and very likely a determined class that is truly ideology-oriented and will treat offers of financial assistance with contempt. The other class of pseudo-Marxists may be purchaseable, but does one know how strong they are, percentage-wise? In the first place, the Naxalite movement is growing, not wilting. In 2002, only 55 districts were under Maoist control. Five years later, in 2007, the number had grown to 125. One belief is that in 2009 that number has further increased to 150 plus. In Karnataka alone, as many as 11 districts are supposedly under Naxal control, including Hassan, Kodagu, Mysore and Chamrajnagar, with a “strong” base in Udupi, Chikmagalur, Shimoga and Dakshina Kannada.
This was as much as admitted by Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh at a recent conference of Directors General and Inspector Generals of Police. The Naxal presence in the border districts of Raichur, Bellary and Tumkur is already a well-established fact. According to knowledgeable sources, Naxalites or Maoists gain power through three well-designed stages. First is the ‘Organisational Phase’ when overt activities are pursued to gain influence among the rural have-nots. At this stage what matters is not violence but organisation. This is the stage when the Maoists take up popular causes to establish their credentials. During this stage they will concentrate on developing grass root contacts. The State, in the circumstances can have no case against the organisers.
During Stage Two, the Naxalites start organising ‘Guerilla Zones” where they will undertake punitive strikes. This should be a wake-up call to State Governments but the State seldom realises it. It is in the Third Stage that Naxalites, having secured a strong base, go in for Peoples’ Mobile War, when they try to establish their own rule. By then police action turns hopelessly inadequate. The Prime Minister now seems to have realised it. In almost one out of four districts in India, Government rule presumably has ceased to exist. The Centre seems to be woefully unaware of the fact, or, if aware, even more painfully in no position to assert itself.
It may be noted that unemployment has been gathering momentum in Karnataka, mostly in districts like Raichur, Gulbarga, Belgaum Bellary and Haveri. Rural unemployed have been forced to migrate to more prosperous districts like South Kanara, where recession has hit public works badly forcing the migrants to violence. Advantage has been taken by the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) with has been demanding that all the 1.5 crore unorganised workers in the State be provided shelters. CITU wants the Government to earmark Rs 10,000 crore to provide sites for them on the grounds that even if, under a government scheme, workers are provided Rs 40,000 each to build a home, they are not given sites to build them, making the other offer ineffective. On September 15, there were state-wide protests in Karnataka with workers insisting that they should get a minimum wage of Rs 6,000 about three times the wages they are now getting between Rs 2,630 to Rs 2,380 pm. CITU wants skilled workers to get between Rs 7,800 and Rs 10,000 pm.
In many Karnataka Centres, workers indulged in stone throwing and other forms of violence with police compelled to make large-scale arrests of mis-creants. What we are now witnessing is social unrest leading to violence, often of the worst kind. In urban centres this unrest can at least be controlled but it is in the forest and tribal zones that Naxalism is thriving on an unexpected scale. In his article V Balachandran noted that according to case studies, even in Naxal-infested areas peace can be restored if faith of the poor in the bureaucracy can be restored by quick and affirmative action. In one village, Gangapur, in Adilabad district, Naxalism was nipped in the bud by the thoughtful action of an innovative police officer who used all his influence to connect the village with marketing centres with a motorable road and won over the people, defeating Naxalism without firing a single shot.
One step that can be taken either by the government itself (Central and State) or, for example by a private organisation like the RSS, is to establish a new cadre of volunteers to serve in the Naxal-infected areas who will look into the needs of the poor and help them in diverse ways. The Government can establish a separate Special Indian Tribal Service (SITS), independent of, but working in cooperation with the IAS, whose members, carefully selected, can be trained to live in the villages as do Naxalites with concern for the people and a noticeable commitment to their welfare. Surely there are young men and women who are patriotic enough to give their services to a great cause? Surely if Maoists can attract the young, so can the Government? Alternately, the RSS can set up a cadre of its own volunteers to take on the Maoists and Naxalites in their own areas of operation and prove that care, devotion and concern can get the poor much further without having to take recourse to violence?
This is something for the RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat to give thought to. Maoism can still be beaten at its own game, non-violently and fruitfully, if only there is a vision and a spirit of dedication among the educated young. The theory of violence against violence so far practiced by raising cadres of soldiers among the rural people have proved to be contra-productive. We have Gandhism as a model. True, the Congress Party is the one least equipped to practice it. Gandhi proved in 1946 that he can achieve what an army could not achieve, provoking Lord Louis Mountbatten to describe the Mahatma as the Viceroy’s one-man army. We may not have a Gandhi today, but Gandhism still remains a force, waiting to the practiced. And the time is now.