The Threat Within -(Nov 2009)
Government dithers taking the war to the Maoists
By Pravin Sawhney and Ghazala Wahab
Surprise, all military planners say, is the key to success in any operation. And the element of surprise is determined by the secrecy with which an operation is planned. Yet, the only element of surprise that the ministry of home affairs’ planned grand offensive against the Maoists has is the way the old mantra has been turned on its head. Instead of taking the Maoist by surprise, the government has bombarded them with sustained information about the putative campaign through the media. As opposed to the policing campaign, which has been getting postponed for various reasons, the information blitzkrieg has been going on relentlessly for the last several months. The latest indications are that the joint police-CRPF operations will not start until January following the assembly elections in Jharkhand. Despondency is now building up among the troops who have been keeping their powder dry for the last few months. The momentum is being lost as doubts creep in about the sincerity of government’s intend. Could this be another Operation Parakram? The hype about the offensive started with the government releasing advertisements in the media exposing the ‘real nature and intent’ of the Maoists, also referred to as Naxals.

For good measure, the state police in Chhattisgarh have been putting up posters and distributing pamphlets during village fairs as part of their psy-ops (psychological operations). These pamphlets carry images of blown-up bridges, destroyed roads and other such symbols of development, along with those of people killed by Naxals. The idea has been to convey to the dispossessed that Maoists are nothing more than terrorists, as they are enemies of development and welfare. A senior police officer of Chhattisgarh, who has been pioneering this campaign, told FORCE that Maoists are worse than terrorists and are beyond the pale of law. At the political level, while Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has not missed a single opportunity in the last few months to denounce Maoists by calling them India’s biggest internal security threat, home minister P. Chidambaram has alternated between issuing ‘or else’ warnings to them and urging them to lay down arms and join the mainstream. To make laying down arms easier, the government has also floated a surrender policy. But because there is no guarantee of security for the renegades, the policy has not has much impact. Chidambaram has also periodically spoken about a fight to finish campaign to take them on in their stronghold in the Dandakaranya forest, straddling Chhattisgarh, Orissa and eastern Maharashtra.
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