Monday, April 19, 2010

Long haul lies ahead

Joginder Singh

In one of the worst Maoist attacks, 76 security personnel — 74 belonging to the CRPF and two to the Chhattisgarh Police — were killed in the thick forests of the Dantewada district on April 6. Not only were the security men butchered by the Left-wing extremists but the latter also took away their arms and ammunition.

This is neither the first nor the last bloodbath that we are going to see in the war against Maoists who are determined to usurp the authority of the state. Indeed, the guerrillas top the list of attacks on our security forces. The following are some major instances of Maoist attacks:

April 4, 2010: Maoists trigger a landmine bombing, killing 11 security personnel of the elite anti-Maoist Special Operations Group in Koraput district of Odisha.

February 15, 2010: 24 personnel of the Eastern Frontier Rifles are killed as Maoists attack their camp in Sildah in West Midnapore district of West Bengal.

October 8, 2009: 17 policemen are killed when Maoists ambush them at Laheri police station in Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra.

September 26, 2008: Maoists kill BJP MP from Balaghat Baliram Kashyap’s sons at Pairaguda village in Jagdalpur, Chhattisgarh.

September 4, 2008: Maoists kill four villagers in a forest in Aaded village in Chhattisgarh’s Bijapur district.

July 27, 2008: Six people are killed when Maoists trigger a landmine bombing in Dantewada district, Chhattisgarh.

June 29, 2008: Maoists attack a boat carrying four anti-Maoist police officials and 60 Greyhound commandos on the Balimela reservoir in Odisha, killing 38 security personnel in all.

June 23, 2008: A group of motorcycle-borne Maoists open fire in Lakhisarai district court premises in Bihar and free four of their comrades, including the self-styled zonal commander of Ranchi.

June 16, 2008: Maoists kill 11 police officers in a landmine attack followed by armed assault. In a separate attack, four policemen are killed and two others seriously injured when Maoists ambush them at Beherakhand in Palamau district, Jharkhand.

June 13, 2008: Maoists launch two landmine and bomb attacks in a small town close to Bokaro, killing 10 policemen and injuring several others.

May 22, 2008: Maoists kill 16 policemen in the jungles of Gadchiroli district, Maharashtra.

April 13, 2008: 10 paramilitary troops are killed in eastern Odisha when Maoists attack a bauxite mine in Koraput district.

The biggest problem in dealing with Maoist violence has been that strategies, lack of intelligence and perceptions vary from State to State and from occasion to occasion. The authorities are simply not decisive enough. The causes of Maoism, estimated to be a Rs 1,500-crore empire, are variously described as a law and order problem or a movement deriving its strength from the lack of development and employment opportunities in the affected areas. Perhaps, it is a combination of all such factors.

The Central forces are trying to help the States regain control of the so-called ‘occupied’ or ‘free zones’ that Maoists have created. It is for the States to ensure that development follows the forces. The most important development work that needs to be undertaken in the Maoist-affected areas without delay is the building of good roads so that poor villagers and tribals can have access to the facilities that are available to the rest of the country.

Nonetheless, the vicious cycle of fear and killings is something that is always going to come in the way of the those wanting to undertake development projects or improve the existing infrastructure in the Maoist-dominated areas. People would rather be safe than stick their necks in a fight between the insurgents and the Government. No investor is going to invest in any area plagued with violence and unabated killings.

The world has known only two ways of resolving any dispute, that is, first, by using force and, second, through negotiations. Unfortunately, no party that is winning a war wants to come to the negotiating table. As long as the Maoists know that they are winning they will not hold dialogue with the Government. They have had undisputed run of the areas under their control due to the indifference of the civil administration.

About 5,000 security personnel have been killed since Maoists unleashed war on the Indian state. For Maoists — or Naxalites or whatever we may choose to call them — this is a no-holds-barred war. But on the part of the Government, there is quibbling over whether the state should use the Army and the Air Force against the insurgents. A specious argument doing the rounds is that a country’s military should not be used against its own people. On the other hand, Maoists don’t give a hoot about killing fellow Indians which, by the same logic, are their own people.

When the very existence of the country is at stake, following the policy of ‘willing-to-strike-but-afraid-to-wound’ is not only futile but also counter-productive. Nobody worships the setting sun. Here, unfortunately, the setting sun is the Government which, for one reason or another, has not been able to establish its authority. It has no law to specifically deal with such cases and crimes.

An important factor which needs to be borne in mind is that without the involvement of well-trained, well-equipped and motivated State police forces there is no way that the problem of Maoism can be tackled effectively just by using Central forces who are neither familiar with the local terrain nor aware of the local culture or languages in the Maoist-affected areas. At present, State police forces are ill-equipped, ill-trained and ill-prepared for tackling the Maoist menace. The Centre should handsomely fund and train them since after all Maoism is a national problem.

Unless a strong message goes out to all disruptive forces, including Maoists, our security forces will continue to be nothing more than cannon fodder. Any more killings of security personnel engaged in the battle against Maoists will not only demoralise them, but also send a wrong message to the people living in Maoist-dominated areas that the Government and its security forces are weak. The Left-wing extremists have already warned the authorities of more lethal attacks in future. The Government must steel its resolve to win this decisive war, and both the Centre and the States should prepare for the long haul ahead.

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