Naxalite Insurgency – Problem and Policy Options

December 16th, 2009

Round Table Discussion on ‘Naxalite Insurgency – Problem and Policy Options’ by Dr. Chandan Mitra – Editor and Chairman, Pioneer, Mr. N.C. Padhi, Former Secretary (Security) and Mr. M.L. Kumawat IPS (Retd.) Former Special Secretary Internal Security & DGBSF; chaired by Mr. Joginder Singh, Former Director CBI & Member BOG, Centre for Public Policy in India International Centre Annexe, Max Mueller Marg, Lodhi Road, New Delhi.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • The huge problem of Naxalite insurgency is the biggest security threat facing the country today, even more than cross-border terrorism, though living in the cities, we not often realise the extent of the threat and the grimness of the situation. In the deep interiors, people are afraid to travel after sunset as they routinely get ambushed, with police presence practically non-existent. Even public sector companies are known to pay protection money to the Naxalites.
  • In the last 43 years of its existence, the Naxal problem, which started from a small village Naxalbari in West Bengal has now grown to menacing proportions. The Naxals now have AK-47s rifles, light machine guns, rocket launchers and landmines. They show extreme cruelty while targeting policemen and their families. The problem we face lies in the heart of our country, covering almost 50% of our land. These areas are the only source of our iron ore, coal, bauxite and other mineral resources, including uranium, and the major source of hydroelectricity apart from the Himalayas.
  • For all practical purposes, the Naxalsites run a state within the state, de facto collecting taxes and run their own parallel organisations, destroying every symbol of state authority in areas under their control. They have a very well laid out "Urban Perspective Plan".
  • People have learnt to live with it because they see no immediate option. The Naxalites have become clever enough to exploit the economic misery of tribals and the marginalised and are siphoning off government money for their nefarious activities. All social and economic schemes like National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme and other poverty alleviation schemes will not be very effective in these areas. Once they start subverting the state mechanism, things will be even more difficult.
  • In the affected areas, undoubtedly there is a very serious problem of opportunities for upward mobility. In tribal areas, generation after generation, because of deprivation and lack of infrastructure, is forced to do the same kind of work they have been doing for generations. Tribal society also necessitates women workforce, but the appalling lack of infrastructure, education, healthcare and social opportunities and state neglect has been responsible for this state of affairs.
  • The pathetic conditions of the tribal people are no less responsible for the Naxals striking roots. In many areas, tribals work for a pittance and they are also the victims of social cruelty as well as economic exploitation. This has enabled the Naxals to capture the hearts and minds of some sections of the tribal population. They have taken up their issues and that is why hundreds and thousands follow them. People get carried away by false propaganda of the Naxals because they don’t have opportunities.
  • Today, it is the Naxalites and Maoists who are preventing any further development as they don’t want the Indian state making inroads and start the development process. Blowing up culverts, bridges, or schools and destroying government schools and even rural health centres is their strategy. They know that if development comes, their control and domination over the tribals and their argument that the Indian state has kept them in this condition, would be lost.
  • The main objective of the Naxals is to capture power after overthrowing the democratic Indian state. The naïve belief that many people have, that the Naxals are good Samaritans, must be countered and exposed. The ideology of Karl Marx, the Communist Manifesto, is even today the manifesto of the Naxals, though its has been proved a resounding failure in the country of its origin or the countries where it was operational, like Russia and China.
  • When combating this menace, it is not enough to only talk of fiscal development activity, but also necessary to politically package this strategy to say that a war on poverty is being launched. India’s political parties and the Indian political system has the strength and resilience to convince people that whatever may have happened in the past, now it is a war on poverty, on ignorance and a war for their development. If they stick with the Naxalites, they will not let this happen. The Naxals may have taken up some tribal issues; built a school here or there, or some bunds and tanks, but they cannot go beyond these tokenisms or cosmetic things. No communist ideology or its armed insurgents can build and manage a complex, modern economy, which can only be possible through a powerful democratic government of India. It is for us to convince this mass base that only a government of free and democratic India can do these things for them.
  • An idea must be fought with another idea; we must challenge and expose communism and prove its failure. The so-called ‘democracy of the proletariat’, which the Naxals espouse, will be nothing but fascism in disguise.
  • On the question of negotiations, what are we to negotiate about? Naxalites make no secret about their political goal of replacing what they call a ‘bourgeois democratic state’, and implanting the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’. We certainly cannot negotiate the handing over of our state, bartering away of all our democratic rights and all the freedom that we enjoy. The question of negotiation with such elements cannot be on the agenda.
  • Let us not fool ourselves that we can negotiate with these elements, or that they are ‘misguided youth’. They have chosen a path which no democratic society can accept and are unwilling to give it up.
  • There can be however negotiations provided they lay down their arms and call off their armed struggle, come to the mainstream, join the political process and contest elections. Maybe the government can consider remission of sentences or not pursuing a few cases very seriously.
  • The overwhelming majority of the people in this country don’t want this kind of insurrectionary movement that will disrupt and spell the end of society as we know it. We are not going to let go of our society and are justifiably, very proud of our country, its society and the freedom that we have. Many things are wrong but fundamentally, our freedom is not negotiable.
  • There is a certain sense of romance attached to the so-called revolutionaries. Bright young people from the cities carrying a jhola, moving to villages to try and bring ‘revolution’ had earlier acquired some sort of elitist status. Some fine minds have been lost to this fruitless cause. Many of these self-styled ‘revolutionaries’ have later been disillusioned. Remnants of such people can be seen even today railing against so called state terrorism.
  • Self-styled ideological demagogues need to exposed, as the Naxalites they support are fighting a guerilla war without ethics. The state has the same right to fight back in the same coin. This has to be laid down very firmly and convincingly. Mao Tse Tung, who the Maoists are very fond of quoting now and then, had said, "People are ponds, we are the fish. As long as there is water in the pond, we survive." The answer to this menace is to pick out the fish one by one.
  • The police forces across the country need to be modernized, better equipped, armed and trained to fight this menace. The intelligence set up needs to be improved and be made more effective. Stringent laws need to be enacted to nab the bleeding hearts who support and sustain the Naxalites.
  • The problem of the media and filmmakers eulogizing, glamorising and romanticising these people is a serious one and must be countered. Naxals also have linkages with anti-India terrorist outfits. Presently, they also operate in Delhi under the cover of their front organisations, dealing with which is also an issue. Such organisations brazenly misuse the democratic freedom our country gives.
  • Our core political and democratic values are based on the four pillars of a thriving legislature, a well-defined executive including the military and the police, a vibrant media and a free judiciary. All have their weaknesses but all have the wherewithal to sustain a democratic stature successfully. It is these core values that are being challenged by these fascist organizations.

 

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