Coming challenges in the fight against Left-Wing Extremism
Gopal K. Pillai (December 2011)
Addressing the chief ministers’ conference on internal security, on 20 December 2007, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh reiterated that Naxalism (Left Wing Extremism) poses the single largest threat to country’s internal security.
Although, Left Wing Extremism (LWE) had always been a serious challenge to internal security, it was the merger of the Maoist Communist Centre (MCC) and the CPI (Maoist-Leninist) in 2004 that qualitatively changed the situation. For a number of years, the central government or more specifically, the then Union home minister was in denial of the threat. This is evident simply from the fact that till 2009, only 33 battalions of central armed police (CAP) were deployed in all the nine LWE-affected states as compared to over 70 battalions of CAP in the state of Jammu and Kashmir alone.
The central and state governments have recognised that the Maoists use simultaneous and adaptive employment of a complex continuation of conventional warfare, irregular warfare, terrorism and criminal behaviour in the affected areas to achieve their political objectives. As government studied the Maoist movement over the years, it noticed the new developments which were taking place quietly. These are:
(a) They are spreading to new areas
(b) There is increasing militarisation
(c) They focus on denying intelligence through targeted killing of alleged informers
(d) They resort to greater propaganda through co-opting civil society groups
(e) They are attempting to penetrate urban areas and working class movements
(f) They are setting up over-ground organisations
(g) They are mobilising people over issues like land acquisition, fake encounters, tribal land rights etc.
(h) They are using technology for propaganda and communication
(i) They are extorting from contractors and industries in their areas of domination at a large scale
Hence, in the last couple of years, the government has taken a series of steps to upgrade the fight against Maoist (LWE) threat. These steps include deployment of additional CAP battalions.
We now have 72 battalions in this theatre; Sanctioning of additional India Reserve battalions to the states; Additional allocation under modernisation of police force (MPF); Special security related expenditure (SRE) Scheme; Increased intelligence sharing; Attempts at inter-state co-ordination; Augmenting state police force; and Insistence on no dialogue with Maoist unless they abjure violence.
Further, new features in the strategy against Maoist threats were:
(1) Setting up of counter insurgency and anti-terrorism (CIAT) schools for training of state police
(2) Jungle warfare training school at Kanker (Chhattisgarh)
(3) Sanctioning of specialised battalion for CRPF (COBRA)
(4) Training of CAPF in jungle warfare/Counter Insurgency for three to six months
(5) Special fund for strengthening 400 police stations. Rs two crore has been sanctioned for each police station
(6) Rs 7,300 crore for development of roads
(7) Integrated Action Plan (IAP) for 68 severely affected LWE districts
(8) Focussed attention on implementation of Forest Rights Act and Tribal Land Rights
(9) Use of GPS/VAC/advanced techniques as force multipliers(11) Dedicated intelligence wing for the CRPF
(12) Use of dedicated helicopters etc
These have resulted in a better understanding of the ‘enemy’ and his intentions. I think the results in 2011 are beginning to reflect this new approach and a carefully calculated strategy to tackle the Maoist threat over the next five to10 years is underway. It is important that the momentum generated in 2009, 2010 and 2011, both at the Centre and the state is maintained over the long term.
Yet, there are new challenges and deficiencies in the current approach and will need to be addressed in the coming years. These include:
1. Need for a unified long term strategy to fight the Maoist threat. The Centre and the state governments need to continually flag this issue and iron out differences/ respect differing strategies/ factors while continuing to win the heart and minds of the population which is the ultimate objective.
2. There is still no effective programme for a sustained augmentation/ improvement in the civil administration in the LWE areas. State governments will have to focus more attention on this and the central government/ Planning Commission will have to incentivise state governments in this sector.
3. Improve police training to make it an effective force for jungle warfare while improving the general law and order in these areas. The police force needs to be respected and in turn needs to respect/assist the local population.
4. More effective policing/state government coordination in operations along inter-state borders.
5. More active involvement of recognised national/state political parties at the grassroots level in the LWE-affected areas to tackle the Maoist propaganda/influence.
These are some of the new challenges that the central and state governments face as they step up the campaign to curb the Maoist threat. Each one of these new challenges is going to test the resolve of the governments concerned. They are critical because success in each challenge will result in improved governance and make India a more vibrant and functional democracy. If we learn this lesson from the Maoist threat, all the sacrifices from both sides would not have been in vain. The Maoist movement is fascist in character and has no place in a democratic society. The sooner, the Maoists themselves realise it, the better it would be for the country and the affected people.
(The writer is former home secretary, government of India and Distinguished Fellow, IDSA)