UNION Home Minister P Chidambaram, in a Press conference at Lalgarh, termed the Maoists as cowards who hide in jungles and are unresponsive to dialogues inspite of invitation. He came out of Lalgarh Police Station, mingled freely with the villagers, patiently heard them and appealed to them not to provide any moral and material support to the ultras. On 3.4.10 he held discussion with CM Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee in Writers Building, and briefly interacted with the top bureaucrats. In the evening, at Raj Bhawan, he heard the Opposition leaders on alleged deteriorating law and order situation in the State.
Admittedly, law and order, safety and security of the people in WB is far from satisfactory. Junglemahal is virtually a liberated zone. In first quarter of 2010, fifty seven civilians have been killed. Inter party clashes and bloodshed in south 24 parganas, Mangalkot, Nanooar, Khanakul, Khejuri, Murshidabad and government’s failure to curb disorder are enough testimony to prove it. Bank robbery, dacoity, snatching, murder, crime against fair sex are on the increase. In hills, GJMM has been defying government’s authority, formed its independent security cadre and running a parallel administration. Indeed, government’s monumental callousness, insensitivity to safeguard public interest forced the disillusioned people to resort to unrest. Peoples’ anger on the Police and, attack on the government offices, public properties, manhandling of public servants, etc are manifestly and abundantly establishing the government’s fragile and doddering control and performance.
Anti-Maoist operation in Junglemahal and other states are not free from hindrances. Mushroom growth of the so-called intellectuals in WB and their divergent views and misplaced sympathy for the blood thirsty extremists is a flinty bottleneck to bring them back to main stream. Secondly, a group of political leaders’ secret patronage and financial help encourage the insurgents and the banned outfits. Many intellectuals of WB subscribe to the Maoist views, clandestinely communicate with them and help fund raising. They demand that joint operation should be stopped, Central forces to be withdrawn and government should open dialogue with them. However, they fail to spell out the relevant points or concessions possible to be conceded without compromising with democratic rights and sovereignty of the country.
Examples are in galore that many politicians carry cudgel for the Maoists. Kabir Suman, a MP from WB, is a vehement advocate of the Maoists’ cause and demands halt of the joint operation. He has composed songs in favour of the PACPA, and circulated its video cassette. His manifested pro-Maoist stand has upset the sober and patriotic persons. Ostensive declaration to resign from the MP’s post and later shown volte-face was sinisterly planned to thrive in controversy. Impartial critics feel that his outburst against the party and colleagues is a crafty design to fish in troubled water and to earn cheap popularity. Denial of ministerial berth is the secret of his fallacious exuberance.
Earlier a group of so-called intellectuals hit the street condemning the Nandigram carnage. Of late, writer-activist Arundhuti Roy, who is named by the Maoists to act as one of the mediators of talks with the government addressed the intellectuals of the city, to muster support of like minded persons and stand by the rebel MP Suman Kabir. Significantly, situation in Junglemahal has undergone a change. First, high-handedness and brutal killing by the Maoists have gradually made them unpopular in rural areas. Family members of the victims of Maoists’ wrath have been drawing sympathy of the common people, generating discontentment and hatred against the ultras. Villagers’ bold assertion against them before the HM is the indicative of the under current of the rural populace’s resentment to get rid of the control of the cruel Maoists.
As a matter of fact, peace-loving people denounce the reign of terror and disapprove jaundiced view of the so-called intellectuals. Fair and impartial civil society look at them obliquely as they are petulantly indifferent to barbarous killing of poor and innocent persons. Without prejudice, cry for withdrawal of joint forces and suspension of anti-Maoist operation is not the true reflection of the impartial public opinion. Joint forces’ advance has pushed the ultras in defensive. Arrest of several front rank Maoists from Junglemahal, decaying popularity and disillusionment of the deprived and neglected people have made the pseudo intellectuals uncomfortable. Their modus operandi to thrive and bask in limelight resorting to anti-establishment propaganda is no longer rewarding. Hence, they hit upon a plan to embark upon a fresh venture and hit the street again.
