'The Naxalite strategy is to periodically attack police forces to provoke a reaction.'
'Once the security forces over-react and cause suffering to innocents by high-handed actions, the people will be alienated and support the revolution.'
'This appears to be the Naxalites' strategy and hence, their recent brutal killings of policemen,' says Colonel Anil A Athale (retd).
The death of over 25 policemen in a single incident near Sukma in Chhattisgarh on April 24, 2017 has brought out in stark nakedness all that is wrong with our concept of national security management.
It is quite obvious that the CRPF policemen failed to take the minimum precautions that are necessary while moving in a hostile environment.
It speaks very poorly of the quality of leadership, training and motivation of the force.
But with the kind of commitments that the CRPF is regularly subjected to, it is obviously a very tired force.
Also, the distinction between crowd and riot control and fighting a guerrilla war (as the Naxalites are doing) is not well understood or ignored in turf battles between various forces like the BSF, ITBP, CRPF, Assam Rifles, Rashtriya Rifles, various state reserve police forces and the Indian Army.
All these forces have been battling the kind of insurgency that the Naxalites have launched. Unfortunately, there is not much coordination in the learning process.
Though the CIJW (Counter Insurgency and Jungle Warfare College) located at Wairangte in Mizoram does carry out courses for all the forces, its impact is minimal on all except the army.
I do not know if the CRPF had any policy of carrying out pre-induction training.
But the biggest weakness is at the top in the Union home ministry.
The guerrilla war launched is treated as a law and order or socio-political problem. The mention of the military dimension is regarded as not politically correct.
The babus handling these operations have no experience or first hand knowledge of either the terrain or the nuances of guerrilla war.
It is interesting that this lack of professionalism is in contrast with what one finds even in Bollywood.
For instances, when a very professional actor like Nana Patekar decided to do a movie on commandos, he actually underwent the gruelling 28 day course! As an outlandish idea, if inducted in the home ministry, he would actually do a better job than the lacklustre babus and even add a touch of glamour!
But on a more serious note, the flaws in handling Naxalism originate in the lack of understanding of guerrilla war at the home ministry level.
An army officer who is a veteran of Kashmir or the North East could well be deputed to the ministry to rectify this! But that would go against the firm conviction in Babudom that they know everything.
The truth is the Naxalite revolutionaries, either of the People's War variety from Andhra Pradesh or Telangana or the Maoists in the North, are NOT there to solve the problems of the Adivasis.
They are there as the forests offer sanctuaries for training and rest. The general neglect of the area, callous forest guards/police and power vacuum, made the Naxalites' task easy.
Once having helped the Adivasis through their 'Robin Hood' methods, they now intend to milk the Adivasi support for the 'higher purpose' of ushering Marxist revolution throughout India.
What is the source of funding for the Naxalites?
One wishes the breathless breaking news babes of Indian television ask this! Or the police could crack this riddle.
Speculation is that countries like Japan and China who import huge quantities of iron ore from the Bailadila mines could be the paymasters.
It is significant that in the unrest and violence of several years, the mining operations in Bailadila have never been affected.
The Baliladila mine has one of the finest iron ore in the world, at 66% iron content.
Of late, the Chhattisgarh government has approached the Centre to stop the export of iron ore to other countries and wants to establish steel mills.
Is the sudden spurt in Naxalite violence related to this?
Armchair leftists in the cities have been crying foul over capitalist exploitation when these plans were made. Why were they silent when the same iron ore was being exported?
One hopes that the people of India will get the answer to these questions and that will uncover the Naxalites' hidden motives as well as their source of funds.
The Naxalite strategy is to periodically attack police forces to provoke a reaction.
Once the security forces over-react and cause suffering to innocents by high-handed actions, the people will be alienated and support the revolution.
This appears to be the Naxalites' strategy and hence, their recent brutal killings of policemen.
Thus, there is a dilemma of sorts. Urgency demands action while the sensitivity to tribal identity and lives merits caution and preparation.
Normal and standard administrative structures that can support extension of government rule have to be identified carefully.
If needed, a completely new model of administration could be evolved based on sensitivity, realism and continuity.
A re-look at the erstwhile Indian Frontier Administrative Service-like organisation may be worthwhile in the light of our experience of repeated administrative failure in these areas.
The rule of law must be in harmony with tribal practices and NOT thought out in air-conditioned offices in Delhi.
Here, the quality of administrator and law enforcer would matter a great deal.
The tribals are war-like people and proud of being so. The history of the Gonds and Santhals in resisting all manner of invaders should never be forgotten nor their stand in support of the late Pravinchandra Bhanjadeo.
In bringing the tribals to modernity, care must be taken to be gradual and the transition should not be from no clothes to a three piece suit.
Do the Naxalites seriously believe that 'revolutionary conditions' as described by their guru Che Guevara really exist in India for their revolution to succeed?
All this leads one to the conclusion that essentially the Naxalites are thugs much on the lines of sandalwood smuggler Veerappan who also put up a charade of 'Tamil pride' to hide his criminal activities.
One hopes for the sake of our country that we are serious about tackling this menace.
Else, we will continue to sing Ae Mere Watan Ke Logo at public functions and shed crocodile tears at the death of our brave Jawans!
Colonel Anil A Athale (retd) has studied the insurgencies in Kashmir, the North East, Sri Lanka, Northern Ireland, South Africa and Chhattisgarh.
As a former infantry officer he has also participated in counter-insurgency operations. He is a former fellow of the USI, Delhi.
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