86 pc naxal attacks in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Bihar, Orissa

24 02 2009

Source: PTI

New Delhi : Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Bihar and Orissa together account for about 86 per cent of incidents of naxal violence and casualties, both civilian and security personnel, in the country.

In the 1,591 incidents in the country in 2008, the number being slightly higher than those in the previous year, 231 security personnel and 490 civilians were killed, Home Ministry sources said.

Chhattisgarh accounted for the highest number of 620 incidents, followed by Jharkhand (484), Bihar (164) and Orissa (103), they said.

In Chhattisgarh, 85 security personnel and 157 civilians lost their lives in naxal violence in 2008, while in Jharkhand the corresponding figures were 38 policemen and 169 civilians.

Bihar accounted for the deaths of 21 security men and 52 civilians and for Orissa the respective figures were 73 security personnel and 28 civilians.

In fact, this year’s figures available till first week of this month show that 53 incidents of naxal violence have already taken place in Chhattisgarh, followed by 48 in Jharkhand, 17 in Bihar and 10 in Orissa. Maharashtra has accounted for 15 incidents, including the most daring one in Gadchiroli early this month in which 15 policemen were killed.

Besides the four worst-affected States, naxal violence has been reported from Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal, the sources said.

The total casualties of security forces in 2008 was 231, which was five less than the toll in 2007. Likewise, 490 civilians were killed in naxal attacks in 2008, compared to 460 the previous year.

While 199 naxalites were killed in police operations last year, the figure for 2007 was 141, they said.

Referring to the spurt in naxal violence in Gadchiroli district, a senior official said that the maoists operating in Chhattisgarh were reported to be moving to new areas.

“CPI (Maoists) cadres move from one state to another. Such movement of Maoist cadres usually takes place in the adjoining areas of the states affected by naxal problem,” the official said.

He said such movements underline the need for joint operations — a suggestion mooted at a recent meeting of Chief Ministers of affected States chaired by Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram.

The naxal Wing in the Home Ministry is monitoring on a regular basis the training being imparted to state police and para-military forces in counter-insurgency and jungle warfare. The Centre has sanctioned 10 Commando Battalions for Resolute Action (CoBRA) as a specialised anti-maoist force.

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New left still maintains the old heroes

7 07 2008

Wednesday June 18 2008 09:25 IST
Francois Gautier
From: Newindpress.com

WHEN we were young, our heroes were Mao Zedong, Che Guevara, or even Pol Pot. Of course, in time, we learnt about the crimes of Mao, who killed millions of his own people — Pol Pot, of course was even more of a monster. Stalin was not much better.

Thus, in most of the world, communism is practically dead. One cannot call China anymore a communist country —indeed, there may not be a more ruthless capitalistic nation today — and even Cuba is inching towards free trade. In India though, not only is communism not dead, it is flourishing ! You find communist governments in West Bengal, partly in Kerala or Tripura and the present Congress government owes its survival to the communists.

In a way, it is positive. You see a youth like Nandan, filmmaker Mani Ratnam’s son, who was a “Red Volunteer” at a recent CPI-M meet in Chennai. Or you come across an ardent communist like Dr Binayak Sen, now in jail. Communists often live a simple life and are committed. Witness the youthful leader Sitaram Yetchury.

Unfortunately, there is also a darker side : Indian communists have totally aligned themselves with Lenin and Mao, to the point that not only they are antispiritual, particularly targeting Hindus, but often anti-Indian. They will never criticise China and even take sides with the Chinese in case of tensions between Delhi and Beijing.

There is an even more dangerous angle: when communism takes on an armed face. In India it is naxalism. The naxal movement, basically a Maoist-inspired armed struggle, began as a violent peasant uprising against the landlords at Naxalbari village in West Bengal on May 25, 1967. It is true that naxalism may have risen out a wounded sense of injustice, seeing how there are still unforgivable disparities in certain parts of India which have suffered for centuries from caste discrimination, exploitation by landlords and the lethargy of the administrative and political system.

However, the naxals are clear about their objectives. They freely quote from Mao: “Its (Maoism’s) purpose is to destroy an existing society and its institutions and to replace them with a completely new structure.” Indeed, if one looks closely at naxalism today, one sees murder, rape, kidnap, extortion, money laundering and human rights violations.

