Some say the Maoist attack on Congress leaders in Chhattisgarh is a wake-up call and others say it is time to have another look at the strategy to deal with Maoists; however, the problem needs to be tackled with top priority as innocent people cannot be allowed to get killed. Almost one-third of the country is eclipsed by the ‘red corridor’, under the parallel rule of the Maoists. The sad part is that it is the poor innocent people and the tribals who suffer in the bargain, because they have to deal with the Maoists on one side and the security forces on the other, and they often have to compromise with one or the other.
The Maoists get away with these killings because they try to lure the tribals by whatever means they can ~ by force, incentives and what not. The politicians also have to be blamed because at the time of elections, they try to get the tacit support of the Maoists. Telugu Desam Party supremo N.T. Rama Rao did it, Congress leaders Saikia and Rajashekhara Reddy did it and in recent times even Mamata Banerjee did it, to name a few.
The UPA launched the integrated action plan in February 2009 aimed at coordinated efforts in Naxal-affected states but this is obviously not working in the desired manner. Otherwise, why should the Centre blame the states and the states complain of not getting adequate Central support for tackling the Naxal menace?
There has been a lull in some parts of the country for some time. Karnataka was removed from the list of Maoist-affected states in 2010. In July 2011, the number of Naxal-affected districts was reduced to 83. In December 2011, the Centre announced that the number of Naxal killings had come down by 50 per cent compared to 2010. Now, the Maoist problem has elicited international attention and national focus once again, after the incident in Chattisgarh’s Darbha Ghati, in which more than two-dozen Congress leaders and workers were killed.
Why did the Maoists become so emboldened so as to attempt such a horrific attack on the political leadership in Chhattisgarh? The first reason is that Chhattisgarh is going in for elections in a few months. The two main parties ~ the Congress and the ruling BJP ~ are in a no-holds-barred fight for power. The Congress is desperate as it has been out of power in the state for the past ten years. Pundits have predicted that the Raman Singh government will come back as any anti-incumbency is almost absent. Maoists chose this time to strike because they know that there may be some slackness with a lame duck government in power.
Secondly, going by the letter written by the Naxalite leaders, it appears that they are worried about the weakening of the movement itself as the youth are not attracted by it any more. They wanted to send a signal to create a fear psychosis.
Thirdly, they might be feeling that the UPA at the Centre itself is weakened by the series of scams and the alliance is reduced to a minority after the parting of ways with two big allies ~ the DMK and the Trinamool Congress ~ some time ago.
But what should be worrying is that Maoists are targeting the political leaders and also security forces more and more instead of participating in the democratic process. In addition, economist prime minister Manmohan Singh should worry about how investors would put in money in areas where neither money nor lives is safe? What happens to the dreams of India emerging as a big economic power if this continues? Despite having identified the problem, why is it that these affected regions continue to be backward and lack proper communication facilities, roads and other connections, while the Maoists are able to function with modern communication equipment and most modern arms and ammunition? Economic growth also continues to be uneven in these regions; as a result, the youth go astray and come under the influence of the Maoists.
The time has come for the Centre and the states to review the Naxalite strategy. Mamata Banerjee has tackled it successfully; earlier, Rajashekhara Reddy had contained the Naxalites. The review should be undertaken on an urgent basis and the Centre should convene a meeting of all Naxal-affected states at the level of the chief ministers soon.
Secondly, there should be complete coordination between the Centre and the states. Neither should attempt to pass the buck as is being witnessed, particularly in states where the Congress is not ruling. How can any government ~ state or Centre ~ shy away from the responsibility, claiming it is the fault of the other? After all, it is a national problem affecting so many states.
Thirdly, there should be balance and coordination between the security forces and the state police. Using the army should be the last option.
At the social level, much more needs to be done. The tribals should feel integrated and protected by the state. The misguided youth have to be brought back and this can be done only by providing jobs and better living conditions for them.
The Prime Minister recognises the Naxal menace as the single most dangerous threat to the development of the country. He has also admitted that what is required is a multi-pronged strategy including social, economic and political initiatives. The top priority should be to implement this effectively and that is where we are lacking. Unless this is done on an urgent basis, the problem will continue to haunt the country.
What should be worrying is that Maoists are targeting political leaders and security forces more and more instead of participating in the democratic process