Sukma & Gadchiroli: The boiling pots of Left-wing Extremism
The police and the security forces had some good news from the Maoists affected areas of Sukma district of Chhattisgarh and Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra in the current week. Three Maoists were killed due to firing by CRPF from its newly established camp at Mukru near Silger village of the district.
The CRPF had to retaliate when it’s this newly established camp in the area dominated by Maoists faced protests by the villagers having some Maoist cadres among the crowd. They wanted the camp to be closed down but when the police/CRPF did not oblige, they attacked the camp and fired gunshots also which led to this escalation. Whereas the protesters claim that those killed were simple village folks, the police have confirmed after verifying identity of the dead that they were the Maoists who were feeling threatened about their activities in the area due to this newly established camp. In Gadchiroli in Maharashtra the police killed 13 Maoist cadres, many of whom had rewards on their heads, during a routine search operation in the forests of Kotmi in Etapalli tehsil of the district in an encounter yesterday. These incidents may not have drawn much national attention but do have lot of importance as these show slow and steady domination by the security forces over the Maoists.
Basically, it is a fight between the police and the Maoists about the area domination in about 30 districts now, down from about 100 districts earlier, including the above mentioned three districts which are a part of their core areas because of their remoteness, difficult terrain, no development and availability of youngsters for their recruitment. A majority of the incidents of violence by them are from these districts though they have some presence in states like Bihar, M.P., Odisha, Jharkhand, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh also. Their activities have been controlled considerably during the last decade which is a measure of success of the security forces. Earlier they had, according to some estimates, about 10,000 hard core armed extremists but now are left with about 2000-3000. Though security forces keep on having setbacks, including a few major ones, on the whole they are succeeding in gaining more territory slowly which is quickly followed by development projects by the states ably supported and helped by the central government by various schemes like more security related expenditure, attractive surrender-cum-rehabilitation schemes, construction of roads and bridges, erecting communication towers etc.
But as of now these Left – Wing Extremist cadres are fighting tooth and nail this new strategy of the security forces of slowly opening more camps in their areas of domination. In the past some years security forces have successfully established many combined camps of local police and central forces. This is an excellent strategy and I have seen this as being very effective in insurgency areas in northeastern India where I have worked. The best way to fight an enemy is to enter his territory which will be violently resisted but if you are strong and powerful, they will retreat. This is what has been happening. In such situations there are bound to be reverses also for security forces which have to be taken in stride but this is the way to succeed as you improve your functioning based on experience. After gaining physical control of the area, the administration takes over for development projects of roads, communication, schools, medical care, take care of the livelihood and safeguarding of the traditional rights in terms of forest produce and many other related activities of the inhabitants. The grievances of the people must be addressed properly and to their satisfaction. The Maoists have been naturally resisting the establishment of these camps and the protest at the new camp near Silger was a part of that effort. Since villagers are under their control, they can’t refuse their diktat in holding such protests against the establishment of new camps. The poor folk are caught between the security forces and the Maoists.
Another important issue is that the Maoists don’t allow the development projects to be undertaken in those areas, and also extort lot of money from the contractors like in the case of encounter in Gadchiroli forests, where they had gone to extort money from the contractors of tendu leaves when they were suddenly faced by the police yesterday leading to an encounter and loss of their 13 cadres. To ensure successful completion of development projects like construction and upkeep of roads, bridges, communication lines and towers, hospitals and school buildings etc. a few peace Battalions of armed police should be exclusively raised just to guard the work on the development projects as was done in Tripura while fighting insurgency and this innovation was helpful. This battle by the government against the Maoists has also to be fought at ideological level as their ideology appeals to the simple village folks who are told that they are being exploited by the government and the richer class and both have to be overthrown violently. There are many renowned social organisations in the country who can undertake this ideological work in the areas dominated by Maoists to wean the public away from their ideology. A powerful sustained psy war (psychological war) to influence the people showing them the misdeeds of the Maoists is also needed. In this war social media should be used extensively as the new powerful tool for propaganda which is being used by the Maoists also ably supported by the urban Naxals. The concerned state governments, the politicians there, the social activists and others leading persons in other fields should also help in bringing peace in the affected areas. Further there should be whole-hearted cooperation between the bordering states and the central government.
We are on the road to success against Maoists though the speed is slow. With strong determination and action by all stakeholders, this speed can increase. It’s not an unsurmountable problem.