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Naxalites: India's ticking time bomb
November 28, 2005
In the largest-ever Naxalite attack in the country, armed men of the People's Liberation Guerrilla Army of the Communist Party of India (Maoist) laid siege to the district headquarter town of Jehanabad in south Bihar, on November 13, for over two hours.
The raid had three objectives: freeing some of its leaders and cadres, as well as some other prisoners, imprisoned at the local jail; execute and/or abduct some of the upper caste militia Ranveer Sena's men, who were also imprisoned in the same jail; loot weapons and ammunition.
In a press release the day after, Azad, all-India spokesperson of the CPI-Maoist, claimed 'complete success' in achieving the objectives the guerrillas had set for themselves.
Against the backdrop of the magnitude of the attack, the sheer numbers involved and the impact it is bound to have on the Naxalite movement in the country, there is an urgent need for both the Bihar state government and the government of India to brace themselves to effectively address this growing tide.
Except for its magnitude, the Jehanabad attack is not unique. As the rebels have admitted, it is part of a string of such attacks in Jharkhand, Orissa, Chattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh.
The CPI-Maoist has pan-India presence, and a pan-India objective of capturing political power through armed struggle. Its guerrillas operate under the single unified command of the Central Military Commission.
Thus, the Indian government's hesitation or delay in instituting an all-India strategy is incomprehensible.
You wonder if the United Progressive Alliance government remembers that the Congress, the ruling coalition's leader party, had constituted a Task Force on Naxalite Violence.
The Task Force, chaired by senior Andhra Pradesh legislator M Shashidhar Reddy, submitted its report in April.
Rather than the present strategy of asking the affected states to devise their own policies to deal with the Naxalites, it is imperative that the Union government take the initiative.
It is imperative it prepare an all-India plan of action, including a judicious mix of 'legitimate use of force' and socio-economic policies and programmes to help keep people away from the influence of the Naxalites.
It is equally important to have a full-fledged, fully empowered mechanism at the Union government-level to monitor and implement the plan.
Also, the new political dispensation in Bihar must make a serious and comprehensive appreciation of the intensity of the Naxalite movement in the state.
The writ of the CPI-Maoists runs quite large in 10 districts in Bihar: West Champaran, Kaimur, Rohtas, Aurangabad, Gaya, Nawada, Jamui, Patna, Jehanabad and Arwal.
In 19 other Bihar districts, the Maoist influence ranges from moderate to negligible.
The police force in the state is ill-trained, ill-equipped and lacks the motivation to take on the Naxalites headlong.
It is necessary to break the unprincipled and opportunistic alliance between the Naxalites and some elected public representatives in the state.
In large tracts of Bihar, the civil administration is conspicuous by its absence. This further alienates the people from the State and compels them to think that the State does not act for their social uplift and economic well-being. Such a grievance only serves to push the people into the Naxalite fold. It was with the 'support and help' from such sections of people that the Naxalites were able to launch the Jehanabad attack.
It is essential for the state government to revitalise the civil administration to work for the welfare of the people and win over their confidence, rather than keep themselves busy lining their pockets.
The government has to create infrastructure -- irrigation facilities, roads and communication -- increase access to health and education and improve the economic standards of the people.
In the absence of the State and its agencies in the rural and remote areas, the Naxalites have begun to run a parallel administration. They run schools, operate dispensaries, hold people's courts dispensing quick and brutal justice.
The people lend support to the Naxalites because the people think the Naxalites are selfless and willing to lead a harsh underground life – and even risk their lives – for the people, while the State has abdicated its responsibilities.
As the hold of Naxalites expands every day, they would dare to perpetuate many more attacks like the Jehanabad raid with the ultimate objective of capturing political power.
If the Union government and the Bihar government still do not wake up to the danger, the consequences would be disastrous.
And, perhaps irreversible.
The writer is research fellow, Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi.