Hidden in the inside pages of the daily newspapers and buried under the pre-election reports are small bits of news almost on a daily basis: Some policeman or farmer believed to be a police informer killed by the Maoists/Naxals in some part of Central India. In isolation, these incidents do not make big news, after all more people are killed in petty law and order type incidents in Indian cities than are killed in Naxal violence. Yet, pieced together, they complete the picture of rising India’s ignorance and indifference towards the poor and the dispossessed, which form the centre of gravity of the Maoists.
Till 2007, Naxalism did figure rather prominently on the government radar, until bomb blasts in various parts of the country in 2008 sidelined the issue. Not that there weren’t any terrorist attacks before that, but as a year, 2008 were among the deadliest as far as attacks on mainland India were concerned, starting with serial blasts in Jaipur in May and culminating with the November 26 attacks in Mumbai. However, before that Naxalism was, according to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the biggest internal security threat. He said so on different occasions, even though his then home minister, Shivraj Patil publicly expressed his disagreement with his Prime Minister’s assertions. The home minister believed that the Naxal threat was exaggerated by vested interests. However, following the lead given by the Prime Minister, the United Progressive Alliance government took several steps to address the Naxal menace, which many believed was growing in ideological reach and fresh territory, if not entirely in terms of violence levels.
As a result, in 2006, the government instituted a series of committees and groups at various levels to formulate a cohesive anti-Naxal policy that took into account problems faced by various states as well as monitor the execution of anti-Naxal operations in a cohesive manner.
The highest of these was the Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM), under the chairmanship of the Union home minister which was to oversee coordinated government response to Naxalism. Along with this, a standing committee of chief ministers of Naxal-affected states was also formed under the Union home minister to work out an anti-Naxal policy addressing political, security and development issues. Next in the rung was the Coordination Centre chaired by the Union home secretary. The state representatives to this were the respective chief secretaries and director generals of police. This was followed by a task force under special secretary (Internal Security) in the ministry of home affairs, with senior officers from intelligence agencies, Central paramilitary forces and state police forces as members. Its job is to deliberate upon the operational steps needed to deal with the Naxal activities and bring about coordination between authorities of different states. So that the fight against Naxals does not remain confined to hard policing, but include elements of hard economics in the form of reforms and welfare measures, an Inter-Ministerial-Group (IMG), headed by additional secretary (Naxal management), in the MHA, was instituted and included officers from development ministries (rural, human resources and urban) and Planning Commission. Finally, since setting up committees and task forces are examples of action being taken, on 12 February 2008, an all new task force was set up under the chairmanship of Cabinet Secretary ‘to promote coordinated efforts across a range of development and security activities so that problems in the Naxal-affected areas can be tackled in a comprehensive manner.’