Red Corridor is expanding on both the ends of India. On the northern side, beyond West Bengal it has now penetrated into the North-East. While on the southern part, Maoists have made inroads into the deep forests of Kerala and in parts of Mangalore.
Though the news on recent Maoist activities in Northern Kerala was taken with surprise as how the Left-Wing Extremism (LWE) could reach down south from the Maoist hotbeds of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Andhra Pradesh, little is known that Kerala got initiated to Naxalism way back in 1960s—the time Naxal movement began from a village called Naxalbari in north Bengal. Simulta-neously, in Kerala, the movement got inspiration from armed uprising of the peasants of Naxalbari under the leadership of Charu Majumdar and Kanu Sanyal in 1967. In 1968, the first of such incidents occurred in Pulpally in Wynad and Thalassery in Kannur District of Kerala, followed by revolt in Kuttiyadi (1969) and later in Thirunelly (1970).
What is Red Corridor?
The Red Corridor is a Naxal infested region in the east of India that experiences considerable Naxalite–Maoist insurgency and spans over Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jhar-khand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra (Vidharbha), Odisha, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. The corridor is crucial to the Maoist strategy of enabling free and safe movement of its armed cadre from one battle zone to another. Within the Red Corridor, Maoists have liberated zones, which are considered as their stronghold, and even security forces are unable to get access to it. Last year, the security personnel were killed in Sukma (Chhattisgarh), when they tried to conduct an operation in a similar liberated zone.
The Red Corridor is expanding, as the Maoists want to fulfil their dream of having the corridor from Pashupatinath in Nepal to Tirupati. In recent years, the Maoists have stepped up operations aimed at spreading their influence beyond eastern India and into the country's premier industrial states of Maharashtra and Gujarat in the west. Intelligence sources say they are infiltrating the region quickly. Now they have moved beyond Bengal and entered the North-East.
“The Maoists have successfully made their entry in the NE and are now spreading across South India. They are also gradually spreading towards Western Ghats, which is a matter of great concern,” opines Prakash Singh, former chief of Border Security Force (BSF) and an expert on Naxalism.
After being beaten down in Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, the Maoists have moved into Kerala. A large part of the command of the Naxals has, in fact, moved into Kerala with the intention of strengthening the movement. While, Kerala is already facing a problem of Islamic terror, this resurgence of Naxalism would pose a great threat to the State’s security.
In an article in the Mathrubhumi Weekly last year, the underground Maoist leader Roopesh reportedly mentioned that, the rebels had set-up the Western Ghats Special Zonal Committee in the forested junction of Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
According to intelligence sources, the Maoists have plans to penetrate into the west coast of Gujarat as well.
“Maoists don’t have inter-State boundaries like our State police. So, once they face pressure, they slip down to other State. It’s like spreading of cancer and this way they are expanding their boundaries,” observes counter terrorism analyst, Anil Kamboj.
Enormity of the Left-Wing Extremism
In recent years, the Maoist attacks on security forces and villagers in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Odisha, etc have emerged as a matter of serious concern both for the government and the society. Over the years, the Naxal movement that began as a peasants’ uprising against exploitation by rich landlords, has now got converted into a ruthless killing spree; a menace that has become the biggest threat to the nation’s internal security.
Consider the Maoist hotbed Bastar in Chhattisgarh—a case in point. In 2008, the Maoists killed 55 security personnel; in 2010, 76 CRPF personnel were killed; in 2013, in one of the worst ambushes at Darbha Ghati, 42 were killed, including the top Congress leaders of the State. And again, in 2014, in Sukma 14 security personnel were killed. Despite taking measures and increasing the forces, every year, Maoists are successful in unleashing heavy casualties.
Besides Chhattisgarh, the Maoist attacks in other states have killed many more. It speaks of the enormity of the threat of growing Maoist activities in the country.
The Maoists, after entering the NE, have now joined hands with the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) and People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in Manipur. “They are aiming to spread themselves from sea coast to Myanmar. Joining hands with the extremist outfits in the NE has helped the Maoists in procuring sophisticated arms and ammunition from across the border,” says Anil Kamboj.
Total affected Districts 200
Affected States 17
Total Killed 12, 183
Civillians Killed 9,471
Central and State security personnel killed 2,712
Unlike in the past, now the Maoists have no dearth of arms and they have a free supply of the same from unmanned ports in Tamil Nadu. “Arms come in major chunks through sea with the help of fishing boats and are then moved into the forests of Waynad in Kerala, where those are picked up both by the Islamic terrorists and Maoists,” the Intelligence sources say. It has been reported that some Chinese smugglers, who have set-up their base in Sri Lanka, are behind the supply of arms.
What makes Maoism grow multi-fold?
The experts and analysts dealing with LWE enumerate the following factors for the growth in Naxalism: poor law and order situation, unaddressed grievances of the poor and the tribal, slow justice delivery mechanism, poor handling of the issue by State governments, lack of coordination on sharing and using of intelligence inputs between the Central and State agencies, exploitation of tribals, proactive role of Maoist sympathisers and above all, the absence of a right policy to deal with the menace.
A strong national policy to deal with the Maoist insurgency is still awaited. But, the biggest hurdle is the opposition from various quarters against the measures taken by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to deal with terrorism.
“Prime Minister Shri Modi has been trying his best to do a lot to bring a change in the system. But, simultaneously there are people pulling him down. Political opponents are regrouping against him so that he fails to keep the promises he made to voters. The PM has made his ‘no tolerance’ policy against terrorism clear and only this kind of stand can put a check on growing terrorism in India,” counter terrorism analyst Anil Kamboj.
-Debobrat Ghose, (The writer is a Delhi based journalist,
who writes on political economy and national security)