You are here

Securitising Development and the Naxal Threat

Dr Medha Bisht is Senior Assistant Professor at the Department of International Relations, South Asian University, New Delhi; and former Associate Fellow, Manohar Parrikar IDSA.Click here for detailed profile.
  • Share
  • Tweet
  • Email
  • Whatsapp
  • Linkedin
  • Print
  • February 12, 2007

    It has been generally accepted that the Naxal issue is more than a law and order problem. With the socio-economic dimension being increasingly important along with the military one, a question that needs to be addressed by policymakers is, how to frame a coherent framework for merging both security and development policies.

    The debate on the merging of security and development policies has been in vogue in academic and policy circles with respect to strategies and techniques for conflict prevention, resolution and post-war reconstruction. Some have cited the nexus between security and development as preventive strategies and have underlined the interdependence of the two in a circular fashion, emphasizing that there is no development without security and no security without development. And therefore, the main emphasis has been at the human level, where concepts like human security and human development are the focal points of analysis. But others have argued for an integration of a right based approach, improving governance and a need to co-ordinate various mechanisms, actors and agendas related to developmental and security policies. Another study, which brought the linkage between security and developmental policies to the fore was a World Bank Study (2005) titled Voices of the Poor. It concludes that the assessment of structural violence (invisible violence, which occurs when people are deprived of their basic standard of living due to under-development) and not just physical violence (use of force) is essential for a better understanding of the security concerns of the poor.

    This security and development nexus is visible in one of the most serious security threats to the Indian State - Naxalism. The Ministry of Home Affairs Report of 2005-06 delineates three priority areas to deal with the Naxal menace. These are: local capacity building of the affected states in terms of intelligence gathering and training police forces for effective military action; making the administrative machinery more responsive, transparent and sensitive for effectively dealing with public grievances; and encouraging peace dialogues between the affected states and the Naxal groups. As per the need for economic assistance, the Ministry has administered three schemes to strengthen the security apparatus at the state level - Security Related Expenditure (SRE), Police Modernisation, and Backward District Initiative (BDI). Where the first two are focused on combating the Naxal threat from a military perspective, the third addresses the problem through a development paradigm.

    The Security Related Expenditure scheme envisages the grant of mandatory reimbursements to families of policemen and civilians killed in conflict, the provision of training to State Police Forces, encouragement of community policing by the local police, provision of rehabilitation to surrendered Naxalites, lump-sum grants to Village Defence Committees (Nagrik Suraksha Samiti) and an honorarium to Special Police Officers. As per the latest data provided in the report (2006), an advance of Rs. 20 crore has been released to the Naxal-affected states. Regarding the police modernization scheme (in terms of modern weaponry, mobility, communications equipment and training infrastructure), the Central Government has released Rs. 3,065.62 crore to the Naxal affected areas. These areas have also been sanctioned India Reserve Battalions, to not only supplement the security apparatus but also provide employment to the youth in these areas. As far as the initiatives regarding integrated development of the affected regions are concerned, under the scheme of Backward District Initiative, a total sum of Rs. 2,475 crore for the Naxal-affected areas have been sanctioned. Suggestions regarding the strengthening of governance have also been initiated. For instance expeditious implementation of the Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996 has been recommended. Also, administrative mechanisms for effective and prompt redressal of public grievances have been proposed. States have also been advised to facilitate the formation of informal groups like Local Resistance Groups or Village Defence Committees in the Naxal-affected areas. Apart from this, there has also been a suggestion on the management of public perceptions, where publicity campaigns to expose unlawful activities and misdeeds of the Naxals has been suggested.

    With all these policy prescriptions in place, the main challenge before the government is how to effectively operationalise these strategies at the grass root level. Though, on the face of it, the linkage between security and development in the annual report does justice to the multi-pronged strategy, a closer look however indicates various bottlenecks. An understanding of securitising development can put these two parallel issues (security/ development) in a better perspective. Development has been redefined by Amartya Sen, as a process that enlarges people's choices. In other words, he points towards creating an environment where people can manifest their full potential and enhance their capabilities and opportunities. Going by this line of argument, no matter how much the government chants development slogans, it can be said that an insecure environment can become an effective structural constraint in achieving developmental objectives.

    This has been witnessed in the various Naxal-affected states, where any kind of developmental initiative by the state has been stalled due to the violent activities of radical groups. From this perspective, if one reflects on the initiative of the central government, a contradiction in the aforementioned policies becomes apparent. This is because where on the one hand, the government has initiated the security related expenditure scheme, apart form the Backward District Initiative scheme, there has been no focused strategy on creating a conflict free environment. In addition to the BDI initiative, what is needed is a proactive conflict prevention strategy, in which development costs and a rigorous risk assessment analysis should be undertaken and included in the Security Related Expenditure scheme. Peace dialogues with Naxal groups should underline this key element and energy should be focused on creating innovative mechanisms for effective c

    Conflict resolution.

    On similar lines, the second issue that needs urgent attention is a fresh understanding on security. What one needs therefore is not a solution through the use of force but a solution that looks at the Naxal problem through the lens of human security. This can be said in the context of the police modernization scheme where much emphasis has been placed on training, building infrastructure, modern weapons and communication equipment. There is, however, no mention as to what extent a human security perspective should be central to the whole process. Human security here implies thinking of the consequences of any counter-insurgency tactic by the state. The recent report by the ACHR (2007) brings some of the international covenants (Geneva Convention, Rome Statute, International Criminal Court, etc) into focus, which diffuses a human security perspective in military operations. The loss of civilian lives due to the activities of the salwa judum in Chhattisgarh is a reminder of the need to incorporate a human security perspective in combat operations.

    Thus whether it is a case of dealing with terrorism or a counter-insurgency operation, experts from various fields have repeatedly pointed to the need to address the root causes of the conflict. Securitising development can be one such strategy in addressing the Naxal issue in India.