The menace of Maoism
Barely hours after Indian Home Secretary G. K. Pillai stated that Maoists will possibly overthrow the Indian administration by 2050, Kishanji a.k.a Koteshwar Rao, the de-facto Maoist leader audaciously stated that such a plot could be accomplished way ahead of the time-line stated by Pillai. This outrageous statement, coming straight from the nerve center of the Maoist establishment comes as a forward to a definite plan by the outlawed brigade to wreck havoc on the Indian establishment, even as they have called for a 72 day ceasefire in the wake of the Indian government’s now committed exercise to wipe them off systematically through what is Operation Greenhunt!
Calling for the need to talk and put aside military operations against them, the Maoists have warned that they would attack cities if their demand to come to the table is not met. Left wing extremism has been on the rise within the Indian boundary for some time now. A number of factors, ranging from soft peddling by certain states to support from within the ranks of former armed forces personnel have raised the threat to a new level and the government can no longer consider this as a controllable situation unles it is determined to act strongly! Concrete steps must be taken to regard this as a troubling menace. For starters, a proposal that the Indian Air Force’s initiate aerial operations against the Maoists is still awaiting clearance from the Ministries of Defence and Home Affairs. This reluctance from within the establishment conveys the current stand of the government and it’s willingness to take action as one of weak measure!
As if that isn’t already enough, there are elected representatives openly opposing operations against the Maoists and worse still pledging their support to the outlawed faction and aligning with them ideologically. Furthermore, certain states which are hot beds for Maoism have simply refused to cooperate with the centre in order to take actionable steps to counter the problem. When Indian Home Minister P. Chidambaram called for a meeting of state heads to discuss the issue, the Chief Ministers of Jharkhand and Bihar abstained, citing prior appointments – thus displaying notably uncharacteristic lack of interest in coordinating with New Delhi.
Meanwhile, Operation Greehunt, which is the centre’s initiative to tackle the Maoist menace, is currently underway, with over 18 companies of central paramilitary forces deployed in key Naxal infested areas. However, its effectiveness is yet to be ascertained with the states playing very little parts in the exercise. Gathering, sharing and disseminating intelligence could be a major roadblock this operation may face considering the centre-state relationship in the context of the war on Naxals. There are a significant number of challenges that New Delhi will face in the wake of this operation. Chief among them is the problem of a psychological counter-strike by sympathizers aimed to weaken the commitment of the operation by trying to designate it as illegitimate in the public eye. Besides there will emerge a battery of chance activists pressing the government to terminate the operation in the wake of scores of alleged human rights violations by the armed forces! Criticism of the government is bound to rise, however, New Delhi could do well to ignore it in the face of wanting an upper hand against a dangerous enemy!
The centre on its own, now, needs to focus on arming the operation with people, material and intelligence. Also needed to be considered and worked upon is the Chinese role in supporting the Maoists. Teams conducting the operation need to be instructed that they work their way in eliciting support from the civilian population in the affected areas, thereby gaining confidence and also invaluable intelligence. Considering that this brigade is one in possession of significant levels of motivation, sophisticated training, manpower and material, it certainly will be a challenge to counter them! However, the task is not impossible and requires a great deal of inter-agency coordination particularly at the centre-state level, something that is presently absent.
In all spheres, the government is the one that will face the burden of turning over the situation in its favour. While addressing the issue, it also needs to undertake a great deal of developmental activities in the affected areas thereby making its presence felt in a strong and supportive manner – one which will certainly be welcomed by the people! This is surely the way forward to gain support and confidence and also the means to destroy Naxal groups from the root! Also urgently needed is a well structured policy on countering the threat, something that has not come to be, despite the situation warranting its necessity. During it’s previous term in office, the present government’s response to the Naxalite movement was one composed of a mixture of denial, accommodation and neglect. Expectedly, the Maoists expanded their area of operations into what has now come to be known as the ‘Red Corridor’, while neither the centre nor the affected states had formulated any real response.
The absence of a decisive political resolve and a measure of leadership in policy initiation from New Delhi and the level of centre-state partnership did more harm than good. The States undoubtedly failed due to their choice of ineffective, inferior and almost often counter-productive measures such as, for instance, the creation of armed groups like the Salwa Judum. Such exercises mean that currently prevalent Operation Green Hunt already strikes a bad note in the minds of the people, while it’s success largely depends upon public support.
If anything, the government needs to hit hard at the faction, breaking its confidence and thus bringing it to it’s knees. Only then can one consider the job half done. For all of this, there needs to be a measure of well drafted policy leading to action. Lessons need to be learnt from the manner in which terrorism in Punjab was brought under control.
Among the worst that can happen is a situation alike the one in Nepal. The Home Secretary’s remarks must therefore serve as an urgent warning to many in the establishment thus enabling a renewal of the government’s commitment to wipe out this force before it is too late!