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Security Issues- Maoists Strike again: Daily Editorial

Context:

12 CRPF personnel were killed and 4 severely injured in an ambush by Maoists in Chhattisgarh’s Sukma district which is one of the biggest in the past two years.

Details of the incident

  • The team was en route to a road construction site in the Bhejji forest area where Maoists rigged the entire area with mines and improvised explosive devices (IEDs), country-made mortars and they used arrows mounted with explosive heads.
  • When the troops took cover to retaliate against the firing done by Maoists, IEDs started exploding.
  • The Bhejji area in south Bastar region is notorious for Maoist attack and many security personnel have been killed here in the past.

What prompted this deadly attack?

  • The extremist groups are restless because of the unprecedented success of the central forces against them in 2016, especially in Chhattisgarh where there was a 15% drop in left-wing extremist incidents.
  • 84 Maoist cadres were killed in 2015 and 218 in 2016 an increase of 160 %
  • The operational efficiency of central forces had increased by 45%.

Background

Origin of the Maoism in India

  • The people who are considered the far-left radical communists support Maoist political ideology are sometimes also called Naxals in India.
  • The term ‘Naxal’ is derived from the name of a village called Naxalbari in West Bengal where the Maoist movement had its origin. The people subscribing to this ideology are called Naxalites.
  • These Naxalites are supposedly waging a violent struggle on behalf of landless labourers and tribal people against landlords and others. They say, they are fighting oppression and exploitation to create a classless society.
  • Naxalites want to achieve a similar transformation in India based on the principles of Maoism

How do they justify the violence?

  • It is important to understand the roots of this movement. It was born out of the larger Maoist ideology in India, with other ideologies such as Marxism and Leninism playing a key role.
  • They view rural Indian society as a mix of capitalism and feudalism and believe that Indian society is still following the example set up colonial rule. They think India is a “bourgeois democracy” and vow to fight it. Hence they are anti-state of India.
  • They think that the Constitution of India is an extension of the colonial rule and has made them subordinate to the imperialist state. They are of the view that the elected Government is not a legitimate authority
  • They say the Constitution didn’t legitimize their way of life and livelihood and did not benefit them in any way – which leads to their understanding that India is Semi-colonial and Semi-feudal.
  • Thereby they justify their course of action, an armed people’s revolution to overthrow this imperialist rule and achieve freedom.

Support for the Naxalite Movement

  • The Naxalite movement found ideological similarity with the local peasants struggles in India. There was a rural revolt already and the Naxals gathered popular support from local peasants, adivasis and local populations. This ideology was spread among the peasant population whose main opposition where the landlords and profit making state structure.
  • The Naxalite movement movements against the rural elite and placed this struggle in the larger framework of Naxalism.

Reasons for the support to the Movement

Broadly, the lack of civil Government or local political party intervention results in unsolved issues related to land rights, class inequality and basic rights of the indigenous population. Lack of a fair judicial system for the Tribals is also a cause.

  • The Land Acquisition Act 1894 allowed the private companies to take advantage of the land as long as it was likely to have some public benefit and it was continuously misused by the industries without any rehabilitation or settlement to the peasants working on the land.
  • The Indian Forests Act of 1927- Under this act, it was illegal for tribal population to fetch bamboo. The forest authority was in-charge of the bamboo trade and the livelihood of the tribal population was affected as bamboo forests are a source of subsistence for the tribal community. These acts were enacted by the Britishers, the fact that the Indian Government post 1947 didn’t modify these laws to integrate the tribal people fit right into the Naxal narrative of the Government being an extension of imperialism and colonialism.
  • Operation Green Hunt– Series of security forces and military inventions in the Naxal regions. Although the operation was to tackle the violent naxals, force was excessively used on the village bodies and civilians. Thus enabling the locals to sympathise with the Naxals.
  • Salwa Judum was another reason– The Chhattisgarh government looked at the Salwa Judum as a people’s peace mission where groups of villagers go around convincing other villagers to come on the government’s side and benefit from the government. Young men – often teenagers – were armed in the name of self-defence. Tribals were caught in the cross fire between Naxals and Salwa Judum. The Supreme Court finally interfered and declared Salwa Judum as illegal.
  • The government has also failed to address existing issues in the Naxal affected regions such as poverty, class inequality, failure to ensure implementation of policies and lack of effective justice system.

Red Corridor

  • Starting from West Bengal, it spread into less developed areas of rural central and eastern India- Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh through the activities of underground groups like the Communist Party of India (Maoist). It has also found some resonance in the north-east of India.

Measures taken by the Government

The government has laid down a clear plan to tackle the left wing extremism. It has formulated a two pronged strategy to solve the problem of Naxalism.

