Saturday, April 17, 2010
Children as young as 10 years old are being recruited by Maoists in West Bengal for military style induction into their cadres. TIMES NOW has accessed weapons and videos of guerilla warfare training of young boys and girls indoctrinated into the Maoist ideology.
TIMES NOW spoke to villagers in Belpahari in Bihari, who confirmed the Maoists' latest recruitment policy. Said Mohammed Rafiq: "'There are many such cases in every village around here. They come and brainwash our children into their cause. Some give away their children willingly, some are taken forcibly."
The Maoist terrorists, sparing none, are now preying on the most impressionable to execute their war against the establishment on the ground, luring them with tall promises of power and glory. The children are indoctrinated in the Maoist ideology, then trained in weapons and guerilla warfare.
"President, Pratibha Patil, wanted to know from me during a dinner last night about the cause of insurgency in the N E region to which I replied that it was underdevelopment", Gogoi said in his address at 'Access to Justice and Socio-Economic development of the North Eastern states' here today.
"The Naxalite movement has been a wake-up call for us. We should realise that development is the core issue", he said, adding, "Insurgency first started in Nagaland and gradually spread to other states with youth taking up arms.
Hyderabad: A "notorious" pseudo-naxalite who had been extorting money from doctors in Hyderabad city has been arrested, police said on Saturday.
Mallampally Raju, after selecting reputed doctors approached them claiming himself as a close associate of People's War Group (PWG) and used to demand money by threatening the doctors to kill their family members if they failed to meet his demand, they said.
On a complaint, sleuths of Commissioners Task Force (North Zone) team apprehended Raju from Humayunnagar here while he was on his way for extortion, a police officer said.
As per information, Raju had threatened many doctors in the city and extorted huge amounts for the past several years and investigations were underway to detect the same, the police officer said. Further investigations were on.
CJ: Ritika Arora Sun, Apr 18, 2010 09:44:18 IST
THE RECENT brutal attacks on Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) militia by Maoists in Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh on April 6th, 2010 has left the country shocked and shaken. Maoists killed more than seventy five CRPF security personnel and snatched away their arms and weapons too. This is not the first time that Maoists have attacked the innocent civilians or security personnel but the recent attack has put the government in a tight corner.
Naxals believe in Marxist- Leninist ideologies and principles. These ideologies extol violence to seize political power. There are more than fifty five thousand highly trained Maoists who are mainly spread across the state of Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Orissa, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Maharashtra. They operate in dense forests, which are ideally suited place to carry out guerilla warfare. Though Marxists are illiterate and one of the most backward classes in the society but they are highly motivated and trained people. They posses a number of high quality weapons and arms that also include the ones snatched away from Indian security force.
According to the Prime Minister Maoist violence is the biggest threat to the internal security in the country.
Marxism originated with the Naxalbari movement which started in 1967 but it’s an uphill task to identify the root cause of Marxism. Is it the negligence of government towards the foreign terror groups that has brainwashed them? Whatever the reason may be but the bitter truth is that thousands of people are strongly committed to take over the government in coming years either by hook or by crook with the seious issue of Naxalism staying at a standstill.
According to me, naxals are neglected lots who have been deprived of basic amenities over the years. They are poor illiterate masses who don’t even know the name of the place they live in; they are deprived of food, education, shelter and other basic necessities. They have been living in dense forests over the years. Their outrage, anger and fury have set them against the government. They kill innocent civilians, security personnel, destroy or demolish public property just to show that they are no way inferior to the powerful people. They try to prove that they are no less and can out do the government by creating atrocities or violence.
Although our government authorities have started various poverty allevation programs like National rural employment guarantee act (NREGP), Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan and several others the welfare of Maoists or tribal’s remain unattended leaving them unaware of such developmental programs. There is a need to focus on the needs and desires of the people who are socially and economically backward. The authorities should work for their social and economic development and also focus on improving the standards of living of such people. They are a neglected lot and seek for an immediate attention from the government. We also have to accept the fact that Maoists are highly motivated people and are totally against the government.
It’s absolutely an uphill task to end Naxalbari movement that emerged way long back in 1967. But it’s high time now that effective steps need be taken to stop them from committing more human slaughter. Government can set up effective security measures in the areas where Maoists have their roots.
New Delhi : There will be no census exercise in several hundred villages in Chhattisgarh which have been rendered out of bounds for government officials by Naxalite groups.
District administrations of Jagdalpur, Dantewada, Bijapur, Narayanpur and Kanker, all part of undivided Bastar which was once one of the largest districts in the country, have informed senior officials in Raipur that it will be difficult for them to carry out the census exercise — counting of people, collection of biometric data for preparation of the National Population Register — in many areas in view of the Naxal threat.
“We have requested that 108 villages in Dantewada be exempted from census because our officials are being prevented by Naxalites from reaching these areas. Our request has been accepted,” Reena Kangale, District Magistrate of Dantewada told The Sunday Express.
Kangale said local officials had identified 255 villages which posed a challenge to enumerators because of the inaccessible terrain and presence of Naxalites. In 147 of these, however, the enumerators were able to complete the numbering of houses, an exercise that precedes the actual counting of people.
“We are assuming that since the officials were allowed to number the houses, they would be able to carry out the census as well. But in 108 villages, even house numbering has not been possible,” she said.
Significantly, these 108 villages do not include the area near the Chintalnar forest where Naxalites had killed 76 securitymen earlier this month. Those areas were not counted amongst the worst affected in the district before that incident and were within reach of government officials.
Kangale’s counterparts in the other districts have not asked for exemption for the troubled areas but only identified the number of villages where there were “practical difficulties” in completing the census exercise.
The district administration of Kanker has listed 300 such villages while Jagdalpur has identified 194. Similarly, 117 villages in Bijapur and 22 villages in Narayanpur fall in the same category.
“There will be full effort to reach to every village and every person. But there is no denying the fact that there are some problem areas. The administration in Raipur has been informed while we continue efforts to complete the census in a comprehensive manner,” said R Prasanna, District Magistrate of Bijapur.
Lying in heavily forested areas, these villages do not have very large populations. The 22 villages in Narayanpur, for example, had only 1,723 people according to the 2001 census. So, leaving out these villages is unlikely to distort the census figures in a significant manner.
But what is important in this year’s census is the simultaneous compilation of the National Population Register, or NPR. Unlike the census data, which only contains a count of the people and some aggregate characteristics of broad groupings within the population, the NPR will identify every person individually and also store biometric information like photographs, fingerprints and iris scan. The NPR data will be later fed into the scheme for allotting a unique identification number to every individual in the country.
The NPR and UID number are aimed at better targeting of government services — like the public distribution system or the rural employment guarantee scheme — to the people, especially those belonging to the socially and economically weaker sections.
“Local officials have been told to spread awareness about the benefits of census and make people interested in participating in it,” said Renu Pillai, Director Census, Chhattisgarh.
The local administrations are also looking at alternative ways of carrying out the census exercise. “If some villages are indeed inaccessible, we are examining whether it would be feasible for us to count and identify people from these villages when they come to nearby markets or government fair price shops,” said Lakhan Singh Ken, District Magistrate of Narayanpur.
In Delhi, Registrar General and Census Commissioner C Chandramouli said such challenges were nothing new to this exercise.
“In a country so vast and such diverse as India, carrying out a census is a job laced with difficulties. This time it is the Naxal-affected areas. There have been other areas earlier where census could not be done in a comprehensive manner,” he said, citing the case of Assam that was left out in 1981 and Jammu and Kashmir where census could not be held in 1991.
Chandramouli said as of now he was not aware of any areas in Chhattisgarh that were being left out of the census exercise. “May be the district administrations have expressed their apprehensions about certain areas but the mandate is to include everyone in this. Only on completion of the exercise next year will we come to know which areas could not be counted.”
Posted: Sunday , Apr 18, 2010 at 0209 hrs
Joint security forces today claimed to have gunned down a Maoist and arrested two others after a 12-hour gunbattle in Bhalukbasa forests at Goaltore, one of the Naxal strongholds in West Midnapore district.
“We had information that Sidhu Soren, a close aide of Kishenji, had taken shelter in the area. Soren is in-charge of Goaltore. The Maoists started firing at our forces which then retaliated. We have recovered the body of a Maoist while two Maoists have been arrested,” said West Midnapore SP Manoj Verma.
“Once forces reached the area, the Maoists split in groups and started firing from different places to guard their main team of which Sidhu Soren was a part,” Verma said.
Three land mines were also blasted at the spot, but no one from the security forces was injured,” Verma added.
A senior CRPF officer said blood was found splattered on the encounter site, indicating a few of the Maoists were injured too.
Verma said the security forces have also seized sophisticated guns, bullets, gelatin sticks, detonators, besides Maoist literature.
