Naxals Terrifying Black Hole Where does the buck stop ?

Poonam I Kaushish
The more things change the more they remain the same. Want to know the most banal political speak used for all dastardly situations? “The Government will enforce the State’s writ in dealing with the challenge….while pursuing a policy to address grassroots developmental concerns.” Sic. No matter, these great sounding empty sound-bites translate into zilch.
The latest to espouse this is Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh vis-à-vis the four Naxalite attacks in Chhattisgarh  killing 13 policemen and Special Task Force men,  injuring over 10, blowing up anti-landmine vehicles and torching 17 trucks since Saturday last. Clearly, sending out a signal they will not allow the BJP Government carry out development work, particularly setting up new mines in the State.
Predictably, post attack, things ran par on course. Rajnath called an emergency meeting attended by top Union Ministers on Sunday who decided to provide the State Government all necessary assistance to act fast and frame a clear policy to ensure development work continues. Alongside, more Central forces would be sent to aid the State launch a major offensive to flush out the Naxals leadership.
Importantly, the issue is not the latest crisis because this is not going to be the extremists last. Or, whether the State Administration has the where-with-all to deal with the Maoists? What matters is that it exposes the Central and State Government’s soft under-belly in their anti-Naxal armour, lack of seriousness, slack and coordination between the two as also no cohesion between the forces on the ground.
Worse, so directionless are the Centre and State that they went into denial mode. The Maoists offensive “is a positive indication that the State Government is taking the lead in operations against them.” Really? You could have fooled me.  Never mind the casualties; the attacks underscored lack of a cohesive strategy and actionable intelligence. Failing to realize that knee-jerk operations will not yield results, instead it would put security personnel at risk.
More scandalous, the Union Government’s much-hyped policy on tackling Red terror is caught in a time wrap. One-step-forward-two-steps-backwards. Asserted a senior police officer, “There is a lot of vacillation and ad hocism, whereby counter-Naxal strategy and attacks have been outsourced to the Central security forces.”
Consequently, with the Central forces playing the role of a supporter and not a lead force to the State, the fight against Red terror is manifest by massive confusion and operational weakness with both accusing each other of failure.
The time has come for the Government to take the bull by the horn and realize that anti-Naxal operations have become a chronic terrifying black hole. For starters, the Centre must rid itself of finding political and bureaucratic solutions and get security and intelligence experts to strategize tactical requirements to contain this menace.  Think. The insurgency, which started in 1967 as a peasant uprising, has now spread to 20 States and 223 districts- and is showing no signs of exhaustion. (7 States have already slipped beyond State control). In fact, Maoists are busy expanding their movement to the Southern theatre in the trijunction of Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Already, the situation in Kerala is slowly becoming very serious. Further, Maoists have killed over 3,670 people since 2005, equaling three deaths every two days according to the South Asia Terrorism Portal. Shockingly, only one Naxal gets killed for four deaths among security personnel and civilians. Add to this, they have seized over 3000 weapons including AK 47’s, bombs and RDX in the last three years. Highlighting, the Government ill-preparedness and the abysmal in-effectiveness of our intelligence apparatus.
Intelligence sources assert the Maoist game plan is to physically occupy the countryside and surround the cities until they can force regime change. Simultaneously, they want to transmute the social structure through the barrel of the gun. Towards that end, they are getting moral & material support from Nepal, Pakistan’s ISI and China and have links with the Lashkar-e-Tayiba, HUL and other Islamic terror outfits. Their ambition is to have a ‘red corridor’ from Pashupati to Tirupati.
Shockingly, New Delhi is fighting this violent movement with not even one tenth of the total security forces required to contain it. Worse, more than 30% of the Centre’s outlay towards modernization of the police force in the Red corridor has not been released at all and in eight Naxal-hit States only 63% of the outlay was used in 2001-2011.
Undoubtedly, our war against Naxalism is slowly but surely turning out be a one-sided bloody affair, as Maoists dominate a battlefield of dispirited and ill-prepared security forces with no credible intelligence flow. The level of their sophistication in inflicting large-scale casualties on civilians and security personnel with minimum damage to themselves exposes their superiority.  In addition, the tribals’ feels if security forces could be killed where do we go? So willy-nilly they start obeying the so-called diktats of the Naxalites. This gives impetus to other groups to attack elsewhere.
What next? First, New Delhi needs to clearly define and acquire resources to contain if not annihilate the enemy. Towards that end there should be planned deployment of time-bound resources imposed by the conflict. It needs to remember that if there is a disconnect between its objectives, tactics, resources and ground conditions, all stratagems and measures are rendered redundant.
Further, the forces need to tackle the lacunae in Naxal’s ideological framework and simultaneously launch a political offensive with a humanistic vision. Two, the Government 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.
Three, the Government must put calculated emphasis on intelligence-led and narrowly targeted operations seeking out the leadership, rather than dissipating the forces on chasing cadres. The State must seize and hold the initiative instead of concentrating on territory. Given that the Maoists follow the ‘fish in water’ policy: which renders the guerrilla soldiers indistinguishable from common citizens.  Four, the police need 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.
In this lop-sided war involving psychological warfare, the Government has to tread carefully, first identify the enemy and then deal with him. There must be a clear determination to contain Red terror on their peripheries, to engineer their expulsion from areas in which their influence is nascent, and ensure that they are not able to expand into new areas.
In sum, New Delhi needs a clear vision coupled with a no-nonsense approach devoid of sentimentalism to come to grips with this long, bloody war. The Centre cannot pass the buck to States, it must take a forceful lead, demonstrate its honest intent, quickly forge a no-holds barred policy to show that acts of Maoist senseless violence would not be tolerated and they would have to pay for targeting ordinary people.
As the Israeli’s assert, an eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth.  The ball is in “zero tolerance” Prime Minister Modi’s court. Can he walk his talk? INFA


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