Today, 16 of the 35 States and Union Territories have Maoists operating. This affects 192 of India’s 604 districts. In the last twelve months, naxalism has redoubled its efforts to break up Indian society. On March 15, 2007, Maoist rebels massacred 16 officers of the Chhattisgarh Armed Force, 39 Special Police Officers and injured 12 others at Rani Bodli village. On Oct 27, armed naxals massacred 17 people including a former Jharkhand chief minister’s son in Chilkhari village of the state’s Giridih district. On Dec 16, in a daring jailbreak, 110 naxalites escaped from Chhattisgarh’s Dantewada Jail. There are many other examples.

Sometimes, the press says that the menace is on the wane. Nothing could be further from the truth. The naxalites have a budget of Rs 60 crores for their armed struggle during 2007-09. This is raised abroad by NGO in countries like Norway, where there is some sympathy for them. Furthermore, emboldened by the Maoists in Nepal who have not only conquered the countryside, but come to government, Naxalites in India have recently released a stunning declaration:

* We pledge: To coordinate the people’s war with the ongoing armed struggles of the various oppressed nationalities in Kashmir, Assam, Nagaland, Manipur and other parts of the Northeast.

* To build a united front of all secular forces and persecuted religious minorities such as Muslims, Christians and Sikhs.

* To build a secret party apparatus impregnable to the enemy’s attacks.

* To build open and secret mass organisations among the workers, peasants, youth, students, women and other sections of the people.

* To build the people’s militia in all villages in the guerrilla zones as the base force of the PGA (People’s Guerrilla Army). Also build armed self-defence units in other areas of class struggle as well as in the urban areas.

The Government of India has tried everything to contain the naxalites: negotiation, counter-insurgency, arming the tribals, but with little result. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar of the Art of Living Foundation has started a dialogue with the naxalites to show that the gun is not only solution.

His teachings and initiatives have transformed many villages in the naxalite-dominated areas of Andhra Pradesh and Bihar. During his visits to Bihar, more than 100,000 youths from warring factions such as Ranvir Sena, People’s War Group and Maoist Communist Centre vowed to spread the message of non-violence.

He also recently initiated a much needed peace and reconciliation conference in Oslo, Norway, on April 11, which focused on the internal armed conflicts of South Asia, particularly naxalism, and discussed possible solutions and means to solve them. Norway’s special envoy, Jon Hanssen-Bauer, Members of European Parliament Erika Mann, Nirj Deva and Aud Kvalbein, Deputy Mayor of Oslo were some of the prominent European speakers in the conference.

Finally we can only conclude by quoting Ajit Doval, Former Director, Intelligence Bureau : “Taking the trends of the last five years, we can build a model of the security scenario for the year 2010. Over 260 districts, nearly half of India, would be naxal-affected where the government’s writ hardly runs.”

Is the naxal dream of a Red Belt, from Nepal to Andhra Pradesh, become a reality? We hope not. For the ancient Indian way of life, the Dharma, offers other solutions.

The writer is the Editor-in-Chief of La Revue de l’Inde. He lives in India.





Interview: Navin Patnaik, (From TEHELKA)

7 07 2008

From: Tehelka

in cold blood

‘The Naxalites will die a painful death’

Orissa CM Naveen Patnaik tells BIBHUTI PATI that a police boat was sunk by Naxal rebels only by accident
Photo: Shailendra Pandey

You have often said the state government was fully geared to handle the Naxal menace?

This is nothing but terrorism. The attack was brutal. In the name of helping the poor, the Naxalites are murdering innocents in manner that is nothing but barbaric.

But if Greyhound soldiers cannot handle the Naxal firepower, do you think the state’s police force stands a chance?

It was an accident. Terrorist activities can take place anywhere in the country. That does not mean the state’s police force is not competent. We have launched a modernisation programme for the police. I recently had a discussion with Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil on this very issue.

Many are saying the Naxalites are now better trained and have better weapons?

No, I do not think so. I have told you it’s terrorism and incidents like these can happen anywhere in the country.

Which are the troubled zones in Orissa where the Naxalites have a distinct upper hand?