A STAFF REPORTER
President Pratibha Patil being welcomed with a japi as Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi looks on in Guwahati on Saturday. (PTI)
Guwahati, April 17: President Pratibha Patil today made a strong case for making litigation affordable and timely, apprehending that lack of opportunities for equitable access to justice could divide society into those who had access to justice and those without it.
Patil spoke of the growing concern about the poor and the disadvantaged not being able to approach the courts for relief without legal aid as litigation had become an expensive option.
To her, a legal system structured on timely delivery, affordable justice and non-cumbersome procedures was best designed to provide access to justice. Along with socio-economic policies and programmes, a holistic and a well-coordinated approach towards access was the need of the hour.
“We must look at how to make justice more affordable, whether in terms of court fees or laywer’s fees. At the same time, we need to make our legal aid system robust, effective and competent. Low level of legal awareness also impede access,” she said in her inaugural address at the two-day conference on Access to Justice and Socio-economic Development of Northeastern States here this morning before a gathering that included senior judges, intellectuals, governors, journalists and lawyers.
Patil’s concerns were earlier raised by Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi and Governor J.B. Patnaik.
Gogoi said he could neither think of approaching the Supreme Court nor the high court to fight a case because of prohibitive fees while Patnaik said judicial courts had “failed” to achieve the twin objectives of cheap and expeditious disposal of cases.
Patil also expressed concern about the large number of cases pending in various courts, which, according to her, should uphold the provisions of the Constitution and ask itself about the role of judiciary in the 21st century.
The President suggested that subordinate courts should use the potential of information technology to post their cause list and case status on websites like the high courts to make the judicial processes more transparent.
Ostensibly to drive home the point that she was familiar with the constraints and problems of the legal system, Patil said she took a “deep” interest in legal affairs as she was a lawyer herself before entering public life. “I have always emphasised two essential points. One, that the rule of law is the very foundation of justice. Secondly, a legal system should not only meet the requirements of individual justice but fulfil the broader role of being an instrument of legal empowerment for society and the nation,” she said.
Patil dubbed the Northeast a “special part of the country, its people brave and hardworking”. “They represent what is India — a diverse nation, which deeply respects pluralism. I can assure you that the development of the region is among the topmost priorities of the nation. NER Vision 2020 is a document that reflects the collective desire to work towards the development and prosperity of the people of the region,” she said.
Earlier, Gogoi in his speech said the President had, during an official dinner yesterday, enquired about the insurgency situation in Assam and how the state was dealing with it. “She had also asked about Naxal insurgency. I said we were according topmost priority to education, health and economic empowerment.”
Patil left immediately after the inaugural function.
The function was followed by sessions on Right to Education: A North Eastern Perspective; North-east and Media; Environment and Sustainable Development; Drug Trafficking and AIDS — Measures of Control; Rights and Maintenance of Senior Citizens; and Terrorism and Human Rights in Northeast.
The panelists unanimously agreed that only a collective effort would help ensure access to justice for all as well as overall development.
RAIPUR: Top leaders of the Maoists are known to assume many names to hoodwink security agencies. Most often even the footsoldier Naxal has not seen his bosses. Now, top sources, who have been tracking the Maoists for some time, have revealed to TOI that Kishenji is not the real Kishenji but a cleverly assumed moniker by Mullajola Koteshwar Rao.
The name 'Kishenji' is now synonymous with Maoist guerrillas. He's apparently their leader and is either injured or lying low after leading many attacks in different states in the past couple of months. This 'Kishenji' was even ready to hold talks with Union home minister P Chidambaram on behalf of the Maoists.
As per records, Rao had other pseudonyms like Prahlad, Kiran, Ramesh and a couple of others too. However, he prefers to use Kishenji only because Rao understands the weight the name pulls in the Bengal-Jharkhand-Chhattisgarh region.
In the late 60s, Prashant Bose was one of the key voices of the Maoists. A known intellectual, his aliases were Kishanji, Kishan-da, Kajal and Mahesh. Bose's idea of the Naxal movement was more ideological in nature. He also saw it as an agrarian struggle.
It was the coming of the Andhra Naxals that saw violence, and not mere pressure tactics, taking centrestage. Gradually, Bose, who is now in his 60s but continues to be a politburo member of the CPI (Maoist), was sidelined.
The expanding influence of the belligerent Andhraites began to eclipse the influence of the intellectual Bengalis. Rao, however, understood the power 'Kishenji' wielded and soon began using that alias. The Naxals cadres revered Kishenji, it did not matter if it was Bose or Rao.
Ahmedabad: If the Naxal attack killing 75 CRPF personnel in the Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh makes your heart bleed, the news closer home may bring some more worry. For, in the first three months of this year, at least nine suspected Naxals have been arrested by police from the tribal districts of Dangs and Tapi.
At the outset, the reason for this is believed to be the Forest Rights Act (FRA), which gives the tribals the right to tribal land for cultivation. To cut a very long story short, in essence, this Act takes away the ownership of the land from forest department and gives it to people - the tribals. This is believed to be at the core of the sudden spurt in friction between the tribals and officials.
The nine arrests have created a sense of fear amongst the populace in the tribal belt. What actually raised many eyebrows is the arrest of suave tribal activist, Avinash Kulkarni, in the third week of March. Two days after he was picked up by the cops, his 'arrest' was announced.
The next day, the opposition Congress walked out of the Assembly blaming the BJP of incorrectly arresting activists "who are aiding tribals in the implementation of the FRA".
The Adivasi Mahasabha cried injustice, but Kulkarni was remanded in police custody. He continues to be custody. Since then the Congress has been rather silent. Others arrested include Bharat Powar. Powar had contested elections on a JD (U) banner.
On the Congress stand on the issue, party MP from Bardoli and Union minister of state for tribal affairs, Tushar Chaudhary, reluctantly says: "No local tribal leaders have been named. All those arrested are from out of the state. We know of their work here, but not of their links outside of the state."
A senior activist working in the area says people are now scared of gathering in groups and making demonstrations against the forest or police department for their issues, be it the land or any other amenities. "Moreover, the buzz is that those arrested have identified a few others and at least 21 other arrests are expected soon. Activists are mainly being targeted," he said, citing the 'fear' factor.
In fact, he adds that the past week has been eventful in the jungles. Forest, police and local intelligence personnel have been holding extensive meetings with the tribals in wake of the Dantewada blast. In some places, they are grilling people to learn whether similar blasts are being planned here, and in other meetings covert warnings are let out. Yet others claim that these arrests have, in fact, averted any major strike.
Land: The ultimate premium
Move to 2006. Parliament cleared the Forest Rights Act, which enables a tribal to reclaim his land (if it was incorrectly acquired by the government), provided he can prove it. The process is long and winding, but this is ostensibly the reason behind the simmering discontent.
One of the reasons cited by activists, decrying the arrests as stifling of democracy, is the unwillingness of the forest department (read state government) to give the land to the tribals under the FRA. Former Congress MP and tribal leader from Sabarkantha, Madhusudan Mistry, categorically states that to retain the control of land, the government wants to declare as 'sanctuary' or 'protected area' of as much forest land as they can. "So that later it can be diverted or denotified," he says.
Activists inform the tribals that they will now finally get their land if they can prove through village elders that their ancestors cultivated it. The point of friction here is that the forest department does not take the elders' word as final and uses the satellite data as proof of their claims. The illiterate Adivasis do not understand this, leading to anxiety and distrust among them.
"When tribals produce the proof, forest officials refute it. This infuriates them, leaving them extremely vulnerable," says an observer who does not wish to be identified.
Mistry agrees that this is a standard modus operandi, which he witnessed in Antarsuba, Sabarkantha, in 2008 where a tribal was killed in police encounter. "When anxious, tribals will be ready to do anything at the slightest instigation. Though they care for the forest and trees immensely, in a fit of rage they may chop a few. This gives the forest and police the perfect excuse to book them with criminal charges, which sometimes result in inhuman excesses and fake encounters. In fact, I am scared that Kulkarni will be eliminated," the former parliamentarian voices his concern.
The turnout in a recent rally organised by Mistry demanding action by the government under FRA in Ahmedabad was phenomenal. About 800 people turned up from various villages. Union minister Chaudhary said, "I am shocked the Gujarat government has released only 7% of the total land entitled to the tribals."
Since its inception half a century ago, Gujarat is being touted as a peaceful state of entrepreneurs. Therefore, the emergence of a violent rebellion could be a shocker. The initial question being thrown up is: Are those arrested really propagating a rebellion through violence, thereby qualifying them to be labeled as Naxals?
Or are they tribal activists, instigating the tribals to demand their land rights from the establishment? More importantly, why now?
