Naxalism – some reasons and some solutions
The Indian government seems to be waking up to the Naxalism (revolutionary, often violent, communist groups) menace if the spate of articles in the mainstream media in the last few months are anything to go by. About time too as the Maoists plan to attack urban centres like the industrial belts of Bhilai, Ranchi, Dhanbad, Calcutta and Mumbai, Pune, Surat Ahmedabad.
Here are some of the initiatives taken by the individual states:
- States of Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal will share information and coordinate with one another in adjoining border areas (to stop the Naxals from escaping across the borders after launching attacks).
- The Jharkhand government is setting up a state industrial security force on the lines of the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) to protect industries as the Naxalites (who operate in 18 of the 24 districts in the state) often destroy equipment of business establishments if they are not given extortion money.
- The Orissa State government will be getting 10000 extra personnel for fighting the Naxals – long term deployment of two battalions of CRPF in Orissa and an additional five India Reserve Battalions.
- In Tamil Nadu, a 10-day guerilla warfare training programme has begun for 320 cops in the seven districts falling under the Central Zone. The commandos of the elite STF will provide specialised training such as (1) sophisticated arms training (2) combing operations in reserve forests (3) setting up of temporary tents and bunkers to the 320 cops.
- The Kerala govt is now surveying labourers from other states as the Maoists are using the state as a hide-out.
- The Maharashtra government and the state police is setting up with a special force.
While the Centre has ruled out deployment of the Army as the forces’ hands are already full, the government has the following plans:
- The central government will be investing Rs 500-crore to fight the Naxals. This money will be used to provide (1) critical mobility to the police (2) secure camping grounds and helipads at strategic locations, (3) build basic roads for the forces so they have mobility in otherwise inaccessible areas.
- India’s Interior Ministry has set up an anti-rebel cell to ensure periodic review and close monitoring of rebel activities.
The price of government neglect
What’s probably worrying the government is that the Naxals are targeting the poor to get their recruits and there is no dearth of the poor in India. The map (from the wikipedia) shows that the Naxals are successful in the poorest districts of India.
For example, the rural tribal villagers in Chhattisgarh (where Naxalism thrives) live on less than 35 cents a day, one of the lowest in the country.
The Naxals are making hay in the north-east too. This map doesn’t show too much of Naxalite presence in the north-east but it must be wrong. Why, tea-estates in Assam have become breeding grounds for the Naxals!
Orissa seems to be in a bad shape. Here over 72 percent of all adivasis (indigenous minority of the population of India, the term often used synonymously with tribals) live well below the poverty line and the Naxals are becoming more powerful by the day. You can read more about the Adivasis and Naxalism here.
Let’s all remember that the Adivasis were here before us. If India belongs to anybody, it belongs to them:
The spread of Naxalism is an indication of the sense of desperation and alienation that is sweeping over of large sections of our nation who have been not only systematically marginalised but cruelly exploited and dispossessed in their last homelands…the central Indian adivasis have been described as “the original autochthonous people of India” meaning that their presence in India pre-dated the Dravidians, the Aryans and whoever else settled in this country…these are the real swadeshi products of India, in whose presence all others are foreign. These are ancient people with moral rights and claims thousands of years old. They were here first and should come first in our regard…Unfortunately like indigenous people all over the world, the India’s adivasis too have been savaged and ravaged by later people claiming to be more ‘civilised’.
At the national level 45.86 percent of all adivasis live below the poverty line which means that almost half of India’s original inhabitants go to bed every night starving. Several anthropometric studies have revealed that successive generations of adivasis are actually becoming smaller unlike all other people in India who benefit from better and increasingly nutritious diets…
Adivasis are just one group of people being targeted by the Naxals for recruitment. Overall, all poor people are being targeted, including Dalits.
Poverty, lack of land reforms, caste discrimination and oppression and denial of access to justice push the Dalits closer to the Naxals. The concentration of Dalit populations in the Naxalite affected areas in India is quite high.
Well, that was to remind all of us about the injustice that is being perpetrated on certain areas in the country….and that terror groups are making full use of it. As the agenda that the Naxals mouth is typically pro-poor and because the ‘development’ in India is not reaching all of the population, the Naxals are having a field day. The government seems to be waking up to the seriousness of the situation however and well, better late than ever.
In conclusion I want to say that the government has proposed a three-pronged strategy to combat Naxalism:
- Gain confidence of local people by taking up more welfare related activities.
- Build up infrastructure in naxal-affected areas and generate employment.
- Launch joint security operations with neighbouring states to eliminate left wing extremists.
I am glad that the government has put (1) and (2) first. That should be the priority, always. Hopefully, the situation doesn’t have to get worse to get better.
(Credits: Map is from the Wikipedia, photo is from the Times of India. I also want to thank NaxalWatch as that site has a collection of many articles on this subject all in one place. I found at least half of the above links due to the headlines on that blog.)