Naxals: A terrifying black hole

Naxals: A terrifying black hole
Naxals: A terrifying black hole

It’s the season of banalities in politics. An outsider would be excused for thinking that India’s biggest crisis is BJP sniping over Rahul’s Bharat Jodo Yatra, hate speeches, Joshimath sinking, inflation, high prices. Alas, lost in the seamless and mindless meandering babble, is the brutal reality that the 1967 peripheral peasant threat nee Naxalites have now reached a critical mass. Never Mind Home Minister Shah vowing to make India Naxal-free next year.

Barely, had Shah spoken that Naxalites fired at a CRPF COBRA commando team and Telangana police’s Greyhounds in Chhattisgarh’s Bijapur and Sukma districts during a massive anti-Naxal operation killing 6 policemen and one Red commander Wednesday. Earlier 5 security personnel were killed in Chaibasa, Jharkhand. And 2023 has just started.

Fury and anguish apart, it tore asunder the carefully cultivated mirage of the  rarified air-condition portals of New Delhi’s Raisina Hill and State Capitals that the Red brigade menace was not as serious as made out to be. Reeling out banal statements, “Government is determined to take the ongoing fight against Naxals to its logical conclusion.” Words we have heard zillion of times after every attack, but as sequence of events shows its mere words.

Questionably, how does the Centre intend fighting the war? Does it know the DNA of Maoists? Have an iron-tight anti-Naxal policy in place? A realistic and accurate assessment of challenges? Does it know what fuels their movement? Are Reds driven purely by “robbing Peter to pay Paul” syndrome? Can an honorable cause and eventual utopian outcome justify violent means? Is violence consistent with norms of democracy?

Tragically, Government is clueless of how it should tackle the growing menace. At last count Maoists had spread their deadly tentacles in 20 States and 223 districts – and is showing no signs of exhaustion. (7 States have already slipped beyond State control). Worse, they have assumed alarming proportions and intend ratcheting up stakes at a potent level to destroy democracy and replace it with anarchy.

Intelligence sources aver Reds have links with Lashkar-e-Tayiba, HUL and other Islamic terror outfits and enjoy patronage from China. Simultaneously, they want to transmute the social structure through the barrel of the gun and are getting moral & material support from Nepal, Pakistan’s ISI and China. Their ambition: Have a ‘Red Corridor’ from Pashupati to Tirupati.

Clearly, Government cannot fight a war with battle cries of courage. Think. Over 60 security personnel were killed in 131 Naxal attacks till June last, another 62 dead and 103 injured 2021, 55 killed and 50 maimed 2020, 21killed and 26 wounded 2019 including a BJP MLA and four security personnel exterminated when Naxals blew up their vehicle in Dantewada district. In March-April 2017 37 CRPF jawans were again killed in two separate attacks in Sukma. The preceding year a powerful landmine blast slayed 7 policemen in Raipur district and 2 in Sukma district.

Shockingly since 2014 they have killed over 3,670 people equaling three deaths every two days according to South Asia Terrorism Portal. Only one Naxal gets killed for four deaths among policemen and civilians. Not only that. As Reds become mightier and deadlier with each killing, police helplessness is obvious.

Pertinently, 14 of Chhattisgarh’s 27 districts are in the vicious tentacles of left wing extremism violence. Sadly, successive Government’s have reveled in pass-the-buck mind games and taken the easy way. Arguably, has India underestimated Maoists’ military capabilities? Prepared its forces to tackle a well-entrenched and motivated guerrilla force?  Covering the entire panoply of counter-insurgency skills: Training to technology, intelligence to social development. Given, counter-insurgency is not a picnic.

Asserted a senior police officer, “There is lot of vacillation and ad hocism, whereby counter-Naxal strategy and attacks have been outsourced to Central security forces.” Consequently, with  Central forces playing supporter’s role and not a lead force to the State, the fight against Maoists is manifest by massive confusion and operational weakness with both accusing each other of failure.

Consequently, tackling Maoists cannot be dismissed as a rural or tribal problem of quelling a mob of stone-throwers. Four factors need to be remembered. One, coordination, cooperation and complete understanding between CRPF and State police as sons of soil they know the terrain while CRPF gets battalion from all over for short periods who have neither terrain knowledge or know the local language. Towards that end, police must be motivated, given pre-induction training and right equipment before being sent to battlefield.

Two, provide proper ground intelligence back-up. As attacks show there are not enough intelligence inputs. More impetus should be given to feedback from the ground whereby authorities need to sanitize people on the periphery of security forces: drivers, sweepers and locals to ensure Maoists don’t have access to vital information that would help them mount deadly attacks. Also, one should think out-of-the-box and adopt unique tactics along-with constant and continuous uniformity in response.

Three, be ever vigilant. Use vehicles off the beaten track or move on foot. Take a leaf of Andhra and Punjab. In Andhra it was compulsory for every sub-inspector recruited to train in anti-Naxal operations and IPS officers were posted in Naxal-hit districts before being made SPs.’ In Punjab,  terrorism was  rooted out by police taking terrorists head on with CRPF, BSF and Army support.

Further, learn from military. When it finds conditions tough, it does tactical retreat, regroups and again assaults. Security forces need to do ditto. An integrated manpower policy adopted for armed, paramilitary and central police forces. Forces need to be overhauled and restructured in command and control.

Till date the Government has talked ad nauseum about its ‘anti-Naxal strategy’ couched in jingoistic jargon of “challenge, development” etc. Used grand language: “tackle terror on the political, security and development fronts in a holistic manner”. Failing to realize that impressive catchphrases don’t add up to well-thought-of strategies. Instead they only allude to a mumble-jumble of intentions and wishful thinking at best and complete catatonia at worst.

What next? New Delhi must acquire resources to contain if not annihilate the enemy. There should be planned deployment of time-bound resources imposed by conflict. The Government needs to realize if there is disconnect between its objectives, tactics, resources and ground conditions, all stratagems and measures are rendered redundant.

It needs to deal with distortions in the social system on a war footing to alleviate poverty, ensure speedy development and enforce law and order strictly. Police needs reorientation, equipment and mandate to deal with Maoists. Only through genuine police reforms and dramatic augmentations in general policing capabilities can the State stem the rising tide of Naxal terror. Given that Maoists follow the ‘fish in water’ policy: which renders guerrilla soldiers indistinguishable from common citizens.

Undoubedly, both Centre and State need to act together, take the bull by the horn and realize that anti-Naxal operations are a chronic terrifying black hole. Time to send a clear message that senseless violence wouldn’t be tolerated. Remember, nations live or die by the way they respond to a challenge. Do our leaders have the stomach? —- INFA


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Naxals: A terrifying black hole