The undivided Koraput district is a major trouble zone. The Naxals have recently spread their wings to western Orissa because people living there are poor, illiterate and innocent. We are making efforts to reach out to the poor. I would say the situation is now gradually changing in our favour. In some places, the Maoists are losing their turf. But if you are seeking a big change overnight, that will not happen. The Naxalites have no specific operation zone and keep shifting from place to place.

With the Salva Judum coming under fire, is this counterviolence the only way to solve the crisis?

Who told you that the Salva Judum is not working? But I must say I don’t believe in counter-violence. But if they take law and order in their hands, then they will have to face the music. I cannot let my men die like this.

The rebels have been fighting for more than three decades in several Indian states, demanding land and jobs. Is it not an issue the state governments need to understand?

They have chosen a very wrong path. I do not think violence will solve any problem. Who told you that they are working for agriculture labourers and the poor? In our state, there are several examples of how the Maoists have brutally killed many poor people and farmers. Is brutality the only way to fight for a good cause and help the poor? The state governments, which are often attacked by the media, have programmes for the poor. What package are the Naxalites offering to the landless? We are gaining in many places. Have you noticed how we have got many top Maoists leaders, including women, to surrender and work for governmental programmes?

Over the past few years, about 2,000 people — including policemen, militants and civilians — have been killed.

In the last couple of years, the state police has had a number of successful operations where we have busted Naxalite hideouts and confiscated arms. We have destroyed hundreds of Maoists camps and arrested some of their top leaders. No one writes a line about it. I am confident that once modernisation seeps in poverty-stricken areas, the Maoists and their great theories of helping the poor will die a painful death.

From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 5, Issue 27, Dated July 12, 2008

Also See links

‘I LEFT THE NAXALS, JOINED SALVA JUDUM’





Indian Maoists destroy mobile towers, snap lines

30 06 2008

PATNA, India, June 27 (Reuters) – India’s Maoist insurgents destroyed two mobile towers and have shut down six others in the country’s east, blaming the network for revealing their movements to the police, officials said.
Rebels, fearing mobiles are being used by informers, have banned the use of mobile phones in villages under their control in India after hundreds of suspected insurgents were arrested this year.
Police said armed rebels set two towers of Bharti Airtel Ltd on fire on Thursday in Bihar state, snapping communication lines in the region.
“The Maoists are angry since the police were able to locate their movements through the mobile network, leading to many arrests,” said Ajay Kumar Sinha, a senior police officer from Gaya district, where the incident took place.
The rebels called local media to claim responsibility.
A spokeswoman for Bharti Airtel said they were looking into the issue.
The rebels say they are fighting for the rights of the poor and landless. They regularly kill policemen and attack government establishments in eastern and central India.
They usually operate in a large swathe of India stretching from the east to some southern states, mostly in the countryside. (Writing by Bappa Majumdar; Editing by Alistair Scrutton) (For the latest Reuters news on India see: in.reuters.com, for blogs see blogs.reuters.com/in/.)





Indian Maoists destroy mobile towers, snap lines

30 06 2008

PATNA, India, June 27 (Reuters) – India’s Maoist insurgents destroyed two mobile towers and have shut down six others in the country’s east, blaming the network for revealing their movements to the police, officials said.
Rebels, fearing mobiles are being used by informers, have banned the use of mobile phones in villages under their control in India after hundreds of suspected insurgents were arrested this year.
Police said armed rebels set two towers of Bharti Airtel Ltd on fire on Thursday in Bihar state, snapping communication lines in the region.
“The Maoists are angry since the police were able to locate their movements through the mobile network, leading to many arrests,” said Ajay Kumar Sinha, a senior police officer from Gaya district, where the incident took place.
The rebels called local media to claim responsibility.
A spokeswoman for Bharti Airtel said they were looking into the issue.
The rebels say they are fighting for the rights of the poor and landless. They regularly kill policemen and attack government establishments in eastern and central India.
They usually operate in a large swathe of India stretching from the east to some southern states, mostly in the countryside. (Writing by Bappa Majumdar; Editing by Alistair Scrutton) (For the latest Reuters news on India see: in.reuters.com, for blogs see blogs.reuters.com/in/.)