A hard look at the events preceding the arrests, and police interrogation since then, give an impression that some 'Naxal' activity might indeed have been going on in the deep forests of central and south Gujarat.Then the logical question would be: Why? What is the discontent in a prosperous state like Gujarat? With a government aggressively talking and acting for inclusive development by implementing welfare schemes like Garib Kalyan Mela, why is there a rebellion against the establishment?
"At the outset, it is important to point out that there is deep discontent and disconnect amongst the tribals here, not roaring antagonism. Basic amenities like roads, electricity, water, health and education available here are relatively better than that in other 'Naxal affected areas', but certainly far poorer than what is projected for 'Vibrant Gujarat'. It will be ten years before real development is felt here. Because of this, there is some restlessness, which makes these communities vulnerable," says Amrit Patel, director, legal aid and human rights of Songadh-based NGO, Shakti.
A Koli Patel, the activist claims he was in touch with Kulkarni and Powar, but was totally shocked when their 'network' links were revealed. "Police say they went to Kerala and Ghadchiroli for arms training. We were aghast. But even if they were trying to influence people here, their success will be limited. The discontent is not so high for the people to turn self-destructive," he asserts.
The proximity of the areas to Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra and presence of migrant labour from Bihar, Orissa, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh in the areas add to the conundrum. Some ad hoc Naxal movements have been felt in Hazira and Jamnagar.
Bhilistan: The demand continues
An understated current that is found in case of almost all tribal unrest is the demand of Bhilistan - an independent state for the tribals of Gujarat, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. Though sporadic since the Independence, this movement continues to romanticise tribal leaders, who resist the establishment's initiatives to reach out to them.
The Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad that keeps the movement on is led by former Dahod MP Somji Damor. He lost the 2009 Lok Sabha elections as BJP candidate to Dr Prabha Taviyad of the Congress. Politicians have made a career out of this agenda, but the issue continues to burn. This seven-time MP in 1984 had carved out a detailed blueprint for Bhilistan, including a map of the new state.
Though the movement is mostly flaccid, residents of Dangs confide some 'calendars' and pamphlets were distributed earlier this year calling for reviving the 'Bhilistan' movement. "They don't know if anything came out of it. Perhaps pamphlets were amongst the triggers for the spate of arrests," a source said.
One of the several reasons cited for the wave of arrests, being attributed to Naxal activity, is perhaps the politics of converting the tribal votebank towards the BJP.
Currently, the area is a definitive Congress electorate. In 2002, post the Hindutva wave, the tribals turned against the Congress, but in 2007 assembly elections and 2009 general elections, the Congress retained its dominance in the tribal belt, except for some specific seats,. Three of the four reserved Lok Sabha seats for Schedule Tribes (ST) - Dahod, Bardoli and Valsad are represented by Congress MPs.
One tribal researcher with an Ahmedabad-based institution points out that Modi wants to come out as a hero in the tribal populace ahead of the panchayat elections. "Instilling a fear factor, he wants to show that he is in charge there," the source says.Politically, the Congress is passive in these areas. Though their cadres exist, the attention given by the state leadership is far from enough. When asked if the arrests are politically motivated, Chaudhary hesitantly conceded, but refused to comment further.
Avinash Kulkarni: The suave activist
The suave activist was a popular face in the south Gujarat forests. He came to Dangs two years after the Irfan Engineer episode. Kulkarni comes from a very well-educated family, with an MPhil up his sleeve. He speaks chaste English and his presence was a sore thumb for authorities there. Kulkarni, who is in his early 50s, is rather frail and suffers from several chronic ailments.
Intelligence sleuths tracking these movements claim he was on their radar for 15 years, but they were waiting for concrete evidence to pin him. Refusing to specify, a source indicated that another Naxal arrest somewhere in the country led to Kulkarni and Powar's arrests. "We are hoping to arrest many people, we do not even know from which part of the country, through his confessions," the source said.
India, Apr. 18, 2010 (Xinhua News Agency) -- With ever increasing incidents of jail break, blowing up of schools, hospitals and economic installations and brutal slaying of politicians and professionals by extreme left-wing Naxal rebels, the central Indian state of Jharkhand has added more grief to its list of woes which started ever since it attained statehood in 2001.
While the government has decided to weed out the Naxalites, who refuse to abjure violence, the on-going savagery in Jharkhand has pushed back all hopes of economic development.
Even as lives and limbs continue to get affected here, Naxalism, the first enemy of the country, is busy spreading base in the state.
Already Naxalites are operating in 19 of the 24 districts in Jharkhand including Garhwa, Palamau, Chatra, Hazaribagh, Girdih, Bokaro, Latehar, Lohardaga, Gumla, Simdega, East Singhbhum, West Singhbhum, Dhanbad, Seraikela-Kharsawan, Koderma, Dumka, Deogarh, Jamtara and Godda.
With their sinister agenda, the rebels are increasingly penetrating bigger cities, trying to indoctrinate people and collecting funds for the movement. Some even believe that Naxals are already entrenched in the state capital Ranchi.
According to state intelligence, wishing to mobilize disgruntled elements including the urban unemployed in favor of their ultimate "cause" of eventual seizure of state power, Naxalites have drawn up detailed guidelines for their urban operations.
"The Naxal guerrillas, who do not even trust cell phones, have now confined their activities to propagating their ideology, setting up secret cells for frontal organizations and recruiting people. So much so that they have even tried to draw out students and trade and labor unions," Abhinav Saini, a local social activist here in Girdih, said.
The Naxal violence in Jharkhand has claimed the lives of about 1,000 people so far, which includes over 200 policemen.
Incidents like the recent jail-break in neighboring Chhattisgarh state where rebels attacked a jail and escaped with hundreds of their accomplice showed that the rebels are only getting bolder.
"For long it has been known that our police force is not as trained, equipped and motivated as their Naxal counterparts who are increasingly growing in strength. They are better armed, organized, motivated and trained to execute their agenda," said George Massey, a volunteer who works with a non-governmental charity organization.
Apart from targetting police personnel, the rebel have also carried out major strikes against the leaders of the day.
In 2007, rebels shot dead Member of Parliament (MP) Sunil Mahato as he watched a football match.
"Naxalites are no longer champions of development. They have instead a vested interest in keeping poverty alive as it enables them to expand their turf," Massey states.
Interestingly, a number of schools exist here but not many students seem interested in attending classes. Apparently, they place life before education.
"Schools are soft targets for Naxals. We are six teachers with over 150 students. Around 500 students enrolled over the last five years but due to the fear factor, every year the number of students goes down," said Navani, head mistress in a school here.
Locals here said that the doctors who treat men from the police forces are always in the hitlist of the rebels.
So far the state police force has not been able to take on the might of the guerrillas. Operation Shikhar, Operation Eagle, Operation Hill Top, Operation Black Thunder and Operation X are some of the offensive measures launched by the police from time to time, but none of them has yielded any result.
The state of Jharkhand is blessed with iron ore, manganese, coal, limestone, graphite, quartzite, asbestos, lead, zinc, copper, and some gold, among others.
It supplies to the region electricity from thermal and hydroelectric plants. But there has always been a discrepancy between generating wealth and its application, said locals.
(Source: iStockAnalyst )
New Delhi: The fight over what should be the strategy to deal with the Naxal menace may take some time to take a decisive tilt in a particular direction. But for those who have lost everything in this mindless killing game, it will have little consequence.
About 150 children, orphaned by Naxalites, quietly live in a residential school in Dantewada, singing songs of peace and hope.
For six year-old Indu, her world came crashing down one year back at her home in Murliguda. Naxals attacked the house and killed both her parents. Because they suspected her father was a police informer. She now lives in a government school in the heart of South Bastar-Dantewara along with other children of her age.
"I was studying that day at my aunt's place I was taken home. My mother and father were killed by Naxalites," says Indu. She is not the only one who has no one to call her own after Naxalites killed her parents. About 150 children living in this school have the same story to tell. Naxalites killed their parents.
Manju, a class nine student now, lost her father. None of these children have anything to do with either the state or the Naxals. But they were caught in the crossfire and are paying the heaviest price. "They attacked my house. They burnt our house. They killed my father and burnt my house," says Manju.
Suresh was just six-year-old when terror struck him. "My father was killed by Naxals during broad day light. I was in school when he was killed. My uncle sent me here after that," says Suresh. It's the same story for Suba Rao. His mother was unable to make ends meet after Naxals killed his father and sent him to the school. "My father was killed by Naxals," says Suba.
These kids are encouraged to play so that they can forget what happened to their families. These prayers and songs are what make them stronger. But they still carry painful memories of how they used to sing in happier times.
