A recent interview given by the Home Minister, Mr. Shivraj Patil to well known television anchor, Karan Thapar, clearly denied that Naxalism is not the most dangerous threat to India. The Prime Minister, Mr. Manmohan Singh differed a few days back. What then is the truth? The Naxals seemed to have settled the matter just a day ago with a lethal twin attack in Orissa, where 100 Naxals, attacked a police training school and a police station in tandem to kill 13 police personnel, including two women, and a civilian and made away with a large cache of arms which could arm a conventional military battalion in Nayagarh, Orissa. Such attacks were seen in India's North East many decades ago and not many have come about in the troubled Northern state of Kashmir a few years back. So how do we quantify the threat from Naxalism to national security?
The Central government has continued to claim that Naxalism in the country was on the decline. Sahara Samay quoted, Union Minister of State for Home, Sriprakash Jaiswal as, "While Naxalism in the country has weakened, governments of Bihar, Chhatisgarh and Jharkhand have failed to tackle the menace effectively." This was anticipated as the base of policing in the three states of Chattisgarh, Jharkhand and Bihar is very poor. While the former two are new states carved out of larger entities, their administration continues to be unsettled. On the other hand, Bihar is suffering from years of neglect by successive governments. Up gradation of the policing structure in these states will take time. But the greater fear is collaborative institutionalization of Naxal operations, training and social security apparatus, across the Central Indian states.
Operationally, Naxals continue their counter jail strategy by damaging an under construction jail in Orissa on 28 January. Bihar has seen 10 incidents of jailbreak in the last few months in different jails of the state, including the recent ones at Beur, Motihari and Sasaram. The Naxals have found railway infrastructure, a lucrative target. Thus, the East Central division of the Indian Railways, which spans the states of Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal, has reported rising trend of Naxal attacks on railways. The statistics of the last three years are as given below:
' 2005. Four Naxal attacks on vital infrastructure.
' 2006. Eight attacks (100% increase).
' 2007. Seventeen attacks (100% increase).
These attacks have been classified as catastrophic node failures, which destroyed the railway line, cable or station/office. There are many more which are disruptive node failures, which do not lead to substantial damage and hence go largely unreported.
Nitin Mahajan, reporting in the Indian Express, quoted Chhattisgarh Director General Police, (DGP) Vishwaranjan, to denote four training camps being run by the People's Liberation Guerrilla Army (PLGA), in Bastar area of Chattisgarh. Two camps were functional in jungles of Bijapur and Dantewara and two in Abujmarh area, where possibly no administration footprint exists and is regarded as a Maoist liberated area. The total numbers being trained varied from 1500-2000. These camps were now giving training to Maoists from other states .As per the DGP, 'According to intelligence inputs received by us, apart from locally recruited cadres, Maoist extremists from other states, including Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal, are also being given training.' The training comprised of laying explosives, blasting government buildings (even) schools and targeting security forces. The total cadre strength of the Maoists, as per the DGP was 8,000-10,000 armed PLGA and Jan militia with 25,000-35,000, Naxal sympathizers or Sangham members.
A large number of trained cadres of Maoists indicate that these are likely to continue to cause disorder, in the days ahead. While the DGP has rightly indicated that there is lack of adequate policing available, there may be a need for greater transparency, to ensure that information of such camps is made publicly available. It would raise consciousness of the masses, to the emerging threat from naxalism, in the country.
The high level of penetration of Naxals in various civil society organizations, using these as a front to recruit and train youth, for disruptive activities was evident, when the Maharashtra police unveiled the network established by Arun Ferreira, arrested from Mumbai in 2007. He was reportedly in charge of the rebel set-up in Chandrapur district, in Eastern part of the state, where Naxalism is rampant. He also ran a number of front organizations, with accomplices such as Vidyarthi Pragati Sangathana and Desh Bhakti Yuva Mancha. The complex was run, on an institutional basis, with regular payment to the operatives and supportive gun running. The Chandrapur area is particularly significant, as it is at the cross roads, of Andhra Pradesh and Chattisgarh. Thus, police have had to carry out linguistic training of their personnel, in the area, with the need for learning Urdu, Bengali and Telegu. As Chandrapur SP, Chhering Dorje, indicated, "Around 50 cops will be trained, including staff of anti-Naxal cell, in the three languages, Telugu, Bengali and Urdu." [With inputs from Times of India. 24 January 2008.].
Increased institutionalization of Maoist organization is also evident with reports of Naxals in Jharkhand, providing social security to families of cadres, killed in anti- naxal operations by the police. A report in the Times of India, on 8 January, indicated that compensation was being paid based on the position of the cadre in the hierarchy, with families in Latehar and Chatra districts-- the first to benefit from this, 'largesse'. Jharkhand police spokesperson, R K Mallik is reported to have said, 'We have received information from different sources about the Maoists giving compensation to families of their cadres, who lost their lives during anti Naxal operations by police'. In addition, Naxals are reportedly taking responsibility of bringing up children of the killed cadres as well. The Naxals are also using festivals in local areas, to provide rest and recoupment for their cadres, while looking for opportunities for strikes. Recently a number of Naxal cadres were noticed in Jharkhand attending the Tusu festival at Dumaria and Musaboni.
So is Naxalism spread by the government's own admission across 165 districts, India's greatest security threat? You decide for your self.