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Maoist Challenge: The Party shall be over!

Dr. P. V. Ramana was Research Fellow at Institute for Defence Studies and Analysis, New Delhi. Click here for detail profile.
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  • April 13, 2010

    The massacre of 76 police personnel, on April 6, 2010, in Dantewada district, in the Bastar region of Chhattisgarh, by Naxalites of the Communist Party of India (Maoist), or CPI (Maoist), sent shock waves across the country and, understandably, generated the impression that the Indian state is losing the battle against the Maoists. The chilling massacre, naturally, provoked angry reactions and decrying of the security forces.

    Let us face the stark reality! Bastar is central to the Maoists’ principal objective of capturing state power. Therefore, they shall not ‘tolerate’ any disturbance, but shall fight it out. It is a war and there are bound to be casualties on both sides –– the state and the rebels. It is also becoming evident that personnel of the Central Reserve Police Force did not ‘strictly’ adhere to the laid-down Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). It would be wiser to leave to a Court of Inquiry that would be constituted by the CRPF to inquire into the reasons for the avoidable, unfortunate and heart wrenching deaths. But the CRPF shall have to learn its lessons, thereafter.

    Chhattisgarh is a unique theatre. The Naxalites staged their entry into what is now Chhattisgarh, or the current war zone –– Bastar region (which now constitutes five revenue and police districts, and is a little larger in geographical area than Kerala and a little smaller than Haryana) –– to be more precise, almost immediately after the Communist Party of India-Marxist-Leninist (People’s War) was founded in 1980. From then on, the powers that be allowed the Naxalites to entrench themselves, until, say, six or seven years ago.

    The highest leadership of the Maoists today were, during those years, the field-commanders (local leaders), who built the outfit. Polit Bureau (PB) Member Malla Raji Reddy, who was arrested in Kerala and later escaped bail in November/December 2009, was one such person. Kishanji –– Mallojula Koteswara Rao –– who is in the news presently for leading the movement in Lalgarh, West Bengal, was another key person. His brother is Mallojula Venugopal alias Bhupathi alias Sonu, the present PB in-charge of Dandakaranya Special Zone Committee (DKSZC), who was earlier Secretary of the DKSZC. The list is vast.

    On the other hand, while the Naxalites were building themselves up, the State adopted an ostrich-like approach. It did not, until now, hurt Bhopal, the then capital of Madhya Pradesh, nor Gwalior, its northern-most important town, which is barely 321 km from Delhi. Therefore, Madhya Pradesh/Chhattisgarh was not only little prepared but rather disinclined to take on the Naxalites militarily. Precious little seems to have changed in the past few years.

    Everything seemed hunky-dory in Bastar until the ‘engagement’ began. Thus, Chhattisgarh, now, reports a large numbers of casualties, and the Maoists are seemingly determined to fight back, rather than make a tactical retreat, as they have done elsewhere say in Andhra Pradesh. Perhaps, they are ‘sure’ of themselves in Bastar and might have assessed that it is yet not time to flee.

    For a number of reasons that have been identified by knowledgeable persons already, a posting in Bastar is considered as ‘punishment’. Local intelligence is lacking, troop morale is low, motivation is hardly present, the leadership is not as strong as it needs to be, and infrastructure, training, etc. are yet to be geared-up to the required level.

    In this backdrop, it is difficult to expect results to be delivered on the ground by the Chhattisgarh Police. The onus, then, is laid on the central paramilitary forces (CPMFs). Here, coordination between the CPMFs and the Chhattisgarh Police is yet to reach the desired levels. This, nevertheless, does not absolve the Chhattisgarh Police of making every effort to move in the direction of gearing itself up. At the same time, CPMFs need to adhere strictly to every single SOP laid down in the manual.

    The hype generated in the media of an all-India offensive on the Naxalites raised the expectations of the people, and people are fickle minded with short memories. Even as the Union government was claiming that the Maoists would be put-down in two to three years, as if to cock a snook at such claims the Maoists executed one strike after another –– mowing down 24 personnel of the Eastern Frontier Rifles at the Silda camp on March 15 in West Medinipore district, West Bengal; killing 11 personnel of the Special Operations Group (SOG) near Govindapalli in a land mine blast on April 4, 2010 in Koraput district, Orissa.

    The watch words are ‘patience’ and ‘silent work’. The sate and the people should be prepared for a few more Dantewada-like ‘shocks’ before the tables are eventually turned on the Maoists. There have been a number of wake-up calls, but, somehow, state response has left a lot to be desired. If at all a final wake-up call was needed, it came through the medium of the Chintalnar attack. The Union Government has clearly laid-out its approach –– ‘security and development’. The affected States would also need to join-in. This has, perhaps, just begun.

    It is a matter of time before the party is over for the Maoists. In its totality, the Maoists are no match for the Indian state and it is eminently possible to make them wind-up their business of macabre killings, wanton destruction and irresponsible actions.