Indian Home Minister P. Chidambram has clearly stated that naxalism is the biggest challenge being faced by the nation. He has also stated that the naxal leadership is no mood to discuss their genuine grievances with the government. The naxal leadership has not responded to the government’s offer of talks. Instead, their violent activities have shown a sharp rise. Not only they have been targeting the police forces personnel but they are also resorting to abductions and killing of innocent civilians as well as the destruction of public assets like railway tracks/trains, public transport, government buildings/institutions. The Government’s soft approach to naxal activities is the main cause for their emboldened actions against the state machinery.
The latest incident in which more than 70 CRPF personnel were killed including a deputy commandant and an assistant commandant at Dantewada on 6 April 2010 should be critical enough to initiate stern steps to root out naxalism from Indian soil. This incident is much beyond the threshold of tolerance and leaves no further scope to continue with a soft approach towards naxalites. The situation has become grave enough and calls for an immediate and serious state response. If the government does not take concrete and stern steps even now, it should be prepared to accept more such incidents of even greater intensity.
Naxalism in India has crossed all limits of tolerance. The so-called naxalites are actually anti-national elements who also lack an agenda for public welfare. The on-going nexus between Naxals and miners in Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh and the huge extortion networks they run in areas under their control are a matter of deep concern and need to be addressed immediately. The Naxals are butchering innocent citizens and only pursuing their self interests through a strategy of terror. Killers of human beings have no right to claim themselves as saviours of the poor.
The time is ripe enough to focus on our internal security situation instead of devoting so much time to other issues. The most challenging task before the government today is the elimination of the naxal terror network in its entirety. These anti-national elements are the biggest stumbling blocks for the progress of the nation and hence cannot be allowed to flourish in a democracy.
If our police forces are unable to tackle the situation, they have to be made capable through well chalked out capacity building measure on priority. This is going to take significant time. However, till such time police forces become fit enough, other options may be exercised without any further delay, to ensure the safety of human lives and preventing damage to public assets. If Sri Lanka can eliminate a well trained and suitably equipped and armed LTTE, India can very well root out ill-equiped and poorly armed anti-national elements from its soil, provided the political leadership displays its will clearly.
While it is essential to have more and more police personnel trained in counter-insurgency operations, it is equally important to equip them suitably. The services of the Army leadership and personnel at all levels may be suitably requisitioned by the police, to fill the void temporarily, if considered appropriate. A well planned and clear cut strategy will definitely bring these anti-national elements to their knees. All their known leaders/sympathisers must be arrested immediately. Such an action might be considered as going too far by many. But it is necessary when lives are at stake in a civilized society. The mere issuing of statements or condemning naxal activities is not going to fetch results in the present context any more. Politicians and ministers should not find any more solace in blame games between central and state leadership. Prioritising vote bank requirements above that of human lives is not likely to yield any breakthrough.
If naxal activities have to be stopped, the government must act firmly even if they have to be neutralized by the selective use of the armed forces including the Indian Air Force. The intelligence network has to be strengthened significantly. Not only the training and equipping of the police forces but also the development of police leadership needs special focus. The supply lines of the Naxals have to be cut ruthlessly. It should not be forgotten that social issues like development of under developed/backward and remote areas, provision of employment opportunities, implementation of education policies, provision of quality health services and ensuring safety and security of human lives and public assets are priority obligations on the part of the government. There is also an immediate need to realistically book corrupt politicians, businessmen and government functionaries in order to restore the faith and confidence of masses in the credibility of the government in affected areas. Such steps must be taken in a time bound manner with a clear and implementable approach. Let us remember that now the threat is more from these anti-national elements as compared to hostile neighbouring countries. All available instruments of national power must now be exploited to eliminate these terror outfits from society.
The killing of 75 CRPF personnel and a local policeman in a Naxalite ambush in Dantewada clearly indicates that the Operation Green Hunt launched to flush out the Naxalites was not properly evaluated, planned, and carried out. The Army Chief recently said that the men were not fully trained to operate in jungle area. In any case it is doubtful that they were familiar with the area. It is not clear what was the aim of the movement of so many soldiers together and their returning following the same path. Who provided the intelligence to them, if any? These issues were recently discussed in a meeting of retired senior officers. The discussion was initiated by RJ Khurana.
The governments for the last over 60 years have created many para-military forces but by and large ignored the need for increasing the number, capability, training, weapons and proper usage of the police force in the police stations. They are the one that are closest to the criminals. Even if the outside forces are required and sent, they have to get the input from these local policemen.
Today, it seems there is more threat from Naxalites than from terrorists. You can get intelligence and engage the terrorists but the Naxalites not only ensure that they get all the information but they ensure through the element of fear that the forces get no such inputs. The terrorists may get some help from sleepers but not from general public. They can be, in many cases, identified. But here there is no difference between an ordinary resident and a Naxal.
Most of the weapons of the Naxals are from looting the police armoury or through clandestine means from across the border. As per the figures given out by the Home department, over 200 districts are Naxal affected and some 90 of them have no government administrative presence in large areas. Unless these districts are liberated no long-term initiative can be taken to bring the residents in the mainstream. Then the main task would be to ensure that the administration does not once again misgovern through corrupt practices, inefficiency, delays in attending to their problems, not initiating urgently needed developments and violating their freedom. These were the very causes of the development of Naxalism.
Gp Capt AB Mehta(Retd), Bhopal
Published: April 16 2010 14:03 |
A controversy currently raging in India over whether the growing problem of Naxalite (Maoist) rebels should be tackled with force or through development of the tribal areas involved is unnecessary. The answer is clearly both – at the same time, and with equal energy and commitment, by both state governments which have constitutional responsibility for security and by the central government.
The fact that this dual approach is not happening, and that there are splits within the governing Congress Party, is an indictment of the government’s weak leadership, notably by Manmohan Singh, the prime minister, and Sonia Gandhi, the leader of the ruling coalition, plus at a different level her son and heir Rahul Gandhi.
Riding the elephant
For more comment by John Elliott go to his blog
The situation is now dire. The Naxalites recently killed 76 paramilitary troops in an ambush, and their activities now cover over a third of India’s administrative districts. They control large swathes of remote and often densely forested areas – especially where tribal people risk losing land to development projects – that stretch from the Nepal border down through West Bengal, Jharkhand, Chattisgarh, Orissa and Andhra Pradesh. They are also now moving into urban areas of some states, notably West Bengal and their aim eventually is to encircle strategic districts and urban centres.
Because of the lack of government leadership, Palaniappan Chidambaram, the home minister who has brought focus and order to the ministry since he took over at the end of 2008, has been publicly attacked from many quarters. The most recent – and serious – attack came two days ago in a newspaper article written by Digvijay Singh, a senior politician and a general secretary of the Congress Party who is close to the Gandhis and has a political base in Chattisgarh, one of the Naxalite-ridden states.
Digvijay Singh wrote in the Economic Times that “we should be paying more attention to their (tribal peoples’) livelihood and governance rather than converting the serene and calm environment of Bastar (one of the Naxalite areas) into a battleground”. He criticised Chidambaram for his “intellectual arrogance” and for being “extremely rigid” though admitting he is also an “extremely intelligent, articulate, committed and sincere politician”.
The key words in the quote above are “more attention” because they amount to a criticism of Chidambaram’s security-oriented paramilitary approach. They are especially significant because Digvijay Singh works closely with the Gandhi’s. An article about him in the India Today weekly news magazine recently said that he is “sharp enough to gauge the mood of the leadership and he would never speak without first clearing his lines with the famed high command” – which means the Gandhi’s.
He is therefore presumably reflecting Sonia and Rahul Gandhi’s unease about Chidambaram’s hard line. I heard on Thursday they were anxious to stop the article triggering a pubic row, but Rahul did make similar remarks about the need for development some weeks ago.
They and Digvijay Singh are of course right because Chidambaram is being unbendingly single minded in his approach – and his arrogance is widely recognised and tolerated.
But, as home minister, he is only doing his job to try to mobilise the states’ security operations and support them with the central paramilitary, while trying to turn the ramshackle ill-trained, ill-equipped and often undisciplined troops into fighting forces.
He is criticised by Singh and others for not - at the same time - focussing on development and, as a result, alienating tribals and others who get caught up and killed in the fighting. He says that development is the job of the states, not his.
Up to a point he is right. But it is the job of the government as a whole to mobilise development through various ministries such as human development (education, rural development, environment and others).
That this is not happening is the responsibility of Singh as prime minister and Sonia as party leader. Months ago they should have set up a group of ministers, led by the home ministry, to galvanise the central government, and the states into parallel security and developmental operations.
That has not been done, so it is grossly unfair to blame Chidambaram for the current security focus and to allowing him to become the scapegoat for attacks by soft liberals such as Arundhati Roy, the novelist and campaigner who has ludicrously accused the government of fighting the Naxalites in order to protect mining companies’ leases.
India’s tribals, who are largely the innocent victims in the middle of this verbal and military war, have of course been abominably treated – or ignored – for decades by central and state governments that have done virtually nothing to protect their remote habitats and encourage sympathetic economic and social development.
