India has time and again, witnessed attacks of terrorism, whose perpetrators are across borders. The most recent and glaring example of this would be the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai. However, in all the hurry to deal with cross border terrorism, the Indian Government seemed to have forgotten the Maoist issue boiling in states like that of Jharkhand, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and West Bengal.
Let us first look at how the Maoist situation in India got this serious. It is interesting to note that while the Maoist conflict is presently the longest continuously active conflict worldwide, it never really came to the immediate attention of the common Indian, until perhaps the Dhantewada incident, where Maoist forces killed seventy five Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel, in a brutal ambush.
The Maoist conflict is essentially a conflict between Maoist groups, also known as the Naxalites or Naxals (since the violence originated in the 1960s in a West Bengal village called Naxalbari) and the government. They follow the ideals of Mao Zedong- that of capturing power “through a rural insurgency of the rural poor”, in B. Raman’s words. Raman is the Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Government of India and remains one of the most frequently quoted experts on the subject.
In 2006, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh admitted that the Maoists were the biggest threat to India’s internal security. He also said that the Naxals have a growing support base within the poor of the tribal areas in India and this situation cannot be merely treated as a law and order situation. In the year 2009, the government and Indian Minister for Internal Affairs, P. Chidambaram, initiated the beginning of an operation called “Operation Green Hunt”, an operation concentrated along the Red Corridor. The Maoists retaliated by launching several high profile attacks on the Indian security forces and said that till the government does not stop “Operation Green Hunt”, such attacks would continue.
P. Chidambaram has also, as Minister for Internal Affairs, invited several flak for his “blow hot- blow cold” attitude towards the Naxalite problem. He has in the past stated that the Naxalite problem is merely a state problem. He continues to treat the Maoists as merely a law and order situation, which does not help in any way, since the issues of the tribals have to be taken into account. It is by gaining sympathy with these tribals that the Maoists have been able to get a free run in such areas and carry out repeated attacks on security forces. The minister has also created a huge problem by his comments that this Maoist menace will be ended to by a maximum of two to three years. This creates unnecessary pressure by creating a sort of deadline. Such pressure will only lead to more loss in lives of security personnel.
Maoists use the latest of all technologies, while our Indian security forces still charge with the figurative lathi in comparison. It is simply not pragmatic to rush in security personnel when what is really required are people who know the local language, the terrain and the local tribes, even if Chidambaram refuses to talk to the Naxals, talks should be held with the tribals, so that the support base itself is cut down drastically.
Until Chidambaram changes his strategy, the Maoist problem will continue to fester in India as an open wound.