The Naxal threat and level of violence have certainly abated during the last 10 years, under the current dispensation. Figures released by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) suggest that between 2013 and 2021, the Naxal violence has reduced by 55 per cent and Naxal-related deaths to 63 per cent.
In terms of Maoist impacted police stations, districts and States, the figures are instructive:
The improvement in the Maoist insurgency situation was significant between 2018 and 2021 when the number of Maoist-affected districts reduced from 90 in 2018 to 70 in 2021. During the same period, there was a 39 per cent reduction in Maoist violence and as well as number of Maoist-related deaths, i.e. 26 per cent (SF) and 44 per cent (civilians).
The Central Government, in pursuance of its ‘zero tolerance policy’, has ousted the Maoists from their strongholds like the Budha Pahad on Chhattisgarh-Jharkhand border and in Bihar’s Chakrabandha and Bhimbandh. The Budha Pahad area has been a Maoist citadel for almost three decades and acted as host for central committee members. All attempts in the past to dislodge the Maoists from the area were defeated due to fierce armed resistance. In 2018, a massive assault had failed. The capture of the area in September 2022 has destroyed the sense of invincibility that the Maoists portrayed to the people in the region.
During the same period, another Maoists fortress, Chakrabandha in Bihar was busted. It needs to be mentioned that the entire area was heavily mined by the Maoists and was indeed a ‘No Go’ zone for the security forces. It must be appreciated that this area is as dangerous and densely forested as the Dandakaranya region of Chhattisgarh, another Maoist stronghold, which is waiting to be busted.
The Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) has been establishing Forward Operating Bases (FOBs) in the areas captured from the Maoists. Thus, making their regrouping extremely difficult.
The current phase of the Maoists began in 2004 with the merger of Peoples’ War Group and Maoist Communist Centre of India (MCCI) to form the Communist Party of India (Maoists). Consequent to this merger, the Red Corridor was established. At its peak, the Red Corridor covered the mineral rich tribal region of India and at least one-third of the 640 districts were under the Maoists’ sway.
The Maoists have struck nexus with the Jihadis in both India and Pakistan, as well as the Khalistanis. It is in this backdrop that Mani Shankar Aiyar’s demand from Pakistani authorities to assist the Congress in ousting Modi should be viewed
In a major setback to Maoists, the key figure behind this merger Kishan Da (known as Prashant Bose) was arrested by the Jharkhand Police in November 2021. He carried a reward of Rs one crore. Many top Maoist leaders have been eliminated by the security forces in the last decade. Fifteen out of the 24 members of the Maoist Central Committee are over 60 years of age. The security forces have arrested more than 10,000 cadres. Recruitment to the Maoist cadres is getting difficult by the day. Weapons and ammunition procurement are now a challenge for Maoists. However, some of the weapons and ammunition demands are being met by the Khalistanis in Punjab, who have become arms suppliers. These weapons are being delivered by drones by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of Pakistan.
The downward trend in Maoism began in 2014. The contributory impact of ‘development’ in this decline cannot be underestimated. Economic opportunities and improvement in the political environment have certainly impelled many Maoist cadres to abandon Maoism and return to the mainstream.
Impact of Panchayat Polls
This author has witnessed the positive impact of the Panchayat elections in Bihar in curbing Maoism. Many of the elected Panchayat Heads (Mukhias) with Maoist past are men of little financial integrity, but the lure of money by over-ground methods has weaned them away from Maoism. Also, infrastructural development has enabled the security forces to be far more agile, prompt, responsive and effective.
Notwithstanding the decline in Maoist violence and the shrinking of the Red Corridor, we need to be cautious about the capability of the ‘ism’, Maoism, to reinvent itself. Maoism has tremendous capability to readjust and reorient both in internal and external dimensions. A known Maoist, Bernard D Mell, has written a book titled India After Naxalbari, wherein he has traced the trajectory of ultra-Leftist movement in India. He has concluded that the enemy of Maoist will no longer predicate on ‘class-divide’, but on ‘Hindu Authoritarianism’.