This has opened the way for the Maoist-inspired Naxalites to move in as the tribals’ saviours. However, the Naxalites are not primarily interested in helping the tribals: their primary aim is to overthrow India’s established parliamentary democracy.
Chidambaram has unrealistically said that security operations can clear out Naxalites within two or three years, with development taking place one they are defeated. As has been seen in places as far afield as Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, defeated rebels and terrorists re-occupy areas once troops move on, thus preventing follow-on development.
Indeed, it looks more like a battle that will last decades rather than two or three years, and the only way to tackle that it surely for the government to adopt a three-pronged approach – tough security operations, widespread developmental work, and continual attempts to open behind-the-scenes talks with Naxalite leaders at all levels.
That is the job of the government as a whole, led by Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi, working with Chidambaram instead of letting their colleagues snipe at him from the columns of a daily newspaper.
The writer is a former FT south Asia Correspondent (1983-88) and now writes from New Delhi.
HIGH AND DRY: Chidambaram's resignation offer and the PM's rejection of it silenced rumblings that were getting louder by the day
A day after the massacre of 76 CRPF jawans in a Maoist ambush in Chhattisgarh,photographers caught home minister P Chidambaram in an uncharacteristically pensive mood at the Padma awards ceremony in Rashtrapati Bhavan.He had just come in after counting the body bags at Dantewada and the droop in his shoulders screamed his loneliness as he sat in splendid isolation between empty chairs.For once,he stepped back to let Prime Minister Manmohan Singh do most of the talking to the media.And after the ceremony,he drove to Race Course Road with a letter accepting moral responsibility for the tragedy and an offer of resignation.
It was a huge comedown for a man whose tough talk and no-nonsense attitude after the 26/11 terrorist attack on Mumbai earned him and his party,the Congress,handsome political dividends.Dantewada threatened to upset the calculus and his detractors in the Congress were emboldened enough to hold off-the-record briefings in the party office slamming him for showing attitude and "talking too much''.
Chidambaram's resignation offer and the PM's rejection of it silenced rumblings that were getting louder by the day,but the bloodbath in Dantewada could pit the party against the government yet again as both grope for a coherent response to the audacious challenge from the Maoists.Officially,the government through the PM,and the Congress through its spokespersons,have expressed solidarity with Chidambaram but cracks have started appearing in this show of unity with two senior Congress leaders,Mani Shankar Aiyar and Digvijay Singh,publicly questioning the wisdom of the home minister's blueprint for tackling the Naxalites."Can you solve the Naxalite problem without the people's support and only through the police or paramilitary or armed forces?'' Singh wrote this week in an edit page article in The Economic Times.Aiyar was more colourful.He dubbed it a "one-eyed policy'' (see interview).
Although both maintained that these were their personal opinions,their decision to air their views cannot be taken lightly because of the political space they occupy in the Congress.Both are considered close to the Gandhi family.Singh is an important aide to Rahul Gandhi while Aiyar was handpicked by Sonia Gandhi for nomination to the Rajya Sabha.
Was it an indication of which way the wind is blowing for Chidambaram? It's hard to say at this point,particularly because Sonia has not made her views known,either within the party or to the government.But according to a party source who wished to remain anonymous,she has begun wideranging consultations with activists,political leaders and non-government organisations working in tribal areas to get a feedback from Ground Zero.Her concern,said the source,is to assess the political fallout of the home ministry's decision to take the war against the Maoists to the tribal heartland.
The Dantewada massacre must touch Sonia personally because her very first encounter with tribals happened at a village less than 100 kms from the site of the tragedy.She had gone with Rajiv Gandhi on one of his first tours as prime minister in 1985.An official who accompanied them recalled that during their interaction with the tribals,she suddenly turned to her husband and said something in Italian.The officer understood only two words: bambini (small child) and dolce (sweet).He concluded that she must have been saying how sweet the children were."Obviously,she was quite taken with them,'' he said,requesting anonymity.
While Sonia does her homework before making up her mind,the government too is trying to make sense of a complex problem.Although the PM did rule out changes in the current policy,a quiet review is underway to bring in political nuances that have been missing in the security-first-development-later approach favoured by the home ministry.Two days after the Dantewada massacre,the cabinet committee on security introduced a couple of caveats in the ongoing operations against the Naxalites.It ruled out the use of the army and air force as threatened by Chidambaram,advised the home minister to build a better rapport with state governments that are fighting Left-wing insurgency (most of them happen to be governments of opposition parties) and gave the green signal to upgrade training and weaponry for paramilitary forces to army levels.
But it's the sudden flurry of activity in the almost-forgotten ministry of tribal affairs that indicates how shaken the entire government is by the massacre.Tribal affairs minister K L Bhuria was pleasantly surprised to find the PM receptive to a proposal that he has been unsuccessfully peddling for some time.It's a proposal for the formation of a National Tribal Advisory Council that will be a platform for central and state governments to discuss issues concerning the welfare and development of tribal communities.His ministry has also been asked to fast-track a draft national tribal policy that has been in the making since 2006.
As Chidambaram must have realised by now,there are no easy answers to intricate problems that lie at the very heart of governance.Dantewada has turned the spotlight on the tribal issue but,sadly,a comprehensive and permanent solution remains elusive.Says social activist Harsh Mander,"A complex set of villains that includes the state,greedy moneylenders,corrupt forest and district officials,corporates,rightwing and leftwing extremist groups and so on have left tribal societies doomed.What we're seeing today will probably be the death knell for these societies.''
Ranchi, April 16: The police today arrested three Maoists, including a government official, from Bongabad forest in Khunti district, about 40km from the state capital, but a relative of dreaded zonal commander Kundan Pahan managed to flee.
The arrests took place at 2am today when a group of five on two bikes were returning from a meeting of Krantikari Kisan Committee (KKC), a frontal organisation of the CPI(Maoist).
The arrested government employee has been identified as Govardhan Manki, a panchayat sevak posted in Bundu block to look after electoral rolls and monitor welfare schemes, while the others were identified as Lakshman Munda and Munni Mahadeo Munda, both members of a squad led by Shyam Pahan, who escaped.
The police believe that Shyam, who is the uncle of Kundan, was the custodian of over Rs 5 crore in Maoist funds, most of which had been looted from a cash van of ICICI bank on Ranchi-Jamshedpur highway two years back.
Khunti SP Asim Vikrant Minz was all praise for the Ranchi police for having pulled off the arrests. “When a police team from Ranchi was on way to Bundu through areas coming under the jurisdiction of Khunti district police, the group was intercepted,” he said.
According to Ranchi SSP Praveen Kumar, once the five were intercepted, one of them managed to flee. “When our police team was waiting, it noticed five persons coming on two motorbikes. After the bikes came closer, our jawans intercepted them. But, one of them jumped and disappeared into the darkness, while we caught the other four,” he said.
One of them was let off after interrogation. But three others were arrested. “We recovered Naxalite literature from them and after interrogation we came to know that they were returning from a Krantikari Kisan Committee meeting and the man who fled was Shyam Pahan,” Kumar said.
Officials at Khunti police station said an FIR was registered and both the motorbikes used by Maoists were seized.
Elsewhere in the state, especially in the Saranda forests of West Singhbhum, security forces continued their offensive against Maoists.
“The terrain is like Dantewada. There is also scarcity of water. So, the forces are carrying water bottles and taking extreme precaution,” said CRPF DIG Bhanu Pratap Singh who is in command along with the West Singhbhum police.
Saranda forests, Asia’s biggest sal tree reserve, has been a rebel stronghold for long. The area has seen little development, with West Singhbhum deputy commissioner Sunil Kumar conceding that the district administration had made little headway in laying bituminous roads under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana.
nDelhi varsity team grilled for red links, Pg 15
69-year-old Rammohan, who is expected to complete the report by April 24, arrived here today. He was accompanied by Director General of state Police Vishwa Ranjan, special Director General of CRPF (anti-naxal) Vijay Raman and other senior CRPF officials.
Rammohan, a 1965 batch IPS officer, will be establishing the circumstances preceding and the sequence of events leading to the incident in which 75 CRPF and local police head constable were killed brutally by Naxals.
He will try to reconstruct the sequence of events that took place on the day of the deadly attack on April six from 0500 hours to 1200 hours and until the first rescue party reached the spot.
Replying to the debate on budgetary demands of his ministry,?Tribal Development Minister Babanrao Pachpute told the Legislative assembly the programme will be conducted throughout the year as part of the golden jubilee celebrations of the state's foundation.
He said children in the remote areas of the Naxal infested district have never seen a district place and even a city.
The government will become a tour guide for these young minds studying in standard 7th to 10th so that they understand the state better.
