Just killing naxals will never help. It will remain a ‘bloody’ cycle. 100 more will arise from the ashes of their dead brethren. Sukma’s soil has already soaked enough blood in just one decade – 379 security personnel, politicians and innocent villagers have been murdered.
Sukma district in Chhattisgarh on Tuesday witnessed its latest, avoidable killing of nine CRPF personnel at the hands of Naxalites. Numbering not more than a meagre 10, 000, Maoists appear to be winning this asymmetric war against the Indian Government.
The attack was well planned by Maoists in continuation to their annual tactical counter-offensive campaign, from March to June, to inflict maximum damage to security forces. Analysing their modus operandi, it is quite evident that their confidence to execute such operations is derived from the elaborate support of the tribal people.
Who are these gun-toting guys in uniform?
They are waging a violent struggle on behalf of landless labourers and tribal people against landlords and others. The Naxalites say they are fighting oppression and exploitation to create a classless society. Their opponents say the Naxalites are terrorists oppressing people in the name of a class war. The Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) is the political outfit that propagates the Naxalite ideology. There are front organisations and special outfits for specific groups such as the Indian People’s Front.
The two main groups involved in violent activities, besides many factions and smaller outfits, are the People’s War Group and the Maoist Communist Centre. The Naxalites claim to represent the most oppressed people in India, those who are often left untouched by India’s development and bypassed by the electoral process. Invariably, they are the Adivasis, Dalits, and the poorest of the poor, who work as landless labourers for a pittance, often below India’s mandated minimum wages.
The movement started way back in time
The earliest manifestation of the movement was the Telengana Struggle in July 1948 (100 years after the Paris Communes were first set up, coining the word Communist). This struggle was based on the ideology of China’s Mao Zedong, with the aim of creating an Indian revolution. Not surprisingly, the ideology remains strong in this region of Andhra Pradesh.
But the Naxalite movement took shape after some members of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) split to form the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist), after the former agreed to participate in elections and form a coalition government in West Bengal. Charu Mazumdar led the split.
On May 25, 1967, in Naxalbari village in Darjeeling district, northern West Bengal, local goons attacked a tribal who had been given land by the courts under the tenancy laws. In retaliation, the tribals attacked landlords and claimed the land. From this ‘Naxalbari Uprising’ came the word Naxalite.
Winning the war against a national army
The Naxalites have adopted the strategy of “protracted war”. Their bases are built up in rural and remote areas, which are developed into “Guerrilla Zones” and ultimately into “Liberated Areas”. These are dense, non-terrain regions which the army find difficult to negotiate. Naxalites operate in the very heartland of India, known as the Dandakaryna region (named after a mythological region from the epic Ramayana) which spreads primarily over Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh.
The heart of this region is the thickly forested area of Abhujmadh, which is spread over approximately 10,000 sq km. This area, till date, has not been surveyed by the Government of India. The Naxalites treat it as a totally liberated area.
Naxalites of the People’s War Group (PWG) have formed the Permanent Action Teams (PAT) that operates so secretively that security forces have little knowledge about their movements. A PAT operates in the form of a ‘cell’, a method that became well-known and notoriously famous after the 9/11 attacks on the United States by the al Qaida. Cells operate in the most secretive manner with the cell leader alone knowing who the other members of the cell are. Communication between the cell leader and the members and between the leader and the higher leadership is encrypted and is normally conveyed through human courier. A PAT consists of highly motivated cadres and each team could have cadres recruited from different districts. Once a target is decided by the PWG leadership, the PAT would not leave him or her until killed. They continuously trigger difficult-to-detect landmines and cause heavy casualty.
Support of Adivasis
The Naxalites claim to be supported by the poorest of the rural population, especially the Adivasis. According to a study, 58% of people surveyed in the state of Andhra Pradesh, have a positive perception of the guerrilla, against only 19 % against it.
The Naxalites have frequently targeted tribal, police and government workers in what they say is a fight for improved land rights and more jobs for neglected agricultural labourers and the poor. The Naxalites claim that they are following a strategy of rural rebellion similar to a protracted people’s war against the government
Government not doing enough
The attacks raise questions on the counter-insurgency strategy adopted by the state as well as about the nature of the Naxalite movement. Instead of treating the conflict as a law and order problem, state authorities should understand the true nature of the problem. What the Naxalites are engaged in is an agrarian and livelihood-based revolutionary war, in which man, not weapon, is the decisive factor. The Chhattisgarh government has consistently failed to provide basic infrastructure – schools, hospitals, roads, and gainful employment to the tribal groups.
At the same time, the tribal groups’ access to natural resources is being increasingly curbed due to stringent forest and mining Acts formulated by the State from time to time. These policies have consistently deprived them of their fundamental rights. As a result, they have become easy recruits to the Naxalite cause.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has to decide whether he wants to continue to indulge in a protracted war against the naxals or take a step back from all these to and fro killings and reinvent India’s approach.
Get the Adivasis a life worth living, for starters.