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News & Views on the Revolutionary Left

Threat from `Red Brigade'

A brutal murder made the headlines on a lazy Monday morning. A JMM MP and Party General Secretary Sunil Mahato, two of his bodyguards and a party colleague were brutally murdered at point-blank range during a football match at Bakuria, near Jamshedpur. Two days later three vehicles deployed for the zilla parishad elections were set on fire in Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra. Followed by a murder most foul in Pannuar district in Kerala. Next, killings in Dantewad, Chattisgarh, Koneru, Andhra Pradesh, Jehanabad, Bihar and Kalinganagar, Orissa. There were no leads and no arrests. As if the felonies were mere figments of imagination. No, it was the harsh reality of the spate of attacks by the "Red Brigade". The message was loud and clear: We can strike anywhere, any time, when we want!

Scary? You can say that again. Forget Kashmir or the North East. Those seem minor compared to the Naxalite threat. Primarily because there the contours of insurgency are defined, the insurgents identified and the geographical area limited. Whereas the Naxal problem is spreading rapidly across various states with hardly any effort to curb its growth. Think. Fifteen States, 170 out of 583 districts and 40 per cent of terrain. Statistics of areas where strategically the Government's writ no longer runs. 'Liberated zones' created by Naxalites.

A "Red Brigade's" terrorist corridor not only runs through the entire length of the country from Nepal's Maoists to Sri Lanka's LTTE, but also encompasses ULFA, Pakistan's ISI and the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT). Examples of a State within a State. And the latest. The Defence Minister AK Antony's disclosure: Jehadi threat from the sea.

A danger once again underscored by former Home Minister and Leader of the Opposition LK Advani during the debate on the Motion of Thanks to the President in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday last. In his reply to the debate the next day, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh candidly confessed that the Naxalite problem was the "most widespread and biggest internal security threat faced by our country."

Asserting that their designs would be dealt with firmness "without waxing eloquent with words," he went ahead and reeled out measures of how his Government was serious in addressing the problem. "We are following a two-pronged strategy," he grandiosely stated. Plainly, more of the same--increased police force, training, better intelligence and more money et al. And the lollipop of enticing schemes which have yet to percolate down to the aam aadmi. The Backward District Initiative Scheme, National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme etc. Ditto his Home Minister Shivraj Patil the day earlier.

Hold it. Great pep talk. Been there and heard it all before. Isn't this what he said last April while addressing a Chief Ministers Conference, specially called for the purpose. Questionably, merely mouthing platitudes about the urgency of being pro-active will no longer do. What is needed is for the Centre to think beyond the headlines and translate words into action and schemes to combat the Naxal scourge. A well thought-out vision and long-term planning.

Sadly, instead of addressing the issue in all seriousness, the Prime Minister reduced the Naxal menace into an academic comparative study of the Naxal situations during the NDA and UPA regimes. A sample: "The UPA's record is better than that of the previous NDA regime. Whether it is the North-East, Jammu and Kashmir or Naxalite-affected areas, the overall internal situation is far better under us," he stated.

Typically, New Delhi continues to betray a grave lack of comprehension, vision and long-term planning. It is happy fire fighting without any overall plan to deal with the threat. Myopic in its introspection, the Centre seldom, if ever, looks ahead and acts. It invariably stays laid-back and merely reacts. Never mind that the Naxalites have exposed how nearly the entire country is in its tenuous grip. In Bihar, for instance, there is 20.9 per cent rise in Naxal activities. Jharkhand has recorded 23.9 per cent rise in violence and 32.6 per cent rise in the killings since 2002. Worse, it continues to treat it as merely a law and order problem, which in reality is much more than that.