"There is lot of resentment about the police in the young minds. We want to remove misconceptions which they have.
Kolkata : Claim Maoists in the Bengal-Jharkhand-Orissa region have been given Rs 12.20 cr for this year
The Maoists operating in the Bengal-Jharkhand-Orissa region have been allocated Rs 12.20 crore for this year, of which 75 per cent is meant for expanding roots in Bengal, the police claimed citing information decoded from a laptop that was seized during a raid in a Lalgarh forest overa a month ago and which was believed to be used by top Maoist leader Kishenji.
The laptop, which was recovered from Metala forest in West Midnapore, was sent to experts for decoding of the files that has been done partially. A senior police officer said attempts were on to decipher more files in the laptop.
The police brass believes the Maoists have a huge annual turnover they manage from extortion money.
“According to reports of extortion cases, they collect more than Rs 100 crore from the three Naxal-hit districts in the state. The Rs 12 crore allocated would be spent only for paying their cadres, whole-timers and part-timers. The expenses on arms, explosives and electronic gadgets are much higher,” said West Midnapore SP Manoj Verma.
“The armed cadres in Lalgarh are paid at least Rs 10,000 per month. The amount increases with seniority. The full-timers are paid at least Rs 3000 per month as pocket money,” Verma claimed.
According to information available with the district police, contractors and those in wood business have to part with 70 per cent of what earn from every project and consignment to the Maoists. The government employees are also made to pay Rs 1,000 per month and the amount increases with their salaries.
According to the CID data, the state has 450 members of CPI-Maoists at present and there has been a 50 per cent increase in the membership in the last few years.
“The Kolkata City Committee, which was earlier considered to be a sleeping cell, has at present 100 members. Around 45 of them are underground and study at Jadavpur University and Presidency College. We have their names which cannot be divulged now,” said a senior CID official.
Abhishek Mukherjee, a Jadavpur University drop-out who was said to be injured in a gunbattle with security forces some time ago, is the secretary of the Kolkata City Committee, the official said, adding whole-times get Rs 3000 per month.
“If the families of the whole-timers appear to be needy, they are given financial assistance. Selected young whole-timers are provided with laptops by the party for connectivity and for storage of operational details and strategies,” added the official.
State DGP Bhupinder Singh said, “The Maoists have a peculiar theory of keeping a captive manpower. The ground-level cadres of the Maoists in the tribal villages are paid just sufficient to ensure them two square meals. If they rebel, the payment is stopped.”
Bengal watches UAV demo
West Bengal is one of the seven Naxal-affected states that have been invited by the Union home ministry to Chhattishgarh to watch the demonstration of unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that can be used to track Maoist hideouts. The state government has sent two of its officers for the demonstration that started on April 14 in the Dantewada region.
Maoist killed in Purulia
A Maoist was killed on Thursday night in a village at Bandwan block in Purulia district, said police. Manasha Ram’s bullet-ridden body was recovered from Dulukdi village. Though SP (Purulia) Rajesh Yadav said it was not possible to say who killed Manasha at this stage, sources said Maoists Resistance Committee could be behind the murder. Manasha was arrested in June 2006 for Gurpana police camp blast but he was later released on bail.
New Delhi, April 17, 2010
In a clear case of insensitivity, a CRPF constable was denied half his month's salary for being ill days before he died fighting the Maoists in Dantewada.
On April 3, CRPF constable Udaiveer Singh called home from Chhattisgarh to inform his family that he would not be able to send money after the bosses deducted 15 days' salary since he had stayed home beyond the leave period.
Three days later Udaiveer was among the 75 CRPF personnel of the 62nd battalion butchered by the Maoists in one of the most brutal attacks.
Union home minister P. Chidambaram may have announced over Rs 38 lakh and a job on compassionate grounds for the family of each CRPF martyr, but this incident shows the ground reality is entirely different.
Udaiveer had visited home in Nadhala village near Meerut in January. He was supposed to return to Chhattisgarh on January 26 but had to be admitted to the hospital with high blood pressure.
"He had called three days before his death and said that his half-month's salary had been deducted. He had come on leave at the beginning of this year and was supposed to return to Chhattisgarh on January 26. But he fell seriously ill and started bleeding from the mouth and nose. We rushed him to Sarvodaya hospital in Meerut where he was admitted for 10 days with high blood pressure. The doctors had advised him complete bed rest," the late constable's brother, Amrinder Singh, said.
As a constable, Udaiveer earned a little over Rs 10,000 a month to support his wife, Aushmit Kaur, and two children, Gurdeep (7) and Kartar (1).
"While he was undergoing treatment, we sent a fax to his unit in Chhattisgarh with a request to extend his leave. But his seniors said he would have to personally come to Chhattisgarh and only then would his leave be extended," Amrinder said. Given his condition, he opted to rest for some days after he was discharged from the hospital.
"But fearing that he could lose his job, he returned to Chhattisgarh in mid-February. In his last call home, he said that despite submitting all the relevant documents pertaining to his illness, the bosses did not accept his plea and deducted half-amonth's salary for the 15 days he had been on extended leave. We wonder what his mental make-up would have been while he undertook the anti-Naxal operation," Amrinder said.
A source in the Union home ministry said that Chidambaram has taken note of this matter after Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) MP from Bijnour, Sanjay Singh Chauhan, raised the issue during Thursday's discussion in the Lok Sabha on the Dantewada attack.
Chauhan said he was shocked to hear that a half-fit Udaiveer was forced to return to his unit in Dantewada since he feared losing his job.
"In such a condition he undertook the Dantewada operation and died in action. But the worst part is that the CRPF deducted his half-a-month's salary before sending him for the operation. It is not that the constable was trying to extend his leave on false pretext. It was a genuine medical case. I am extremely saddened by the tragedy the family has undergone and would urge home minister P. Chidambaram to ensure that such insensitivity is not repeated," Chauhan said.
A CRPF spokesperson in Delhi said he could offer no immediate comment on Udaiveer's case as the requisite information would have to be sought from the 62nd battalion with which Udaiveer was posted.
"That would take some days," the spokesperson said.
Red Letter Day
Estimates of Maoist-affected districts vary. Home minister P. Chidambaram puts the figure at 223 districts in 20 states. A South Asia terrorism portal says 195 districts are affected.
The total area covered by Maoism is around 40,000 sq km with a combined population of over 25 lakh.
Some of the most seriously affected districts include Dantewada (Chhattisgarh), Malkangiri (Orissa) and West Midnapore (West Bengal).
Can there be development in the time of Naxalism? Leaders like Digvijay Singh of the Congress and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar are of the view that the political executive must not play the role of the police and should instead address the problems of the people and ensure that they are not denied justice nor in any way exploited. The Bihar CM has been pumping resources for public works, education and health in the Naxal-hit Jehanabad district of the state. Outlook travelled through the district to make an independent assessment. Our reporters also visited two other districts—Lalgarh in West Bengal and Malkangiri in Orissa—two other Maoist hotspots. One stark contrast, in both places there’s little in the name of development or governance on the ground.
Under an unforgiving sun, old-timers in the village of Sikaria, a half-hour drive from Jehanabad town, talk about a time when they were scared to sleep at night. A time when this Kurmi-dominated village was a nerve-centre of left-wing extremism, and the threat of retaliatory assaults by Bhumihar landlords from the surrounding areas always hung in the air. Indeed, as recently as in November 2005, Maoists mounted a daring attack on the jail in Jehanabad town, escaping with 375 of their jailed colleagues.
But today, it’s hard to believe those stories as you watch teenaged girls from neighbouring areas cycle in for sewing classes. The Bihar government’s ‘Aapki Sarkar, Aapke Dwar’ programme has provided every possible facility in the village—from a public health centre to a Madhya Bihar Gramin Bank to a computer centre and facilities to provide subsidised farm inputs as well as purchase of farm produce, even a veterinary centre. It has even made Sikaria an attractive destination for private enterprise. Last month, Anil Kumar Singh, a schoolteacher, decided to sink all his savings and start an English medium private school here even though there’s a government school not too far away. And in keeping with the new mood, the school has been named Ahimsa Vidyalaya by its proud owner. Indeed, Sikaria has become symbolic of the changes sweeping through what were once “the killing fields of central Bihar”. The bloody clashes that left hundreds dead in the districts of Jehanabad, Gaya, Arwal, Nawada and Aurangabad now seem a thing of a distant past.
Construction work on at notified ‘adarsh gram’, Sikaria
How did all this happen? There are, of course, several reasons, but a major one is that when the JD(U)-BJP combine came to power in 2005—after 15 years of RJD rule—Nitish, CM at last, decided to turn his attention to governance, to dovetail development with restoring law and order in the state. Senior civil servant H.C. Sirohi, who was home secretary then, recalls, “I was sitting talking to the CM late into the night at the state guesthouse, shortly after he was sworn in. It was almost 2 am. I asked him, “What have you promised the people?” He said I have promised them nothing except that I will bring governance to their doorstep. And that was how the idea for the ‘Aapki Sarkar, Aapke Dwar’ programme was born.” On January 5, ’06, he set out for Sikaria in Jehanabad to launch it.
