Tackling ultra-Reds: What went wrong and what next? [Part 3 of 5]

Posted on May 21, 2010 in Politics

Abhirup Bhunia: (reports from West Bengal)

There is no indecisiveness regarding prevention of violence brought about by Maoists. But the manner in which the purpose will be accomplished is indubitably a sticking point. The entire Naxal movement and the series of blasts, firing and violence unleashed by them have accounted for tens and thousands of lives, although figures cannot be distinctly produced. The spiral of violence hasn’t doused for long. The government has been in the dock for equally long period of times failing to come to a conclusion. The Prime Minister had once expressed the need to have a nuanced approach to tackle the Maoists and went on to describe them as the biggest internal security threat.

After launching the operation green hunt that was meant to wipe out the Naxals by use of force, things went downhill. The Naxals countered green hunt by proclaiming an offensive termed, ‘peace hunt’, which made it amply clear that an open challenge was thrown to the government. What the latter failed to understand, intellectuals said, was that no amount of force can erase an imbibed notion in hearts and souls of thousands of people who are the original inhabitants of India — the tribals. A superficial approach commenced. Hundreds of jawans were killed, several civilians were slain, and the vicious circle was born. Differences started to grow within the UPA itself. Chidambaram and Digvijay Singh were at loggerheads, things turned into petty politics once again. The State v/s Centre argument floated up true to Indian history of politics. Among the three lists in the Indian constitution — the state list, concurrent list and the center list — law and order falls under the state list. But the old debate as to whether it was entirely a law and order situation or lack of development, surfaced. The strategies of the government were amounting to hem and haw and finally, when they were executed, blemishes in the strategies and what went wrong formed the bigger list. So, what went wrong? Many say the state sponsored violence was wrong in first place. BJP leader Narendra Modi, going against party lines said force cannot be the solution. Raman Singh, the Chattisgarh CM, called the Maoists terrorists. Nitish Kumar, the Bihar CM has gone soft on them earlier. WB CM, Budhadeb Bhatacharjee said he does not need the Army to fight the Maoists. The use of Army, one must remember, is being suggested by those who acknowledge the need of force to wipe Naxals out but are against use of Air power. However, once it was identified as a simple security problem to be treated like a law-of-the-land situation, the forces had to be sufficiently trained to emerge victorious. When the Thailand troops cracked down on the Red Shirts, they made sure the latter gave in. But nothing of that sort happened in India.

When the Eastern Frontier Rifles were brought in action, 24 of the EFR jawans were butchered by the amateurish gunmen from the Naxal group. When the Center Reserve Paramilitary Forces were deployed, 74 of them were massacred and critics and operation experts said the CRPF isn’t capable of fighting in such topography and conditions. Hence, the government drew too much of a flak when the operation green hunt fell flat on them. Too many goof-ups were reported. In the EFR camp in Silda, severe technical errors were identified; inhuman conditions prevailed in the camp; on several occasions Maoist leaders were said to have misled and tricked the authorities. A histrionic exchange of fax numbers and phone numbers by the HM and Kishenji led to all but droll zilch. The Naxals, enraged by the government’s strategies, carried out blasts after blasts. The government was left red faced with their own member squabbling with each other. The opposition hurled accusations. The Congress president, Sonia Gandhi, in midst of all this, articulated the need to have fast progress and development, thereby opening up the old debate as to how the menace is to be perceived.

All things considered, the government has increasingly been unable to decimate the Maoists, nor has it been able to address the root cause — lack of development, as they say. In addition, internal arguments and sheer vacillation made it all the more difficult with the Naxals capitalizing on every other slipup. Now use of air force is being mulled over by Chidambaram which itself has its own set of pros and cons and has heralded a new debate in which all and sundry wants to participate including the politicians within and outside Congress, the Indian Air Force executives, the public commentators and not to mention, the know-it-all public of the grand Indian democracy.

To read how the IAF debate unfolds and how feasible is the use of air power to annihilate the Naxals, watch this space for the next article in this ongoing series on Naxalism.

Follow the complete series here.