Union Home Minister, on a review trip to Chhattisgarh sometimes back, said that it was “condemnable” if big business houses were funding Maoists. He added that it was up to the state governments to take action against them. It may be recalled that Essar Group has a huge plant in Bailadila, Dantewada, to ferry iron dust through an underground pipeline passing through Naxal areas to Vishakhapatnam.
The police have chargedsheeted the company for providing “protection money to Naxals” to ensure smooth operation of the pipeline. A Special Investigation Team (SIT) probing the alleged Essar-Naxal payoff case has chargesheeted a senior company official with serious offences, including sedition, for “providing financial support” to the insurgents.
The SIT said that the official was not providing money to Naxals on his own. He was working on behalf of Essar. It is for the first time that a corporate house has been investigated for payoffs to Maoists.
Calling the Maoists “the worst violators of human rights”, the Home Minister rued that while one or two instances of excesses by security forces received a great deal of attention, Naxal killings of civilians labelled police informers were “not highlighted in the media and the courts”.
Civil society must understand that Naxals do not respect human rights either. Against the backdrop of a string of Maoist attacks and in the wake of the worst-ever Maoist attack at Chitangufa in which 75 CRPF men and a policeman were killed, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh singling out Left-wing extremism as the gravest internal security threat said, “Recent events have underscored the need for urgent and considered action to root out this problem…No quarter can be given to those who have taken upon themselves to challenge the authority of the Indian State and the fabric of our democratic polity,”
When the Prime Minister described the Maoist uprising as “the biggest internal security challenge ever faced by our country”, the Maoists hit back and declared Dr Manmohan Singh the biggest threat to the security of the country.
The year 2010 has been the bloodiest year in the history of the Maoist insurgency, in which 1,169 people died. The Naxalite groups also had the upper hand vis-a-vis the security forces in terms of the number of people lost in the battle. The security forces lost 285 in 2010 personnel, as compared to 317 in 2009 while the casualties on the Naxalites’ side was only 171, again significantly less than 219 in the year 2009. Kidnapping of two Italians and an MLA in March 2012 is the latest achievement of the Maoists. One Italian has since been released on conditions and terms unknown to the people of India
Despite government’s bold proclamations, the present Naxalite and Maoists situation exactly fits a Punjabi joke, which is: A strong man gave a forceful slap on the face of a weak person. The latter got infuriated. “Don’t slap me again”, he retorted, “Otherwise I’ll strike back with greater force”. The hefty man put another slap on his opponent’s face. The victim was more furious. “Don’t do it again, otherwise I will have to hit you back and you’ll repent.” The mighty was still unrepentant. He did it again. The weakling continued to repeat his threats again and again. The toughy repeated his slaps four-five times. Ultimately, the meek man smiled and shook hands with him saying, “You’re very naughty. You have not quit your habit to joke.” That is precisely the way the government is behaving in the face of repeated terror and attacks by the Maoists, on its face.
The world has known only two methods of dealing with such situations. One is the force and the other is peace talks. The political leadership, which is the decision maker, is also divided as to what steps to be taken. The Union Home Minister had asked for a larger mandate to deal with the Maoist problem, which included air and defence support to the ground operations, but was denied the same. Though the Chief Ministers of affected areas, including that of West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Odisha had wanted the same. In his own words, Home Minister was given a “limited mandate” or in other words was rebuffed.
So the result is that only nominal operations, if any, are going on. No wonder, both the businessmen and common people have more faith in the capacity of the Maosits to kill them than any faith in the government to protect them. So they find easy ways of appeasing them.
The highest courage is to dare to appear to be what the government means. The government must follow in dealing with the Naxalites and Maoists as the Upanishads say:
“You are what your deep, driving desire is.
As your deep, driving desire is, so is your will.
As your will is, so is your deed.
As your deed is, so is your destiny.”
By Joginder Singh
(The author is former Director, CBI)