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Deadly Naxal Threat: TIME FOR PEACEFUL COUNTER STRATEGY?, By Dr S.Saraswathi, 5 June, 2013 Print E-mail

Open Forum

New Delhi, 5 June 2013

Deadly Naxal Threat


By Dr S.Saraswathi

(Former Director, ICSSR, New Delhi)


The gruesome attack on a Congress convoy by Maoists in Chhattisgarh’s Bastar district which killed 27 and injured 40 others including senior Party leaders last month underscores the Prime Minister’s observation: Naxalites are the biggest internal  security challenge confronting India. Time now to understand its causes and address remedial action.


Admittedly, the Naxals target were Congressman particularly Salwa Judum founder Mahendra Kumar as his organisation dubbed them as “people’s enemy”. Notwithstanding that the Police and Maoists claim to represent people’s will and voice. The former as it is responsible for law and order, the latter claims to act on behalf of the oppressed and marginalized people.


Recall, the Communist Party of India (Maoists) was formed in 2004 by merger of groups which traced their origin to the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) founded in 1969. Which was an offshoot of the armed uprising of peasants, mostly tribals, against the share-cropping arrangement in West Bengal’s Darjeeling district Naxalbari village in 1967. 


The name “Naxalite” thereafter applied to all such armed struggles and gained notoriety for violent actions to destroy the existing order which they considered as elite-oriented and anti-poor.


Presently, Maoists are active in over 223 districts of 600 districts in the country, 90 which are more prone to violence and armed struggle. Also, the Maoists are most active in tribal areas and find followers among poor Adivasis and recruit them though its top leadership is mostly non-tribals. They are now expanding their activities to areas rich in minerals and forest tracts.


Sadly, the Red Corridor is expanding and is said to extend from Pasupati in Nepal to Tirupati in Andhra Pradesh. Spread across 13 States, of which Andhra, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Orissa, and West Bengal are the worst affected. In fact, Chhattisgarh is said to be the Naxalites epicentre as also the hub of Salwa Judum or Koya Commandos.


Worse, in areas which have been “liberated” by the Naxalites, the State Government is almost powerless.  The Reds levy taxes and mete out justice under their law. This is not all. They run their bureaucratic administration, schools and health services. The systems might vary from State to State but are different from the Government. 


Certainly, a serious and direct challenge to Indian democracy however small or large the area under Maoist control.  At the same time, the Naxalites do refuse to get in to the political mainstream, contest elections and come to power through democratic means.  They have no faith in the ballot system.


Claiming to represent the most oppressed people particularly those who have been dealt a raw deal by “development” and who are   left out of various participatory governance institutions. Whereby the tribals and peasants are forced to give up their land for mining operations, Special Economic Zones etc, thereby losing their traditional rights without compensatory gain. All in the name of privatisation and globalization.


Undoubtedly, our social structure based on the caste system along-with the agrarian makeup is highly skewed in favour of big landholders who use landless labourers to toil their fields without pecuniary benefits. Indeed, Naxalism is a product of these inequities perpetrated in an unequal social order.


Alas, the long list of poverty alleviation and employment schemes like NREGA have not produced tangible results except in increasing the scope for corruption at many levels.


Therefore, it is unwise to deal with Naxalism as a mere law and order problem or foreign-aided terrorism operated by local groups. Given that it includes political and economic development problems wherein the fruits of development are not reaching or benefitting all sections of the population.


Eventually, leading to social activists championing the cause of the development-deficit people and advocate remedial measures. This is naturally unwelcome to the Maoists who unleash a war on the State and people. Refusing to heed that violence is no solution to any social-economic-political problems.  Violence only begets violence.


Decades ago West Bengal’s Home Minister launched Operation Green Hunt, a massive military-like procedure to flush out Maoists from their strongholds under the belief that they were “cold-blooded murderers”. Another Union Minister called them terrorists. 


But, pro-Naxalites sympathisers saw this as a plan to crush opposition and clear lands for corporate houses to mine and minerals.  Resulting in a clash of economic interests between the business sector and the poor masses livelihood needs.


Adding to the Government’s woes, some of the self-defence groups who took up cudgels for the tribals have also turned anti-people.  Whereby, they take law in their hands on the pretext of fighting Naxalism.


For instance, in Bihar the Ranvir Sena, a caste-based para-military organization of upper caste landlords formed by Bhojpur district’s Bhumihars in 1994 unleashed terror on poor landless Dalits in retaliation against Naxalite terror.  True, it was banned in 1995 but surreptitiously continues till date.


In Andhra Pradesh, several para-military groups have become active under different names: Green Tigers, Nalladandu, Tirumalai Tigers, Palnadu Tigers, and Kakatiya Cobras et al.


Undeniably, the Naxalites movement needs to be curbed. Not by dubbing the Maoists as enemies of the Government and people. But by action to assert the State’s authority in these districts along-with fighting its root causes, namely usher in development activities on a war-footing.   


The State has to do its homework properly and the violence-prone groups must come forward to listen, learn, respond, and accept wholesome changes. Towards that end people have to be taught the value of “social change”, adaptation and transformation.  The tendency to look upon change as intrusion into tradition and heritage is rooted in conservatism and superstitions. 


Clearly, the time has come to teach “development education” as sermons and dialogues have become ineffective. After all, peace cannot be preached. But has to be instilled! ----- INFA


(Copyright, India News and  Feature Alliance)




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