Loss of 76 CRPF personnel in an ambush laid by the Maoists in Termipole forest, Dantiwada district, prove superior skill, tactical expertise and execution ability acquired by the Maoists in guerrilla and jungle warfare. Critics feel that if the operational plan is prepared from North Block, New Delhi or Raipur short-circuiting ground reality, such a catastrophe is inevitable. Relying on experience and facing Naxals, frontal attacks in Bangladesh operation in 1971, I am candid that late Dy Commandant of the CRPF who was leading the coy misjudged the ground condition and miserably failed to adhere to elementary lesson of the “field craft” especially, in a combat zone, dominated by 600 well trained guerrillas. At the spot, dense jungle, tall trees, high ground on both sides of the road was highly vulnerable for a deadly ambush or massive attack. Yet, the experienced Dy Commandant pushed forward the entire coy into the spot which was very unsafe and in insurgents’ advantage. In fact, here the first coy should be pushed forward in single column, and between two persons 4 to 7 yards distance should be maintained. Clustering or bunching of men has to be strictly avoided. The second platoon should follow the advancing platoon maintaining a distance of minimal 150 to 200 yards. The third platoon should follow the same drill. In such a situation, if a platoon is either ambushed or attacked, others can promptly take cover, use the ground and repulse the attackers. In an undeclared war there is no doctrine to ensure zero casualty. In Chhattisgarh, since July 2009, 130 Maoists had been killed in encounters. Security forces had lost only nine. Hence occasional reverse is not the end all of an obstinate and protracted fight. Loss of men is an intergral part of a bloody combat. Even best armed force of the world is outwitted by enemy and reconcile to casualties. Undeniably, deviation from the standard procedure of “field craft”, folly or complacency of the field commander is the root cause of the disaster.
Growth of the Maoist cadre to 3.5 lakh approximately, expansion of the Red corridor, deadly striking power, etc is due to both Union and State governments’ prolonged inaction and indifference. Home Minister Chidambaram has taken meaningful initiative to combine the states’ strength and resources and organise a co-ordinated action to curb burgeoning Red terror. Regrettably, more than one CM of the terror-stricken states are reluctant to take decisive step. The last conference called by the HM at Kolkata, CM of Bihar and Jharkhand skipped it and subsequently expressed views contrary to the spirit of firm and co-ordinated action.
After massacre of CRPF personnel in Mukrana forest, a section of ruling Congress men have called for a ‘rethink’ on the “bullet centered” approach. They said, “there should be a debate in the party for reviewing operation which might be proving counter productive…. we must negotiate to engage the Naxalites rather than mounting such an operation to drive them to the wall from where they could only retaliate.” (The Statesman dt. 7.4.10.) Samajadi party blamed the HM for the loud mouth attitude. Own party comrades’ unkind criticism perhaps forced the HM to send resignation letter to the PM owning moral responsibility of the loss, which was however, not accepted. Needless to add, Chidambaram’s zeal and determination to chalk out a comprehensive operational plan and motivate the states for purposeful combined action to neutralise the Maoists has made a deterrent impact on the outrageous Maoists. Surprisingly, many colleagues and political parties prefer soft line to Chidambaram’s mailed fist. Ironically, Congress high command instead of demanding accountability of the than fainéant HM (Sibraj Patil) rewarded him to the Governor’s post.
Fast increase of the liberated areas, escalated violence in 224 districts of 16 states, use of deadly explosives, pressure mines, directional land mines and guerrilla tactics to surprise the security forces corroborate there growing strength and invincibility. Reckless robbery, ransom, extortion and forced collection from the businesse houses, poppy cultivation, etc have been inflating their fund and resources. If media report is believed Maoists annual turnover is 1,500 crore and target has been fixed to raise it by 15 per cent every year. From recent visit to Bokaro, the steel city, I gathered that they collect 100 crore annually from the miners, forest and civil contractors, business groups, traders etc. In the controlled or liberated areas they run their own administration. Hierarchy lead a posh life. Rank and file can easily be identified from their living style. I saw a video tape of a Maoist township functioning inside the dense forest in Jharkhand. It possessed VIP room, conference hall, dinning hall, temporary water supply system and generation of electricity. Indeed, a parallel Maoist government has been operating inside the inaccessible forest. They have developed link with several foreign extremist outfits. It is true that guerrillas from Phillippine have been training the Maoists in Junglemahal.
In sum, swift growth and increased violence unleashed by the Maoist is a gigantic threat to the democracy, sovereignty and rule of the country. If it continues further, soon rural areas of many states will be submitting under their control. Exodus will pile upon exodus from rural areas into urban areas. Towns and cities will have to be placed under the security men. Townsmen have to live under Police guard under abysmal suspense and danger. Hence, it is high time that the government wakes-up shunning lethargy and complacency and face the menace with consummate diligence and resolutenss. Leaders and political parties have to show indomitable political will to crush the grisly threat. Pseudo intellectuals’ sympathy and support for the Maoists is not the real sentiment of the peace loving mass. Their pressure tactics, therefore, should not dissuade the government to tackle Maoist threat with courage and determination. Magnitude of the impending danger has to be appreciated and all out counter measures to be initiated to frustrate the Maoists’ confused and perverse political ambition. Conspiracy to eliminate parliamentary democracy has to be prevented with all strength.
(The writer is former director of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Institute of Asian Studies, Kolkata)