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The Rediff Special/
Krishnakumar in Raipur
How government can tackle Naxals
February 12, 2007
The government has just taken the first step towards tackling Maoist insurgency. It has identified that it is not a law and order problem of individual states that are affected, but a national problem.
Now, here is what -- according to experts who attended a conference organised by the Institute of Conflict Management in association with the Chhattisgarh government in Raipur -- the government can do to get to the root of the problem and weed it out.
Over the years, the range of the Maoist rocket has been steadily increasing. The bitter truth about the advancements the Maoists have been making hit the Andhra Pradesh police hard in September 2006, when they stumbled upon a huge cache of ammunition meant for the insurgents. What they saw were sophisticated rockets that can take out targets as far as one kilometer.
"Unlike the crude rockets seized from Maoists earlier, the present consignment consisted of highly sophisticated rockets and indicated the technological advances made by the Maoists. These can be fired from a launcher to target objects or buildings at a distance of 1 km. These can be shoulder-fired to target moving objects such as car, bus or truck or fired in the air to target a landing helicopter," Mahbubnagar Superintendent of Police K Srinivas Reddy had told rediff.com.
H J Dora, former Andhra Pradesh director general of police, who is credited with having stamped out the Maoists when they were peaking in Andhra Pradesh, says there needs to be a complete makeover in the way the security forces operate.
"We have to train the policemen and keep them motivated. That is the key. Once that is achieved, the rest will fall in place. Because our weapons are superior in quantity as well as quality, if our forces show the heart they can be pushed back easily," he says.
Think like the enemy:
Just how do the Maoists manage to spring surprises and keep the security forces on the backfoot? They plan out even minor operations keeping in mind whatever minute details they have about the forces.
"Deep down, they are an organisation that is obsessed with secrecy. So we have to make use of every single detail we manage to set our hands on. If we lay our eyes on any literature of theirs, we must analyse and get to know all we can about how they operate," says former CBI director Vijayarama Rao.
Senior Assistant Editor of The Hindu, Hyderabad, K Srinivas Reddy, adds: "For example, the formations that they employ in Madhya Pradesh are not similar to the ones that they adopt in Andhra. We must identify their tactics with precision and counter."
Another serving officer agrees: "Any action of theirs is well thought-out. They are highly dynamic and they lull the forces into false beliefs before any major attacks. But there is always a pattern, and we all need to learn from these patterns."
Dora recalls how once he had put in a request to central authorities to have more bullet-proof vehicles for Andhra Pradesh when the Maoists were on a rampage, gunning down leaders from all levels.
"The central authorities questioned the need for so many bullet proof vehicles and sanctioned only a few. I stationed one of those vehicles in Tirupati, which was not a highly-affected place. The logic of placing a valuable bullet proof car there was also questioned. But my line of thought was this: They are targeting most VIPs. And they will be looking to take out these VIPs not at a place where there is heavy security presence but at a place with relatively low security. At the end of the day, that car in Tirumala might just have been what saved the then Andhra Pradesh chief minister Chandrababu Naidu," he says.
Rajya Sabha member Arun Shourie says complete military dominance will go a long way in thwarting the movement.
"We have to defeat them militarily. Complete military dominance is the key," Shourie says.
He says such domination, apart from crippling the outfit, will also act as a deterrent against new young recruits.
"We have to break the delusion that they will succeed in this battle. If a youngster is made to believe that he has only six months to live -- and not four-five years, as is the case now -- if he picks up a gun, then why will he do it," he asked.
If you are talking about military dominance, you would do yourself a service if you listen to what KPS Gill also has to say. The man who stamped out militancy in Punjab with an iron fist says security forces will have to be aided by a strong civil administration.
"We need development and good administration, but without security, we cannot have either. What should be the shape and form of administration in an area that is rent by violence? If the best minds in the country cannot find an answer to this question, we are nowhere, and all this talk of dominating the 21st century is nonsense. If the permanent administrative and military responses are identified, the problem will be solved."
Considering that most Maoist-affected places are rural and forested areas, what can the government do to make their presence felt in these areas?
They have to ensure that these areas see some development. Instead of a mere police station, these areas need hospitals, schools other developmental infrastructure. In short, this is the civil administration that Gill is talking about.
Right now, in affected areas, it is the police who are doubling up as the civil administration.
Vijayarama Rao says: "Once you have a police station in a particular area, what is the problem in weaving other departments of the civil administration around the police stations. Other departments have to put their apparatus around the police station. Without that there is very little that the police can do in an affected area."
A Communication channel:
Shankar Ghosh, from the non-governmental organisation called Chakra, says the way forward is developmental work coupled with an effective communication channel with the local population.
"We assume that the information that flows through the government channels is enough to understand the needs of the local population. Why cannot we have a system, which will directly listen to the villagers' voices and then, in addition with the government inputs, put a developmental structure in place," he asks.
Anshu Meshak, also from Chakra, says what the government offers to the local population is not always what they want.
"What is the use of paving kilometers of road when we have no idea how it will help the villagers? The government must assist the local population in using the available infrastructure for their betterment," she says.
Have the local population by your side:
In the more-than-decade-long hunt to capture the forest brigand Veerappan, the security forces had many highs and lows. These highs and lows usually coincided with the officers leading the operations.
For instance, one particular officer eliminated more than half the brigand's motley band.
But he could not get anywhere close to Veerappan. He had completely alienated the local tribal population with his iron-fisted tactics. When the brigand was finally killed, it was after a prolonged spell where successive officers did something constructive for the local population and won them over with goodwill.
Explaining the Maoist stronghold in Chattisgarh, one officer, who has severed 25 years in the state's Maoist-hit districts, says that until the local population stops supporting the insurgents it is very difficult to make any inroads.
What the officer did not say is whether he, who has served in highly-affected areas for more than two decades, has done anything to try and win over the locals.
Director of the CTJW College, Kanker, Brigadier Poonawar, says, "We should have the population on our side. If the locals have a say in things that are happening in their areas, it means one aspect less to worry about, and we must ensure that they are enabled to have a say. The most effective form to tackle political dissent is dialogue -- not only with the Maoists, but with the people also."