Law and Order approach

  1. The Security Related Expenditure (SRE) Scheme
    1. Provides ex-gratia payment of Rs 1 lakh to the family of civilians killed and Rs. 3 lakh to family of security personnel killed due to Naxal attacks.
    2. Assistance to Civilians Victims/Family of Victims of Terrorist, Communal and Naxal Violence, an amount of Rs 3 lakh is given to dependants of deceased civilians for death or permanent incapacitation.
  2. The Central Government has taken various measures to control Left Wing Extremism which includes
    1. augmenting the strength of Central Armed Police Forces;
    2. establishment of National Security Guard (NSG) hubs at Chennai, Kolkata, Hyderabad and Mumbai;
    3. Strengthening and re-organizing of Multi-Agency Centre to enable it to function on 24×7 basis; and
    4. Sanctioning of new Specialized India Reserve Battalions (SIRB).
  3. Release of funds under the Special Infrastructure Scheme to the States of Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Odisha to raise Special Task Force to combat LWE.
  4. The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 has been amended to strengthen the punitive measures.
  5. The government, to strengthen the security network in the states, has set-up the Indian Reserve (IR) battalions and has decided to provide the forces with Mine Protected Vehicles (MPV) to the modernized forces.

Social Integration approach:

  1. Social Economic Development
  • The government started the Backward Districts initiative in 2003-2004 and the Backward Regions Grant Fund (BRGF) under which 55 of the worst affected areas in 9 states were to be provided with funds to the tune of Rs. 2475 crores to tackle the problem of Naxalism.
  • The Government approved an Integrated Action Plan (IAP) for 60 Selected Tribal and Backward Districts in 2010 and Rs. 1500 crore was released under the Scheme
  • Various schemes launched have been launched by the government like the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) which offers tremendous opportunities for rural road connectivity.
  • The National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme (NREGP) is being implemented in 330 districts affected by Naxalism so as to universalize the demand-driven programme for wage-employment.
  • National Rural Health mission (NRHM), Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) and other income generating and social security schemes of the Ministry of Rural Development, Agriculture, Panchayati Raj and Tribal affairs.
  • The central government will also provide 100 percent assistance in the formation of Ashram schools and hostels for girls and boys in 46 tribal areas
  1. Laws made by Government
  • Rehabilitation and Resettlement Policy, 2007 – to minimize the displacement of people and to promote non-displacing or least displacing alternatives
  • Forest Rights Act, 2006- The Scheduled Tribe and Other Traditional Forest dwellers (Recognition of forest Rights) Act 2006 or the Forest Rights Act recognizes the rights of the scheduled tribes and forest dwellers who have been living in the forests for years but their rights have still not been recognized.
  • Advocated solutions through land reforms and by implementing the Panchayat (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996 (PESA).

NDA Government Anti-Naxal Doctrine

Narendra Modi Government has formulated a new anti-Naxal policy that will place greater weight on achieving “short-term goals” in the fight against left-wing extremism, marking a sharp departure from the UPA government’s approach to the red corridor.

  • The new policy focuses on the 23 worst-hit districts among the 88 left-wing extremism-affected areas.
  • The state governments will post the most competent District Collectors, SPs and sub-divisional officers and Station House Officers for fixed terms of three years and as an incentive, they will be assured of a posting of their choice and given extra allowances, exposure visits abroad and central deputation.
  • Another key change being made by the NDA Government is on implementing the Integrated Action Plan (IAP), a major anti-Naxal initiative that was being run by the Planning Commission. The new plan does away with the earlier district-wise approach to development, instead focusing on lower-level blocks to implement schemes. This is aimed at reversing a trend wherein large swathes of worst-affected zones remained undeveloped.
  • A strategy of giving more recognition to adivasi icons, for instance, by naming airports and roads after them and celebrating their anniversaries is being employed.
  • Increased monetary support from state governments for celebrating adivasi festivals and the setting up of dedicated museums and cultural centres.
  • Opening up recruitment in central police forces for Tribals, declaring that “tribal youths who meet the eligibility criteria should not be barred from being recruited in the general category provided they meet the other prescribed benchmarks.
  • The new doctrine also envisages the setting up of a core group of ministers at the central level as an oversight mechanism. The group will have Home Minister as the chairperson, with Finance, Tribal, Rural Development, Panchayati Raj and Environment and Forest Ministers as members. Chief Ministers of 10 left-wing extremism affected states will be special invitees.

Some measures suggested by experts

  1. Unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, equipped with cameras, data and video links should be deployed against Naxals in India, which has started but not extensively used to tackle the movements of the naxals.
  2. Mobilising the support of the people is also absolutely essential to weaken the support base of the Naxals.
  3. To get Naxals into the political mainstream, the political mainstream has to make the first move. And to do that, the government has to take the first step to reconciliation. Undivided AP and now Telangana have successfully used this method which could be replicated by other states too.

Conclusion:

As Manmohan Singh as PM once quoted Naxalism is the biggest security threat that India faces. The Naxalism’s roots lie deep and in the discontent that apathy of government. Whenever naxals indulge in violence, and obstruct development works being implemented, government must deal with sternly but without violating standard operation methods.

There are still many challenges that have to be overcome first. Security personnel in affected areas say police stations remain ill-equipped. Even the most basic intelligence, such as dossiers on Maoist cadres active in a particular area, is not made available in many stations. In some districts, the police-to-population ratio is below the desired level. The police forces are also not adequately trained.

Let us hope the new doctrine of the central government which implements a coherent national strategy to finish Naxalism comes to use and the threat is wiped out of India.

Practice Questions
  1. Highlighting the features of latest Anti-Naxal doctrine of the Central government. Contrast with the previous approach.
  2. Despite the several schemes and approaches, the deadly attacks from the Maoists on the security personnel have not stopped. Critically comment
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