Even as India’s civil society has campaigned against the plans of the government launching a coordinated operation against Left Wing Extremists commonly known as Naxals across Central India, the elections in Jharkhand have brought to the fore the well oiled nexus between the political parties and the guerrillas. While the Naxals have imposed a ban on participation in the Elections with posters pasted across the state, political leaders are busy campaigning across many Naxal districts. This paradox has surprised many, as if a cease fire has been declared for the Elections.
The transformation is all the more perplexing given the increase in violence during October given the extension of Maoist terrorism from tribal areas of Central India to politically sensitive areas of West Bengal thereby focusing attention of the government as well as civil society on the challenge.
A few notable incidents such as release on bail of 14 tribal women by a West Bengal Court on 22 October as demanded by the Maoists against abducted police officer Atindra Nath Dutta in West Midnapore and kidnapping the driver of the New Delhi-Bhubaneswar Rajdhani Express and his assistant on 27 October which led to stoppage of train between Jhargram and Sarna stations of South Eastern Railway bringing the prestigious train connecting the State capital to New Delhi to a halt highlighted criticality of the situation.
In other major incidents, on 06 October, Maoists beheaded Jharkhand police inspector Francis Induwar in a brutal and gory incident which invited wide spread resentment. On 08 October the Naxals launched a major attack killing 18 policemen when they ambushed a police patrol in dense forests in Gadhchiroli district in Maharashtra which was going to the polls on the 13th.
On the other hand Central and State governments were all set to launch full-fledged anti-Maoist operations at three locations which are junctions of Naxal-affected states. The areas identified are the tri-junctions of Andhra Pradesh-Maharashtra- Chhattisgarh; Orissa-Jharkhand-Chhattisgarh and West Bengal- Jharkhand-Orissa. 40,000 paramilitary personnel will assist respective state police forces during the operations. 7,000 specially trained troops in jungle warfare are also being employed. There are eleven sectors identified which will be addressed in simultaneous operations.
The Maoists warned of possibility of Operation Green Hunt for the past many months are shifting into deep jungle strongholds in anticipation of the onslaught. Others are known to melt into urban pockets of neighboring states as Madhya Pradesh. Thus the main leaders are likely to give security forces a slip. However it is also evident that the Central government is having second thoughts and the operation may not be launched at all if an interview to Tehelka by the Union Home Minister Mr P Chidambaram is any indication.
Transportation networks have been one of the most frequently targeted by Maoists over the past many years and now they are even daring to strike at high profile trains such as the Rajdhani Express which is considered a super fast train serving a large number of people traveling to Delhi. The vulnerability of the railway routes passing through some of the deeply forested areas in Jharkhand and West Bengal is therefore highly challenging and security needs to be considered on high priority for endangering the lives of the people traveling on train which is the primary mode for many in India does not augur well for the states ability to protect its citizens.
What is also evident is that the police particularly railway protection forces are not trained enough to take on the challenge. As the expected operation Green Hunt is launched, the situation could be grimmer, as the Maoists seem to be well prepared for the strikes. Moreover Jharkhand, one of the key Naxal affected states would be going for elections in November- December thereby enhancing the challenge to an extent with the Maoists announcing a ban against voting. Thus the battle between the Naxals and the security forces is likely to be sustained over a period with the Home Minister Mr P Chidambaram having given an estimate of at two to three years before the situation in these areas can be brought under control, though it appears that given the present overall deterioration it may taken much longer.
So how is it that despite the threat of violence political parties and leaders are campaigning in Jharkhand? Are they daring the Naxals, is it a false sense of bravado or fool proof security provided by the state government? While the truth behind this phenomenon will never be exposed, reasonable surmise could also be a working arrangement with the Naxalite leadership to see the election through. This arrangement is not new to the Indian political militancy scene and is routinely adopted in the North East with some militants openly supporting favored candidates. Is such a phenomenon repeating in Jharkhand, let us wait and see?