Indeed, development has become key to the Bihar government’s policy of tackling Maoist violence, which has now virtually disappeared from central Bihar. All extreme left-wing activity has been pushed to the borders, to the districts edging the hilly, forested tracts of Jharkhand in the south and Nepal in the north.
In this year’s budget, deputy CM and finance minister Sushil Kumar Modi says money has been set aside to saturate 67 panchayats in 24 blocks of the seven districts most affected by Maoist activity with development work. “We are also creating a network of roads in central Bihar. We have set aside Rs 258 crore to lay 593 km of roads,” he says.
But even with all this, the Bihar government is acutely aware that development by itself cannot counter Maoist violence. Bihar DGP Neelmani told Outlook, “We are under no illusions...the armed Maoist squads have to be neutralised.” A special State Task Force like Andhra’s Greyhounds has been created for the purpose.
The key word for the state police now is “selective action”, to ensure that rights violations are minimal.
That said, the key word for the state police now is “selective action” to ensure that rights violations are minimised. “We try and act only when we have specific inputs about armed assemblage. We have succeeded in arresting top leaders through selective action. We can’t alienate the civil society as only they can provide us with intelligence,” says additional DGP P.K. Thakur. In 2009, 34 top Maoist leaders, including area commanders, were arrested. Another 18 had been nabbed till April 12 this year. Anti-Maoist operations have also become more humane and arrested Maoists are now treated as political prisoners. “Earlier,” says Modi, “they would be tortured, legs chained in ‘danda bedi’, so that they couldn’t run. We ended this in 2005, sending out a very positive message.”
Of course, these aren’t the only reasons for the Maoist decline in central Bihar. In the RJD years (1990-05), then CM Laloo Prasad Yadav had turned a blind eye to what was happening, leaving the Bhumihar-led Ranvir Sena to battle the Maoists. The first signs of improvement came during the last years of Laloo’s successor, Rabri Devi, but this was partly because after Bihar’s division, Maoists saw Jharkhand as a more fertile ground for their activities, monetarily and logistically. The sea change came after the JD(U)-BJP came to power. The police and administration were given a free hand in arrests and action—against both the Ranvir Sena as well as the Maoists. Long-pending trials relating to the various massacres were also speeded up.
The caste factor also came into play: many members of the erstwhile People’s War which dissolved and became part of the united CPI (Maoist) in Bihar in ’04 were Kurmis. With a Kurmi CM now, there was another route to justice. Indeed, the fact that Sikaria was chosen as the starting point for the ‘Aapki sarkar...’ programme was deliberate, says a resident: “It’s essentially a Kurmi village, and it sent out a message to the entire community.” Simultaneously, since the Bhumihars had also backed the JD(U)-BJP combine, they too decided to put the Ranvir Sena in cold storage.
Still, despite the positive trends, things are far from picture perfect. It’s said that the Maoists are merely “inactive” for the moment. In Imamganj in Arwal district, a local businessman speaks in hushed whispers about them waiting in the aisles, hoping Nitish will lose the next polls. A “retired” Maoist area commander who came out of jail a year ago confirms that his comrades are just biding their time. How is it, we ask, that the Maoists are not blocking the development? “Of course, they are,” he says, “they are charging huge levies from contractors engaged in public works.” DGP Neelmani admits it’s extremely difficult to cut off the money supply to the Maoists. And it cuts both ways. “If we can’t give protection to those from whom they are extorting money, we can’t punish them also. We can’t protect every businessman.”
But it isn’t just the Maoists who are extracting their pound of flesh. Across Jehanabad and Arwal districts, locals say while the free hand to the administration to tackle law and order has brought peace to the area, it’s also increased corruption. “More money is being spent on development so there’s more room for corruption,” a local teacher says, adding, “it shows in the quality of some of the development works too.” Indeed, the irony is that while a village like Sikaria is booming today, the eight-kilometre stretch from the village to Karauna is patchy and potholed. The challenge before Nitish Kumar now is: he’s brought peace but can he end the corruption, make his governance drive more meaningful?
Defence Minister A K Antony on Friday said the South Asian region is emerging as the 'focal point' for all terrorist organisations.
The situation is very critical and sensitive," he claimed, while speaking on the sidelines of a Unified Commanders' Conference here.
Antony said the Central Government would take a final call on the use of armed forces against the Maoists only after considering all aspects.
"Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh has decided that the Home Ministry would be the nodal point on the Naxal problem," said Antony.
"The armed forces have to be ever ready to meet the challenges," he added.
Stating that Naxalites want to overthrow the established authority of the Government through armed liberation struggle, Union Home Minister P Chidambaram had on Thursday said the country needs a strong head, a stronger heart and enormous staying power to counter the Maoist menace.
Making a detailed statement in the Rajya Sabha on the Dantewada massacre, in which at least 75 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel and a policeman were killed by the Maoists, Chidambaram reiterated the Centre's readiness to assist State Governments in tackling the problem at hand.
"To counter the menace of Naxalism we need 'a strong head, a stronger heart and enormous staying power,' I believe that the Government has all three qualities," Chidambaram said.
"The Central Government stands ready and willing to assist the State Governments and to coordinate inter-State operations," he added.
Brushing aside reports that 62nd CRPF battalion was ill trained, Chidambaram emphatically said all personnel of the battalion were well trained to handle anti Maoists operation.
hidambaram strongly defended Government's right to deploy security forces in conflict zones to bring back normalcy and kick start development works.
"The State has a legitimate right to deploy its security forces to resist, apprehend and, if necessary, neutralize militants who are determined to strike at the very roots of our nation," he said.
Chidambaram said the Government has adopted two strategies to counter Maoists menace-police action and development work.
"Anti-Naxal operations are being conducted in accordance with the policy deliberated and agreed upon at several meetings with Chief Ministers of the affected States. The two pillars of the policy are calibrated police action and development," he said.
"Central para military forces have been provided to the affected States, including Chhattisgarh, to help the State Governments carry out counter-insurgency operations, regain control of areas dominated by the Naxalites, restore the civil administration, and re-start development work," Chidambaram added.
He said it's the primary responsibility of the State Governments to conduct anti Naxal operations.
Chidambaram acknowledged that forces are experiencing problem at some places to carry out operation due to more civilian presence.
Chidambaram informed the House that the Home Ministry has constituted a committee headed by retired Border Security Force (BSF) chief E.N. Ram Mohan to investigate the matter and urged members to wait till committee submits its report before reaching any final conclusions. (ANI)
Posted On: 17-Apr-2010 12:41:00 By: Vikas Mehta Font Size:
Naxals fire at Ex-DG BSF security personnel
Raipur/New Delhi: The Naxalites have striked again and challenged the security of the top Ex-cop who is heading the probe of Dantewada massacre appointed by the government.
The naxals have open fired Ex-DG, BSF, E N Rammohan’s security personnel and put question mark on his security that has been conferred to fix challenges for the security forces.
SP, Dantewada Amrish Mishra told that the exchange of fires have been took place between the naxals and security forces and no casualty has been reported.
The Ex-DG will accompanied by DGP of Chhattisgarh Vishwa Ranjan and special Director General of CRPF (anti-naxal) Vijay Raman in the investigation.
NEW DELHI: “If this is not the wake-up call, then nothing will wake this country,” remarked Union Home Minister P Chidambaram while replying to the debate on the Dantewada massacre in the Lok Sabha. Vowing to fight the Naxal menace, the Union Home Minister said that it was a “joint fight” of both the Centre and the State Governments, since development was the responsibility of both and neither could be unmindful of the socio-economic causes while dwelling on the reasons of the growing Naxal menace.
Chidambaram, who drew flak from the united Opposition, however, passed on the buck to the Opposition-run State Governments, including West Bengal, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand, saying, “If no development has taken place in Lalgarh over the last 30 years, can anyone blame the Central Government?” He went on to add, “If no development has taken place in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand over the years, who is to be blamed?” asked Chidambaram. He said the State Governments had equal responsibility if not greater role to provide basic amenities and to ensure development in their region. He blamed the State governments for not utilising the funds, released by the Centre for the development of the region and modernisation of the police force.
Batting for the twin-pronged strategy of development and police action, he admitted that it was indeed a difficult call to cope with the divergent of views in the political system, where BJP leader Yashwant Sinha, in the Lok Sabha debate, wanted a tough policy against Maoists, while Mulayam Singh Yadav of SP was more concerned about addressing the socio-economic problem, where Sharad Yadav of JD(U) wanted to root out corruption first, while Tathagat Satpathy of BJD asked for dialogue with the Maoists.
