A national policy on Maoists is must because every State government has its own style of functioning or dealing with the issue. The major problem with us is that the things which once get buried in the files they never see the light
The coordination between the Centre and the states is highly crucial in combating Maoist menace. Since the required coordination is not seen in practice on the ground, the problem continues to assume more critical form. Our reluctance to act sternly on this front is evident from the fact that there is no national policy to deal with this extremism. Why it happened is unknown.
The problem first emerged in 1971. Since then 45 years have passed but we did not think of formulating a national policy to deal with it. As a member of the National Security Advisory Committee about two years back I asked the then Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh as to why there was no policy at the national level to combat Maoism. He immediately directed the National Security Advisor to look into the matter and do something about it. But practically the matter remained in the cold storage and after some time my tenure got over.
A national policy on Maoists is must because every government has its own style of functioning or dealing with the issue. When Shri Shivraj Patil became Home Minister he called Maoists as ‘brothers and sisters’. During the tenure of Shri Sushil Kumar Shinde nobody could understood what he basically wanted. Shri P Chidambaram too failed to act in this regard. He used three words repeatedly—‘clear, hold and develop’—clear the area under Maoists influence, strengthen the hold of administration there and then start development.
Acting on this pattern he deployed security forces in Maoists influenced areas. It continued for some time, but after some time it appeared as if he was under acute pressure. When I enquired about it from the Home Secretary Shri Pillai he too was seen under pressure. Somebody told me in the corridors of power that if Shri Chidambaram succeeded in this scheme he could be a contender for the post of Prime Minister, whereas the only contender for this post was somebody else. Some Congressmen even persuaded Smt Sonia Gandhi that if action against Maoists continued it would adversely affect the Congress vote bank in naxal affected areas. After that no scheme or action plan was formulated in this regard. The major problem with us is that the things which once get buried in the files they never see the light.
Another big problem is that every State has its own agenda or priorities. Nitish Babu in Bihar clearly said stern action could not be taken against Maoists. The only solution to curb the menace, he proposed, is economic development. The Centre sends security forces for operation in the states but the states do not carry out the operation. Mamata Banerjee, after coming to power, had called Maoists as her friends. However when they started targeting even the TMC cadres she allowed the security forces to take action. If the Maoists today have lost major ground in West Bengal it is because of the operation carried out by the Central security forces.
The situation in Jharkhand has improved to some extent after the formation of the new government. There is no confrontation between the Centre and the State. However, the earlier Shibu Soren government had soft corner towards these killers. The coordination with the Chhattisgarh government too has been perfect. The problems sometimes seen in the State are internal. Chief Minister Dr Raman Singh has granted full liberty to the forces but the bureaucracy, it seems, does not believe in eradication of the Maoists. Sometimes the states try to show their reluctance citing lack of adequate security forces. But I feel it happens only because of the lack of will power. There is no shortage of security forces or the sophisticated weapons at all. What is needed is just their proper deployment.
Sharing of intelligence input between State and Centre and State and State is also crucial. Sometime back West Bengal and Jharkhand blamed each other for not sharing the information. The SIB of Andhra Pradesh has done wonderful work on this front. They have supplied intelligence to Centre also. Every State seems to be fighting against this menace in its own way. Some believes in stern action, while some opts for economic development. Since there is lack of coordination between the states the problem continues to assume more gigantic form and now about 180 districts are in its grip. Some political parties use them in the election in their favour. Many Chief Ministers have been blamed for using the Maoists in their favour during the polls. But on the other hand in Andhra Pradesh the District Magistrate and Superintendent of Police formulate plans at their own level in the districts and establish contact with the people in villages. The Superintendent of Police himself organise sports activities for children in villages. The police also provide medical aid and financial aid to the sick and also look after the family members of the misguided youth who join the Maoists. This has produced some good results also.
Prakash Singh, former DGP