Meeting the Naxal challenge

30 06 2008

Praful Bidwai

Has the Indian government established at least a degree of control over Naxalite activity? And has it got any wiser about how to contain Naxal-related violence after almost four decades of trying?

Going by the first meeting of the Standing Committee of chief ministers of Naxalite-affected states on September 19, and the October 5 conference of directors general of police, the answer isn’t clear. The CMs’ meeting happened barely a month after Andhra Pradesh reimposed a ban on a range of Naxalite groups followed by Chhattisgarh.

In both cases, the proscription followed violent incidents. In Chhattisgarh, the Naxals demonstrated their military prowess by blowing up a mine-proof vehicle carrying 24 Central Reserve Police Force personnel with a mine. This sent the vehicle flying 35 feet up in the air till it landed 90 feet away. In Andhra, they killed a Congress MLA on Independence Day.

PM assures help in tackling Naxalites

This deplorable violence formed the backdrop to the tough talk heard at the Standing Committee, itself encouraged by Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil’s recent statements advocating the use of violence against Naxals.

Not many recalled the background to the violence, which was preceded by police brutality not just against Naxals, but ordinary villagers merely suspected to be their informers.

Even so, a consensus was reached on a ‘two-pronged’ approach: of ‘firmly tackling the security threat, and simultaneously implementing programmes for socio-economic development of vulnerable areas.’ Patil urged the CMs to ‘act compassionately but in a determined manner; use force but properly and discreetly.’

The states agreed to appoint ‘nodal officers’ for coordination. A handsome Rs 2,000 crores (Rs 20 billion) was allocated annually to anti-Naxal ‘police modernisation.’ The Centre gave the go-ahead to the use of sophisticated weaponry like helicopters and armoured vehicles in anti-Naxal operations. In addition, Rs 2 crores per Naxal-affected district was granted to “accelerate socio-economic development.”

This works out to a much smaller Rs 280 crores. The two “prongs,” then, are unequal in length. Indeed, the conclusion that many CMs and policemen have drawn from the Delhi deliberations is that they must step up the use of force. Thus, Andhra Director-General of police Swaranjit Sen, known for his machismo, hubris and trigger-happiness, and for his threats to sue journalists who interview the CPI-Maoist says he’ll use helicopters to “bring Naxalites out of forests,” and transport men and material for anti-extremist operations.

Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand are considering the “Afghanistan Solution” — building a network of highways through forests to connect remote villages and create a “security corridor.” (It’s another matter that this hasn’t worked in Afghanistan. Besides, destroying forests and disrupting village life would aggravate the Naxal problem.) Even more dramatically, Bihar is planning to use satellite imagery to track Naxal activities.

Who are the Naxalites?

Such fancy high-tech schemes are fundamentally misconceived. They miss the point about the Naxalites’ strengths and weaknesses. Satellite pictures might have helped if the Naxals had permanent camps or held large-scale gatherings. But they don’t operate that way. Typically, they mix with villagers following Mao’s dictum about guerrillas and people being like fish and water. Helicopter gunships would be effective in mowing down whole hamlets — as the US, for instance, did in Vietnam, or is doing in Colombia.

But that involves indiscriminate violence, which in turn can only foment Naxal counter-violence.

The key to the problem lies in breaking this cycle of violence-and-counter-violence, not in raising it on to a higher military-technological plane. This happens when the state tries to tilt the power balance decisively in its favour through tough measures, starting with a ban and using increasingly lethal force to “instil the fear of God in the enemy”, as some policemen put it. But force can rarely deter counter-force. If states gain access to high-tech weapons, so can non-state actors, although they are much less dependent on arms than governments.

Past experience suggests that bans usually don’t achieve their purpose. They cannot significantly expand the government’s powers to deal with violence. Plenty of powers are available under existing laws, which cover a wide range of violent acts, and abetting, assisting or promoting them. Laws like the Public Security Act, used in many states, are draconian. They criminalise even acts of sympathy for Naxals, including giving them medical care. They punish people who might take Naxalites’ help in settling land or monetary disputes, which the law courts take years to resolve. This Naxal role has been praised even by police officers.

