Maoist threat in India worsens
Friday, July 12, 2013 – Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has described the Maoist insurgency as the biggest internal security challenge since independence. He has hit the nail on the head since Maoists are the main stumbling block in the path of Indian progress. The root cause of the insurgency is deprivation and poverty.
The complex and structural causes of the problem support this proposition. The Maoist or Naxal movement also presents the greatest overall threat to India in the future, as it highlights various underlying weaknesses of India’s governance, political institutions and socio-economic structure. Naxalism is the biggest threat because it affects several areas including the economy, security and foreign affairs, its citizens and rule of law.
The terms Naxalites or Maoists are used to refer to militant far-left radical Communist groups operating in India. Inspired by the doctrines of Mao Zedong, Naxalites work to overthrow the government and upper classes by violence. The Indian Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) describes the objectives of Maoists as destroying “state legitimacy…with the ultimate object of attaining political power by violent means”. They are considered as a terrorist organization under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act of India (1967). The movement started in West Bengal in the early seventies but has since spread to the rural areas in central and eastern India. According to the MHA, Maoists use the cover of civil society and front organizations on issues such as displacement, land reforms and acquisition to enhance their mass support.
Maoists have been attacking police establishments and infrastructures such as public transportation, causing insecurity and instability to the area. From the period 2006-2010 alone, there were nearly 9,000 incidents with Maoists with over 3,000 civilians killed. The Maoists are active in approximately 40 percent of India’s geographical area. They control large portions of remote and densely forested areas and are concentrated in an region labeled as the “Red Corridor”. This area is also the tribal belt where the tension between economic development and aboriginal land rights is most apparent.
The Indian Home Minister P Chidambaram claims to have suppressed the movement but in the near past, Maoists have intensified their attacks. On May 25, 2013, the Maoists sent shock waves across India by successfully targeting a Congress Party convoy in the Darbha Valley of Bastar District, Chhattisgarh, killing 26 persons, including Mahendra Karma, the controversial architect of the armed Salwa Judum anti-Maoist ‘people’s movement’ Just over a month later, on July 2, 2013, the Maoists killed Amarjit Balihar, the Pakur District Superintendent of Police (SP) and five other Policemen in an ambush in the Kathikund Forest area of Dumka District, bordering Pakur.
The SP was returning from a meeting with Deputy Inspector General (DIG) Priya Dubey in Dumka District when his vehicle was attacked by Maoists. The Maoists first triggered a landmine blast and then started firing indiscriminately on the convoy from higher ground. Another three Policemen suffered serious injuries. The Maoists escaped with two AK-47s, four INSAS rifles, two pistols and more than 600 rounds of ammunition. The attack took place at a time when some 3,000 Security Force (SF) personnel belonging to the Jharkhand Police and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) were carrying out operations against the Maoists in the jungles of Palamu District. These operations commenced on June 25, 2013.
Maoists continue to play a cat and mouse game with the security forces. Whenever the security forces focus their attention on a specific area of Maoist strength, the Maoists change gears by extending violence to other areas. Thus, when security forces focused their operations on Latehar, Gumla and Garwah Districts in north-western Jharkhand, the Maoists struck in the Saranda Forest areas in south Jharkhand, forcing the SFs to divert troops to execute operation Anaconda II. As Force deployment has remained stretched in traditional Maoist strongholds, gaping holes have emerged in the security net in the Santhal Pargana areas of Northeast Jharkhand.
The current escalation in Maoist violence and the patterns of engagement with state forces suggest progressive consolidation on the part of the former, even as the state fails to forge and sustain a coherent strategy of response. It is also apparent that the lessons of past successes against the Maoists are yet to be learned, and an overwhelming and ill-advised dependence on CAPFs and on clumsy, often counter-productive, ‘area domination’ exercises persists, to the abiding neglect of State Police and intelligence capacities and capabilities. Under the circumstances, the Maoists will continue to retain, and, indeed, build, their capacity to deliver shock after shock to the system.
Sushil Kumar, in his “The Statesman” Op-Ed: ‘The enemy within: India faces up the Maoist threat’, says “What began as a minor insurgency with its moorings at Naxalbari has festered over the years and emboldened the rebels to take on the establishment in frontal combat. Their display of sophisticated firepower even suggests cross-border support for their cause. This was the lesson from Dantewada and Bastar. It also clearly shows that Indians are up against a well-organized rebellion, whose tentacles spread across half the districts of the Indian subcontinent. This is now a widespread national security problem that requires a well-conceived national strategy. The ferocity and precision of the Dantewada and Bastar strikes clearly indicate that the Maoist order of battle will require operational counter-measures that are far beyond the professional capability of Indian police outfits.” Perhaps the need of the hour is to engage the armed forces.
India has been blaming Pakistan of cross border terrorism as well a drawing attention to the possibility of terrorists getting hold of Pakistani nukes and creating mayhem elsewhere. The fact of the matter is that with 40% of Indian territory being affected by Maoist insurgency and the Red Corridor running across Indian nuclear sites, India presents a clear and present danger to itself and the world. The sooner it accepts the gravity of the situation and moves beyond rhetoric and takes drastic measures to control the Maoist insurgency, it will continue to bleed and also expose the region and the world to unparalleled threats. Its dreams of becoming a superpower will be dashed.(Sultan M Hali)