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The rise of Maoists: a threat, a lesson or a welcome change

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Shashank Saurav:

A country cannot simultaneously prevent and prepare for war.
-Albert Einstein

The quotation by this legendary figure reflects the hapless situation of India.

With the ever-increasing threat of a Naxal Outbreak looming large over our democracy, the government’s indecisiveness and lack of proper response is simply exacerbating the situation. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh himself called it the gravest internal security challenge facing the country, yet it seems only a lot of pandemonium has ensued so far. On one hand when the home minister recently confirmed that the army would not be serving in any combat role in counter insurgency operations, the decision was lauded in many quarters. On the other hand, it seems the army is hell bent on taking the matters in its own hands. What with reports of plans to raise 55000 soldiers of crack anti naxalite commandos.

At this point of time, it is difficult to appreciate or criticize this stance taken by the government/army. As it is, we are in no position to expostulate this decision because of the lack of adequate awareness. Most of us are connected to the Maoist affected areas only through print and electronic media. Therefore, without actually being in the line of fire it is impossible to surmise the situation. The best possible scenario would be to study the pros and cons and arrive at a decision in our own capacity.

More than a decade has passed since the maoist problem began.

The problem has been almost tackled in Andhra Pradesh. The naxals have made themselves scarce in Maharashtra as well. But the states of Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Orissa are still reeling under this perennial problem. For Jharkhand, corrupt government officials and pathetic state governance have done nothing to avert the disasters. It is ironical that the state is turning into the Bihar of 90’s; the very malaise that caused its bifurcation has now become an albatross in the neck for the state machinery. With highly underdeveloped states being the epicenter of naxal movement, the deployment of army is these regions is the sole way of pulling the threat from its roots.

The Inefficiency of state governments coupled with the trepidation existing in the minds of the people and basic problems like poverty, unemployment etc being rife, the naxalite movement has spread like wildfire. If it was merely restricted to coercion and sabotaging government property, we might consider it tolerable. But with time, the movement has spread its wings and now involves gruesome murders, ravaging countryside and total destruction of life and property. So it would not be farfetched to call such callous acts Monstrous. The only solution left is to counter terror with terror. Using CRPF and local people the government tried to counter the naxalites’ threat, but the strategy more or less failed miserably because for every 10 policemen killed only one moist was brought down. The fact remains that the maoist wings haven’t been clipped and these states no longer have enough resources to spare. Every other day we hear that a police vehicle is burnt, a military personnel is decapitated, or a whole platoon is decimated. The success of anti naxal operations are far and few in-between. Therefore the deployment of army to counter these local terrorists is a welcome move.

However, if we look deeply into this matter we will discover that the Maoists are denizens of India as well. In fact, a large proportion of local populace is supporting their cause. So would it be right to stand against our own people?

The apt answer would be NO. The root cause of the upsurge of naxals lies in the apathy of the state governments in these regions. As pointed out earlier Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Bihar and parts of Bengal lie in shambles in terms of development and economic growth. Most of the rural areas do not have schools, hospitals, electricity and basic amenities. So if the Maoists are fulfilling a part of the local requirements, the villagers will not find anything wrong with that, even if it means turning against the government.

The naxal insurgency is more like guerrilla warfare. It is geographically restricted to forests and hills. Plenty of local knowledge is required to tackle this strategy, which the army lacks. Besides the naxals attack in small groups using dense forest covers and escape to their hideout once the mission is accomplished. This style of fighting is against the combat policy of the army, which is more suited to open war on a large scale. Moreover, the withdrawal of soldiers from Indo-Pak and Indo-China border would be like an open invitation to the terrorist outfits.

The best way to avoid a macabre conflict would be to follow an indirect approach. With the help of army, the government must train and involve local men instead of alienating them. It is equally important to force the local chauvinists who are siding with the naxalites, to surrender. When it comes to war, the raids on maoist strongholds must be swift, silent and full proof. It must also be remembered that many maoist cadets have been forced into submission so a bloody conflict that might result in loss of lives must be avoided.

Raising arms against the naxals or declaring an open war, however is a short-term approach. As long as the state of governance in these regions does not improve, insurgencies will tend to surge. The basic necessities of life have to be provided to the needy. Even if poverty, which is rampant in these regions, is controlled, it will be a welcome relief to the people and will bring about stability. If need be special relief packages must be provided in these areas and a certain amount of money should be allocated towards the development of the naxal hit region from the Prime Minister’s relief fund. Youth must specifically be targeted because they are the ones who will either be the change or bring about the change. All these steps if implemented will go a long way in sustaining peace in these areas.

It is easy to put solutions on paper and then blame the government for failure. But perhaps deep down we do realize that it is lethargy on our part that is culpable. Most of us do not wish to exercise our votes and in the process, many times the wrong candidates are elected. Take the example of Jharkhand. In spite of being charged with felony, Shibu Soren gets to become the Chief Minister of Jharkhand and his party-Jharkhand Mukti Morcha grabs the maximum number of seats. Even more pathetic is the fact that he is supported by BJP in his quest. So if these people are simply caught in the fight for the seat who will leave it to look after the people?

The writer is a correspondent of Youth Ki Awaaz and also a student at BITS Pilani- Goa Campus.

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Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

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A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
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