Bans can be counter-productive too. Take the People’s War Group, which merged a year ago with the Maoist Communist Centre to form the CPI-Maoist. It was proscribed in Andhra way back in 1992. Barring a short interval in 1996, it remained banned until July 2004. Through these 12 years, the group’s activities and influence grew not just in Andhra, but in adjacent states like Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Orissa, and most recently, even Karnataka, which now has some 600 Naxal activists.

The government’s knee-jerk response to Naxalism is always to treat it as a law-and-order or “security” problem. Yet, Naxalism — the movement named after an armed uprising of 1967 in Naxalbari village in West Bengal’s Darjeeling district — is different from other militant movements which typically remain confined to single states and to single issues.

Indeed, over 38 years, Naxalism has grown steadily, spawning 30-odd groups. Its core-areas first spread from the forests of West Bengal, Andhra and Bihar to their plains, as well as to Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh — and to contiguous states.

According to the Delhi-based Institute for Conflict Management, Naxalite presence expanded from 55 districts in nine states in 2003 to 156 districts in 13 states in 2004, and to 170 districts in 15 states this past February. In their strongholds — about 55 districts in 12 states — the Naxalites run a parallel government. The Centre’s own figures are similar.

Karl and the Kalashnikov

The reasons for the Naxals’ success are fairly straightforward. Naxals flourish where there are huge disparities in assets and incomes, and where injustice and violence by the privileged are rampant. Prakash Singh, former Border Security Force chief, and author of a book on Naxalism, holds: ‘The Naxal movement is irrepressible because it draws sustenance from the grievances of the people which have not be addressed by the government� Regarding land reforms, even the Tenth Plan document admits, “the record of most states in implementing the existing laws is dismal”.’

Mr Singh is no ‘softie.’ In India, only 1.3 per cent of agricultural land has been redistributed through tenancy reform and land ceilings — compared to 43 per cent in China, 37 in Taiwan, 33 in Japan [Images], and 32 per cent in South Korea.

Former Bihar chief secretary Kamala Prasad has a more comprehensive explanation for Naxalism’s success. He attributes it to numerous failures of the state. It began as a revolt of the landless poor who were defrauded of their rights and could find no justice. “There was gathering disillusionment among the youth about the quality of our democracy. Inherent also was a forewarning on the core issues of securing responsive, accountable and genuinely representative government. The adherents were still carried by the belief that the government would respect the force of their commitment,” says Prasad.

He describes Naxalism through metaphors: the failure of law and order, ambiguity of social policy, failings of democratic processes, failure of the party system, and deficits of governance.

The Naxalite problem recently got aggravated because of the Indian state’s withdrawal from public services, leading to their near-collapse, and the growing illegitimacy of governance in many regions, coupled with massive corruption. This has led to failing states in many parts of India. Agrarian distress, growing unemployment, and depredations of the forester-contractor mafia, have intensified popular discontent. As has unequal globalisation.

The United Progressive Alliance showed some comprehension of this. Its Common Minimum Programme said that Naxalism isn’t a mere law-and-order problem; the social and economic grievances underlying it must be addressed. To do so, the government must redefine the balance between the two “prongs” of its dual-tract approach by emphasising redressal of peoples’ grievances against inequalities and deprivation over law-and-order.

More, it must add a strategic third prong: giving the Naxals a democratic space for self-expression and encouraging them to come overground.

This approach worked in Andhra in the late 1980s. Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhar Reddy raised hopes of its revival when he lifted the ban on the PWG-CPI-Maoist last year and held talks with them. The party got a roaring public reception on its way from the forests to Hyderabad. But the government didn’t act honestly. It cheated the Naxals by tracking their forest hideouts in their absence and obtaining intelligence through coercion. And it refused to negotiate their reasonable demands about recovering public lands illegally grabbed by powerful interests. The talks failed. The government accused the Naxals of ‘regrouping’ and launched a major offensive. This brought on counter-attacks.

There’s a lesson here. If the government is serious about controlling Naxal violence, it must address its structural causes and not resort to gimmicks like Salwa Judum (peace campaign) in Chhattisgarh. It must of course protect citizens’ lives, but in lawful, Constitutional, humane ways. It must promote justice and equality. Or Naxalism will continue to spread.

