Ajit Doval, KC
The tragic event of May 25 in Chhattisgarh has once again brought the grave threat posed by Left-wing extremism into sharp focus. The response to the incident, which was characterised by the usual rhetoric and sound-bytes of politicians and even ministers looking for an opportunity to score political brownie points over each other further confounded the tragedy.
A predictable pattern emerges after each such incident and is followed by political statements and counter statements, passing of the buck between the centre and the states, accusations of intelligence and security failure, and shrill debates in television studios which lead nowhere. Resultantly the response of the state appears to be confused and weak and lacking in strength to take the battle to the Naxalites. Lost in the din is a strong and unequivocal message that needs to be sent to the depredators, underlining the resolve of the state to comprehensively defeat them.
There should be no ambiguity left in the minds of the people that Left-wing extremists are enemies of the nation. The anti-national agenda of the extremists is increasingly borne out in their ideology, political goals, trans-national linkages and strategic plans. Misled by the rhetoric of them being social activists or crusaders for the poor, we should not underestimate their intentions and capabilities. There is no room to treat them anything other than being enemies of the state who have to be fought, vanquished and neutralised.
But the fight against Naxalism is weakened because of the opportunistic response by politicians who try to garner political mileage even out of horrific events. In the instant case, the Congress leaders gave it a political colour by advancing possible conspiracy theories. Also, the Centre must have a universal anti-Naxal strategy for all states affected by LWE and deliberate its response irrespective of the political dispensation in each of these states.
The Prime Minister needs to be strong making his writ run both at the Centre and in the states. The will required to resolutely fight the menace is directly proportionate to the kind of leadership, starting from the Home Minister downwards, selected for the job. The state governments are also aware that soft-peddling the threat is neither in their political nor administrative interests but the magnitude and intensity of the threat is beyond their capacity to tackle.
There is also a requirement for framing strong laws with an efficient criminal administration system to administer them. The front organisations, masquerading as NGOs and think tanks, who skilfully assist the extremists in exploiting discontent and subvert them to take recourse to the gun must be made accountable. Those who provide them intellectual and ideological space by projecting them as social revolutionaries are as guilty as the gullible people who take to arms. To bring down the crisis of legitimacy, any illegal police action or efforts to frame the innocents should be dealt with an iron hand.
At the tactical level, there is an urgent need to upgrade the capacities of the state police forces, provide them better leadership, training, weapons and equipment to take on the extremists. Naxalism has assumed deep roots in states where the number of policemen available per one lakh population is amongst the lowest and much below the national average of 123. This situation should be corrected immediately and minimum of 150 policemen per 1 lakh population must be made available to the Naxal affected states.
The war is difficult but winnable. The need is for capacity building both at the Central and State levels and right leadership to convert plans into realities on the ground. They have started the war; it will be finished by us.
(The author is Director, Vivekananda International Foundation.)