Chidambaram, however, stated that during his tenure as Union Home Minister, he has held several meetings with the chief ministers of Naxal-affected states, in his bid to evolve a united strategy to fight them out and they had indeed agreed with the set of measures and prepared an action-plan on the same.
Underscoring the role of CRPF, he said it was the only force to take on the Naxals, all the rest were border-guarding forces, including BSF and ITBP. Whether it is for law and order situation, communal violence, VIP protection or anti- Naxal warfare, the CRPF is in demand in the States, which he said was well-equipped and trained, including the battalion in Dantewada.
Talking about the April 6 massacre of the CRPF personnel, Chidambaram said, “I didn’t lose my will, my nerve.” But, since, he felt that the responsibility lay on his shoulders for the tragedy and was his moral duty, he tendered his resignation.
He said both the Prime Minister and the UPA Chairperson rejected his resignation and reposed faith in him.
“I will continue to provide leadership in the Ministry of Home Affairs and to the paramilitary forces in fighting the Naxals.”
The involvement of armed forces in the war against Maoist guerrillas will be taken 'after considering all aspects', Defence Minister A.K. Antony said Friday.
'The government will take an appropriate decision after considering all aspects,' he told reporters on the sidelines of the Unified Commanders conference here.
The minister was asked about the possibility of involving the armed forces to fight the increasingly aggressive Maoists.
Antony's comments follow those of Air Chief Marshal P.V. Naik, who said this week that using the air force to target Maoists was risky because innocent civilians could get hit.
MIDNAPORE: A fierce gunbattle broke out between security forces and Maoists in Bhalukbasa jungle in West Midnapore district of West Bengal on Saturday.
Police said the security force reached the jungle within the Salboni and Goaltore police limits after getting information that the rebels and CPI(M) activists exchanged fire in the area in the morning.
As soon as they reached the area, the Maoists opened fire at them and an encounter soon between ensued between the two sides.
Security sources have also spotted a body in the jungle, but they were not in a position to go near it, police said.
BATTLE FATIGUE The April 6 attack on the CRPF in Dantewada has thrown the spotlight back on the root cause of Maoist trouble — lack of development.
History repeats itself,first as tragedy,second as farce: Karl Marx
Stunned by the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon,George Bush threatened to "smoke out" those responsible for the strikes.But even two wars and nine years after that fateful day,America continues to hunt for those behind it without any success.
Days ahead of the April 6 Dantewada bloodbath,P Chidambaram uncannily sounded like the world's best known guru of guffaws.Known for his measured words,the Union home minister vowed to "wipe out the Maoists in two to three years" during a visit to the blood-soaked West Bengal district of Midnapore.Unlike the fanatic outfits responsible for the 9/11 strikes,the Maoists lost no time in answering the challenge thrown at them.They killed 11 cops near Koraput (Orissa) on April 4 and 76 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel in Dantewada two days later.
Considering the enormity of the Dantewada attack,it's time for all stakeholders - the government,Maoists,mainstream parties and civil society - to learn from history and redefine their roles for the sake of lasting peace and development.So far,the government's response to the latest Red offensive has been one of extreme anger and desperation.A prisoner of his own rhetoric,Chidambaram even offered to quit office,owning moral responsibility for the Dantewada debacle.
On the other hand,some of the mainline parties and media have gone almost hysterical by prescribing a military solution to the Maoist crisis.Imitating Bush's "You're-either-with-us-or-against us" threat to nations unwilling to back the Afghanistan invasion,these political parties and media have projected the Maoist problem as a war between "us (nation ) and them (Maoists)."
This kind of hawkish stand betrays a lack of understanding of the implications of the ongoing Maoist-led 'people's war' in the geo-socio-politicohistorical perspective.It may lead to more bloodshed by negating all chances of an early dialogue between by the Centre and the Communist Party of India (Maoist).Occasionally,both sides indicate that they are open to negotiations.Early this year,amid reports of security forces launching fresh operations,Maoist strategist Koteshwar Rao aka Kishanji offered to halt his party's "revolutionary violence if state terror is put on hold." Responding to this,Chidambaram said he was ready for negotiations,provided the rebels gave up their path of violence.
Somehow,things did not move forward thereafter,for reasons best known to the Centre and the Maoists.There were no attempts to build mutual trust and confidence.Both sides went back to attacking mode.While the Red rebels attacked trains and civil and police installations,the security forces began a fresh campaign in the Maoist zone stretching from West Bengal to Chhattisgarh.Like two separate warring nations,they frequently claimed military successes against each other.
Against this backdrop,the Dantewada operation assumes tremendous strategic and political significance for the Maoists.It made it clear that the Communist rebels have achieved huge military and territorial gains since their retreat from Andhra Pradesh following a ruthless,all-out campaign by the Grey Hounds over five years ago.The Maoists are now tucked right inside India's belly - from West Bengal,Bihar,Jharkhand,Orissa,Chhattishgarh,Andhra Pradesh and parts of Madhya Pradesh to Gujarat,Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh.In recent times,they have extended their base to the volatile North-East.
Moreover,inspired by Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist),Bhutanese refugees of Nepali origin have founded Communist Party of Bhutan (Marxist-Leninist-Maoist ) in southern Bhutan bordering West Bengal and Assam.India has open borders with the two Himalayan nations.Security officials engaged in anti-Maoist operations claim that the Red rebels have looted so much arms and ammunition from security forces in recent years that they can launch their "people's war" in some more states.
Mao Zedong's followers the world over describe a people's war as "a protracted war fought without hope of victory within measurable time but based on maintaining at all times the unity of army and people." There's every possibility of the Maoists expanding their military wing,the People's Liberation Guerrilla Army,in the near future.This apart,they have militias as well as mass organisations,both of which operate among the poor,especially in the strategic tribal belts of West Bengal,Jharkhand,Bihar,Orissa,Chhattisgarh,Andhra Pradesh,Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra.
In view of all this,it would be a mistake to equate the Maoists with the LTTE,Lashkar-e-Taiba or Al-Qaida just because they believe in armed struggle.Owing to popular support,they have a much wider network and the ability to inflict more extensive damage on the country.Between 2004 and 2009,they overran Jehanabad town (Bihar),Nayagarh and Koraput (both in Orissa) and Sankrail (Bengal).They have hijacked trains in Jharkhand,especially Latehar,numerous times over the past two years.
In many areas,the Maoists have created base areas,liberated zones,raised taxes and run parallel courts.They have all three magic weapons as prescribed by Mao - party organisation,People's Liberation Guerrilla Army (PLGA) and mass fronts.Mainline parties are often accused of taking the Reds' support in elections.
In stark contrast,the Centre and the governments of Maoist-hit states look confused and directionless.Last week,Chidambaram came under flak from West Bengal and Bihar for his comments on law and order in the two eastern states.Adding more to his woes,armed CPM cadres have begun to confront Maoists in south Bengal.Meanwhile,Jharkhand chief minister Shibu Soren,who broke off ties with the Congress last year,is accused of delaying anti-Maoist operations.In Orissa,chief minister Naveen Patnaik,the BJP's estranged ally,had to wait for many months to get CRPF reinforcements.
Whatever the outcome of their movement,the Maoists have radically changed the life and politics of almost 200 districts spread over nine states.Their armed struggle has brought to the fore the need to immediately address issues of social justice and equality.Alarmed by the growing influence of the Maoists,mainline parties have begun to rethink their stand on employment,industrialisation and land acquisition so as to keep their base intact.
In Bengal,the Trinamool Congress successfully opposed land acquisition at Singur and Nandigram.This campaign helped Mamata Banerjee's party win last year's Lok Sabha polls handsomely,though it caused a huge setback to Bengal's industrialisation process.In Orissa,the BJP and the Congress,tacitly or otherwise,resist land acquisition at Kalinga Nagar and Paradeep.Major parties in Maoist-hit states now more or less acknowledge that tribals have faced neglect and deprivation throughout history.People in the conflict zone may suffer more because of the government's reluctance to carry out development work there.
Since conflict can cause more violence and lawlessness,it is only by compromise that the government,democratic parties and Maoists can make governance more inclusive and offer a level-playing field to the deprived.No side can afford to be arrogant and combative forever.The government and the mainline parties cannot easily obliterate the Maoists.For,the latter represent an idea which is very difficult to kill.In the '70s,most Indians thought the Naxalbari idea would die along with Charu Mazumdar.But four decades later,it re-emerged with more vigour in the form of the Ganapathy-led CPI (Maoist).
Likewise,the Maoists can rectify the mistakes of history though pragmatic politics.Considering the prevailing national and international situations,they cannot hope to take over India by force but can definitely transform it one step at a time.