Praful Bidwai





Meeting the Naxal challenge

30 06 2008

Praful Bidwai

Has the Indian government established at least a degree of control over Naxalite activity? And has it got any wiser about how to contain Naxal-related violence after almost four decades of trying?

Going by the first meeting of the Standing Committee of chief ministers of Naxalite-affected states on September 19, and the October 5 conference of directors general of police, the answer isn’t clear. The CMs’ meeting happened barely a month after Andhra Pradesh reimposed a ban on a range of Naxalite groups followed by Chhattisgarh.

In both cases, the proscription followed violent incidents. In Chhattisgarh, the Naxals demonstrated their military prowess by blowing up a mine-proof vehicle carrying 24 Central Reserve Police Force personnel with a mine. This sent the vehicle flying 35 feet up in the air till it landed 90 feet away. In Andhra, they killed a Congress MLA on Independence Day.

PM assures help in tackling Naxalites

This deplorable violence formed the backdrop to the tough talk heard at the Standing Committee, itself encouraged by Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil’s recent statements advocating the use of violence against Naxals.

Not many recalled the background to the violence, which was preceded by police brutality not just against Naxals, but ordinary villagers merely suspected to be their informers.

Even so, a consensus was reached on a ‘two-pronged’ approach: of ‘firmly tackling the security threat, and simultaneously implementing programmes for socio-economic development of vulnerable areas.’ Patil urged the CMs to ‘act compassionately but in a determined manner; use force but properly and discreetly.’

The states agreed to appoint ‘nodal officers’ for coordination. A handsome Rs 2,000 crores (Rs 20 billion) was allocated annually to anti-Naxal ‘police modernisation.’ The Centre gave the go-ahead to the use of sophisticated weaponry like helicopters and armoured vehicles in anti-Naxal operations. In addition, Rs 2 crores per Naxal-affected district was granted to “accelerate socio-economic development.”

This works out to a much smaller Rs 280 crores. The two “prongs,” then, are unequal in length. Indeed, the conclusion that many CMs and policemen have drawn from the Delhi deliberations is that they must step up the use of force. Thus, Andhra Director-General of police Swaranjit Sen, known for his machismo, hubris and trigger-happiness, and for his threats to sue journalists who interview the CPI-Maoist says he’ll use helicopters to “bring Naxalites out of forests,” and transport men and material for anti-extremist operations.

Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand are considering the “Afghanistan Solution” — building a network of highways through forests to connect remote villages and create a “security corridor.” (It’s another matter that this hasn’t worked in Afghanistan. Besides, destroying forests and disrupting village life would aggravate the Naxal problem.) Even more dramatically, Bihar is planning to use satellite imagery to track Naxal activities.

Who are the Naxalites?

Such fancy high-tech schemes are fundamentally misconceived. They miss the point about the Naxalites’ strengths and weaknesses. Satellite pictures might have helped if the Naxals had permanent camps or held large-scale gatherings. But they don’t operate that way. Typically, they mix with villagers following Mao’s dictum about guerrillas and people being like fish and water. Helicopter gunships would be effective in mowing down whole hamlets — as the US, for instance, did in Vietnam, or is doing in Colombia.

But that involves indiscriminate violence, which in turn can only foment Naxal counter-violence.

The key to the problem lies in breaking this cycle of violence-and-counter-violence, not in raising it on to a higher military-technological plane. This happens when the state tries to tilt the power balance decisively in its favour through tough measures, starting with a ban and using increasingly lethal force to “instil the fear of God in the enemy”, as some policemen put it. But force can rarely deter counter-force. If states gain access to high-tech weapons, so can non-state actors, although they are much less dependent on arms than governments.

Past experience suggests that bans usually don’t achieve their purpose. They cannot significantly expand the government’s powers to deal with violence. Plenty of powers are available under existing laws, which cover a wide range of violent acts, and abetting, assisting or promoting them. Laws like the Public Security Act, used in many states, are draconian. They criminalise even acts of sympathy for Naxals, including giving them medical care. They punish people who might take Naxalites’ help in settling land or monetary disputes, which the law courts take years to resolve. This Naxal role has been praised even by police officers.

