- The deaths of over 20 paramilitary personnel in an encounter with the Maoists in the Tarrem area near Chhattisgarh’s Sukma district once again puts the spotlight on the long-running conflict in this remote tribal region.
- Reports indicate a Maoist ambush of the paramilitary personnel from different units the Special Task Force, the District Reserve Guard of the Chhattisgarh police besides the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF)’s elite COBRA unit who had proceeded to perform combing operations in Maoist strongholds.
- The units had embarked upon their combing exercise at a time when Maoists were trying to disrupt the construction of a road near Silger-Jagargunda.
- The lack of road and telecommunications infrastructure in these remote areas has been one of the reasons for the Maoists being able to use the terrain to their advantage.
Background about Naxalism in India:
- The term Naxalism derives its name from the village Naxalbari of West Bengal.
- It originated as rebellion against local landlords who bashed a peasant over a land dispute. The rebellion was initiated in 1967, with an objective of rightful redistribution of the land to working peasants under the leadership of Kanu Sanyal and Jagan Santhal.
- Started in West Bengal, the movement has spread across the Eastern India; in less developed areas of states such as Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh.
- It is considered that Naxals support Maoist political sentiments and ideology.
- Maoism is a form of communism developed by Mao Tse Tung. It is a doctrine to capture State power through a combination of armed insurgency, mass mobilization and strategic alliances.
India’s Red Corridor:
- The Red Corridor is the region in the eastern, central and the southern parts of India that experience considerable Naxalite–Maoist insurgency.
- Left Wing Extremism (LWE) is recognised as one of the most serious threats, not only to India’s internal security but indeed to the very basic values of the democratic, pluralistic political order enshrined in our Constitution.
- Since 1967, when the movement started in a few ‘Parganas’ in West Bengal, it has gradually spread its tentacles into nearly 90 districts in nine states.
- Over the past 51 years, the armed activists of the movement have accounted for widespread death and destruction.
- Later, over the decades that followed, the movement assumed alarming proportions,
- Threatening peace and security over a vast stretch of land spread across 10 states, described as ‘Red Corridor’.
- LWE has emerged as a politico-socio-economic challenge, making it a complex phenomenon that cannot be effectively tackled only through the use of kinetic methods. In other words, it’s not a mere law and order problem.
The Tarrem attacks came in the wake of a recent peace march held by civil society activists who had urged a dialogue between the Maoists and the Chhattisgarh government to end the violence that has claimed more than 10,000 lives since 2000 alone, according to the South Asia Terrorism Portal.
Guerrilla-driven militant movement in southern Chhattisgarh:
- It is now quite clear that despite facing losses to its cadre and leadership across central and east India and being hemmed into possibly its only remaining stronghold of south Chhattisgarh, the Maoists are still a formidable military threat.
- The Maoist insurrection which began first as the Naxalite movement in the 1970s and then intensified since 2004, following the merger of two prominent insurgent groups, remains a mindless guerrilla-driven militant movement that has failed to gain adherents beyond those living in remote tribal areas either untouched by welfare or are discontents due to state repression.
- The Maoists are now considerably weaker than a decade ago, with several senior leaders either dead or incarcerated, but their core insurgent force in south Bastar remains intact.
- The recourse to violence is now little more than a ploy to invite state repression which furthers their aim of gaining new adherents.
Recent Approach by Government of India:
The MHA established a robust mechanism under which timely reviews are conducted and policies and strategies are amended or fine-tuned.
- Operation Green Hunt: It was started in 2010 and massive deployment of security forces was done in the naxal-affected areas
- From 223 districts that were affected due to naxalism in the year 2010, the number has come down to 90 in nine years.
- SAMADHAN-A Comprehensive Policy Tool: An integrated strategy through which LWE can be countered with full force and competence. This is a compilation of short term and long-term policies formulated at different levels.
- Bastariya Battalion: The CRPF has decided to enhance local representation in its combat layout deployed in the Bastar area to provide the ‘Bastariya’ youth better avenues of employment under its Civic Action Programme.
- Real-time technical intelligence plays a decisive role in any proactive counter-insurgency force and its timely receipt defines the strength of that force.
- In developing these capabilities, the MHA has deployed at least one Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) or Mini-UAV for each CAPF battalions. More helicopter support is provided for CAPFs to rush in supplies and reinforcements.
- Apart from robust kinetic measures, a pre-emptive approach warrants limiting the resources of LWE movement and its cadres through effective coordination and thorough investigation.
- The Ministry of Home Affairs has set up a Multi-Disciplinary Group (MDG) comprising officers from the Intelligence Bureau (IB), Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Enforcement Directorate, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), NIA, Central Board of Direct Taxation (CBDT), CRPF and the state police as well as their Special Branches, Criminal Investigation Departments (CIDs) and other state units.
- This group is utilised by the MHA as a forum for evolving a well-coordinated approach for handling prolonged national security challenges.
Government needs to ensure two things: security of the peace-loving people and the development of the naxalism-affected regions.
Government needs innovative solutions for locating armed groups in the thick forests of the naxalism-affected regions.
Local Police knows the language and topography of a region; it can fight naxalism better than the armed forces. Andhra Police rose ‘Greyhounds’ special forces to deal with naxalism in the state.
State governments need to understand that naxalism is their problem also and only they can tackle it effectively. They can take help from central government if required.
While a military response and recriminations will inevitably follow the ambush, the civil society plea must not be ignored if a long-lasting solution to the conflict is to be achieved.