In a meeting with State leaders and representatives, Home Minister noted that the geographical influence of the Maoists has reduced from 96 districts in 10 States in 2010 to 41 now.
The contraction is not surprising. Armed struggle has found few takers beyond select pockets untouched by development or linkages with the welfare state.
Far from consolidating its presence, a prospect that seemed possible following the merger of two major Naxalite groups into the proscribed Communist Party of India (Maoist), the organisation is limited to the remote and densely forested terrains of central and east-central India.
Background of Left Wing Extremism (LWE):
- LWE organizations are the groups that try to bring change through violent revolution. They are against democratic institutions and use violence to subvert the democratic processes at ground level.
- These groups prevent the developmental processes in the least developed regions of the country and try to misguide the people by keeping them ignorant of current happenings.
- Left Wing Extremists are popularly known as Maoists worldwide and as Naxalites in India.
- LWE has its genesis in poor governance, lack of development in the tribal belt, and an oppressive/exploitative hierarchy of the state and society that has pushed the tribal population, the landless, to the margins of survival.
- 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.
Need to identify the predictable path of most Maoist insurrections:
- The Maoist insurgency still has potency in South Bastar in Chhattisgarh, the Andhra-Odisha border and in some districts in Jharkhand.
- Rather than mobilising discontents with the Indian state by projecting its weaknesses and ensuring inclusion and welfare, the Maoists have privileged armed struggle, invited state repression and sought to use this to recruit adherents.
- Such a strategy has led to some of India’s poorest people, the tribals in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand in particular, being caught up in endless violence, and also caused severe losses to the Maoists as well as anti-insurgent security forces.
- This has followed the predictable path of most Maoist insurrections that retained armed struggle to achieve their aims – in the Philippines and Peru, for example — leaving behind death and violence rather than enabling genuine uplift of the poor.
- Despite these, the Maoists have not budged from their flawed understanding of the nature of the Indian state and democracy, unwilling to accept that the poor people, whom they claim to represent, seek greater engagement with the electoral and welfare system.
- These States must focus on expansive welfare and infrastructure building even as security forces try to weaken the Maoists.
- Frequent skirmishes and attacks have not only affected the security forces but also left many tribal civilians caught in the crossfire.
State police role is key:
- Many have argued that Maoism has been defeated only in states where the state police have taken the lead.
- The obliteration of Maoist violence in Andhra Pradesh, the nursery of Maoism in the country is largely attributed to the state’s Greyhounds.
- In Maharashtra, where Maoists held sway over several districts, they have now been confined to border areas of Gadchiroli thanks to local police and the C60 force.
- West Bengal achieved normalcy through an ingenious strategy adopted by the state police.
- The Jharkhand Jaguars have gained an upper hand in the past few years, and Odisha has confined Maoist activity largely to Malkangiri thanks to broad administrative interventions in Koraput.
- Central forces have the numbers and the training, but they have no local knowledge or intelligence.
- Only local police can drive out Maoists. The reason we are not succeeding in Chhattisgarh is because the local police have not yet taken the leadership position, although things have improved over the years.
- The Centre formally recognised the gravity of Maoist violence in 2004 when then PM Manmohan Singh called it the “greatest internal security threat for the country”.
- The Centre opened up purse strings for modernisation of state police forces, among various moves.
It is the belief of the Government of India that through a holistic approach focusing on development and security-related interventions, the LWE problem can be successfully tackled.
States play a vital role in maintaining law and order. So, emphasis should be laid on the capacity-building and modernization of the local police forces. Local forces can efficiently and effectively neutralize the LWE organizations.
The Kargil Review Committee (KRC) report noted that in wake of Internal security challenges that the country faces, the role and the tasks of the paramilitary forces have to be restructured particularly with reference to command and control and leadership functions.
The Indian government should not be satisfied with the mere weakening of the Maoist insurgency and reduce commitments made for the developmental needs of some districts of concern in States such as Jharkhand, as its Chief Minister has alleged.
A purely security-driven approach fraught with human rights’ violations has only added to the alienation among the poor in these areas.
The Union government and the States must continue to learn from successes such as the expansion of welfare and rights paradigms in limiting the movement and failures that have led to the continuing spiral of violence in select districts.
The Maoists must be compelled to give up their armed struggle and this can only happen if the tribal people and civil society activists promoting peace are also empowered.