Dragon Dengue Haunts India
THE BLOODY killing of Mahendra Karma and other Congressmen in Chhattisgarh has raised the hackles of the Centre. All and one are baying for the blood of Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh, blaming him for the security lapse. While the expression of anger and anguish is justified and even understandable from a political outfit at election time, the blame game will not solve any problems. Among the serious internal challenges before India today is the Naxal-Maoist threat, commonly dubbed Left Wing Extremism. The transformation of the Naxal menace from one small blot in Naxalbari to the large red clot that is referred to as India’s red corridor has not happened in the span of months or a year. From 1967 to 2013, this small pimple is now a cancerous growth that needs amputation and then chemotherapy to eradicate it from its roots. This chemotherapy will damage a lot of healthy cells, but then collateral damage cannot be avoided.
The government has no quick fix solutions. The ruling party has its own agenda and the opposition parties do not appear to be too concerned except to make futile noises when civilians as well as the police and military personnel are eliminated in their dozens. The crescendo is raised to a high pitch only when party leaders get killed, like the Chhattisgarh Congress massacre. If we analyse the reasons for the growth of this menace over the past forty-five years, the primary blame will be that there was a lack of a strong political will. There has not been a clear policy, and differences between the central and state governments for political reasons have always existed. The Naxals are armed with sophisticated arms, while our security forces have old generation arms and ammunition and are poorly trained. Lack of proper intelligence and coordination among the various security and intelligence agencies has been the bane of suppressing the movement. The experts cite the socio-economic reasons as primarily responsible for the spread, however this is wrong.
By conservative estimates, this movement has nearly 50,000 highly motivated armed cadres, well trained in the use of IEDs and landmines, and equipped with sophisticated automatic weaponry from China. The Maoists rule over an annual extortion economy of over Rs 8000 crore, which propels their violent struggles forward.
Counter-insurgency is a manpower intensive operation. The forces should be provided the best arms and ammunition and rigorous jungle warfare training because it is through the contiguous jungle terrain between one state and another that the Naxalites have infiltrated into hundreds of districts across fifteen states. Just framing National Counter-Terrorism Centre policies in air-conditioned chambers and expecting state governments to fall in line with an obviously flawed arrangement is an ineffective way to tackle internal strife. The leaders at the Centre need to be empathetic to the reactions of the local governments and have to establish that trust so that the tribals and the disaffected populace in the villages can be convinced that they have a stake in the new-emerging India.
All political parties must surrender their egos and commit themselves to joining hands to fight this menace under a strong and straightforward national policy.
According to Wikileaks, in a confidential cable sent on December 8, 2005, the then Ambassador David Mulford had mentioned that despite India’s rapidly expanding economy, Naxalite groups in poor rural areas and their educated urban sympathizers continue to spread and have extended their areas of influence into 12 states, proving they can launch spectacular attacks on government facilities. According to the cable, Indian economic development has missed large portions of the countryside. “India’s scheduled tribes and castes, who live in these remote areas, often face lives of desperation and view Naxalites as the only groups willing to defend them. Most tribals have little or no faith that the GoI will protect them, and over time may see little alternative but to turn to the Maoists as the best of a bad set of choices.” The Americans had got it so right!
The Sukma massacre should be a wake-up call for all parties. The Indian State has successfully tackled many underground movements, ranging from the Khalistanis, ULFA, Bodoland, Nagas to other North-Eastern groups. The Naxalite movement too had been once crushed and defeated, but it was allowed to emerge from the ashes for sheer political considerations. The lessons of the past have been forgotten, and the price we will have to pay for this collective amnesia will be very high.