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Hardly surprising

Editorial |

Did it really require a special intelligence report for the home ministry to conclude that the Maoists were seeking to expand their footprint beyond the Bastar region? North Block has been claiming that the insurgents are under severe pressure in their stronghold, so it should have been obvious that they would look to open another “front”.

The ministry also admits that the police presence is thin at the trijunction of Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, hence it required no strategic analyst to predict the region where the fresh action would be initiated.

What the ministry’s “going public” suggests is that there is a coordination-deficit among security agencies in the states ~ which the tactically astute insurgents appear to be exploiting with the launch of their so-called Vistara unit. That “space” was available to them also points to the operations being over-concentrated in the Sukma-Dantewada belt, without having effectively sealed the routes to the conflict zone.

It indicates the absence of a larger game-plan, and poor implementation of whatever plans are in hand. This is not to undermine the efforts of the CRPF personnel battling hard in difficult conditions, only to recall the theory that “wars are not lost by bad soldiers, but by inept generals”.

What also needs examination is the success of the “second prong” of the campaign ~ the use of development to lure the people away from violent rejection of instruments of the state. According to official figures, 1.60 lakh CRPF personnel are deployed in Chhattisgarh, of which 1.3 lakh are concentrated in Bastar ~ obviously with such “saturation” the Maoists will be squeezed, but how many of them have abandoned the gun, and the extent to which public supports has dried up are important indices of overall success.

The violence could revive when the paramilitary winds down its mission because such intense deployment is difficult to sustain. Unfortunately, the state police does not appear to developing its own muscle. Clearly there is need for pushing the non-military effort.

The troopers have done a major part of their original task, a fatigue-factor will come into play ~ particularly if the development effort does not match the security endeavour. A positive signal could be information that the Maoists’ recruitment levels are dwindling, and that there is likely to be even less “attraction” in the area where the Vistara unit is being positioned. The local folk there are said to have been exposed to normal conditions and speak Hindi.

Both are positive signs which need to be built upon. Reports of in-fighting among the Maoist leadership require careful evaluation and monitoring, it could be a grave error to think that the insurgency is on the verge of imploding. One critical question that is seldom addressed in the region is ~ “where are the politicians? Have they no role to play?”