How Many Security Personnel’s Life Can India Afford To?

After a brief lull, the storms have been unleashed once again. The recent Maoists attacks in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Bihar are a reflection of the desperation of the Maoists to get maximum mileage and attention and to boost the morale of the cadres.

The   manner in which the recent brutal attack on Pakur SP Amarjit Balihar and his four security personnel was executed is a confirmation that the rebels have established their roots in the Santhal Pargana. This came days after Maoists attacked a Congress convoy in Chhattisgarh that claimed 28 lives. Last month, in an armed attack on the Dhanbad-Patna Intercity Express near Jamui district in Bihar the maoists killed three persons and snatched away three rifles. At least 500 passengers were said to be in the train. As usual, the nation would forget the sacrifice of Amarjit Balihar as in the very next day another Balihar would be exploded and their families would suffer forever, besides a few bouquets from our self-centred politicians. The widow of Balihar would try hard to build the life of her children and whole life she would wait to take the revenge. But that will never happen; her tears would roll down into the chicks of her children, who will again prepare themself to join Indian Police Service. Still he has to wait, till the government frames strong policies to crush red terror. Presenting themselves as an army, the Maoists had previously been relatively judicious in sparing civilians during battles except for selectively picked out informants. The Sukma attack in Bastar was a deliberate massacre of over two-dozen unarmed civilians, an attack that has united many in horror and anger.

Analysts are struggling to grasp what the Maoists might hope to gain by the new form of bloodshed. It represents an effort to prove that they are still a potent force, in spite of the successes that the security forces have had in recent months. It seems that the younger factions within the larger and relatively disciplined Maoist army are perpetrating these massacres to demonstrate their impatience to the old guard.

The nature of these recent attacks raises anxiety that old restraint may fall away. Attacks on local politicians in the affected states of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Bihar, Maharashtra, Odisha and West Bengal will be a wake-up call. Until now, the cat and mouse game was being played between the ultras and the security forces, whether it be the local police, the Cobra battalions, the CRPF or the Special Operations Group (SOG). The death of jawans and officers had become routine, only when a top-level officer is killed does it make news. The morale of the officers, foot soldiers, bureaucrats and the administration is all at a low. These rural assaults may soon be followed by urban ones. The Maoists would soon try to carry out spectacular violence over soft targets in urban centres.

The operations against Maoists are a prolonged task. More paramilitary personnel, improved surveillance systems, better intelligence and at least two-three years are required to clear the Maoist-dominated areas in Bastar (Chhattisgarh), Malkangiri and Koraput (both in Odisha) and Latehar (Jharkhand). Currently, 82,000 paramilitary personnel are deployed in anti-Maoist operations apart from the state police forces.

The dilemma before the Indian State is perhaps its inability to determine the nature and scope of the Maoist movement. The government sees the problem with a dual view: the Nehruvian concept of a welfare state and the market view. The first view which is accepted by a large section of the civil society and political leadership sees the Maoist movement as a result of the state’s failure, a reaction to the lack of social and economic development, to deprivation, loss of livelihoods, lack of employment opportunities, and abject poverty. The contrarian view, however, looks at the Maoist movement as a challenge to the manner in which politics and governance is organised in India and, therefore, it needs to be crushed with brute force, without sympathy. This misplacement of the Maoist movement in proper perspective has reduced India’s ability to address the issue effectively. The state’s ambiguity has resulted in a stalemate in the crucial fight against the creeping progress of the Naxalite movement in the country, with them gaining an upper hand.

This is also a challenge to the federal structure of the nation. Regional and sectorial parties, with corrupt and inefficient leadership, mess things up, and then look up to the Centre when things go out of hand.

Deepak Kumar Rath

Deepak Kumar Rath

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