Bans can be counter-productive too. Take the People’s War Group, which merged a year ago with the Maoist Communist Centre to form the CPI-Maoist. It was proscribed in Andhra way back in 1992. Barring a short interval in 1996, it remained banned until July 2004. Through these 12 years, the group’s activities and influence grew not just in Andhra, but in adjacent states like Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Orissa, and most recently, even Karnataka, which now has some 600 Naxal activists.

The government’s knee-jerk response to Naxalism is always to treat it as a law-and-order or “security” problem. Yet, Naxalism — the movement named after an armed uprising of 1967 in Naxalbari village in West Bengal’s Darjeeling district — is different from other militant movements which typically remain confined to single states and to single issues.

Indeed, over 38 years, Naxalism has grown steadily, spawning 30-odd groups. Its core-areas first spread from the forests of West Bengal, Andhra and Bihar to their plains, as well as to Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh — and to contiguous states.

According to the Delhi-based Institute for Conflict Management, Naxalite presence expanded from 55 districts in nine states in 2003 to 156 districts in 13 states in 2004, and to 170 districts in 15 states this past February. In their strongholds — about 55 districts in 12 states — the Naxalites run a parallel government. The Centre’s own figures are similar.

Karl and the Kalashnikov

The reasons for the Naxals’ success are fairly straightforward. Naxals flourish where there are huge disparities in assets and incomes, and where injustice and violence by the privileged are rampant. Prakash Singh, former Border Security Force chief, and author of a book on Naxalism, holds: ‘The Naxal movement is irrepressible because it draws sustenance from the grievances of the people which have not be addressed by the government� Regarding land reforms, even the Tenth Plan document admits, “the record of most states in implementing the existing laws is dismal”.’

Mr Singh is no ‘softie.’ In India, only 1.3 per cent of agricultural land has been redistributed through tenancy reform and land ceilings — compared to 43 per cent in China, 37 in Taiwan, 33 in Japan [Images], and 32 per cent in South Korea.

Former Bihar chief secretary Kamala Prasad has a more comprehensive explanation for Naxalism’s success. He attributes it to numerous failures of the state. It began as a revolt of the landless poor who were defrauded of their rights and could find no justice. “There was gathering disillusionment among the youth about the quality of our democracy. Inherent also was a forewarning on the core issues of securing responsive, accountable and genuinely representative government. The adherents were still carried by the belief that the government would respect the force of their commitment,” says Prasad.

He describes Naxalism through metaphors: the failure of law and order, ambiguity of social policy, failings of democratic processes, failure of the party system, and deficits of governance.

The Naxalite problem recently got aggravated because of the Indian state’s withdrawal from public services, leading to their near-collapse, and the growing illegitimacy of governance in many regions, coupled with massive corruption. This has led to failing states in many parts of India. Agrarian distress, growing unemployment, and depredations of the forester-contractor mafia, have intensified popular discontent. As has unequal globalisation.

The United Progressive Alliance showed some comprehension of this. Its Common Minimum Programme said that Naxalism isn’t a mere law-and-order problem; the social and economic grievances underlying it must be addressed. To do so, the government must redefine the balance between the two “prongs” of its dual-tract approach by emphasising redressal of peoples’ grievances against inequalities and deprivation over law-and-order.

More, it must add a strategic third prong: giving the Naxals a democratic space for self-expression and encouraging them to come overground.

This approach worked in Andhra in the late 1980s. Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhar Reddy raised hopes of its revival when he lifted the ban on the PWG-CPI-Maoist last year and held talks with them. The party got a roaring public reception on its way from the forests to Hyderabad. But the government didn’t act honestly. It cheated the Naxals by tracking their forest hideouts in their absence and obtaining intelligence through coercion. And it refused to negotiate their reasonable demands about recovering public lands illegally grabbed by powerful interests. The talks failed. The government accused the Naxals of ‘regrouping’ and launched a major offensive. This brought on counter-attacks.

There’s a lesson here. If the government is serious about controlling Naxal violence, it must address its structural causes and not resort to gimmicks like Salwa Judum (peace campaign) in Chhattisgarh. It must of course protect citizens’ lives, but in lawful, Constitutional, humane ways. It must promote justice and equality. Or Naxalism will continue to spread.

Praful Bidwai