The 20th century patriarch of revolutionary warfare, Chinese Communist leader, Mao Tse-Tung had succinctly observed that “Revolutionary warfare is never confined within the bounds of military action because its purpose is to destroy an existing society and its institutions and to replace them with a completely new structure.”
Left Wing Extremism (LWE) in India, commonly dubbed as Naxal-Maoist terrorism, derives its raison d’être and motivations from the tenets of Red ideologues, like Mao, and thus its ever-growing breed of die-hard followers do not believe in democracy and adhere to the concept of the use of unbridled violence to achieve their ends much of it behind the façade of a struggle for the poor and oppressed.
On May 25, in an audacious, efficiently planned daylight strike, hundreds of well-armed Naxals ambushed and attacked a convoy carrying prominent Congress leaders and workers, killing over 30 of them including an undisclosed number of ill-prepared policemen with the convoy.
That once again the Naxals could attack with impunity is not very surprising to all those who are aware of the preparedness and training of our police and paramilitary forces. That once again we will react with our endemic bureaucratic sluggishness to such macabre actions is not entirely surprising.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, accompanied by Congress president Sonia Gandhi, met the injured in Raipur. This clearly displayed the concern of the central government towards the victims.
Sooner rather than later, the PM will have to take a final call on the nuances of governmental policy on dealing with the Naxal menace. Merely sending paramilitary and central police reinforcements to the state government is not enough.
It must be appreciated that the LWE threat is currently spread over 16 states running through the centre of the Indian hinterland from the Nepal-Bihar border to the Karnataka-Kerala borders in a south-west orientation and is referred to as ‘The Red Corridor.’
That these Maoists have unambiguously pronounced their objective to seize power in India by a protracted war against the Indian state must never be underplayed. That in the last few years, the LWE has developed potent external linkages with foreign intelligence and terrorist organisations further compounds the problems.
With state elections in the next few months including in Naxal-afflicted states like Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, the Centre will have to take a call whether assembly elections can be held in Naxal-dominated districts even if some state governments are reinforced with central resources.
Otherwise, there is a case for presidential rule, at least for a few months to ensure that electoral violence by Naxals is kept to the barest minimum. There is also a case for providing some dedicated air support in the form of helicopters, light aircraft and drones, positioned with adequate security in the state capitals. If convoys and large gatherings have aerial support for surveillance, ghastly tragedies, like the recent one, can be averted.
It is also opportune time for the Indian Army to take a call on its reluctance to participate in internal security operations. Meanwhile, the Centre must prepare one of the paramilitary forces or one of the central police organisations to be fully equipped and trained to undertake this task.
As all political parties need to close ranks to combat left wing terror, it is vital that these terrorists are confronted head-on by a very well deliberated operation against them before it assumes a greater dimension. Tackling LWE is going to be a long haul and the sooner we defeat it, the better it will be for the Indian State.
Kamal Davar, a retired Lt General, was India’s first chief the Defence Intelligence Agency. The views expressed by the author are personal.