Countering Naxalism: Root Causes Vs Security

The counter Naxalism debate on addressing the root causes versus the hard option in India is getting increasingly shriller with the Government accusing the civil society of sheltering Maoist violence while the activists charging the government of undertaking draconian measures in the name of security. Ironically both sides, the civil society and the government have a common aim, that of subjugating violence, the difference lies in perceptions of what comes first security or development. While the government belief is that security should precede development, the civil society want to address development first and seem to be confident that they can lead the way instead of armed policemen.

The government is severely hampered by lack of capacity of the security forces who despite claims of having undergone pre training are finding the going tough in the harsh jungles of Central India. Thus investigations in the past two major incidents have revealed that there were some serious lapses in conduct of tactical operations.

On the other hand the Maoists are justifying killing of innocent civilians in an IED incident recently on the plea that the bus was carrying Special Police Officers known as Koya commandos which appears to be an organized resistance force though their command and control, employment and other parameters are not very clear at present. Under the circumstances the Maoists deemed these as fitting targets and therefore did not hesitate in targeting them even when there were civilians in the bus. The Government has focused on the Maoists targeting the civilians and SPOs who cannot be technically called as armed para military. The civil society on the other hand indicates that the targets were the SPOs who went under the name of Koya commandos. There is apparently no meeting point between the Government and the civil society therefore this debate is likely to engage the masses in the days ahead.

What is necessary is for both sides to condemn violence and loss of lives unequivocally so that the right message is send to the rebels. For as the debate on how to tackle the Naxals problem through a hearts and minds approach or through the gun is ongoing there are concerns that this may only provide some leeway for the Naxals and create confusion in the minds of the policemen and the para military fighting the same.

Therefore it is important for the government and civil society to send a clear message that there are no two issues here and for this a multi pronged approach would be necessary. The government has to not antagonize civil society, but take them on board as through them it would be able to engage the tribals who are certainly alienated and thus have gone into the Maoist fold partially. This facet may receive some attention in the days ahead.

Police capacity building is another important issue. With the CRPF coming under scrutiny for the loss of 76 personnel in a Naxal operation in Chhattisgarh in April and the inquiries conducted thereafter blaming the hierarchy a review by the Home Minister has been undertaken on 22 May. The key issues are training and leadership with both lacking in the force there is likely to be slow progress in attaining higher standards to convert an essentially riot police force into a counter militancy one in the jungles of Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand which are seen to be highly impenetrable due to terrain difficulties as well as Maoists hold over the tribal. This has perhaps rendered the task of a poorly trained and equipped force all the more difficult and thus the need for a review of the operational procedures as well as logistics and training back up is called for.

Then another major issue is linkage between big industry, mining and the Naxal movement. The large corpus of resources in the area with minerals comprising a major component, control over the same is a lucrative option for many influential business firms. On one hand there are accusations of political linkages between the industry and political parties and leadership. The reverse spiral of demands from the Maoists from these businesses as well as leading the tribal into agitations for deprivation of the land and forest rights is another side of the same story. This has thus become a complex issue as one facet is feeding the other and thus this will continue to be a challenge in the days ahead. Given the links of militancy and resources the world over this phenomenon is not new in the Naxal domain though the government has the controls and therefore could take action to prevent a spiraling of a resource based insurgency by reviewing the mining contracts. This has also been a demand of the civil society.

So as India faces the challenge from Left Wing Extremism the need of the hour is for civil society and the government to speak and act in congruence through a healthy debate rather than slandering, sadly the, “civility” in the debate appears to be slowly withering away.


More by :  Col. Rahul K. Bhonsle

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