There is no gainsaying that the Red brigade has capitalized on internal schisms that divide India's highly inequitable social order through catchy slogans and beguiling rhetoric. Look at the dichotomy. With a majority of India's population engaged in agricultural pursuits, one would imagine the tillers would be rich. But it is the opposite. The peasants are not only poor but are at the mercy of the rich landlords. Providing the Naxals the perfect opening to wean the agricultural labourers with the promise of getting them their rightful dues in terms of not only wages but also give them confiscated surplus land from the landlords and distribute it among the landless labourers. Thereby laying the seeds of running a parallel government in remote areas, conduct people's court, extort money from "landlords" and distribute the booty among the poor.

Simplistically, the Naxals USP is that they have sold the poor the pipe-dream of implementing land reforms by breaking up large feudal landholdings and dividing the surplus land among the poor a la Robin Hood. Something which successive governments at the Centre and in the States have lacked the political courage to do. Today, the downtrodden are saying no to oppression and exploitation. Asserted a senior intelligence officer: "We are in serious danger because of the rise of the Naxal movement in the last four-five years... it has really developed into a danger point and if we fail to take note of the danger, I am afraid the consequences would be fatal."

Interestingly, the Union Home Ministry conceded a few years ago that this was one of the root causes of this menace. It also prophesized in a report that inequalities of economics would breed internal unrest and upset peace. Yet it let this socio-economic cancer fester in its backyard. With the result that today it has assumed gigantic proportions that threaten to devour the country in its tentacles. Is the Government really serious about defusing this powder keg? Merely acknowledging that the situation is India's biggest-ever security challenge will no longer do. It has do some honest soul searching. Clearly, the Centre needs to hammer out a long-term strategy to cry a halt to Naxalism.

The Government would have to fight this threat simultaneously on many fronts. One way for it is to expose the lacunae in the Naxal's ideological framework and simultaneously launch a political offensive with a humanistic vision. Two, tackle the distortions in the social system on a war footing, take measures to alleviate poverty, ensure speedy development and enforce law and order strictly. Three, take up land reforms with a fresh revolutionary zeal.

There is urgent need for the badly-affected States to undertake joint operations and set up joint unified commands for continuous monitoring of the arms profile of various Naxal groups, Along with this, the identification of sources and networks, coordinated intelligence gathering, and a well-equipped police force are needed, if this grave security threat is to be contained and neutralized. Specially against the backdrop of the growing professionalism in Naxal ranks, which is now characterised by growing militarization, superior army style organization, better trained cadres and coordination. Add to this the increasing sophistication of their arsenal and New Delhi is sitting on explosive dynamite.

Not only that. The police force as a whole needs to be increased and increased fast. Look at one absurdity. The national average of the police-public ratio is about 1.3 policemen per 10,000 citizens. Yet in Bihar, a Naxal-prone State, the ratio of policemen to the public per 10,000 is a meagre 0.9 i.e. hardly one policeman for 10,000 people. With the result that times out of number, the police and civil administration are missing in the Naxal areas. Thus, there is need to strengthen the local police on all fronts--and ensure that it is better-trained and equipped, with improved weapons and greater mobility.

Simultaneously, each State should set up a dedicated anti-Naxal force under capable officers with fixed tenures of 2-3 years, on the pattern of the 'Greyhounds' of Andhra Pradesh. The DGPs of the Naxal-affected States should share information. Backed by a liberal surrender and rehabilitation policy. Measures to safeguard pro-active policemen against Naxalite harassment should be enforced. The police should avail of air-surveillance of Naxal areas through helicopters.

In the ultimate analysis, the Naxalites will continue to breed internal unrest and upset peace till such time as the Centre does not address the inequalities of economics. The basic needs of the people cannot be ignored. Poor governance or its collapse leads to anarchy. The Centre needs to have an integrated all-India approach. It may even have to launch a series of major offensives to drive home the message to the Naxalites. Or else New Delhi alone has to carry the cross. For few years down the line the Naxals could even split the country into half, where one won't be able to go from Ahmedabad to Kolkatta. Can any self-respecting country allow insurgents to play ducks and drakes with national unity? Can the authorities confine itself merely to a volley of words? Central Chronical


posted by Resistance 3/14/2007 08:54:00 AM,


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