The recent Sukma attacks have surely shaken the conscience of the nation and thrown open several discussions on the grave threat that Naxalism is. I was fortunate enough to have a discussion on this issue with someone who has worked on the ground in the heart of the red corridor (whose identity I can-not reveal due to security concerns).
Ground Realities of the Naxal Menace:
The first thing I came to know was what happens in the heartlands of Bastar-Dantewada and what is sold to us as the truth here in Delhi by the Lutyens coterie of reporters is starkly different and conflicting. Here attempts are made to portray the security forces as oppressors of the 40 lakh plus tribals of Bastar and the Naxals as the ones fighting on their behalf. But the case is exactly the opposite- most of the tribals are fed up of the Naxals and are ready to co-operate in any attempts at eradicating this menace from the forest lands of central India.
Secondly, the attempts to portray the Naxals as Robinhoods of some kind is a classic example of the propaganda of the left wing spin doctors. The bitter truth is that Naxals are nothing more than extortion agents. The turnover of this extortion racket in Bastar alone is estimated to be more than a thousand crore rupees a year. Most of this money comes from miners, contractors and tendu leaf collectors.
More interesting is the story of where this money goes. I was shocked to hear that a very small fraction of the money goes to the armed Naxals fighting on the ground or to the tribals, they are as poor as they were decades ago. Almost all of the money goes to the white collared Naxal sympathizers sitting in air conditioned chambers in big cities as lawyers, journalists, academicians, (pseudo-)intellectuals and activists.
In return their only task is to keep the issue of alleged atrocities by the government and armed forces on the pot-boiler and step up the pressure on the state by using institutions like the judiciary and human rights commission where petitions and cases (both true and mostly false) are filed every other day. Also, funds are also routed to and from other anti-national forces like the Kashmiri separatists. So basically it is a vicious cycle of extortion, violence and anti-national activities.
When I asked what the Naxal movement stands for, I got a clear one line answer- seize power by violence. Their cornerstone happens to be that power flows from the barrel of a gun and according to some seized Maoist literature their dream is to see the Red flag atop the Red Fort by 2050. They have little to offer when they are asked about what alternate form of governance they can offer to emancipate the masses.
What the Government is doing to counter them?
In the days of the UPA there used to be a divide between the two camps- one all for armed action and the other which advocated only developmental projects. With the coming of the Modi government an ambitious and all-encompassing ‘Five Pronged Approach’ was adopted as part of Mission 2016.
The five prongs were:
- Tackle military formations of the Naxals by employing District Reserve Groups (DRGs) of the state police.
- Provide adequate cover to developmental projects like roads, schools and hospitals using paramilitary forces (this is what the 25 brave martyrs of CRPF were doing when they were mercilessly killed by the Naxals).
- Rehabilitation of those Naxalites who surrender.
- Empowerment of tribals.
- Public awareness exercise to counter the propaganda of Naxal sympathizers.
This strategy showed immediate success which was evident when civilian and armed forces causalities dropped significantly in 2016 while the number of Naxals killed or surrendered peaked. The state administration believed that by 2018 the Bastar range could be cleared of the Naxal menace. But the recent spike in violence is worrying and now we try to explore the reasons for the same.
Where are the efforts lacking?
According to the person whom I was fortunate enough to talk to, the single largest reason for our failure in curbing the Naxal issue is- ‘LACK OF POLITICAL WILL’. The recent reverses in fortune are attributable to the changes in the government machinery instituted post February 2017 under pressure from the NHRC. People working high up the security apparatus rue that as far as they are successfully keeping the Naxals under check they are heroes for the political masters but the moment a notice from the courts or NHRC lands at the door of the state government it does not think twice before making them the scapegoats and shunting them out. No one cares to verify whether the charges mentioned in the said petition have an iota of truth or not. And February 2017 was not the first such instance, nor would it be the last.
The armed forces on the ground are tirelessly fighting for the nation day in and day out in harsh and hostile conditions, sometimes paying for it with their lives, but when the political masters take them for granted and make scapegoats out of them, the morale of the forces is shattered from the very top to bottom. One can only imagine what would go through the minds of the jawan who is asked to provide protection to those very activists who have pestered the forces for long by filing case after case against them in the judiciary.
It’s not only the political masters from whom the armed forces feel betrayed- they are equally angry about the differential sensitivities of the judiciary.
When so called human rights violations by the armed forces are highlighted the courts take suo-moto cognizance of the same, but when Naxals kill our jawans and mutilate their bodies, no one seems to take notice. They rue that it is a very unequal battle- on one hand the Naxals have no laws or ethics to follow while the state forces are bound by the long hands of law on every step of the fight back.
The forces on the ground have adopted the policy of killing six of the left wing extremists for every civilian life lost and are perfectly competent of successfully implementing the same. But it’s not the guns of the Naxals they are worried about; they worry more to losing out against the propaganda of massive scale being run by the Naxal sympathizers in the media and academia. And countering it would require some contribution by each of us- the educated and nationalist thinking Indians.
One can only commend the dedication and patriotism of the armed forces and other ground fighters who have made sure that the Naxal wildfire is contained to the extent that it is today despite fighting all odds. One can only hope that nationalist governments at the state and centre would provide more than mere lip service to their concerns in the future and take every step possible to ensure the eradication of the red cockroaches infesting our nation………
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