Taking development to the hinterland that is ruled by the left extremists is the only lasting solution
In 2010, it was the 82nd battalion of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) that virtually got decimated in Dantewada district after a guerrilla operation of the left extremists led by Peoples War Group founded by late Kondapalli Seetaramaiah.
After seven years, CRPF lost a big chunk of its elite seventy-fourth battalion on Monday in a cold blooded murder by the now re-christened CPI–Maoist guerrilla army. In the interregnum, several other such dastardly attacks have left a bloody trail, but we haven’t learnt any lessons. In both these major incidents that inflicted huge damage on CRPF’s attack force, wanton loot of arms after butchering the jawans became a virtual signature and points to a new Maoist narrative that continues to dominate with Chhattisgarh as the epicentre.
Wedded to the theology of annihilation as the main weapon in a war against the state, the Maoists have even left the jihadis of Jammu & Kashmir behind with their savagery. Only striking difference between the two is that people on the ground have largely disowned these Maoists. The armed gangs have been attempting to regain people's trust after having established parallel organs of governance including dispensing justice through ‘peoples’ courts’ and ‘revenue collection’ mechanism in red corridor that they claim to extend across ten states. The recent film Chakravuyu showed the exact nature of the armed rebellion in explicit detail.
From the hey days of Naxalbari movement that began in 1967, Maoists have metamorphosed themselves and the political struggle has reshaped itself with the setting up of a vast underground army of guerrillas in last two decades. But, barring some stray effective armed pockets in Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Telangana, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal, the movement that began as a war against the bourgeois, land-owning class has lost its way completely with its dominance restricted to the Sukma-Jagdalpur area of Chhattisgarh.
Kanu Sanyal, Charu Mazumdar and Kondapalli Seetharamaiah who grouped Left extreme elements under one banner and set up a political party of the people must be turning in their graves. From what purportedly started as a movement with a groundswell of support from the people against feudalism has now turned into deadly gangs of men and women whose sole objective is of amassing money for themselves sans the ideology and idealism of the past. Rapes, molestation of tribal women branding them as police informers has become common among today’s Maoists. Land grabbing, clinching land deals and turning into agents of rural dons is what today’s Maoist movement is all about! Hundreds of young men and women have deserted the movement in sheer frustration. Several others have joined the mainstream owing to realisation that only democratic movements could bring about socio-economic-political changes that Maoists have espoused all along.
Monday’s massacre of 25 CRPF jawans drives home the point that there’s a huge struggle still left on hand to completely eliminate these armed gangs. What is worse is that we are ill equipped to deal with this militia and even the so called elite jungle warfare training school has failed abysmally to provide the right kind of leadership to the jawans. The equipment deficit and other hardships have added to their woes. The redeeming factor, however, is that recruitment of fresh cadres has virtually dried up in the last few years owing to vigorous campaign of democratic forces. Barring some parts of dandakaranya forests in Andhra Pradesh/Telangana states, most Maoists have shifted base to Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Jharkhand after the crackdown in the ’80s. Home minister Rajnath Singh hinted at redrawing the government’s strategy to tackle the armed naxal gangs active in parts of central India.
Apart from tackling the Maoists with a heavy hand, political parties should close ranks and make efforts to reach out to the most neglected people and tribals in the hinterland to further alienate the Naxalites. Secondly, developing a huge network of ground intelligence can perhaps minimise the casualties for security forces seeking complete liberation of these areas from Maoists influence. Thirdly, technology-driven warfare is what’s prescribed for eliminating left extremists. Fourthly, cutting out constant supply of arms and ammunition from Sri Lanka, Nepal, Pakistan, China and Thailand is what needs to be prioritised by this government, if it is serious in its war against Naxal elements.
Left extremism is an offshoot of non-development, abject neglect of people at the lowest strata, especially millions of tribals. Taking development and prosperity to these people is the only lasting solution. Political apathy has created this situation and sending in poorly trained jawans to these killing fields against brutal guerrillas is only adding to our troubles.