Cong’s Anti-National Approach
In this pursuit, the Maoists have struck nexus with the Jihadis in both India and Pakistan, as well as the Khalistanis. It is in this backdrop that Mani Shankar Aiyar’s imploring demand from Pakistani authorities to assist the Congress in ousting Modi should be viewed. The understanding between the Congress and Lashkar-e-Taiba (Pakistan) towards staging 26/11 and coining the so-called ‘Hindu Terror’ should also be seen in this backdrop. It needs to be understood that Mani Shankar Aiyar, a bureaucrat-turned-Congressman, is the communist face of the Congress. Therefore, he enjoys eternal immunity.
Both Maoists and Jihadis are of intrinsic belief that Hindus are their greatest enemies. It is for this reason that when it comes to the treatment of Uighur Muslims in China, both observe deafening and conspiratorial silence. The Jihadis consider the Maoists and China as their allies in ‘Ghazwa-e-Hind’, i.e. war against India. The Church was already an ally of the Maoists. The Church is a weapon to penetrate the mineral rich areas of India at the behest of Western economic entities. Segments within the Indian polity and judiciary have facilitated the penetration of the Church in Maoist areas because of extra-territorial loyalties. The Binayak Sen episode is a crude and brazen example. Another example is Baba Amte’s son, who conducted vasectomy operations on Maoist cadres so that they do not have a family. The Maoists have been facilitating the conversions of tribals by restricting the penetration of the State. The murder of Laxmanananda Saraswati in Kandhamal (Odisha) in August 2008 was carried out by the Maoist-Church combine. Sonia Gandhi’s National Advisory Council was packed with Maoists.
Downfall in Maoist-related incidents
- 77 per cent fall in LWE violence from 2258 incidents in 2009 to 509 incidents in 2021
- The fatalities among civilians and security forces declined by 85 per cent from an all-time high of 1005 in 2010 to 147 in 2021
- The geographical spread of Maoists’ influence was shrinking, with districts most affected by LWE having come down to 25 in 2021 from 30 in 2018
The new element to strike alliance with the Maoists is the Khalistanis. The Maoist strategy of mobilising the farmers and peasants in hinterland to capture rural areas, and subsequently in the next phase the mobilisation of industrial workers and urban masses to capture urban areas, is still at work. This was very much evident during the Kissan Andolan at the Singhur border. The urban Naxal component in this so-called agitation was provided by the Aam Aadmi Party. Singhur was the meeting point between ‘rural Maoists’ and ‘urban Maoists’, and then was the final assault on Delhi rather than the Red Fort. But somehow, they underestimated the depth and resolve of Bharat. The assault on Bharat was also attempted by Arvind Kejriwal when in 2014 he had sat on a Dharna at the Rail Bhawan as serving Chief Minister.
The founding father of the ‘Krantikari Kisan Union’, Darshan Pal was the founding member of Peoples’ Democratic Front of India (PDFI), a constituent of Maoist movement. Apart from Darshan Pal, founder members included Varvara Rao, Medha Patekar, Nandita Haskar and SAR Gilani. Some of these characters were also active at Singur. During the agitation, the Bhartiya Kisan Union (Ugrahan) demanded the release of Umar Khalid, Sharzil Imam, Sudha Bhardwaj and others.
The penetration of the Maoists in judiciary and academia is pervasive and deep. Whenever the Maoists have a favourable judicial environment, they prosper and thrive. In recent times, there has been a string of releases ordered by the judiciary of hardcore Maoists, of the most dangerous kind because they constitute the brain of the movement. These enemies of the State include Kobad Ghandy, Prof Sai Baba, Varvara Rao, Gautam Naulakha and Sudha Bhardwaj. Kobad Ghandy was an important politburo member and was arrested in 2009 for plotting terror attacks across India. Interestingly, the CPI (M) ousted him recently from party membership for espousing the path of spiritualism. He was acquitted and released in 2019.
It is this segment, which Prime Minister Modi referred to as the ‘Urban Naxals’, who are the brain housed in a convoluted head. The head has to be crushed to make the nine per cent economic growth of India possible.