In 2005, the government of India for the first time acknowledged Maoist/Naxal menace as a multi-state challenge that needed a concerted and a unified effort both by the Centre as well as the affected states. With this intent, the first meeting of the standing committee of Naxal-affected states’ chief ministers was chaired by the then Union home minister, Shivraj Patil in Delhi in September 2005. While accepting that law and order is a state subject, the consensus at the meeting was that the states needed to not only collaborate with one another but also with the Centre if they were serious about fighting this threat which has only increased over time. Yet another consensus was that ‘hard policing’ or action by the security forces was at best a short-term solution. ‘Hard economics’ or developmental projects had to be pushed with equal vigour. With this, Shivraj Patil concluded the meeting with the mantra of ‘hard economics and hard policing.’
That was then.
The memories of the 5-star jamboree at a Delhi hotel faded over time. The states jointness never took-off because each state chief minister believed that he knew best how to cope with the Maoists in his state. While states like Andhra went ahead with ruthless policing including selective killing of the Naxal leadership to push most Maoist cadre out of the state and into the neighbouring ones, Chhattisgarh created a state-sponsored semi-armed militia called the Salva Judum to take on the Naxals. While Jharkhand negotiated truce with the Maoist and in the gesture of happy accommodation divided the state into government and Maoist-controlled areas, West Bengal government continues to play footsie, depending upon which way the Trinamool Congress was swaying. The latest on that is: Trinamool is cozying up to the Maoists and the CPI(M), the ruling party, has created a militia of its own armed cadre a la Salva Judum to engage the Maoists.