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Naxals, India's enemy within

November 25, 2004

The attack on a provincial armed constabulary convoy by Naxalites in Chandauli district of eastern Uttar Pradesh on November 20 has not only come as a grim reminder that left-wing extremism is alive and kicking in rural India, but also as a kick in the face of lotus-eaters who now formulate policy in the ministry of home affairs.

South Asia's Maoist Web

Last Saturday's incident has demonstrated, though not for the first time, that Naxalites -- variously referred to as Maoists and Marxist-Leninist revolutionaries -- are loathe to scale back their criminal activities, despite the peace overtures by the UPA government in New Delhi and its affiliate Congress government in Andhra Pradesh, which is one of the affected states.

On the contrary, mocking at the effete dispensation that now prevails, the Naxalites have struck back with greater ferocity and matching cruelty. All 17 security personnel who were travelling in the truck that was blown up by an improvised explosive device on Saturday in Chandauli were injured in the explosion; 15 of them were later shot dead at point blank range.

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The People's War Group, based in Andhra Pradesh, and the Maoist Communist Centre, based in Bihar and Jharkhand, have claimed responsibility for the Chandauli slaughter. The previous day, they attacked a forest office in the area and killed two officials.

The same ministry of home affairs which has been actively involved in pandering to Naxalites in Andhra Pradesh has responded to the killings in Uttar Pradesh with a 'stern' warning: 'The challenge posed by armed activities of Naxalites shall be met firmly.' For the killers responsible for Saturday's dastardly massacre, the statement is not worth the paper it is printed on.

Indeed, the successive placatory steps taken by the Congress government in Andhra Pradesh, with the approval of the UPA government in New Delhi, have allowed the Naxalites to regroup and revitalise their ranks. The halting of police action against Naxalites, inviting the Naxalites for talks (which they attended with arms and then returned to their bases without a by-your-leave) and the lifting of the ban on the PWG have not contributed towards ending the crime of left-extremism, but in conveying the impression that the state is now eager to mollycoddle criminals.

On the eve of the talks, which were projected as a major breakthrough, a Naxalite leader was quoted as saying: 'By going to the talks, we are not declaring any ceasefire... Talks are a part of our tactical line. Naxalism is not a problem, it is a solution.' If Chandauli is any indication, it indicates towards left-extremists pushing ahead with their 'solution' with renewed vigour, perhaps not in Andhra Pradesh in the immediate future, but definitely in the other States along what is fast turning into the 'Red Corridor.'

Who are the Naxalites

Starting from Andhra Pradesh, the 'Red Corridor' runs through eastern Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, eastern Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, West Bengal and Bihar. It links the 'liberated zones' of India with the Maoist held territories of Nepal. The 'Red Corridor' unites the left-extremists of India with their comrades in Nepal. It covers 155 districts in India, that is nearly a quarter of our national territory.

The 'Red Corridor' makes nonsense of any official claim, made either by state governments or the Union government, that security agencies are battling the Naxalites with full force. Its expansion at a rapid pace betrays the fact that our security agencies and their political patrons are both clueless and lacking in courage to tackle India's enemy within.

So we have a situation that can only be defined as a serious threat to internal security. Not only are lives periled, but development is affected. As K P S Gill, who has battled many insurgencies, leading his men from the front, recently commented, it does not make sense to build roads and bridges which cannot be used for fear of death at the hands of Naxalites.

Nor does it make sense to pretend that Naxalites pose a 'law and order problem.' The threat from Naxalites is much more than that -- they pose a challenge to India's democratic polity and rule of law; they pose an ideological threat that questions the legitimacy of the Indian State.

Seen from the perspective of internal security, the Naxalites are fast turning into India's 'Fifth Columnists,' more than willing to join hands with external forces that have been trying to undermine India's territorial integrity and rend its social fabric. They are today's Trojan forces.

The Naxal movement that we see today is a far cry and far removed from the Naxal movement that was born in the 1960s in Naxalbari, a remote area of West Bengal. What we saw then was the splintering of the Communists into radicals and moderates; what we are seeing now is abusing the barrel of the gun for furthering negative power politics.

In the east, India's Naxalites have teamed up with Nepal's Maoists to create disaffection among people of Nepalese origin who have been living for generations in Darjeeling and Dooars in West Bengal and in lower Sikkim. The purpose is to engineer a movement for 'self-determination' which could unleash violence on a wide scale and much worse than what was witnessed during the Gorkhaland agitation.

India's intelligence agencies have evidence to prove that Naxalites are being used by Pakistan's ISI for drug-trafficking and pumping fake currency notes. In return, the ISI is providing the Naxalites with sophisticated weaponry and the know-how for making and using improvised explosive devices. Seized weapons and ammunition bear witness to this evidence.

Impossible and illogical as it may appear, there is also the very real possibility of the Islamic fundamentalist right and the Marxist-Leninist fundamentalist left joining hands, united by the purpose of subverting the Indian state. Soon after the arrest of Maulana Naseeruddin, one of the prime accused in the murder of Gujarat's former home minister Haren Pandya, Naxalites in Andhra Pradesh came out in support of the Dasargah-e-Jehad-e-Shahadat's demand for the unconditional release of the accused.

Naxalite leader Ramakrishna circulated a letter among media, demanding the suspension of police officers who permitted the arrest, filing of a criminal case against Gujarat police and a public apology. He also wanted the Naxalite-friendly Congress State government to issue a blanket order banning the police from entering Muslim houses or areas without permission.

Ironically, most of the states where Naxalite violence is on the rise is ruled by parties or alliances that are members or supporters of the UPA government in New Delhi. And, unlike the Congress government in Andhra Pradesh, which now increasingly appears to be repaying a debt of gratitude for electoral support to the Naxalites, the other state governments are unwilling to seek accommodation with the far left or grants socio-political legitimacy to those who reject the very tenets of democracy and repudiate the supremacy of the Constitution of India.

Yet, for reasons best known to the Union home minister and the UPA, not a finger is being wagged at the killers for their outrageous and gory violence in which they continue to indulge with increasing impunity.

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Kanchan Gupta

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